I've seen people do these posts before - and yet I am still finding out things as I progress in my writer journey that I somehow missed before. And I've been writing for almost twenty years now. That's TWO DECADES!
Sometimes I'll discover something and think "man, I wish somebody had told me about this!" Other times it's a matter of hearing it ten times before having it finally sink it. Usually through me goofing something up. Your own mistakes are still the best teachers.
So I've decided to put together a brief list of the top five things I didn't know about being a writer when I started...
5) It takes FOREVER to write a novel!...And that's not a bad thing.
This one was one of those 'hear it ten times and still don't get it' pieces of advice. I had heard people say writing takes a long time. Then I would see somebody who wrote a novel in a year. Or in six months. Or in three months. And I would look at my own writing journey of fifteen years and think "good grief! Am I just really that terrible at writing?"
Here's the cold, hard facts, folks: writing a novel is hard work and it takes a LOT of time to do correctly. (Granted there are exceptions, but for most people it takes at least a year - in my case, fifteen.) But think of it this way - most great pieces of art weren't scratched up in an hour-long painting sessions. Most famous stone carvings weren't done on two lunch breaks and one weekend at the beach. (As a matter of fact, I don't know of ANY stone masterpieces that were done that quickly.) So why do we expect our novels to happen overnight?
I've learned that it takes months, even years, for me to craft the masterpiece that is my novel. And I now know that it's okay. Book lovers don't finish the Lord of the Rings trilogy and think, "Man, Tolkien is such an idiot - he spent ten years building this world, creating his own languages, crafting characters that will stand the test of time. It should only have taken him a month!"
4) That first draft is gonna suck. And so is the second. And the third. And the fourth.
This one hurts. Every time I look back over what I've just written, even if I was only editing for grammar, I still find things I want to fix. And things that are cheesy. And things that I hate my own guts for putting in there in the first place.
But I've discovered that a number of well-renowned authors have stated that they themselves struggled with this exact same issue. In fact, some authors have confessed to still not being entirely happy with how their published and highly successful novels turned out. Why do I expect a different result?
Instead, I've learned to be excited in the rewriting and editing phases. I'm growing as a writer, or I would never notice these cheesy lines or choppy dialogue. It's a good thing, really. When you can get past the part where you're crying at your laptop contemplating printing your manuscript just so you can burn it.
3) Think you have a little spare time to write? Think again, buster!
There's this little thing called LIFE. And it ain't so little.
When I was a teenage writer, I thought writing was easy. Yeah, it consumed a lot of my time. But I was homeschooled, so I could arrange my schedule around my writing and even bring it with me to most events we had to attend.
Then I got married. And had a baby. And another baby. And two out-of-state moves in six months.
I was not prepared at all for how complicated my life was going to get. And when I struggled to find time to write, I thought something was wrong with me. It wasn't until I accepted the fact that the struggle was always going to exist that I found peace and was able to actually find that writing time. It's (surprise) still a struggle. But learning to work with my complicated life instead of fighting it has helped a lot. And the peace it brings gives my brain the 'a-okay' to keep writing.
2) "Normal" people will almost NEVER understand what you're doing and why.
It's happened to all of us. We're in a group of our friends and we mention something amazing in our writing journey that just happened. And nobody in the room gives a darn.
And it hurts. Because they look at us like, "oookay, that's...cool...I guess...weirdo..." and then turn and continue with another branch of conversation as if we had never mentioned anything. Even the friends who try to be interested eventually tune out. They just don't get us.
I don't mind anymore. I mean, come on, we are pretty weird. Our midnight bursts of inspiration. Our devotion to spending hours on a computer only to scrap half our material and start over. Our excitement over certain word counts met or outline goals achieved. Our mourning over characters we've grown attached to and then had to kill.
But take heart, dear writers. Being weird doesn't mean you will never fit in. Believe it or not, there are people out there just like you (some even weirder - isn't it exciting?!) and someday you will find them. Then you will fit in again. And it is a glorious feeling.
1) The people you want to rely on the most will often be the ones that "get you" the least.
I have always felt sorry for my parents, my siblings, and my husband. They're the ones that had to put up with my midnight writing sessions and my stacks of papers and my endless rantings about this character and that character. My poor mother at one point started referring to one book as "the project that ate the house". And it was with good reason. It was taking up all of my time and it was all I wanted to talk about.
Thing is, these were also the most supportive people I ever knew. Even though they didn't understand, they loved me and sought to help make me as successful as they could. (Well, my parents and husband have. I'm still not sure my siblings know exactly what to do with me. What can I say? We're siblings.)
But that doesn't mean they always 'get' me. They still don't understand, nor will they ever understand, all the weird things that make me a writer.
And that's okay.
They don't have to totally get me. I have my writer buddies for that. I just have to be willing to accept that I'm different and quit expecting them to get excited about the same things I do, or to completely understand the intricacies of how and why I'm publishing my books or building my author platform. They still love me. And that is all I need.
So what things do you wish YOU had known when you first started writing? (Which of these things had you still not discovered yet?) Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments!