Wednesday, November 7, 2012

IWSG - Embracing Our Infancy



How many of you cringe when you read one of your early attempts at fiction? 

*shudder* I do. 

I blush and shake my head, musing how naive I was to think that was good writing. And how kind my first readers were not to laugh. 

I try not to think of those early days because...well...it's flat out embarrassing. 

But what if I step back and look at this from a different POV.

I recently read a post on a fellow writer's blog entitled Totaled, in which she tells of writing her first novel and how she finally scrapped it as a total loss. Yet she didn't consider it a waste of time. In fact, she's glad for the experience. And her post got me thinking...


What if, instead of trying to forget our failures, we were to look back on them as a measure of how far we've come? I mean, when you read a letter you wrote to Santa when you were six, do you feel ashamed of your crude penmanship and spelling? Of course not. You likely smile and run your fingers over the large, awkward lettering, sentimentally secure in fact it was appropriate for that stage of your life.

Well, duh. (That duh was for me, by the way. :P) The same goes for fiction writing. Just like any other skill, it improves with diligent study and practice. We shouldn't expect to write a bestselling novel our first time out of the gate. We shouldn't even expect to write a mediocre one.

I challenge you. Search out an early copy of your first manuscript and read a few paragraphs. Then pat yourself on the back. I bet you'll discover you've come a long way. ;)




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36 comments:

  1. Exactly.
    The ah-hah moment happened for me when I realized that I didn't have to be satisfied with the first draft of anything (and that includes blog posts! ;) ) and discovered the miracle that is revision.
    I happen to still be working on my first novel, and am fully aware that I may end up scrapping it even though I love it. What is most important to me is what I'm learning in the process!
    As far as looking at my early drafts, I just might do that! There might be something there that I've learned how to fix. :)

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  2. I still cringe. But yes, it's getting less cringe-worthy the more I practice!

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  3. Actually it's a great exercise for when I'm feeling like crap about my writing. When I look at earlier stuff I think, "thank goodness I'm not that bad anymore!" hah hah hah. Great post!

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  4. So true Melissa. I especially like the analogy to Santa letters. It's so true. Imagine how we'll all feel 5-10 years from now. :-)

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  5. I can relate to the embarrassment of reading older writings, but I agree it should be viewed as a measure of how far we've come. If we didn't feel that cringe, it would mean we hadn't improved. Now that would be a cringe-worthy prospect, at least for me. My early writings we awful!

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    1. "If we didn't feel that cringe, it would mean we hadn't improved. Now that would be a cringe-worthy prospect..."

      Good point! :)

      Thanks for visiting, everyone! :D

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  6. I've been going through this exact thing the last couple of days, M! I began a YA story a couple of years ago, but hadn't written anything in it in about 6 months. I want to finish it this month, so I'm re-reading from the beginning.

    A little awkward/horrifying to say the least. Not that I'm Shakespeare now or anything, but the growth is definitely evident. :-) Thankfully, I still love the story and MC, so I think the effort is going to pay off at some point.

    Btw, I was typing this when you commented on my blog post! A little bit of awesome serendipity at work, I think. :-D

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    1. Or as my kids would say, "Jinx!" LOL

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  7. Great advice. I like to look at my earlier novels as part of my journey to publication. They taught me a lot about writing a novel and writing for children. I recently revisited the first novel I ever wrote and added 10,000 words. I couldn't help myself. Knowing what I know now, I saw where I didn't build my world or characters enough. I'm not sure if I'll ever submit it to my agent, but it's still one of my favorite stories with characters that have a special place in my heart.

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  8. Great advice! It's always better to see the positive side rather than dwelling on the negative.

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  9. The books I wrote much earlier in my writing life have needed significant revision and radical surgery. I wrote my first Russian historical novel over 8.5 years, during three major writing periods, and the difference between the original 1993 material (at age 13) and the final chapters (written at age 21) is like night and day. And the difference between the new scenes and bits I put in during my year of edits, rewrites, and revisions a decade later is also like night and day taken with even some of the final chapters.

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  10. What a great way to see our writing journey! I still write crappy first drafts, so maybe there's hope :)

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  11. I participated in the Resurrection blogfest and had to pull out one of my old posts, it was painful...even worse, it was only 9 months ago! I've got a long way to go and it is a humbling experience.

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  12. I have notebooks full of the early stuff. I know how bad it is!

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  13. Ooo... I love the twist in perspective, Melissa! Brilliant. If we could keep this perspective, we wouldn't be nearly as hard on ourselves!

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  14. Wonderful advice, truly. I needed to hear this today!

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  15. I remember pulling out the original copy of CassaStar over five years ago. It was awful! (I wrote it as a teen, so you can only imagine.) The complete rewrite turned out much better!

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  16. I cringe. I've actually put some of my early writing in a folder and labeled it "Do Not Open". It's embarassing, but it is good to see how far I've come. Still a long way to go, but I'm getting better.

    Great idea!

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  17. This is a wonderful idea. I haven't read my earlier stuff in a long time, but I recall a certain mirror scene that I thought was such a clever way to show readers what my MC looked like...I cringe just thinking about it. Great reminder.

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    1. Don't feel bad. I started my first book off with a dream. :P

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  18. You're absolutely right, Melissa. We forget to look at our failures or first attempts as steps in our path toward... well, toward whatever. It's good to remember where we came from, not just toward where we're going. Great IWSG post!

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  19. I can't read my early work. My eye twitches every time I hit an (excessive) adverb. LOL

    Great post, though! :)

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  20. When I made the decision a few years ago to really start writing, I didn't know the difference between a preface and a prologue. I still cringe at that!

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  21. So hard to pat myself on the back...so much easier to cringe when reading first drafts of my first project. I love your perspective on this!

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  22. That is such a better way of looking at our first efforts of writing. Will do it right now :)

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  23. Haha, wait! What if we're only on our second one?

    I do this with short stories. And I think I still have a ways to go with them. Still, reading those early ones is funny. I still have stories from middle school in my file cabinet, believe it or not.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

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  24. What a great post! Such a positive way of looking back at fledgling efforts.

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  25. Isn't that the truth! I love this post, and in its honor, I'm opening up an old file today. :)

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  26. You make some great points here! Years ago, I attended a writing conference. An agent these told all of us first-time writers not to expect to sell our first book. I'm there are some who get lucky and hit it out of the park on their first book, but I think more folks probably have quite a few ms under their belts before first publication.

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    1. Yup. An author friend of mine told me when I was just starting out to write several books before worrying about getting published. I didn't understand then, but now I do. :)

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  27. I'm a big chicken and don't keep my aborted attempts around...or the computers have all died that I first wrote them on, ha. But every step we take - even the embarrassing ones - were necessary to make us who we are, so you're absolutely right - let's celebrate them!

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  28. Yep, I'm a strong believer that no writing is wasted writing.
    (Oh, and I still think thoughts like yours, even about my recent work, hahahaaha)

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  29. Wonderful post, Melissa! I thoroughly agree - embrace it, learn from it and love it for what it is! It's a hand print in plaster of Paris, made in art class...

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  30. Hey,

    I totally agree (pun intended :)

    The way I look at WIP is that no matter what happens, it has helped move me as a writer from >>>>>>here to >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> here and I *know* I'm moving in the right direction.

    Now, if only Santa could hook a brother up with a delicious tasting burger from a excellent burger joint with 16 locations in the Dallas area :)

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