How I’ve Grown as a Writer Since My First Novel

Roughly six years ago, I took the first big step into becoming the writer I am today. I started writing my first novel. Today, I’m reflecting on my process as a new writer and how its been shaped since that first novel.

I loved the first book I ever wrote. In fact, it is my favourite project I’ve ever worked on. Little 13 year old me starting writing a story I’d had in my brain for quite some time. I didn’t know where I was going with the story and so wrote as I went, adding twists, turns and plot points whenever I felt the story begin to become boring.

After 8 months, I had a 71,000 word manuscript. A novel for sure, but a horribly crafted, plot-hole ridden story paved with adverbs and a complete disregard for comma rules. But I had done it. I had written a book. But not only that, I loved doing it! I loved my story, my characters, and the patchwork of the plot I had laid down.

I spent the next year editing the story and went through roughly six drafts before I felt happy with the result.

I researched publishing houses and was disheartened, but not deterred to learn that I couldn’t send my book to some of the publishers of my favourite books. I quickly found the vast culture of publishing and all the different possibilities. Did I go traditionally, or self-publish? Did I try for an agent, or take my chances with smaller presses? Did I want a paper copy or ebook?

I didn’t know the answer to these questions when I submitted my book to a publisher in late 2013. Nothing came of that publisher, but I am super thankful for that. Since then, I’ve scrapped the ‘final draft’ of the manuscript and rewritten it completely to fix the underlying plot issues that had been there since the initial draft that I hadn’t realized probably shouldn’t’ be there.

In the time since I wrote a novel without knowing anything about writing a novel, I’ve made strides to become a better writer. I joined my local library’s youth writer’s circle, I attended a youth-focused writing camp, I joined various online communities that were put in place for writers to meet and grow with one another. And of course I started reading more widely both fiction and nonfiction.

I figured out who I was as a writer, what kind of voice I had in certain contexts, and what kind of writing I liked best. As I progressed, writing became less about publishing and more about what my limits were as a writer and how I could push and expand those borders. Of course publishing was still the ultimate goal, but I started to simply enjoy the process of crafting stories that I stopped worrying about what my answers to those publishing questions were and are today.

I branched out from my genre and style to try new types of stories and forms. I found some I liked and others not as much. Perhaps the climax of trying different types of writing happened during the only creative writing class I’ve been able to take. During that class I wrote poetry, myths, and a script.

I fell in love with trying new forms and styles and during that process I developed a more nuanced voice, capable of showcasing different types of writing.

Today I have a process for my writing. I know how much I need to research, how much I need to plan and how much I need to write in order to take the story from my brain and put it on paper.

Six years ago I knew hardly anything about writing or stories, but I found joy in bringing my stories to life with written word.

Today, having a process grown and shaped over the years of writing and experimenting with forms, styles and genres has transformed the simple joy I discovered while writing my first novel into an appreciation for words, grammar, and telling stories.

What do you remember from your new writer days?

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