Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What Do You Wish You Had Known When You Started Writing?

"Retrato de Mariano Goya" - Francisco de Goya
Oh, to start writing again.

Such angst! Such vision! Such ambition!

What do you wish you had known when you started? What would you tell your younger writing self?

Mine is pretty simple. When I first started out I was very focused on the end result. I wish I would have known that whatever happens with any particular manuscript: It's all worth it.

What about you?






128 comments:

E. Arroyo said...

I wish I had known that writing the darn thing was the easy part.

BP said...

Ditto, Nathan. DITTO

Becky Taylor said...

I wish I had known that other writers were in fact not lying. It can take 7, 10, 15, 20 years to see your book on a shelf. I will also steal your end product/outcome wish (it's very profound and will make me sound much more self actualized when I use it.)

Dan Blank said...

That sharing is as critical as creating.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had known that some people were telling the truth when they said sometimes you just need to quit.

Shelley Souza said...

Don't worry. You'll figure it out. And when you do, you'll realize it was all in you, from the beginning. All you needed were the elements on some post its, to give your subconscious something to work with.

Hillsy said...

I can only be my own audience for so long.

CourtLoveLeigh said...

What I should have told myself and what I still tell myself...

Work hard.

Steve C said...

The best way to learn isn't to read all those books on how to write. It's only in doing that you understand.

And for god's sake, stop trying to please teachers by doing everything proper and literary and write something straight across to a friend.

SMC said...

That skill comes through practice. You aren't born a good writer, you're driven to become one. But it will not happen unless you work your tail off (and read enough top quality books to build yourself a house).

Dianna Zaragoza said...

I wish I had known that I didn't have to be perfect the first time...that there's lots of opportunity for do-overs. That, in fact, the do-overs (editing) is the part where the story really blossoms.

I also wish that I knew that I could "borrow" from other writers better than me. Not plagiarize...borrow...take their writing and turn it to fit mine. Doing that has been unbelievably fun for me.

Mr. D said...

I wish I knew everything I know now!

Jessica R. Patch said...

I wish I would have told myself to read a few craft books first. :)

Rick Daley said...

I don't think I would change anything. Not that I think I knew everything, or even enough...it's just that the way I've learned new things by networking has been a very rewarding part of the experience. If I took the things I've gleaned from other people and planted them in my beginner's brain, I would be missing the personal interactions through which I acquired said knowledge.

Or something like that.

WORD VERIFICATION: menicati. An angry feline, as addressed by someone with an accent of unknown origin.

Sierra McConnell said...

That every word is precious. Even the bad ones. Because even when your writing terrible fanfiction, if you stick at it, you're learning something.

Those people who leave concrit are not trying to hurt you, they see something in you that is meant for better things. Take what they said and grow. Even today I remember every piece of concrit I got because it helped me become the writer I am today.

L.G.Smith said...

The only way to get better is to write more. And that takes time. A lot of time.

Anonymous said...

that it's all about character and that when the right story comes along, you just know it and - BOOOM - there's your novel right there.

Neil Vogler said...

Er, I wish I'd known this one rule: However long you think a project will take, add 12 months.

Matthew MacNish said...

I wish I would have taken the time to learn more about publishing.

I wrote my first novel trying on purpose to make it long because I loved long books. I never stopped to think that all those famous writers wrote short(er) books first.

Sean Thomas Fisher said...

I wish I would have known that every story I write ends up coming true. I would've written about Amish lovers instead of zombies. Now I can't even make it to my car. And the cable is out. Again.

lora96 said...

I wish I'd known that the word 'actually' is unnecessary in most sentences!

Bruce H. Johnson said...

The fact there was an established Craft for fiction writing. I'd been Honors English in high school and a technical writer for years. What is a plot structure?

I'm having to do major re-writes on 4 novels in a series because there's no real structure.

I am offering a no-cost upgrade to any latest and greatest electronic editions, though.

Kay Elam said...

I wish I had known to find a writing partner and a critique group.

Brooke Johnson said...

Not that I needed to hear it at the time, but I would go back and say

"Don't you dare give up."

There were times I wanted to. I never did, thankfully. I was passionate enough about writing that I withstood the scrutiny and doubt.

I probably also would tell myself

"Don't write that epic fantasy right now. You're not ready."

That is still true. The epic fantasy I began at age 14 is still too large a project. Someday, I'll go back to it. And when I do, it will be glorious.

Anonymous said...

I wish I'd understood earlier about the sheer amount of writing that every single writer, does no matter what their skill level-- all the discarded drafts, half-finished novels, etc. It always felt like I was the only one producing 90% crap and 10% stuff I was satisfied with, and everyone else just had magic flowing from their fingertips. It wasn't until I read posts authors made of all the drafts and ephemera they wrote and abandoned before getting published that I realized I was not, in fact, the only person who stalled out on novels at 20K words, or short stories that didn't work.

If I could turn back time (if I could find a way...) I would tell my younger self to not think about whether a piece is "good" or not until they are finished, and not a moment before.


-Salom

Anonymous said...

Until "it was," that is. It's early.

-Salom

Cynthia Lee said...

I wish I had known that all those details that I find so fascinating aren't necessarily fascinating for readers.

mooderino said...

Stop wasting time.

Mark Covington said...

I wish I had known that PT Barnum and H.L Menchen were right. “You Will Never Go Broke Underestimating the Intelligence or the taste of the American Public”.

Bart Leib said...

I wish I'd known that I wasn't as good a writer in high school as all my teachers said I was.

Or rather, I wish I'd known that being good for a HS student didn't mean I was good enough to send my stories to pro markets. Would've saved myself the years of self-doubt all those rejections cost me.

Cathy Yardley said...

I wish I'd know that everybody writes alone, but nobody becomes a writing success that way. Not just the critique aspect, but the support. It's too tough a business to lone wolf.

Bryce Daniels said...

I wish I had known that "patience" was more than just another word in the dictionary.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, you posted a link to a NYTimes profile on the iconic Amanda Hocking. Mentioned within the article is what you might call the beginning of Hocking's path to superstardom.

"She began treating writing like any other job."

This isn't just something I wish I could've told myself as a starting writer; I wish I could've told myself this as a younger man.

The great American distance runner Steve Prefontaine was fond of saying "Talent is a myth. There's no such thing as talent. If want to win at something, you find the best teacher and you practice as much as it takes to get good at it. And then you practice even more to become the best."

Like so many, I grew up believing that skill in sports, skill in academics...skill in writing...was like the powers in X-Men; some people simply had the mutation or the genetics to do the amazing. The rest of us muggles...didn't.

It's ironic this unfortunate conceit is so rampant in America; a nation built on the concept of self-determination and self-reliance.

I sometimes read about Hocking, or I check out weblit authors like Jim Zoetewey or J. A. Konrath and I wistfully wonder what might I have been if I wasn't sitting on my ass waiting for writing ability to "happen" to me.

The only thing that has lessened by bitter regret in my older years is that as long as I'm breathing...it's never too late to start.

-Bill

v.n.rieker said...

Honestly... I wish I had observed more and typed less in writer forums. I'm all for interaction, but I was on AgentQuery for a while and I got myself into real trouble being snarky-turned-nasty. Trying to look smart and funny always makes me look dumb and desperate. A lesson I was shamed into learning.

Also, I wish I had believed from the get-go that editing is a LAST STEP. It would have saved me from deleting alot of perfect, irrelevant paragraphs.

Robena Grant said...

I wish I'd known not to force my characters into situations but to let their story unfold as it should.

Jadi said...

I wished I hadn't read so many writing books and just read fiction books.

domynoe said...

I wish I had either figured out how I needed to write (versus how everyone told me "real authors" write, oh yes, I ran into those kind of people early in my taking writing seriously days) faster than I did (10 years being a long time) or that I already knew how I needed to write, thus being able to focus on the story rather than stumbling around on trying to finish the story.

On the other hand, if I'd done anything differently, I'd be a different kind of writer today, and I'm not sure that'd be a good thing other than the fact that my epic fantasy probably would have had a better chance at getting published 10 years ago than it does today. lol

Heidi said...

Great Prefontaine quote, Bill.

I wish I had started sooner. I'd always written, but never considered it something to DO, just something that had to be done. I think about how much I could have accomplished if I'd realized at a younger age how much I truly enjoy writing.

But, I'm thankful to have found my appreciation for writing, and will "keep moving forward," as Disney said.

Thanks Nathan.

v.n.rieker said...

Er... I meant, I wish I had known that copy-editing comes after structural-editing. :D

Kevin Lynn Helmick said...

I'm kinda pleased with the fact that I knew absolutely nothing when I started writing. No right or wrong, nothing got in the way, nothing to second guess. And I still approach it that way but with more dicipline. And I try to apply just the basic rules, in a mostly instinctive manner.
When I look back on something I wrote 20, 30 years ago and see, that wasn't half bad, I like that.

I wish I had known that I'd be writing novels at 45 years old, then. I would have hit the writing and the buisness, harder and faster. I would have made it my life then, and maybe I'd have gotten somewhere by now.
Once a fool always a fool.

Nancy Thompson said...

I wish I had known how much I love to write twenty-five years ago. I'd be so much better (and farther along) by now.

Anonymous said...

"Once a fool always a fool."

As long as you draw breath, it's never to late.

80s Queen said...

I wish I had known that it would take a long time to see the book in print. That writing it would be the easy part and to really pay attention in those marketing classes you took because that is what you would be doing after you got the book into print. Also to make as many friends in the business as possible and buy a lucky rabbits foot for luck.

Stephanie McGee said...

I would tell myself a) the fix to the story world that made it far less derivative and b) wait to revise until you've finished the first draft.

Maybe then it wouldn't have been 8 years before the first draft finally got completed.

H. N. Stone said...

"Finish what you start!" is what I would tell my young self, as my muse is quite easily distracted, and inspiration not always readily available.

Beyond that, I'm not sure I'd have wanted to know anything then that I didn't learn at a later point. Going into all of this as a naive dreamer benefited me, I think, because it allowed me to make mistakes and learn and grow.

If I had known about the difficulty, the constant struggles and trials that accompany writing a publishable work, it could have made me much more self-conscious, possibly paralyzing me with premature doubts and fears. The reality of writing professionally is a lot scarier and a lot harder than first imagined, after all! Easing into it, slowly replacing myths about the industry with fact, was for me the best way to go.

Petrea Burchard said...

I wish I hadn't shown my first draft to anyone.

And I'm glad I didn't know how long it would take to get to the finished product.

Anonymous said...

I wish I'd known that some of these goddamn online romance reviewers would be so snarky, and able to get away with so many questionable things no one else seems able to get away with.

Courtney Cantrell said...

I wish I could tell my younger writing self,

"Hon, this novel isn't as good as you think it is. This first draft you've got here? That's the rough chunk of marble you just carved out of a cliffside. Now, you need to start coaxing a beautiful statue out of it. This is a craft, babydoll. It takes time, patience, and hard work. Now go on. You can do this." :)

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Sometimes dreams come true V.....E.....R.....Y..........S.....L.....O.....W.....L.....Y

Ranae Rose said...

It would have been nice to know that the more I write the easier it becomes. When I first started it was easy to write the first part of a story, but difficult to finish. Now it's easy for me to finish what I start, too. It would have been encouraging to know that.

D.G. Hudson said...

Hindsight is always good to evaluate every now and then.

Like Rod Stewart sings (paraphrased):I wish I had known then what I know now. I also wish I had found a mentor who wanted to coach me for free. I could have used that.

I thought the writing would go faster, but I found out a lot of our interior selves goes into what we create. For me that means, thinking about the storyline (A LOT) and hashing it out with my Ideal Reader, and Best Crit Partner (my support team).

I also wish I had known I would enjoy blogging as much, because it allows me to integrate my love of photography into the writing of the posts.

Writing restores my equilibrium, and gives me an outlet for my imagination.

JP Kurzitza said...

That most agents lost sight of their role, thinking that they were in the "selling to publishers" business, but rather are in the "helping their authors reach the greatest number of readers and achieve the greatest possible commercial and literary success" business. -- Barry Eisler

Also, that going the Legacy Publishing route isn't the only way to make money and achieve the above stated ends.

Suze said...

I would tell my younger self this is a long-haul proposition so settle my butt in for the ride.

Sommer Leigh said...

I wish I had known there were resources out there that could teach me how to do it right from the beginning - or at least less wrong. I spent a lot of time writing really badly. Really. Really. Badly.

Geoff said...

I would tell my younger self to start writing right then and there, instead of wasting a bunch of time figuring out other stuff to do with my life! Writing is it, but it took me ten years to figure that out.

Josin L. McQuein said...

That by the time I finished a particular book, the market would be flooded with them.

Anonymous said...

That the world will do it's best to distract you, derail you. DON'T LET IT.

Anonymous said...

I wish I'd known there was an automatic line spacer button in Word. I double-spaced my first entire manuscript manually. D'oh!

Himbokal said...

I would have told myself to get it on paper and worry about quality later. I spent far too much time trying to write brilliant first drafts. Or sometimes just waiting for brilliant inspiration.

I should have looked at it as the faster you get the bad stuff out, the quicker you get to the good stuff. I'd sum it up as: Never rejected. Never published.

Priya Parmar said...

it is funny. there are things i wish i had known, like to be really consistent with names and nicknames of characters as fixing it all later is a nightmare and then there are things i am so happy i did not know. if i had know that it would be six years between beginning the writing and seeing it in barnes and noble, i might never have done it! but i am so happy i went into it blind and just kept going!

salima said...

In practical terms, to OUTLINE!!!! To have some idea of where a story is GOING before just plunging in with what I thought then was lovely prose. (Ahem.)

But to my younger, child self? That what I think and feel matters, and that writing is a boundless place to explore all of that. That the confines of everyday life don't exist there.

v.n.rieker said...

Anon(who wished for automatic double-space knowledge)--I had already written two whole books before someone showed me how to use the automatic-paragraph-indent in Word! I hadn't known such a thing existed. I couldn't believe how many spacebar hits I'd wasted! It was a glorious discovery. =P

Rob Smith said...

I wish I'd realized that as busy as I thought I was in college, I was totally wrong and should have been using that time to get more writing done! So much Ninja Gaiden...

jongibbs said...

I wish I'd known there was a huge list of things I didn't even know I didn't know.

Aimée Beatrice Jodoin said...

I wish I'd told myself to never slow down, to keep on writing and writing and writing and writing no matter how much the ideas sucked! You can always make it better later.

Kristi said...

I wouldn't tell my beginning writer-self anything. In fact, there are quite a few things I'd love to un-tell my current writer-self. Like how frustrating it will be to find an agent or a publisher. How disheartening it is to get critique advice from people who clearly don't like anything about your writing/genre/characters/voice. How many hours can be spent re-writing and re-writing and re-writing. And re-writing.

I would dearly love to get back to that initial enthusiasm and confidence and sense of wonder that carried me through a NaNoWriMo with stars in my eyes.

I still love writing, but its like marriage. The newlywed days are over and now I have to face the day-to-day reality of sweaty socks and morning breath.

Kristin Laughtin said...

It's OK to change your plans along the way.

Seriously. I'm cool with revising outlines, changing character names and titles and subplots and whatever, and most everything else now, but starting out, I was so rigid. I had to conform to my original vision or I was betraying something. Going with the flow makes me a lot less stressed out and probably prepares me better for dealing with the publishing world when/once I do sell a book.

Juliette said...

I'm only just starting now, but I would love to tell me 10 years ago that it's OK to write with the aim of making money out of it, and that you're never too young to get started.

Kaitlyne said...

I wish that I knew earlier what true editing entailed. I used to think it was all about fixing the wording. Now I understand that it involves so much more. Pacing, structure, plot, and so on.

I also wish I'd been less stubborn about not outlining back them. My books would have been a lot better when I first started if I'd planned better.

Dawn Simon said...

I don't think I'd change things. I've learned so much since I started, especially in the last five years. It's a huge and incredible journey, and knowing too much would have made those first steps more intimidating.

I think while we're learning about business and craft, so much time has to be spent writing and editing peers (but especially writing) in order to grow properly--at least that's true for me. I simply wasn't ready, but I wouldn't have learned all I had if I had known that. I think the writing, the rejections, the critique groups--it all seasons us. And if we persevere, we turn out better for it.

There are still so many people who know so much more than I do, and there always will be. Always. But I'll learn over time, as I'm ready for each new discovery. The unknown helps fuel me because I continue to believe something great is around the next corner--and if not there, the corner after that. I wouldn't want anyone--not even my future self--to tell me otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Since I came to writing a little later in life-43,I'm still learning the ropes. I have no regrets so far. Every mistake I've made I've learned from.It's a journey I have fell in love with.

RK Gold said...

That writing a book is not as easy as reading one.

Sue Eves said...

that I can't stop

Munk said...

I wish I'd known how to bake an angel food cake and how to become invisible and how to fly.

M.R. Merrick said...

That I'm not alone!

When I started the writing process I didn't know any writers. At first I never thought to look online and find some, then I figured I would write the first draft and deal with the rest afterwards. Had I known what an amazing community was out there, just waiting to be introduced to me, I would've gotten involved a lot sooner.

That being said, I can appreciate the way things have turned out so far. It'd have been nice to know I wasn't alone earlier on, but at the same time, I appreciate things a little differently having found them late.

Anonymous said...

That maintaining a hard daily writing routine was far more important than any single book.

By 'hard' I mean truly working at getting better, studying others' work that I felt had power, actively trying out different approaches, not settling for - in the words of Edward de Bono - 'the first right answer.' In other words, that writing is more than merely typing words that I made up in my head.

Fortunately, I did figure those things out, it just took longer than I would've liked.

Still struggling with the 'daily' part, though.

DavidMalcolm said...

I wish I could have told myself that even if I've seen some really lousy and boring books get published. That doesn't necessarily mean my awesome engaging totally unique book is going to have an easy time convincing an agent to take a chance.

I think I'd also have told myself not to put all my hopes in one dream agent with a dreamy smile. Cause when you get rejected by the one you'd been hoping for for your whole third draft ... huts like a bugger!

Marilyn Peake said...

Nathan, I like what you learned about writing. I agree that the journey a writer takes in creating each manuscript is an awesome experience – it’s like visiting a brand new world and walking around inside it every time you write a manuscript.

As far as what I wish I had known when I started writing ... I wish I had known how much I would love it, and wish I had double-majored in Creative Writing in college and gone on to get an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. I originally went to college for Journalism, switched my major to Psychology, and later went to graduate school in Clinical Psychology. I still love Psychology and enjoyed working in that field, but I wish I had started writing novels much sooner than I did.

Ted Fox said...

That I'm at my best when I'm writing. I think that would've prompted me to start earlier.

Laura Drake said...

I wish I'd have had something impossible; the long view.

Oh, and that it's addicting.

PatriciaW said...

It's okay not to know what you're doing. The only right way is your way. So write. Just write. Process and craft and such will come later. Enjoy the freedom while you can.

Dead Man Walking said...

The Art of conflict bridging and spoon-feeding tension. Oh. And to never tell ANYONE other than your spouse/sig-other that you're writing a book.

Nick said...

500 words a day is better than 2,000 in the occasional flash of inspired brilliance.

And what Rob Smith said about Ninja Gaiden...

Ginny Kubitz Moyer said...

I wish I'd known what Hemingway wrote about dealing with writer's block: All you have to do is write one true sentence. Just write the truest sentence that you know, and take it from there. It always works.

Mira said...

What a powerful topic and comments. I'm flagging this to re-read.

For me, I wish I'd known not to ever ask other people about:

a. Whether I should write.

b. What I should write.

To trust myself.

Still learning that at deeper levels.

Bron said...

I wish I'd started earlier. I'm still relatively young, but when I think of those long holidays I had at school and university, I wish I had spent some of those weeks writing. I have much shorter holidays now that I have a full-time job, and I want to spend some of them, you know, actually taking a trip.

Carolyn B said...

I wish I had known I was living in the golden age of publishing. There were dozens of mainstream magazines actively looking for short fiction. I sold a few stories, then got busy with a job and stopped submitting. I thought I could always get back to it when I had more time.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Here's what I'm glad I didn't know: it would take eleven manuscripts, eleven years, and hundreds of rejections to sell that first book.

Thankfully, I was blissfully unaware and kept plugging away.

Ray Anderson said...

I wish I'd known it's not the writing; it's the RE-WRITING!

Kristi Helvig said...

I'm actually glad I didn't know at the beginning that the revising would be harder than the writing (for me at least). Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Livia said...

That writing isn't about words. It's about being really good at imagining things -- people, places, events, etc.

Mary McFalrand said...

I wish I had known . . . not to buy writing chairs I didn't want my butt to grow into.

C.Smith said...

I wish I had known I was going to try churn my hobby into a full-time career. At least then I would have had my story straight and my future outlined. And I wouldn't have burnt/shredded all those 200 page novels I'd handwritten because I thought they were utter poop. Would have saved me so much time than trying to start them again from scratch.
The stupidity of youth. *smacks younger self*

Laurie Boris said...

I wish I'd known that a novel isn't done because you're tired of it. That it's done when it's done, when it's the best story possible. Like my grandmother always said about any recipe she passed along, "cook until done!"

Laura W. said...

"Hurry the hell up and write the damn thing instead of noodling around on all these writing blogs!" ;)

Anonymous said...

I second what Rick Daley said. Although, as a fan of cheesy Italian dishes, I immediately assumed that the speaker with accent of unknown origin simply could not spell "manicotti."

word ver: walibuse: the thirteenth attempt at hanging your favorite velvet painting (of the Virgin Mary posing with both Elvis and her son) on the flaking plaster above the fireplace...nothing to do with wallabies. NickB

Anonymous said...

Seriously though, maybe: read more and widely. And yes, past self, it's okay to read when you Should Be writing. It's school. NickB

Nan said...

I wish I'd known more about POV--I feel like I'm back in college creative writing class when I spend time with my crit group. It's good for me, but sometimes I feel incredibly dumb!

Joanna said...

I wish I had known how much writing would consume me... and I wish I'd been able to prepare my family for the hours and hours I would spend behind the closed door. We've settled into a rhythm now but it took a while and it wasn't pretty.

Simon Haynes said...

I wish I'd known it takes me 20-25 drafts before I'm moderately happy with any given manuscript.

Linda Godfrey said...

I wish I'd known that I really could write, but that it would take creating a few "drawer" novels before I began to understand the craft of fiction.

Jen said...

I wish I'd known how much I was going to fall in love with it! Then I wouldn't have dabbled so long, and I would have sunk my teeth in a lot sooner!

Anonymous said...

Who in their right mind goes into the world-creating business? Leave it to the gods.

Nicole said...

Stop making people smile so much, and quit with the stage directions.

Oh, and pick a POV for heaven's sake!

Anonymous said...

Had anyone take twenty minutes of class time in any of the three semester long course I took in creative writing to explain “character driven” versus “content driven” vs. “journalistic style” and other terms that I do not as yet know, and give a list of authors who exemplified those styles. I think I would have found my voice a little faster. On the other hand, there is something to be said for the joy of discovery.

Hollister Ann Grant said...

Nathan, what a wonderful topic. I'm reading every response and nodding like a bobblehead doll. I also love the Goya painting at the top of the screen.

I wish I had known:

To stop straining so hard to make perfect sentences and just say it.

That if something bothers me, polishing and polishing isn't going to fix it. If it stinketh, it stinketh and needeth to be trashed.

Jessica said...

I wish I discovered sooner that a good writer is not something you *are*, but something you can become after years and years of hard work and deliberate practice.

I also wish I’d been okay with failure sooner and realized how much each (mis)step helps me grow. I love Eric Weiner’s analogy in “The Geography of Bliss.” All of the crap we write is like fertilizer – it is necessary and allows the good stuff to grow.

Patrick said...

I wish I had known how many people who can write were going to tell me how to fix my work... Agents, Managers, Producers, Directors, Actors and everyone else who has never written a complete script and never will. Especially agents.

Ellis Shuman said...

I wish I had known that every step of the way is worth it and one should not give up. The end result will surprise you and you will thoroughly enjoy the fun along the way. Keep writing!

wry wryter said...

I would have said to my younger writing self, and I say to all young writers,
WRITE
Do not waste that which is given to you in youth TIME.
BLINK and these precious moments are gone.

Gail S. said...

I agree with Bill: I wish I'd known to treat a writing career like I would any other start-up company, with the big investment (of time, and money) that it takes to get a business off the ground. That means plugging eight hours a day into it (if not more) for a long, long time.

Roslyn Rice said...

I wish I had known not to focus on just writing a book. There are so many other ways to have freedom in your writing-magazines, blogs, devotions, cards, etc.
The true writer is just happy to write in whatever venue is presented to them.
I would tell a younger writer that writing is a journey and a process. You never "arrive". You keep moving along learning as you go.

Terin Tashi Miller said...

Wow. Provocative question.

I wish I had known how darn hard it really is to get a book published traditionally, after you've written it, revised it, found a literary agent who loves it, only to find the potential publishers already have a series in that genre, or aren't convinced there's a market for a story set in another country, or only want "best sellers" with other marketing possibilities (toys, movies, etc).

That's why P-O-D self-publishing via Amazon's arm has become a God-send to me.

That said, whenever I get frustrated about it, I remember complaining to my first agent about how much time and energy writing, trying to be published, and trying hard to write literary fiction well without compromising on my sense of it as an art form requiring dilligence and practice and study as well as execution like all the other arts was taking out of my life, and my marriage at the time.

His extremely sharp (he was a "tough love" type of guy) response: "who ever told you this was going to be easy?"

So. He, as almost always, was right. RIP, Ray-buddy. Thanks for your selfless devotion for the first decade of my trying to get published.

Anonymous said...

from Ira Glass: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI23U7U2aUY


“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.

But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.

But your taste...is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you...A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit...

It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions."

Lisa Ahn said...

I think what you write hear about being too focused on the end result -- that's where I am now. I have to get back to writing for the love of it. Thanks.

Guilie said...

Dianna Zaragoza said...
I wish I had known that I didn't have to be perfect the first time...that there's lots of opportunity for do-overs. That, in fact, the do-overs (editing) is the part where the story really blossoms.

Couldn't agree more, Dianna. I kept trying to get it DONE... then I realized how much better the story became, how much more insight I gained, as the editing began. That was a golden revelation.

SBJones said...

Multi-task over linear progression. When the rough draft of my novel was done I had it edited. I sat around for a week with nothing to do but wait. When it was done and did a second and third edit I just waited. Once that was done, then I looked into book covers. THAT took 4 weeks. Then all the ISBN, Printer, Format etc etc etc.

Now that I know first had what it takes, I would have started the book cover project right off. Split my work into five or ten chapter chunks to be edited while I was still writing. Had all the paper work etc done before hand to sell a book. I could have easily cut out 50% of the time it took from first word typed to holding a finished book in my hand by multi-tasking.

Fred said...

I wish I knew people would like what I write as much as they do. I wouldn't have quit for all those years, and I'd have a book or two out there already. Also, I wish I knew Kindle would come along as a safety net for those who fail with the standard publishing. It wouldn't have seemed like such an all or nothing tribulation.

Rebecca Kiel said...

I wish I had known that my neighbor's mother was going to make her return my book for a full refund. In that case, I never would've toiled over producing a copy of my fully illustrated book about my dog. 1982. My driveway. The card table. Passing back two dimes and a nickel. Someone should've warned me!

Jesse said...

What would I tell my younger self? Hmmm...

Self, writing is a process. It's not just tossing words on a blank piece of paper and then off to publish. You've been watching too many TV and movie plots that make it sound so glamorous. It's not. It's a job. And it's a process. Do yourself a big favor and learn. Read a whole hell of a lot. Then, write a lot more. And learn the process--writing, rewriting, polishing. And then rejection and trying again and again. And to always keep writing. Never stop writing. You have a beautiful road ahead of you and it's going to be a slog sometimes and a joy most of the time. But respect the process, respect the words, and respect the readers. THEN, you have a really good shot at it all.

Heather said...

I wish I had taken the time in the beginning to do all my research. That way, when it was time to go back and start the endless editing process, I could focus less on looking up all those facts I'd told myself I would "just figure out later."
Granted, I am still in the younger writer version of myself, but I wish I'd known the above while writing the first draft.

Jillian said...

I wish I'd known to put the writing books down (I've read them enough) and to strive for honesty. To avoid holding back or trying too hard, because writing shows it.

So I'd say grab a beer, blast your favorite music and write about thing you keep trying to avoid--whatever scares you or makes you nervous-- start there.

Pamala Owldreamer said...

Nothing! Because if I had known then what I know now about writing novels, I am not sure I would have three finished novels and one partial.I'm not published yet,but I can't and won't stop writing.I may not be the next Nora Roberts,Anne Bishop,etc.But I plan to be the first ME!

Indu Nair said...

I wish I had read a great deal more...I read next to nothing except my Engineering books at University, and during a two year long project in my day job. I wish I had realised much earlier that all I wanted to do was to write, and to make more time for it. I wish I had had more writer friends to compare notes on the art and craft of writing.

Robert said...

Those who can, write; those who can't, talk about it.

Kyla said...

I wish I'd known writing wasn't what you see in the movies. It isn't easy, glamorous, or instant success. It's work, difficult but beautiful, and it's a job.

More than anything, I wish I'd known that finishing a manuscript has more to do with tenacity and stubborn refusal to quit than it does talent. It would have saved me a lot of heartbreak over the years.

Mira said...
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