What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started writing?
Well. Um. There’s isn’t just one thing, really. So I’ll make a list instead.
1. I don’t have to write what everyone else is writing.
Or rather, what it seems like EVERYONE else is writing.
I used to feel really weird because it seems like all teen writers – especially those I strongly admire – write poetry. And I don’t. I love reading poetry. I love learning about poetic styles and devices. I love analyzing others’ poems.
I just don’t like writing my own poetry.
I’d rather write essays. (Not research papers – essays! There is a difference!) Or humorous short stories. Honestly, I love writing stories in all sorts of genres.
But poetry? It’s a form of writing I neither like nor dislike. I have no interest in it, so I don’t write it. I used to feel bad about this – I mean, I have bloggy friends who self-publish their own poetry! And make (small amounts of) money from such endeavors!
And then I realized something. Why should I spend time on an activity that I don’t particularly enjoy and am not required to do? It’s not like work, where I have to come in once a week and make sandwiches because that’s my job.
So now I don’t worry about “what everyone else is writing.” If I spend my free time writing essays instead of poetry, so be it.
2. Procrastination happens. Don’t worry about it. Just move on.
I have a problem with procrastination. All day, I look forward to writing and then when I can write, I sometimes become distracted. But that’s not even my main problem here! My biggest problem is that once I procrastinate, I start to mentally beat myself up about what I just did. I keep berating myself and sometimes nothing gets done because I can’t stop being mad at myself for wasting my writing time!
I’m trying to stop this – both the procrastination and the frustration – and it doesn’t always work, but I think I’m getting better. Now I just sternly tell myself, “Engie, stop googling for random information about How To Train Your Dragon 2 and start writing your story. Now. I mean it!”
3. My stories never turn out quite as planned and I need to get used to this.
So I’m currently writing this story about assassins. Or spies? Or assassin who are also spies? Something like that. I MAY BE WRITING THE STORY BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING. I keep switching things around, or getting new ideas.
Aaaaand then there’s also a problem with my style of narration. I had the brilliant idea (sarcasm!) to use flashbacks. Lots and lots of them.
However, I don’t really know how I should use them. I continually question everything from their placement (should the first flashback appear earlier or later in the novel?) to their length (should I make them short and sweet?).
Don’t get me wrong – I love writing this story. It is very confusing, though, because my original idea has been torn to pieces. Very little has turned out as planned, and I’m slowly learning to roll with it. I wish I’d known that when I started writing. This isn’t the first time I’ve thrown all/most of my plans out the window.
4. I must write down story ideas because if I don’t, I will forget them.
THIS IS THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE. Forgetting ideas, that is, not writing them down. But seriously. I have forgotten so many ideas simply because I didn’t take a few seconds to jot them down.
Eventually I learned to scribble my ideas somewhere. A notebook is ideal for this purpose because all the ideas are collected in one place. However, if I don’t have mine when I need it, random scraps of paper work too – anything to prevent me from forgetting my new story idea.
5. Finding inspiration in other authors’ works is great. Letting large amounts of their ideas and writing styles bleed through into my own works is not great.
George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien are currently two of my favorite authors, as you may or may not have already guessed. I adore their books that I’ve read and look forward to finishing the others. I find a lot of inspiration from their stories.
And that’s OK. But it’s not OK to write stories that are suspiciously similar to Martin’s and Tolkien’s or anyone else’s. Obviously, no one can be completely original. But we should try to be as original as we can be, and there were times when I… didn’t try.
I’ve put aside some stories because they were too similar to those of some of my favorite authors. I could give several examples, but I’ll stick to just one: I wrote a short story set in what was more or less Minas Tirith from Lord of the Rings. The city in my story was pretty much the same. The culture of the people who lived there was pretty much the same.
And I can’t use that. I had fun writing that story (and the others) but as much as I may enjoy working on it, I can’t ever try to have that story published, not in the form it is now. I’ll probably come back to those stories someday and revise, but they’ll need a lot of editing and right now I don’t feel like doing that.
[Scrolls back through her own post and reads stuff] Wow, I guess I have learned a lot in, what, nearly four years of writing? (Writing as a serious hobby, that is. I wrote before NaNoWriMo and blogging. I just didn’t devote as much time or effort to it.) And honestly, although I wish I’d known the stuff listed above when I began writing, I’m just happy to know that I know it now. If I hadn’t figured out those things I’d be quite the frustrated, procrastinating, forgetful little copycat writer right now.
And where’s the fun in that?
P.S. One last request for comments on the recap of my Pride 2014 posts – I promise. I wasn’t originally going to mention it here, but then I remembered how much blog traffic my Teens Can Write, Too! posts always get. So I’ll promote it once again. Please take a few minutes to tell me what types of LGBTQ+ posts you most enjoy on Musings From Neville’s Navel. Also, do you have any suggestions for future posts? Thank you so much!
Want to follow our blog chain? Here are the participating parties, day by day:
24th – http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ – (We’ll announce the topic for August’s blog chain!)