The Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain asks a lot of hard-hitting questions, and this month’s is no different. The question is “What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started writing?” Of course, this will be different for everyone, but one thing remains true: you can’t answer this with a very specific answer. “Don’t use passive voice” is no help to a writer who can’t master compelling characters. “Remember to use similes” doesn’t help someone struggling with plot. And my current favorite advice (just because it’s so unknown yet useful) about transitions would be useless for someone with no grasp of setting. Furthermore, advice about plot, character, or setting will be no use to someone who hasn’t yet begun to write. So when I first began writing, I think the best advice anyone could have given me was the advice I ignored over and over and over, from all my favorite authors: just write.
I first started writing in first or second grade, when I wrote a 500-word short story over the course of a couple weeks. I wrote another story of similar length in third grade. I continued to write in tiny bursts of inspiration and notebook availability over the next four years, until I started a family newsletter and came into the blogosphere. There I learned about NaNoWriMo, which I attempted for the first time three years ago. I wrote 50,000 words easily, almost casually, then left my novel alone. At that point, I would have long breaks where I wasn’t writing anything, then pound out a novel for a NaNoWriMo challenge or a novella for the blog, along with intermittent blog posts. Were they all good? No. But they got better over time.
The learning curve shot near vertical, however, about eight months ago. I finally realized I had to write all the time if I wanted to get consistently better. I wrote a novel for NaNoWriMo, wrote a novella I had outlined in the past, partially rewrote my second novel, wrote a novella for the blog, wrote another novel, edited the NaNoNovel and queried with it, brainstormed and wrote another novel, then wrote another novella. I’m currently editing the last novel. I’m guessing I wrote 350k words in the last eight months. Let me tell you, my novels have never been better.
Sure, I still make mistakes. A lot of them. But after each mistake, I get back up and write something new, something more fun than the last one. I write something better, and better, and better. I’ve learned so much: how to work with an outline, how to fulfill promises correctly, how to mess with poetry in description to create an emotional effect. I’m loving writing more than ever, because I know I’m getting better.
And to think, I had that ability at my fingertips all this time, and shooed it away like a flea.
Rick Riordan’s writing advice: write every day. Dan Wells’ writing advice: write a lot until you’re good at it. Brandon Sanderson’s writing advice: always have a project and always be writing. It’s not new stuff. I’ve seen it in every corner of the writing world, and yet I’ve ignored it, thinking that writing a novel once a year was fine. (I mean, for Patrick Rothfuss and George R.R. Martin, stuff like that works.) But no, it doesn’t work like that. Write all the time. It doesn’t have to be a thousand words per day, or five hundred, or even two. One word is fine, as long as it’s the right one. But if you want to get better, you have to practice.
Can you get better without all that practice? Sure. I somehow grew between three years ago and eight months ago, but only half as much as I’ve grown in the past eight months. It isn’t a joke that everyone harps on this, young Liam. Practice works a lot better than reading books about writing.
Nevertheless, I’m happy with the way things have turned out. I don’t regret my past mistakes and silly first novels— although I’d like to recall that first short story. I don’t really care about the past. But right now, practice is going to help me in the future, and that’s what I want.
Read all the other advice people are giving their past selves:
5th – http://unikkelyfe.wordpress.com/
6th – http://thelittleenginethatcouldnt.wordpress.com/
7th – http://nasrielsfanfics.wordpress.com/
8th – http://miriamjoywrites.com/
9th – http://lillianmwoodall.wordpress.com/
10th – http://www.brookeharrison.com/
11th – http://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com/
12th – http://erinkenobi2893.wordpress.com/
13th – http://theweirdystation.blogspot.com/
14th – http://taratherese.wordpress.com/
15th – http://sammitalk.wordpress.com/
16th – http://eighthundredninety.blogspot.com/
17th – https://insideliamsbrain.wordpress.com/
18th – http://novelexemplar.wordpress.com/
19th – http://thelonglifeofalifelongfangirl.wordpress.com/
20th – https://butterfliesoftheimagination.wordpress.com/
21st – http://theloonyteenwriter.wordpress.com/
22nd – http://roomble.wordpress.com/
23rd – http://thependanttrilogy.wordpress.com/
24th – http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ – The topic for August’s blog chain will be announced.