Thursday, March 2, 2017

9 Things I Wish I'd Known at the Beginning of My Writing Journey

by Lynn Huggins Blackburn
@LynnHBlackburn

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about my early years as a writer.
I had no idea what I was doing and I was so eager to learn. I took courses and went to critique groups and attended conferences, all in an effort to figure out how to do this writing thing right. And do you know what I remember most about that time?


Being confused.

There are so many different books, different authors, different opinions.
Here are a few…
  • Outlines are a must. Outlines are evil.
  • Read everything. Don’t read much at all.
  • Write in the morning. Write at night.
  • Write every day. Write 1000 words a day. Write 2 hours a day. Write at the same time every day.
  • Edit as you go. Finish your first draft before you revise a word.
  • Use Scrivener. Only use Word.
  • Critique groups are a must. Critique groups are a waste of time.
  • Join ten different professional organizations. Don’t join any.
  • Get an agent. Don’t get an agent.
  • Traditional! Indie!

Are you confused yet? I know I certainly was. As a card carrying member of the Perfectionistic People Pleasers Club, all the different opinions made it very hard for me to figure out what *my* writing process was. I was terribly afraid that someone was going to find out how I was doing it and they were going to tell me that I was doing it ALL wrong.

Maybe I’m the only one who has ever felt this way, but I doubt it. 

So let me help try to help you out a little. As you head off to your favorite conference or sign up for an online class this year, here are a few things to keep in mind. Consider it some friendly advice from someone who’s been there.

9 Things I Wish I'd Known

1. Take classes from authors who do things differently from each other. Plotters and Pantsers. Indie and Traditional. Don’t assume one way is the way for you. Be open to varying perspectives.

2. When you get home, try everything you heard. Never used an outline? Make one. See what happens. Never tried to get up early to write? Set your alarm an hour earlier for a month. Well, okay, maybe try it for two weeks. You might be surprised at how much you get done. Or you might not. But at least you’ll know either way.

3. Embrace the fact that there are as many different ways to write a book as there are writers who write them. Don’t let the different methods make you crazy.

4. Do not buy into the lie that you aren’t really a writer because the method your favorite author uses doesn’t work for you. It works for them. That’s great. You aren’t them. We already have them. We need you.

5. As you’re experimenting with different methods, pay attention to what actually works for you and then…

6. Relax and write your book that way.

7. Don’t panic when it takes a while to figure out what works best for you. Your odds of landing on the perfect method on your first try are extremely low. Your odds of never finding something else that works better are even lower.

8. Pray over everything, not just the story or the plot. Pray over the method you’re trying. Pray to know what time of day you write best. Pray for inspiration. Pray for eyes to see what is working and what isn’t and then pray for the courage to drop the stuff that isn’t working.

9. Remember that you have access to the ultimate Creator. He can—and will—guide you in your creative journey.

So what about you? Do you have any experience with conflicting writing advice? Any stories to share about how you discovered what works for you? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

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Confused by all the well-meaning - and conflicting - #writing advice? @LynnHBlackburn (Click to Tweet)

Lynn Huggins Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She’s passionate about CrossFit, coffee, and chocolate (don’t make her choose) and experimenting with recipes that feed both body and soul. She lives in South Carolina with her true love, Brian, and their three children. Her first book, Covert Justice, won the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense and the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel. Her second book, Hidden Legacy, releases June 2017. You can follow her real life happily ever after on FacebookTwitterPinterest, Instagram, and at lynnhugginsblackburn.com.

27 comments:

  1. Great advice! Thanks for this excellent post!

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  2. Thanks for this, Lynn. It fits every writer wannabe I know, especially me. Sound wisdom, indeed. We all have felt like we were wandering in the wilderness. And there is a path for us all.

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    1. Love that! "There is a path for all of us." Thank you!

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  3. Thanks, Lynn. Thanks Eddie. LOL I'm having trouble this morning, my mind isn't in gear, and my fingers forgot the steps. Have a good one, and take care now.

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  4. Lynn, thank you for your great post. I am also a member of the PPP club. I've spent several years looking for the "right" way to write, feeling guilty when I didn't live up to the way other writers worked. I thought if I did A, then B, then C would automatically follow. Then I found out about C and D, and tried to do them too. I finally have peace about how I write, but am still looking for ways to improve. I love what you said about the world doesn't need "them," because it has "them." It needs each of us to be each of us. Thank you and blessings!

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    1. I'm so glad you've found peace in your method. And I'm with you - I'm always looking for ways to improve. I'm sure ten years from now I'll look back and wonder how on earth I ever managed to write a book "that" way. :) And that's ok. :)

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  5. One thing I wish I'd known is that some people want to financially take advantage of new writers. Hence, I would have saved $3000 I spent on a "writing coach." 😟

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    1. Ugh. I always hate to hear that someone's been taken advantage of. :( I'll never understand it. But I'm glad you're still in the game!

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  6. Thank you Lynn for good advice.

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  7. All good points. And of course, add what Jennifer said to them. I didn't believe there were so many heartless people out there until I got taken by a few.

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    1. So frustrating. I consider myself very fortunate to have fallen in with honest and caring writers from the very beginning.

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  8. Great post, Lynn. I went through the same confusion in the beginning. We all need to find what works for us, and hurrying the process will just end in frustration. God bless you. And keep on writing.

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    1. Ah, thanks Bruce!! You're so right - hurrying it won't help. Sometimes trusting the process - and the pace of the process - is the hardest part! Praying for you, friend!!

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  9. Great post, Lynn. I think that's the first piece of advice I give if someone asks me - there is no one size fits all in writing! My first blog post when - no after I started writing begins with, "I’ve been thrown in the deep end. Of a deep ocean. In a tidal wave. And all I want to do is write my stories." It's titled Drowning! and it's still the deep end of a deep ocean, but I'm learning to ride those waves! LOL

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    1. You're so right! And the further you get in this journey, the deeper the water and the higher the waves...all you can do is keep your eyes on the one who called you out into this ocean in the first place and hang on tight!!

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  10. Thanks, Lynn! My struggle has been with POV. So much out there says we MUST write from a certain POV. I understand the problem with switching POV in mid-stream so to speak, but that shouldn't stop us from trying what we're geared for. I grew up reading books written in the third person or the God POV if you will. That's the easiest way for me to write, but I've been so afraid to do so because everyone tells me not to. Perhaps nothing will come of what I write, but I know nothing will come of it if I don't write it at all.

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    1. I struggled with POV quite a bit early on. I was so used to reading omniscient classics that it didn't come naturally to me at all. And even after I got the idea of what head hopping was and how to avoid it, I still didn't realize that my story would be stronger if I kept the POVs limited to the main characters. I ended up rewriting an entire novel to fix it. And that novel was still rejected by agents and editors (and remains in a drawer). But even there, it's part of the process and I learned so much from it. Sometimes all we can do is keep writing, keep learning, and keep trying to hone our craft and recognize that it may take a while before we get all the kinks worked out. You can't edit what you haven't written, so you have to keep writing!! Grace & peace to you!

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  11. Wonderful advice, especially #9 and #10. With my first and second books, I prayed over every aspect of it and the words flowed like honey. The third one, I thought I was on top of the game and prayed daily as always, but not necessarily about my writing. I realized at the end of the book, it needed some serious re-writing and prayer was the key!

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    1. I constantly have to remind myself to pray about everything. I usually don't realize I've gone back to doing it "on my own" until I'm stressing about a story that won't work and that still small voice reminds me that I was never meant to do it on my own. Writing WITH Him is so much better!

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  12. Thank you Lynn. I loved the reminder that we have access to the ultimate Creator!

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    1. Yes! He's so awesome and we are so blessed!
      Thanks for stopping by!!

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  13. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel like you were in my head putting words to the swirling thoughts that have been my constant companion since attending my first writers conference last week. I am so grateful that I am not alone in this experience, but instead rather typical. Thank you Lynn for sharing and thank you Edie for posting just when I needed to read this.

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  14. I knew I wasn't the only one who started out confused. Thank you for this advice. It's encouraging I

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  15. Good words, Lynn. Early in the game, we're doubtful, so aware of what we don't know, and easily distracted by the panoply of voices coming at us, seemingly from all directions. So it takes awhile to begin to trust ourselves. Taking the 9 Things in hand gives us license to fail, to be different, to explore ... to find ourselves as writers.
    Yeah, I wish I'd had those golden words earlier, much earlier.
    But I don't lament having struggled. It's worked a bit of humility into me, more patience than what I thought I needed, and the iron rod of perseverance. Tools I should use every day.
    A quote from an unlikely source--Mike Ditka: "Success doesn't last forever, and failure isn't fatal." That gives me permission--nay, commands me--to try something different once in a while. Which is what this posting is all about.
    God's gift of life, the writing life, such a grand adventure!

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