Many writers I know began writing at an early age. Theyâ€™ll tell you about a story they wrote about their dog in the third grade. Iâ€™m not one of them. I came into writing â€œbutt firstâ€(as Iâ€™ve found I do a lot of things in life.) Iâ€™ve always been an avid reader, but have only begun writing in the last few years. Itâ€™s given me a different perspective on the whole experience.
When I started writing my first novel (no short story practice for me, I jumped into the deep end â€“ something else Iâ€™m known for) Iâ€™d never read a book on craft – plot, characterization, POV, or any of the millions of details you need to know. Funny though â€“ because Iâ€™ve read so much, I knew a lot of this inherently, but didnâ€™t know that I knew it. I was following rules that I wasnâ€™t even aware of, because I know what works in a good story, and what doesnâ€™t.
My method has been a negative in several ways:
Trust me – the â€œblind squirrel finds an acornâ€ is not the fastest way to write a novel. I started on page one with only a vague idea of where I was headed with the plot. Working my way through was like being in a pipe clogged with mudâ€¦Iâ€™d move forward a bit, then have to wait for everything to settle before I could move again.
And donâ€™t even get me started on editing! Luckily Iâ€™m a good speller, but I could only edit with the rules I knew; I kept discovering new ones as I went along, and would have to start over – like fifteen times! Can you imagine, not knowing rules for POV? What â€œtellingâ€ is? Passive voice? Looking back, I laugh (as Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™ll laugh at my current writing in a few years.)
But this perspective has also been good in several ways:
I was too ignorant to be afraid. I also didnâ€™t know how long the road Iâ€™d started on was going to be. Or how much editing lie ahead. How many rejections Since I didnâ€™t know how to go about writing a novel, I had no expectationsâ€¦of my writing or myself.
I guess ignorance can be bliss, because I have never felt so fulfilled or proud as when I typed the last word.
You and I have a lot in common. I almost wish I could go back and forget some of the things I’ve learned about writing. Some of it has helped but I found myself bogged down in the “have to’s” and “mustn’t do’s” and it paralized me for a time. I’ve swept the desk of my mind clear (although I know the knowledge is lerking back there somewhere) and made myself move forward. I found the joy I felt when I first started writing and am excited to sit down and just do it.