What do you know now that you wish you knew before you started writing? I posed that question to several thousand people on my mailing list recently and here are a few of the responses I’ve identified with the most. These are writers at all stages of their careers, from all kinds of backgrounds, ages, walks of life — in short, they’re people just like you. But they’re all writers — also just like you There’s some great bits of wisdom in here.
And really, I received so many great comments that I couldn’t fit them all here. I will definitely have to do a part two. Stay tuned.
(responses edited for length, content, etc. and emphasis added)
What I wish I knew before is that my first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. I know, it seems obvious, but it took me a long time to fully understand that. I have been working on my novel for about one year now, and I still don’t have a complete first draft. That happened because I was so obsessed over making it perfect (creating a perfect plot with no holes, developping the characters to the max, choosing the perfect words for each sentence) that I would never move forward.
I think something I wish I knew before was how bad overthinking is. That sometimes to get started I’ve just got to start writing something small to get to know my characters while the main plot develops in my head. Get to know the characters intimately and they’ll help to show you and develop the story.
I think the most profound thing that I’ve learned is to write what’s on my mind. Trying to force myself to work on a specific project or to do it in a certain order just doesn’t work for me. I have to work on what’s in my head, and that’s when my best ideas are generated. Stifling that flow makes it almost impossible to work on other things. Also, cats are distracting, remove them from the room.
No conflict = No plot, No plot = No story
I have learned that the use of imagination plays a vital role in the creative process of writing. And to make it perfect you just need practice, that is, keep writing.
Personally, I wish I had known just how much you’re going to dislike your own writing at first, and how much you’ll want to rewrite until you find the “perfect draft”, even though there is no such thing. I wish I had known that there was way more rewriting and revising than actual writing! The writing, the creating, that’s the fun part. Writing is mostly work, but it pays off when you finish something you’ve worked hard on.
I’ve learned that no matter what happens, you can’t give up and just stop writing. Once I was working on a book and somehow, I mysteriously lost almost two chapters on my computer. I wanted to quit, but I resolved to rewrite these chapters, and guess what? They were even better than what I had written and lost before! I know now that whenever you hit roadblocks in your writing, you just need to take a breather, and then forge ahead. It is definitely worth it!
When I started writing I wanted to have a set course for my characters, but I often became overcome with writer’s block. When I finally realized that my characters wanted to be set free in their own world, they finally spoke to me and I was able to write.
Well, the biggest thing I can think of is pretty obvious, but I think a lot of us struggle with it. I wish that I knew that I didn’t have to write for anyone but myself. When I first started out, all I could think about is what my family wanted me to write. What they would want to read or hear. I didn’t think about what I wanted to write or what I wanted to say. Because at the end of the day, you can’t write or speak in someone else’s words if you want to be successful or if you want to reach people. It has to come from you.
Sometimes it is really hard to get into your own idea. You start to think that it isn’t a good enough idea or that it’s dumb and no one would want to read it. But from my experience, the more you keep up with the draft or idea, the more engaged you and your reader(s) become. They begin to want more, and slowly, so do you. That is when writing becomes addicting. I’ve learned to stick it out until the end or else you’ll waste an amazing idea. Thanks!
What about you? What did you wish you knew? Send me a note.