Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Stories You Don't Tell

Last week, I wrote about leaving out prose in strategic ways in your story. This week, I wanted to discuss writing stories you don't intend to show to the world.

Picture of underground waterfall in
Ruby Falls Cavern obtained here
One could argue everything I've written falls under this category, though I have gotten braver. I've shared pieces with my writing group, and I'm entertaining the notion of submitting something when things are less chaotic.

There are most certainly things I'll never show anyone, though. That writing I did when I was in middle and high school, typing away at all hours of the night with my parents a room away? I've read it. It's so bad, it's not even worth trying to polish it. There may well be something salvageable in that mess, but it's too painful to read. We're talking about some amateur attempts.

The notion of writing uselessly doesn't frustrate me, though. I wouldn't be the writer I am without that practice. Everyone has to start somewhere. It's because I made mistakes and recognized the imperfections that I was able to change them and do better.

Ask published authors how many books they wrote before they submitted for publication. Ask how many tries they made before getting an offer from a publisher. Ask how long they'd been writing before they were able to finish a book they were proud of.

There's no shame in writing just for yourself. You learn how to write by making mistakes, by trying new techniques, by stumbling into what works for you. Sometimes, that means doing a writing exercise that may turn into a full novel or a short story at some point, but is useless as-is.

It's not a waste, so long as you learned something.

Now, if you've been doing this for years and you feel like nothing you write is worthy of seeing the light of day, you may have a problem. You'll need a reality check. If you're truly awful and not improving, you'll want to take some writing workshops or read some books on writing for new approaches. Or, you may want to show what you've written to someone who can critique you, so you know where you're going wrong.

And, who knows? Maybe your only problem is that you lack confidence.

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