It seems a reasonable thing to have a first blog post on a new author site be about writing. And, indeed, an entire section of my blog dedicated to it, for the lessons I’ve learned, the experiences I’ve experienced, and the foolish things I’ve done which I’d rather not repeat.
Writing has always been a hobby. Some of the most treasured bits of my childhood are stories and poems I’ve written and kept (two of which are featured on my site here). I’ve done all manner of silly things. In high school I was convinced that real poetry had to rhyme, and wrote horrifically sappy material as a result. In university I was convinced that I did not have to plot, or even write down ideas, that I’d just write what came to me and the story would come together. It may not surprise you to discover I didn’t finish a book until I was 37.
While I’ve learned from these experiences, the thing about writing as a hobby is I never really tried to learn, not until September 2018, when I officially decided to get serious about being an author. I wrote a book, loosely plotted but mostly pantsed, over the course of the next year, finishing in November of 2019. A 160,000 word high-fantasy epic, the story is a tangled mess. I suspect I made every mistake in the book and probably a few not included in said book: I didn’t bother coming up with a theme or even a concept of what the characters wanted or needed before I started writing; I invented characters, snippets of languages, subplots and even new main plots on the fly without worrying too much about consistency; I got excited and showed the work to others multiple times before it was finished, adapting based on their feedback.
I will, eventually, go back and tackle this story, trim it into some kind of shape or even pitch out most of it and start over. But realizing after finishing how much I had to learn, I started over with a new idea, Ribbon Road.
Ribbon Road (originally called simply The Ribbon) was first written as a 14,000 word novella. I took the time to plot the story and understand the characters, though not completely, and through it have discovered that I’ll never be a complete plotter or a complete pantser, but some hybrid of the two. I spent time reading about writing and editing techniques (for example, the excellent book Self Editing for Fiction Writers) and applied them, chapter by chapter, to edits on Ribbon Road. I polished the manuscript to the best of my ability and sent it to four different professional editors (yes, this cost money) in order to keep learning.
All of this has been a hard process. I’ve been hard on myself. But I never gave up.
Ribbon Road is now a novel, coming in just shy of 70,000 words, and I’m pleased to say nearly ready for publication. It’s out with beta readers, and the initial feedback has been very positive (though, as always, there is still room for learning and improvement).
So, the biggest lessons I’ve learned through this journey? Never stop learning, never give up.
I’d like to tell more of my story and share more thoughts and lessons on this blog, at least once a month.
There are many, many types of art out there, of which writing is only one. Many people post images online, free for use, on various sites, and I am ever thankful to them for this. The quill pen on this post, for example, is by OpenClipart-Vectors on Pixabay.