2014 comes upon us in a few hours.
. . .Wait.
2014 isn’t even a day away?!?!?!
2013 has broken the “fastest year of my life” record, hands down. These past few years have been turned up to hyperdrive, but 2013 broke the scale. In fact, every time I write down the date I have to peek at a calendar to make absolute sure it really is 2013, because my hands are always trying to put 2012. Are we sure it’s not 2012 still? How can I possibly adjust to 2014 when I haven’t even gotten used to it being 2013 yet?
I suppose 2013 must have happened in some form or another, because many lovely things have happened since January 1st showed itself.
I got my first car in the beginning of the year, in early summer my best friend had the cutest baby in the world, I discovered Pinterest (yes, that one is important *wink*), I had one of THE best NaNos ever in November, and Christmas was lovely. I’ll admit, the couple of years before this one haven’t been the easiest, but I can honestly say I’ve really enjoyed 2013.
My main goal for this year was to work seriously on my writing. In January I decided to label this year the “Writing Year” and I stuck to that. For the majority of this year my family found me tapping madly on my keyboard, sweating over the editing process, or poring over writing blogs. You’ve probably noticed almost every post I made this year was about writing. I’ve barely been able to think about anything else since the year started.
I’ve always wanted to get published, but this year I decided to work on making that dream a reality. I still have a LONG way to go, but I’ve taken some huge steps this year that will stick with me for the rest of my life. The most important one: I realized writing really is what I want to do with my life. I’ve loved it since I was 9, but I never made it a focal point of my life. It was just something I loved doing and dreamed of being published. Now though, thanks to this year, I’m taking it very seriously. I’ve learned SO many lessons of writing this year, I’d like to share some with you to end the year off with.
-Something I just recently learned was that if you really do want to take your writing seriously you’re going to have to make sacrifices. Writing is a LOT of work and takes some crazy chunks of time to do if you’re serious about it. But if you love it, it’s all worth it. Oh, it’s so worth it! Maybe you have to stay home more often than you like to finish that manuscript. Perhaps people think you’re crazy for spending so much time on the computer writing. But if God put that passion in you to build fantastical worlds, create unforgettable characters, put words on to paper that etch truths into the hearts of your readers, then any sacrifices you make for those stories are worth it.
-First drafts aren’t supposed to be perfect. Oh, how often I have to remind myself of this! Not a lesson I learn well, but trying. The first draft is the discovery, not the conclusion. It’s where you look off the precipice, staring out at all the possibilities, throwing them all together, experimenting. It’s AFTER the first draft that you make all those discoveries tangible. Write your first draft as fast as possibility, let the story take you in, not the perfection. Then form it into something beautiful.
-Now that brings me to my other lesson this year. For years upon years the idea of editing and *shudders* rewriting have induced into me an inconsolable fear. How can I take my tangled mess of a novel and turn it into something worth reading? How can I delete whole paragraphs? Change entire plots? No! I can’t! Guess what? Editing/Rewriting is lots of work but it IS possible. This year I decided to stand up to my fear. I got a story and started rewriting it. And, to my greatest surprise, it wasn’t so bad! Yes, it was a lot of work, but it wasn’t this horrifying chore I always thought it was. A lot of the time it was actually fun. It was neat going back to my old characters and reshaping their tale into something bigger and better. It was like redoing my room into a prettier décor. Lots of work— moving around furniture and painting is not an easy task—but somehow it can be fun and, in the end, very well worth it! Now, I’ll be honest, editing still daunts me a bit, and the book I did this year still needs another rewrite. . .or two. But what matters is that it IS possible, and even rather enjoyable. Never thought I’d say THAT.
-This might only apply to me because I’m a pantser all the way and don’t do very well trying to plan out a story, but I think letting your story loose and not keeping to the plan can end up with a better result. I know it can be very tempting to try to force a story to go a certain way or a character to be a certain person. But sometimes stories take turns that you never expected. Sometimes a character you had all planned to be shy and submissive forms himself into a loud, rebellious jokester. It can be frustrating. Why is this character suddenly making friends with this person when they supposed to be mortal enemies? Why is there a castle beyond this forest when I planned for it to be a wasteland? How did that even happen? Writing is a weird, mysterious thing. I know non-writers cock their heads when we writers say our stories are constantly surprising us. But somehow it just happens. While writing, sometimes there are just going to be moments where the story begins unfolding into something you never had on your outline. I say, go with it. This is actually something I’ve discovered throughout all my years of writing, but this year I really tried to apply it. When you force a character into someone they’re not, they’re going to end up flat and inconsistent. It’s hardly any different from trying to force a real person into somebody else. Let your character embrace the personality they are trying to be. I declare, they all really do have minds of their own. And, oddly, the very novel seems to have its own brain as well. One minute you might be thinking you’re writing a medieval fantasy when suddenly your character looks up to see an alien spaceship soaring in the sky. “Surprise! I’m actually a sci-fi, steampunk, thriller!” exclaims your novel. What? Yep, it can happen. But don’t despair. Just roll with it. I have no doubt you’ll find some amazing, delightful surprises if you do. If there is anything I’ve learned over my years of writing is that my characters and novel seem to know better than I do. (I know, I sound crazy, but I’m a writer.) When they take a turn I wasn’t expecting, it always ends up a lot cooler than my silly little plans. Let loose, allow the story to tell itself if it insists on it.
-Write bravely. This is something I’ve failed at until just recently (and it’s still a work-in-progress). For a very long time I wrote what I like to call “fluffy fiction”. I was always scared of making my characters suffer too much, or make the villain really, really despicable, or simply putting some intense scenes in my writing. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for writing clean fiction. I want all my writing to glorify God. Of course it needs to be clean, but that does not mean it has to be fluffy. Let’s face it, life isn’t fluffy. If everything was sunshine and rainbows, we’d never learn anything. It’s the clouds that cover the sun, the storms that bring on the rainbows, that shapes our character and brings us closer to our Creator. Think about the books you’ve read. Was it the happy, light reads that really made you think, or the deeper, intense ones? It’s the stories that pull on our heartstrings that make an impact on our lives. Now sometimes I need a good light read. I love happy fairytales or fun, humorous books. I think the world needs plenty of those, too. But if you do have an intense story to tell, don’t let fear stop you. My NaNo for this year was the first time I really wrote bravely. My characters suffered unimaginably, but it made their hope in the end mean all the more. It’s some of my favorite writing I’ve ever done. I didn’t let fear stop me. I made sacrifices, didn’t worry about perfection, let my story and characters loose, and wrote bravely. The result was far better than any of my previous novels. But that brings me up to my next lesson. . .
-There’s always room for improvement. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve written, how many books you have published, you can ALWAYS improve. Writing is infinite. There is no ending line when it comes with writing. Me. . .I have a very, very, very, VERY wide space to improve on. I still shudder at some of the things I write (or most of the things). BUT. . .
-NEVER DESPAIR. I struggle with this almost every day of my life. Writing is HARD. As I said, there’s always room for improvement. It’s a constant learning experience. Despair is going to rear its ugly head some time or another. But don’t let it! When it starts to pop up, stuff it back down. If you love to write, then that’s all that matters. Even if I never publish a single thing, I’m still going to write. You know why? Because I LOVE it! I couldn’t function if I couldn’t write. Just keep writing, no matter what. Don’t let doubt, fear, or despair ever stop you. The love to create words is a beautiful thing. You can’t let anything take that gift from you. I have to remind myself this over and over and over. I’ve had a great year of writing, yet despair has consumed me a number of times. But you know what? Despair just takes up time, time that you could be writing, right? *grins*
I still have millions of writing lessons to learn, but 2013 has truly helped me take great leaps in my writing. Now I’m going to take all these lessons and apply them to my 2014 adventures, or stumble atrociously. But writing is all about trial and error, isn’t it?
What has 2013 taught you? I’d love to hear about it! And I want to thank every single one of you for being here with me this year on my wild ride of writing. I love all you dear people!
So here’s to a new year, 2014, full of lessons, growth, storms, and rainbows. Happy New Year, everyone!!! I’ll see you next year!