December 28, 2010

what i learned this year

Since we’re coming to the end of the year, I thought I’d share the things I learned about writing over the past twelve months. Feel free to share your learning experiences from this year in the comments.

Stowing away a freshly finished first draft for a month (or five) really does help with revisions.
I don’t think I looked away from my manuscript for more than a few days when I first finished it. I revised immediately, and at that point, I nearly had the story memorized word for word. Once I started querying (and getting absolutely no interest), I thought that maybe it just wasn’t what those particular agents were looking for. I thought I had a great story… just no one else recognized its amazingness. Meet December, the five month anniversary of my finished manuscript. I took a hard look at my story and realized that it didn’t need just minor revisions; it needed an entire rewrite. It needed to be restructured and refocused. I started on that. Would you believe that it already feels like the story I intended to write?

Traditional publishing is the slowest professional community in the cosmos.
I didn’t realize how much time it takes to go from story idea to published product, or how many people you have to go through to get there. I thought that writing the book was the hard part, and once you had that finished, you were golden. Wrong. It’s a process that can take years.

Writing makes you a better writer.
I didn’t believe this until now. You learn the craft by writing. You learn what works and what doesn’t, even if it is only subconsciously. Between finishing my first draft of my first novel and starting this rewrite this month, I wrote roughly 60,000 words. The first draft of the manuscript itself was 60,000 words. I’ve written several short stories over the course of this year, adding up to about 30,000 words. I have written, approximately 150,000 words this year, give or take a few thousand, and that’s not including all the words I deleted or all my blog posts in the past three months. At first, I thought that those words were all wasted, that the past year had been a complete flop as far as productive writing went. That’s not true. I honestly believe that those words were training to prepare me for this rewrite of my manuscript. I can honestly say that the 8,000 words that make up my rewrite are the best raw compilation of words I have ever written. Period.

It takes a thick skin to work in this industry.
My several rejections, twelve months’ worth of writing that will likely never see the light of day, the constant nagging of my unemployment, the sense of failure for being unemployed, the loneliness of the profession, and the ridiculous amount of time it takes to do anything… all aiming at my willpower, my desire and determination to be a writer. Luckily, I have diamond-hard skin to protect me from all of that.

Blogging is fun.
I put off blogging for a long time because I didn’t think I’d have anything to say, and I didn’t think anyone would care to listen. Hello, my thirty-eight followers. Thanks for being here and helping me realize that I’m not just full of hot air. There’s some important stuff in the waffle after all. Blogging is a part of my job now. I love doing it, just as much as I love writing stories. Not only that, but some of what I have to talk about has helped other struggling writers. Way to boost my ego, commenters.

You never stop learning the craft.
This goes with the “writing makes you a better writer” bit. You would think that at a certain point, you will have become a master of the trade. Pure, publishable genius just flows from your fingertips, and it’s only a matter of time for someone to see it. Not true. You’ll never be a master of the art. Writing is more than a command of the English language. It’s an ever-changing beast that must be tamed, fed, and watered. It involves grammar, of course, and spelling too. It involves plotting, revising, editing, characterization, structure, and patience as well. There will always be a better way to say something, a better way to get a character’s motives across, a better way to execute that love scene, or a better way to communicate the theme of a story. It takes time and work to figure out the fine points of making a story better than it already is, and you learn those things as you go. Just remember that even though a story will never be the absolute best it can be. At some point, you have to stop tweaking, and let that baby go. It will still be brilliant, and you can still learn from it.

Ultimately, it all boils down to you.
The game’s not over unless you’ve given up on yourself. It doesn’t matter how many obstacles stand between you and a published book. If you have the determination and the dedication it takes to face those obstacles, wear your tough diamond-skin, and keep plugging on even with the whole world against you, then you have what it takes to produce a publishable, readable, bestselling book. It takes time and patience, but your dreams of book-writing fame aren’t over until you let them be. If you never give up, then the glory of the win is always waiting ahead of you.

What have you learned in the past year?

Also, don't forget to enter the holiday contest!


  1. It's been a good learning year for you, it sounds like. Glad things are starting to come together and that you're getting a good handle on how publishing works. It's a long hard road we're on, but so totally worth it. :)

  2. It's been a good learning year for me too. It's also been a year where I failed ALOT and it has only inspired me to keep at it. No shame. Anyways, the waffle picture made me want waffles SO bad. Thanks! =)