I’ve been talking to a few fellow writers lately who are frustrated. It happens to all of us. We ask ourselves, “If only we’d known…” And then kick ourselves that we went in the wrong direction on our books, our careers, or our choices. I look at the novels and bundles I have on Amazon and ask, “Should I have written something besides urban fantasy? Why do I always pick glutted markets?” I wasn’t even following a trend. I just read one and liked it, and it sparked ideas for a series of my own, and then another, and…well, you get it.
Do I regret writing them? Not really. When I wrote mysteries, I hardly ever wrote action scenes. I concentrated on plotting. And motivations. And clues. With urban fantasy, you write a LOT of action. Female characters kick ass. And have attitudes. Did I enjoy that? You bet I did. My characters changed. They became more assertive. I like that.
Way, way back when I’d only been writing for a few years, I went to a romance conference with two of my friends. Gloria was interested in writing contemporary romance. Dawn wrote historical romance. At the conference, three panels met each hour. I volunteered for the one no one else was going to. I listened and took notes to share with my friends. While they went to panels on How To Develop A Romance and Creating Historical Settings in a Romance, I attended The Blushing Typewriter–about sexy scenes and how to get in the mood to write them. I learned a lot:) A writer there asked if I’d like to co-write romances with her, but back then, I couldn’t imagine myself ever writing a romance, so I turned her down. Do I regret that? Not really. I wasn’t ready.
I think writers have to give themselves time to grow as people and as writers before they can tackle certain things. A friend lamented, “If only I’d known character arc and plot points before I started my first book.” I know I studied a book on plotting when I started out, but it didn’t do me much good. I wasn’t ready yet.
Some people are naturals at things, and I admire that. I’m not one of those people. I have to learn by my mistakes, but do I regret my mistakes? Not really. I learn from them. I gave myself time to grow. I lived more, and experienced more. I suffered more setbacks and hardships. Laughed more. Loved more. Ate more–(and it shows). But all of it made my writing richer. When experts say Write what you know, I only half listen. I’ve never battled an evil voodoo priest or fought a necromancer. When I was young, I was sheltered and naive. And believe me, that was a blessing. But now? I can pull out lots of emotions. I’ve suffered lots of disappointments, know what it was like for my dad to battle Multiple Myelama (a blood cancer) and for my mom to battle Alzheimer’s. I’ve watched friends lose husbands and children. Life beats you up. You earn scars to offset all the good times. And those scars, you can put into your writing. Those are things you know.
I have a plastic, storage box in the basement, filled with novels that I wrote, sent to a few publishers, and then tossed in a drawer. Would I ever take them out and try to rework them? Hell, no! Those were the novels that I cut my writing teeth on. They’re filled with mistakes. And it seems to me, when an author goes back to rework an old novel, he somehow reverts, and the mistakes drag him down. I love each and every one of those novels, because they did what they needed to. They taught me to write. Because it takes a lot of writing until you get better at it.
Look at some of your favorite authors. Read, if you can find it, their very first novel ever published. Then read their current work. Most writers–not all–get better over time. So don’t mourn your novels that crash and burn. Learn from them. And grow. Until you’re awesome!
my webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/