Why We Hate Our Old Writing (and how to stop)

Have you ever noticed that your old writing is really bad?

Like, really bad?

Yeah, so have I. I shudder at the idea of people I know personally reading my books. Whenever I see a new review on Goodreads, I’m afraid of what people will say. What if readers judge me? What if they never read my books again?? What if I was never supposed to publish a book at all??? It’s ridiculous, of course, but from what I’ve seen, most other young authors have the same paralyzing fear. It really needs a name. Lateral Author Syndrome, maybe?

Well, here’s my unfortunate thesis: Your old writing will always seem awful to you, and that’s a sign you’re doing it right. Why? Because it shows you’re growing as an author. You grow as an author because you grow as a person. It’s inevitable! As long as you’re writing honestly, you’ll automatically become a better writer as you experience life.

But that’s a bit vague, isn’t it? We always talk about “writing honestly” and allowing ourselves to “grow as writers,” but what do those #writerslife cliches really mean?

Glad you asked. That’s what we’re talking about today.

A Brief History of a Teen Author

Most teen authors have the same (or similar) story, so let’s take a look at *shudder* my old books.

Son of Ren seems pretty awful to me right now, and that’s probably because I wrote most of it between the ages of 15 and 16, when I was still technically a kid. (Yeah, a kid who can stop a bus with their bare hands, but still a kid.) My characters were adults grappling with adult issues like political change and parent/adult-child conflict, and though I did my best to tackle them, I couldn’t fully identify with those characters. I just hadn’t experienced a whole lot of their world.

Then, at age 17, I wrote Alen’s War, which seems slightly less awful. I’ve never fought a war or led a rebellion. I’ve never so much as been on a pirate ship, let alone set one on fire. But I had wrestled a bit with my own fears and had seen other people fighting theirs, and that provided a bridge for me to identify with my characters and the issues they faced. My real life affected the fictional world I’d created. I learned to empathize with the characters on the page by letting them be real people, and the story was that much better for it.

Now, age 19, I have two main projects that have a lot in common- with each other and with me. They both feature main characters with severe depression, and they both deal with many of the heavy emotional issues I’m trying to deal with in real life. And to be honest, it can be hard to write about things that are so personal to me, but I have to. I know this story needs told because other people are struggling with the same issues. For that reason, the story becomes more and more real.

Same old story, right? Teenage authors almost always grow in their writing at lightning-fast speeds, and their books are here to document those changes. And that is not a bad thing. The fact that you realize that your old work could be better shows that you understand what writing is all about: putting a little bit of life down on a page.

Getting Under Readers’ Skin

This is what it means to “write honestly.” Real life bleeds into the words on a page. Even what seems like escapist fantasy can teach us something about the real world when the author writes honestly. It’s why geeks love utterly ridiculous stories like Captain America or Star Wars; even though the plots are fake, the people are real.

Here’s what I really want you to remember: Don’t be ashamed of your old writing, because it’s better than you think. As I’ve said before, it’s a picture of you when you wrote it. If you don’t believe me, ask the people who are reading them right now; the stories you wrote are still having an impact.

While you are worried that someone is annoyed by your incomplete worldbuilding, a reader is overjoyed that you took a chance to explore the evils of racism and the heroes who fought against it. While you’re over here stressing about your head-hopping in that one scene, a reader can breathe with relief because you gave them hope in their struggle with anxiety. While you’re agonizing over the trees, the readers are refreshed to see the forest. 

Age 16, I didn’t understand monarchical political shifts, but I did understand Elkay’s passion for doing something big, and I knew all too well how arrogance can destroy that big something. Age 17, I’d never grappled with a nationwide revolution, but like Alen, I had fought my own wars with perfectionism and forgiveness. So those are the things I wrote about, and those are the things that readers loved.

Raw, honest bits of life are what impacts readers. Hardly anybody cares about your overuse of speaker tags or your flat secondary characters, especially when they know you were pretty young when you wrote the book. (Usually, if they mention those things in a book review, they’re giving you some pointers for next time.) Readers remember how you impacted their emotions, and if your book makes them feel like they’re on a journey with real people and real problems, you’ve done your job.

So say the readers:

13 Contradictions Only True Book Lovers Understand

Happy Labor Day. And, as we like to say, happy writing.

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Six Types of Writers on the Internet

Hallo, people of the writing world (and anyone else who happened to come this week)! I’m afraid I don’t have anything fancy today. Some major changes to a WIP plus a new school semester have taken up much of my time… but then I couldn’t just leave everyone hanging, so I wrote a quick, funny little post that will help us get through the week. Here are six kinds of writers you can find almost anywhere on the internet- and for the record, I see a bit of all of them in myself, so someone else is bound to find them relatable too. Enjoy…

The self-pubbed teen

Probably published one full-length YA novel, three fairy tale retellings, and five hundred blog posts while working two day jobs, all before graduating high school. No one knows how these teens do it, but there has been talk of sorcerous tricks. After all, these people are usually homeschoolers; no one really knows what they do during the school day. Hmm…

The social media guru

Defined by a tweet:

Just wrote 500 words with only one cup of coffee 😂😂😂 lol I love my #writerslife! #amtweeting

The snowflake activist

Except he/she/it isn’t actually a snowflake, but rather a forty-something trying to fit in with the millennials by writing blog rants about perceived injustice. Activists have the rare skill of finding something offensive in every single book and are thus impossible to satisfy. The activists: proudly exposing every brand of istphobia since 1970. Writing optional.

The marketer

Similar to the guru, except that marketers tweet, post, and pin for the sole explicit purpose of getting you to buy their books. Attention, interest, desire, action… every rule you learned in your sophomore business class comes into play with this writer. You can click the link to learn all about this new book, and you should totally enter this giveaway for a chance to win it. Heck, there’s probably even a Twitter account and hashtag devoted to snippets and promotional banners.

The whiner

Isn’t everyone (read: yours truly) guilty of this? So much trouble with a particular WIP or character. Cannot even function after a long day of work. Has no time to write. Sympathy-seekers always have either an extreme case of writer’s block or a truckload of feels; there is no in between, and nothing good ever happens to them in their tortured artistic pursuits.

The self-conscious Literature major

#writing is a real job #it’s bleeping hard #I am not required to live up to your expectations of a so-called “real job” #because writers are a whole new level of human beings #our imaginations are deep and refined #places where reality is translated into possibilities and what-ifs #and without writers your life would be meaningless as bleep #so I am not defined by your opinion of my writing #which is why I took the time to write this very long and insecure tumblr post #and if you can’t appreciate my magnificence #try writing your own bleeping book #get back to me when you finish draft one #dropping the mic

That’s all, folks! Do you fit in any of these categories, or is there a seventh kind of writer that I neglected to mention? Chat in the comments!

Quote Challenge Tag: Day One

Once again, gretald at Writing Like Crazy has nominated me for a tag! The good news: It’s all about quotes, things that I love to use to knock my blog readers off their feet with awesomeness. The bad news: It involves lots of tagging of bloggers, and historically I have been terrible at finding other bloggers who haven’t been tagged already. It must be an introvert thing. 

First, rules. Always rules.

  • Thank the person who nominated you (thank you heartily, gretald!)
  • Nominate 3 new bloggers everyday
  • Post a new quote everyday for 3 consecutive days

And now for the quote. No, I won’t do writing quotes this week because I talk about writing all of the time. Now we get a break.

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‘Nuff said. My grandmother gave me a copy of this quote on my graduation, and it’s been on my mirror ever since. (Yes, I still do the paper on the mirror. #itsawritersthing)

Now, for the other bloggers whom I will drag into this adventure.

What is your favorite quote? Why is it so significant to you?

If you want me to tag you for the Quote Challenge, leave a comment with your blog address!