1. Mardew

    Mardew New Member

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    Eager to learn, or just plain scared?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mardew, Mar 13, 2017.

    I have been writing for only about five or six years and have self-published two children's books. I belong to a wonderful Women's Writing Group where I am the editor of their newsletter. I have been taking many on-line writing courses in order to make sure I am doing things the right way. With three different projects in mind, I have been working on what I hope will be my first real full-length novel for almost a year now. It has taken so many different directions that I lost count. I had the first two chapters critiqued by my group, with suggestions for many changes (really changing the story line).

    My question to everyone is: Should I continue to take classes (everyone has different ideas of how to proceed as a writer), or should I just not pay attention to all those hundreds of blogs and emails I keep getting on the subject and just dive into my story blindfolded to other people's opinions.

    I know part of my problem is an extremely bad lack of self-confidence. Although I have been told by many people that my writing is good, I'm still unsure of myself. (Which I understand is a problem many new writers have.) Also because I started so late in life (I am 62 next month), I feel like I need to learn all I can.

    Any advice or comments will be great appreciated.
     
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  2. Whitefire_Nomura

    Whitefire_Nomura Member

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    I've never been one to say that education is a bad idea. I feel one should learn as much as they can as often as opportunity permits. However, there comes a time to cut the safety net and attempt to walk on your own.

    While I think it's a good thing to get opinions from your friends, remember that it is your story; not theirs. So with that in mind, I would take all of the critiques that have been made, consider what was suggested and make any corrections that YOU feel would help build your story and then step up to the plate. Overall, what is the worse that can happen? You don't find a publisher, What is the best that can happen? You get published. Overall, don't let apperhension prevent you from looking back and saying "What if?"

    Good luck and let us know what happens.
     
  3. JE Loddon

    JE Loddon Active Member

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    My advice, though it won't work for everyone, is to graft out 3 or 4 novels quickly. Writers get hung up on wanting their first book to be perfect, and it becomes a chain around their neck. Get the experience and self doubt out with some crappy books, and you'll feel a lot more ready to do it for real.
     
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  4. Mardew

    Mardew New Member

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  5. Mardew

    Mardew New Member

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    Well, I did kind of do that. I have self-published two children's books. One is a picture book abo9ut my dog and how he overcame his fear of the swimming pool, and the second is a short historical fiction for8-12 year-olds about a set of twins who, while visiting a historical site find themselves back in Colonial America and how they learn to adapt. The reviews I got from both were pretty encouraging, but I still feel they were not up to par. But as I am still in the beginning stages of my writing career, I aim to keep on going until that "breakout" novel is completed. Thanks for your words of encouragement.
     
  6. Alphonse Capone

    Alphonse Capone Active Member

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    I'd say a combination. Something you read in a blog or newsletter will make more sense from a learning point of view if you can think of an example from your own writing where it applies. The more you write, the more likely you'll have personal examples.

    It might also dictate the blogs you decide to read all the way through if it hits on a particular issue you are having.
     
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  7. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Contributor

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    There will never be a formula to do things 'the right way' for everyone, count on it. Writing classes, blogs and advice notwithstanding, literally everyone has different ideas on how you should do things, and the trick is finding out which of these ideas mesh with your own writing.

    Sure, there is stuff that keeps cropping up (e. adverbs, pacing, was/has, SPAGs to name a few) but in terms of storyline and what-to-do-when: all readers have different ideas. Though it pays off to consider changing something if a bunch of diverse critiquers all say the same thing.

    As one who also would like to please everyone :rolleyes: I can understand this fear all too well. However, for me there was only one way forward if I should ever hope to get my story out there: I'll keep writing, keep giving my story out to be critiqued, divide rationally between what-is-useful-and-what-is-not (this is the hardest part), close my ears/eyes to the rest, and.. keep writing.

    Remember: this is your story, not the story of your critiquers. In the end, you are the one who has the vision what should be written.
     
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  8. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Are you a reader of novels? If so, you'll have some idea of what you're trying to create. Your grasp of grammar, spelling and punctuation seems fine, judging by your post. So just get it written.

    You will have picked up a lot already, just from reading. You know what a novel 'sounds' like. Trust your instincts and write your novel without encumbering yourself with tons of do's and don't's—from writing books, classes, or from writing groups. And even more important, don't show your work to anybody until it's finished (completely) to your satisfaction.

    Critics will always find things to nitpick about. If they're only given a chapter at a time, they won't know about your story flow and other aspects of the novel that need to be considered. Instead, they'll be picking apart dialogue, word choice, wishing your characters were different, etc. They shouldn't be allowed to do this while you're still writing. This kind of premature feedback does influence the way you see your story, undermines your confidence, and in many cases it becomes THEIR story instead. It's a very bad habit to encourage in yourself ...the need for constant approval and perfection before moving on.

    Keep this one thing in mind. Unless you are working to a deadline and your life (or wages) depends on it, writing is a totally risk-free activity. Nothing you write is set in stone until you have published it. So write what you would like to read yourself, and stop worrying about making mistakes or whether or not somebody else will approve. Just get it out there for YOU to read and critique ...and edit and reshape. Nobody ever has to see it at all. Not until you feel it's ready for the world.

    After it's all finished, then is the time to pick up a few books on writing novels. If you've made any classic mistakes, you can correct them. However, you might find that you've done rather well. Trust me, if you have made writer's/storyteller's mistakes, they are easy to correct.

    Only when you are happy with your work yourself, and feel it's 'good enough' should you show it to other people. Then pay attention to what they tell you, and keep editing as you see fit. By that time you'll know what matters to your story and what doesn't, and their opinions may not carry quite as much weight as they would have done earlier.

    No book will never be perfect, by the way. But you'll get to a point where you, and your readers, know it's a good story and does what you wanted it to. Then you're done!
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2017
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  9. Mardew

    Mardew New Member

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    Jannert. Thank you for your post. I think you hit the nail on the head and I should not let anyone read until I have finished. As I mentioned, when my first two chapters were critiqued in my writing group, it was as though they each wanted to make the story their own, completely changing not only the plot, but my main character's personality. I will take your advice and just try to finish writing the entire thing, then maybe consider having someone read it. In the meantime, I think it's time to stop taking so many classes and resume my love of reading and working on my book. Thank you again for your encouragment and advice.
     
  10. Mardew

    Mardew New Member

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    So it's really okay to work on more than one project at a time? I was worried that I was spreading myself too thin by doing this, but now will continue. Maybe one will be completed faster that the others and made ready to publish. Thanks.
     
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  11. JE Loddon

    JE Loddon Active Member

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    I usually have a few things going, and one will jump up and grab my attention more than the others. If you have too many, though, you'll never finish anything.
     
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  12. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    That differs from person to person, but I have read that professional writers often have more than one project on at a time - they switch between projects as and when they get stuck lol. So if they are stuck on Book A, they move on to Book B, and then come back to A later or when they get stuck in B. This way, they're always writing and there're always new ideas. But other writers can only work on one book at a time. Try it and see what works for you.

    You just sound like you're taking the craft very seriously, which is a very good thing. But yes, the most invaluable lessons you will learn is really in the writing and the editing of your own work, I think. There's never a good time to start ;) so just go for it. Nothing says you can't keep learning as you go. If a writing class takes your fancy halfway through, go for it, why not. Learning from other sources and writing are not mutually exclusive.

    And maybe think of it this way. Whether you're good or not may not really matter. It only matters that readers enjoy your work. And it seems they do, from what you've said about your self-published books. Do it for your own enjoyment - and then it won't matter how good it is. I know you'll still do your best, and so you should, but the pressure wouldn't be there anymore. You can stop doubting yourself and just say, "It doesn't matter." There is freedom in that, I think.
     
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  13. Mardew

    Mardew New Member

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    Thank you for that upbeat message. I think I shall follow your wise words and just go for it. Not worry about any of it and see how it goes.
     
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  14. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    @Mardew
    Write what you wish. The only thing between you
    is you. Write what ever you wish. :)
     
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  15. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I know everybody works differently, but I didn't even TELL people I was writing a book until I was about a third of the way through it. And then, only my husband at first, because he was curious about why I kept ordering all these books to do research from! (That was back nearly 20 years ago, when online information wasn't as comprehensive as it is now.) I let friends know I was writing when I was about 3/4 finished. Even that was a bit of a mistake, because I got bombarded by "Is it finished yet, when will it be finished, can I read it, when will it be published?" Their reaction was supportive and encouraging, but it also added unwelcome pressure—the writer's equivalent of the driver's bugbear. "Are we there yet? How much further?"

    It also led to one of the biggest beta mistakes I made. As soon as my first draft was finished, I gave it to everybody who asked for it. I got some incredibly helpful feedback, but the first draft was definitely my worst draft. So all my closest friends got the worst version of my story! :bigoops: Of course I couldn't ask them to read it again, after I'd improved it (considerably) and cut it (by over a third.) Two of my original readers did volunteer to read the next version, but I still feel bad at having dumped my worst effort on my nearest and dearest. I would never do that again. Only a couple of betas at a time, next time around—if they aren't busy running away.

    I now own a whole shelf full of 'how to write' books. These have helped immensely during revisions, and have helped me to understand the concept of storytelling. But I didn't have any of them while I was writing. I just wrote what I wanted to write.

    I told myself at the outset that I would write honestly, and that I would not try to appease anybody or avoid shocking anybody or try to cater to anybody's taste. I just wanted to see what I would end up with, if I told my own story my own way.

    SPAG wasn't a problem for me. I did make beginner novelist mistakes, though—especially at the start of the story. I employed passive voice when active was a more dynamic choice. I began with a journey that lacked context. I failed to name my protagonist, but presented him simply as a 'young man.' I got horribly poetic while describing the setting, forcing my readers to guess its location. Those are the mistakes beginning writers often make, because they think creating a 'mystery' (where none exists) will intrigue the reader. I soon got set straight on that notion. My new writing mantra is: Spit It Out (FFS.) :)

    The overall first result was immensely satisfying to me, though. I remember reaching 'the end' and thinking : HEY. I've done it. I just wrote a BOOK! Nothing to equal that feeling, believe me.

    Interestingly, my first-draft feedback showed that some people whom I thought would love my story didn't seem all that impressed or engaged by it. However, several whom I thought would HATE it (and whom I was reluctant to give it to) were the people who actually liked it the most —including one of the two who volunteered to read it twice. This was an outcome I had not forseen. It was only after the book was finished that I discovered my target audience.

    I am about finished with what I hope will be the very final revision. I've been tweaking a few chapters. I'm trying to make one of my POV character's actions and thoughts less enigmatic, because a couple of my betas have picked up the wrong idea about his motivations. (A hangover from my original desire to create mystery?) But other than that, it's finally done. Am I happy with it? Yes. It's the story I wanted to write.

    I don't think I could have done it if I'd been hamstrung by writing rules beforehand, or worried about what people would think of me.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2017
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  16. JE Loddon

    JE Loddon Active Member

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    With regards to listening to other people's opinions, I think it's worth remembering, everyone has a different idea of what they want from a novel. I released my first book last month, and have had widely differing feedback. The couple of Amazon reviews I've had have been from people who were expecting a story with what has become a stereotypical invincible action hero. Others who I have spoken to enjoy the fact my hero is more vulnerable. I didn't get anybody to read it at all until it was released. I probably should have, because there is a lot I could have done to improve it. If I'd only given it to readers of the first type, though, I may have been swayed into scrapping it altogether. Definitely write the book you want to write. Get opinions on it then, but make sure you give it to a few readers that have different expectations from a novel. That way you'll know that if there are weak areas they all agree on, it is something that should be addressed, and not just a their own personal tastes pushing through.
     
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  17. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    Unlike others, I find it IMMENSELY useful to have 'alpha' readers - people who read each chapter as I churn them out, rather than waiting to read the whole novel once it's polished (beta readers). I didn't do it with book #1 and boy, I learned my lesson. Since then I've had alpha readers for each novel and they saved me a hell of a lot of rewriting. My novels are far better because of their pre-finishing input.

    But I'm pretty good at sorting out the wheat from the chaff with feedback. I'm happy evaluating feedback, taking what's useful, and discarding the rest. I know when somebody is pointing out flaws, and when they're pointing out that they wish I had written a different story. I'm not sure I had that skill/confidence with my first novel, and it sounds like you don't either. Something to bear in mind for the future though - giving unfinished work up for feedback is not a no-no. :)
     
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