1. TonyMiser
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    TonyMiser New Member

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    Balancing learning the craft with a love of my story.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by TonyMiser, Oct 16, 2011.

    Unlike many of the people I've seen on here who have been writing since childhood, I have only been at it for less than three years. Most of my efforts have been focused on my sci-fi/fantasy novel, "Astral Arcana" which is only the first part of what I plan to turn into a series. In essence, most of my learning process has been spent on this book, and it's what I've been cutting my teeth on as I develop as a writer. To improve at writing, one needs to actually write, and this story is what I have the passion and drive for.

    My problem is this. How do I balance my need to learn the craft of writing with my need for this one story to be as good as I can possibly make it? I worry if I finish it now, I might find later that it isn't what it could have been, or somehow screws up the continuity of what I plan to do with the rest of the series. Should I make an effort to work on other stories to hone my skills, or am I worrying about nothing?
     
  2. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I am in the same boat as you, I just started writing for the first time three months ago. Everyone told me to write this or that before I started writing my series, so I could learn how to write. But, like you, I only have the drive to write my series. So what I have done, is stop writing new chapters until I have perfected the first few. Which basically means I am doing essentially the same thing as writing short stories to practice. I am just using my first few chapters instead.

    I will not move on to the next chapter until I have completely, or almost completely, finished learning how to write at least "well."

    I would advise you to do the same, going back and having to change and re-work an entire book would not be fun at all. I say stop where you are at, read well written books to see how it is done, read some books on writing and ask questions here as you go back and edit your work thus far.

    I have also played around with different perspectives as well during this time, I needed to find my "style." You should maybe do the same.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Why do so many new writers decide they're going to start out by writing a series? Really, you make things much harder on yourself than they need to be. The fact is, new writers do not start out by writing a series, and the likelihood that a publisher will take on such a project from someone with no writing credentials is virtually zero. So, TonyMiser, do yourself a solid and focus on one story at a time. If it grows big enough, and you find acceptance, you can worry about a series later.

    Now we can turn to your original question. Presumably, we all want to make whatever we are writing "the best it can be". But, as new writers, I can promise you that whatever the result, it will be wanting in some way. That's what editors are for. I have just finished a first draft of a novel, and I know that between now and the time I pronounce it "as good as it can be", it will have undergone numerous revisions and dozens of re-readings. And that's before I even work up the nerve to show it to anyone else. This will be a painful (at times) process, but it is the process of learning the craft of writing (as you put it so well). The answer to your question is that the two are one and the same - your love of your story(ies) is what drives your development as a writer, and your labors over them are what help you learn the craft of writing.

    You will probably find that, over time, you sprout new ideas apart from your current story. Follow them. Develop them. Working on one thing for too long can stifle your creative juices. Changing your focus from time to time keeps you and your writing fresh. I would also suggest finding another outlet for your creative impulses apart from writing, something you can go to to get away from writing from time to time. For me, the outlet is music, but I also dabble in photography.

    Good luck.
     
  4. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^This! I would have said the same thing myself. I'm in the same boat too, and I think it's my love for the story im writing that has made me develop my skills in order to do it justice and I think that's a good place to start. Even if it'll never get published I have learned so many valuable things that I take with me to the next project and the fact is that not many writers get their first story published. But I would never have learned all of this if I didn't care so much about this particular novel.
     
  5. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    ..... double post, AGAIN!!!
     
  6. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    "So, TonyMiser, do yourself a solid and focus on one story at a time."

    Well, to be fair, his series is one story. Albeit a big story.
     
  7. Nicholas C.
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    Nicholas C. Active Member

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    This is one of the reasons I focus on writing short stories. I'm relatively new to writing fiction also, and I find that short stories allow you to experiment with different styles, find your voice, etc, all without dedicating too much time to one project (which may turn out to be poorly written by the end).
     
  8. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    I've been writing since I was 4 (according to my parents), so that's 30+ years of writing with a few thousand pages, and I'm still learning new things. If you're looking to be the perfect writer, it won't happen. There's an expression that goes something like, "Your first million words are practice." So if you're willing to wait a million words (the equivalent of about 4000 pages), then by all means write other stories. If not, cut your teeth on this series, but plan to re-edit and re-edit every time you learn something new. I'm doing that. I've got a series of novellas and I'm currently writing #13, and every time I learn a trick, I feel the need to go back and incorporate it into all 1,700 pages. Would it have been easier for a new writer like me to write short stories and get published that way before tackling this? Sure. But this series is my passion. And, if your passion is like mine, it's not going to wait for one million words.

    So write it, be happy with it, and later, rewrite it, and be happier with it. And expect to do that over and over.
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't like this idea that the first million words are practice. That kind of tells people that the first million words they write will be garbage and the million-and-first word will be brilliant. (People actually think that way, believe it or not!)

    Anyway, twenty-five years ago (I'm that old) I had a novel in mind. I thought it would be the greatest thing ever written. I wrote a first draft over a period of three years or so, and doing that work taught me an enormous amount about myself, not just about writing. Then I set the work aside for a few years while I built my engineering career and so on. During that time, I wrote some short stories and a few other things.

    I never lost track of my novel, and I still think the ideas in it are the best I've ever had. But I went back to it about ten years ago and found that the first draft was utter sewage. To be sure, there were some wonderful passages (at least, I love them!), but there was no structure, too many subplots, and just ridiculously amateurish prose (which at the time I thought was brilliantly experimental).

    So what I'm saying is this: Get your ideas down, but DON'T think that you've written a good draft. Write some short stories. Write, maybe, another novel that doesn't mean that much to you. Learn your craft. Take some courses - online ones are available from Gotham Writers Workshop and other places. Get some of your work in front of sympathetic but critical eyes and find out where you're strong and where you're weak, and work on your craft. Then return to your masterpiece, bringing to bear everything you've learned, and make it as good as it can be. You'll be happier with it, and you'll have better luck trying to get it published.
     
  10. Berenice
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    Berenice Member

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    I agree there, that is basically nonsense, because it incites unhealthy perfectionism and ends in a writer who never publishes because he never is satisfied.

    As to the OP, write your series, get it out of the way, then work on other stories then revise. It can be as simple as that.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm confused. So many writers are unable to make themselves write because their first page isn't as good as the edited, polished published pages of the novels of their favorite author. Knowing that your first writing is _not_ going to be as good as that, and you should go ahead and write anyway, sounds like the opposite of perfectionism to me.
     
  12. Berenice
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    Berenice Member

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    I was agreeing with the poster saying that "the first million words are practice" is nonsense.

    And it IS nonsense. If I had considered a million words being worthless practice (a million is the equivalent of 14 novels, which is total hypocrisy!) only, then I wouldn't have submitted any short or novel so far, nor sold any. There are loads of writers who manage a sale of their very first novel. There are even such who only ever write one single story. It is largely discouraging writers to state that only after they've written a million words (aka 14 novels!) their work is good enough to be the other side of mere practice.

    Thus we agree there.
     
  13. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    I don't think the saying literally means a million. It could be a thousand or two million. I think it just implies there's a learning curve. If it makes you think you'll only be good at your 1,000,001 word, whatever impression it fosters in any one person is up tot hem. Didn't say I totally loved the saying, but I just wanted to illustrate the need for practice, not to count words and celebrate at that magic moment. I wouldn't take it too literally. Anyway, I wanted to say that the OP shouldn't expect to be able to write something that is as good as it can possibly be on day one, but not to wait on it, either.

    But I agree: if you feel something is up to snuff, don't wait for your fifteenth novel to submit it. I wouldn't let the saying get you down. Maybe for you the first hundred words were practice. Who knows?

    And, yeah, some writers publish their first book, but everyone has a different experience.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I still like the saying. To me, it means, don't feel like a failure if your first paragraph isn't good. Or your first page. Or your first thousand pages. Or your first novel.

    People accept that they need to practice, say, the piano for a long time before they can expect to be any good at it. But, possibly because people use language all the time while speaking, they often seem to expect to be able to write an adequate novel on the first try.

    And I don't think that people think that time spent practicing the piano is "wasted". The don't sit down with a tape recorder, tape their practice, and gnash their teeth because the recording isn't good enough to package and sell. Similarly, time spent practicing writing isn't "wasted" even if the actual words on the disk/paper aren't usable for anything. Something about the fact that those words are "recorded" leads people to believe that the words are the product of the exercise. But at the beginnig, the words are not the main product - just as with piano practice, the main product is increased skill.

    And if you know that, you may not feel obligated to write a _novel_. You may just write. In blogs, in forums like this, in a journal, on every occasion that you can find time for. Practice, without focusing on a final product, is not a bad thing.

    Maybe there's another way to to communicate that message, but I like the message.

    ChickenFreak
     
  15. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agree on everything you're saying! :) writing is never wasted.
     

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