1. 10 Failures to 1 Success.
I almost titled this point, “There is no such thing as bad writing.” But I just couldn’t do it. Because there is such a thing as bad writing. In the last five years some terrible writing has come out as mainstream, but I won’t name names. My point is this: I used to be really hard on myself. I loved writing. As I started investing more time into I would write twenty to thirty pages and then look back over it in horror. In my mind I would stamp it as terrible and flirt with throwing it in the recycling bin. But usually if I took a break for a few months and came back to it I would see some of its redeeming qualities. I’ve had a lot of failed attempts, but looking back now I wouldn’t call it “bad writing.” I would call it, “young writing.” Or “immature writing.” Or maybe “unfulfilled potential.” I had to pass through those stages of trial and error to get to where I am today. Everybody wants instant results but…
2. It takes TIME.
Granted, there are probably some freaks of nature out there who can whip out novels every other month. But I think it’s fair to say they are the minority. I am very proud of how far I have come as an author. With very little shame I can say that some of my earliest attempts were simplistic. The only reason I have improved is because I have invested hour after hour, week after week, year after year. Failure after failure, I kept pressing on. I learned from my mistakes. In fact, I can pinpoint what I learned from each project. The summer before my ninth grade year I started working on my first novella without my sister and I learned heaps about dialogue. The story was pretty boring and unrealistic, but some of the banter was really good. It encouraged me to keep going.
Not only does the art of writing take years to perfect, but each writing project takes a good deal of time. It would be very difficult to calculate the hours I have invested in each of my novels. There is the time taken to actually write out the narrative but there is also research, plot development, proofreading, and editing. In all honest, “The Creation of Jack,” probably has several thousand hours of time invested in it. I reworked the novel at least three times over a span of six years. Its sequel has taken much less time (probably only a couple hundred hours).
3. How to give feedback.
In high school a friend of mine stumbled upon some scenes I had been working on and made fun of them. I was incredibly hurt. I knew they weren’t good material, but I was trying to learn how to write humor. There’s a common perception that artists are super sensitive about their work. I know that it is true for me. My first couple of projects didn’t have a lot of emotional value, but as I grew as a writer I began to pour more and more of me into my work. If the scenes strike an emotional chord, it’s probably because I’ve experienced those emotions. My characters and my stories are important to me and it’s hard to submit them to criticism.
But of course good criticism helps me grow as a writer. That’s why I’ve had to branch out, bite the bullet, and let people read my work so I can gain feedback. What I’ve found is that very few people know how to give good feedback. I have had some of my smartest friends read my manuscripts and come back with, “It was good. I liked it.” That’s literally all they had to say. I finally came up with a feedback survey that asks some specific questions that I would like answers to and also gives them a safe way to put in some criticism. (I have just decided I’m going to write a follow-up post about how to give feedback to a writer in case you are interested)