Last week I published the first part of this series — I’d asked a bunch of writers on my mailing list what they wish they knew before they started writing. I got a ton of fantastic responses, too many to include all of them, sadly — but I’ve picked 10 more to share with you.
(responses edited for length, content, etc. and emphasis added)
As a beginner, I think what I wished I’d known would be how hard editing can be, and that all first drafts suck. They really do. The first book I wrote, which is not published, did not get the editing treatment. Back then, I think four years ago, I thought my first draft was enough. Wrong. Now with my second real book, the second real first draft that I finished, even though it took me super long to do it, I realize it really does suck. I’ve written other things that have made me a better writer. I’ve practiced and I’ve become better, and my first draft still sucks and editing is still hard. I wish I’d known that. It’s worth it, of course, but it’s kind of a painful process to go through after all the hard work one puts into those first 80K words.
I think for me the most surprising thing that I’ve learned is that you can never be too much. You can never be too deep. You can never be too corny. You can never be too opinionated, passionate, appalled, curious, sad or broken. All of this makes our writing so real and in the moment that it’s always sure to touch someone.
I wish I knew that it took time to develop my skills. I wish that I understood that this development is a process, and to not expect so much from myself so quickly.
I wish that I had trusted my gut more often when a scene felt limp. I knew something was off with the scenes, but “it is the best I can do right now.” Put the scene on the shelf for a few weeks and you will be able to spot the issues right away. Don’t settle for less just because it is hard or not as exciting as forging new territory.
That everything doesn’t have to be perfect right away when you start writing your story. I always thought you had to come up with the perfect plot and characters right away before you can start, but I realized that while you’re writing it starts to change and your plot and characters develop more.
I think one of the most helpful thing for a writer to know when starting out is that your writing is never as bad as you think it is.
There is no wrong way to write. There is a lot of advice out there. Try things out, see what works best for you, and run with it.
That [being a writer] has that feeling of having homework from your teacher/lecturer every day, especially for us who have a full time job. Once you set a deadline for yourself, you want to meet it at any cost. You want to see the progress everyday. When you don’t write you feel like you missed class.