The other day I had a new writer remind me of what it was like to be brand new and a little lost. She transported me back to all my insecurities and also the joy of just having a dream. I think it is good for all writers to remember where they came from. Have you forgotten what its like? The nerves? The excitement? The feeling of not being as good as writers that have been writing longer? Being overwhelmed with all the rules? The crits? The feeling of wanting to quit?
It can be so overwhelming that a fragile newbie can be shattered. I have been writing for about four years now and have a pretty tough skin but new writers don’t. We have to remember that. Of course be honest in crits and lead them in the right direction but don’t ruin them as writers. We have to be so careful and remember how we felt in the beginning. They need encouragement as well as direction. I think we forget to because we crit with a lot of seasoned writers and we don’t need to hear it as much. And I don’t mean false praise. I mean praise for the things they are doing right. Every part of their work can’t be bad.
When I first started out I was so excited that I couldn’t write fast enough. My fingers flew over the keyboard and my mind spun what I thought was a beautiful story. Halfway through the book I couldn’t wait any longer. Someone other than family had to read my work. It was just killing me not to share it. The need to hear someone else tell me how great it was was just eating me alive. So I posted it for crits and my naive heart was broken. My ms came back to me bleeding.
Nothing about it was right. I was head hopping so much it made your head spin. Everyone hated my heroine. I wanted her to be tough and in the process I made her unlikeable. And the list went on and on. Devastated and on the verge of throwing in the towel I was sent an angel in the form of a fellow writer. She made me realize I wasn’t a terrible writer but very new. She convinced me if this was what I really wanted I had to learn the craft and push myself to become a better writer.
So that’s what I did. I took an accredited writing course and learned so much. It was the best thing I ever did! There is so much information out there and not all of it is good and can be very confusing to newbies. It can spin you around and turn you inside out with frustration. Not knowing what is the right way and what is the wrong way to do things. Be very careful whom you get your advice from because not all of it is good advice. Anyone can blog and that doesn’t mean they know what they are talking about. That was one of the first lessons I learned.
Then there is critting. This can be a total disaster as well. I fell head first into this hole thinking it was going to make my story better. Nope! I went about it all wrong. You can’t take the advice of every critter to heart. If you do then you end up with a mess and that’s what I ended up with. If a critter told me to do something then I did it. I think this is very common for a new writer. We read other’s writing and think their writing is amazing and want to follow in their footsteps. The problem lies in having too many different writers manipulating the story.
My ms had a million different voices and ideas, which just made it worse. This is a tough lesson to learn and I learned it the hard way. One of the worst mistakes I made was taking another writer’s thoughts and putting them in the ms word for word. Please don’t do this. If they give you an idea then put it in your own words.
Gee’s this makes me flash back to the frustration of realizing what I did to that poor ms. Needless to say I just put it to the side and started another one. I couldn’t even look at it anymore. Sad but true. I plan to rewrite it but refused to even look at it until recently. It was that upsetting. I don’t blame my crit partners. It was just being new and not knowing.
So to the newbies, all I can say is if this is your dream don’t quit. Learn the craft and follow your dream. Remember we all started somewhere. I know reading more advanced writer’s work can be crushing and you may think you will never get there but you will. They started right where you are now. If you push yourself in the right direction and find the right mentors then you will get there. Never give up. When you want to quit find another writer that will pull you from the trenches. I have been pulled out of that rut many times by my fellow crit partners. Other writers aren’t better than you they are just further along and more seasoned. Its kind of like an iron skillet the more you use it the better it gets.
Now to the more seasoned writers, don’t forget where you came from. Make time to help a new writer. I know a lot of us stay really busy but what if someone had said they didn’t have time to help you? Where would you be now? Remember that one person that took the time to help and teach you the ins and outs of writing? Pull out some of your earlier work and reminisce where you came from. It may shock you.
Happy Reading and Writing,