Unorthodox Writing Tips 38: Maturity and Experience
I’ve noticed lately that the authors that I really enjoy reading are old. Not just old, but gray-beard, pot-bellied, been-around-the-block-more-times-than-(you get the point) old. Just take a look at a picture of George R. R. Martin. He’s old. Really old. He’s been writing like forever. Robert Jordan, old. Mike Stackpole: He’s getting there. Tad Williams: Well, okay, but he’s still been out there and writing for a very long time.
Even the long dead authors were old when they were in the prime of their writing career. Clarke, Asimov, Bradbury, the list goes on and on.
My point is that the writers don’t just sit and knock out a best seller out of the box. Most of these guys have been at it and honing their skills for a very long time. They’ve paid their dues, they’ve learned the business, they changed when the times called for change.
Then I look at myself. I’m not old by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve been writing on and off for the better part of 25 years, but nothing that I’d call consistent until this year. Yes, I’ve gotten a lot of words down over the years, but I could have written so much more. If I had written just a little every day over those 25 years I’d be much further along than I am.
My early writing was just what you’d expect from an early writer. It was fast-paced, choppy, and not really that good. I’m not saying that everyone writes bad straight out of the gate, but as a general rule the younger you are the less critical you are of your own work. Heck, there are some people that’ve been around for a good long time that need to take a look at what they’re producing with a more critical eye.
With each story or book I completed I got a little bit better at telling a story. But that’s going to happen to anyone who sits and writes and gets stories out. There are some other things that I’ve learned over the years. One is a great amount of patience. I didn’t used to be as patient and I would write, quick edit, send out. Now I know that a story needs to marinate for a while before I do a thorough edit. Before I send it to beta readers and get feedback and line edits. Then I’ll send it to a market and hope for the best or I’ll self publish the work because it’s a re-edit and reprint or I just don’t feel it fits a given market. Yes I’ve had choices, and making the right choice for a given piece has been critical to that piece finding an audience.
Back to maturity, this is something I’ve had to work on. Having a level head and understanding that just because I want it now and self-publishing (Indie publishing if you like) is a choice that must be made with a level head and not something to just jump into. I self-pubed Astel: Chosen because I thought it would be the right choice for that work. I’d shopped it around, gotten some good feedback, and decided to put it out there. I know now that I should have done a better job with the editing of that work and I can still do that, but for now I have other works I’m concentrating on. Before I self-publish another novel I will be hitting Astel hard with edits so that it’s a stronger work. That’s the joy and benefit of putting out a ebook.
But I can sit and look at these options because I’ve experienced enough of the publishing end to know what I’m doing out there. Do I know everything? I ask this a lot and each time I laugh.
Yes, I’ve learned a lot over the years and each time I look at what I’m doing I learn a little more. I see people do things that go horribly wrong and I make a mental note not to be that person. Want an example? My Story Emperor’s Fist got a review that I would consider not as good as I was hoping for. Yes, I’ve seen glowing reviews for this little steam punk effort that I did for Tee and Pip. They were delighted by the story, put on a great cover, got the work out there. And the review wasn’t impressed. Hey, this happens. Not everyone is going to like what I do. It was called (I’m paraphrasing here) unoriginal and not what they’d come to expect from the penny deadfuls. I was a little hurt in that I thought I had done something that none of the stories had done. I’d gone places they hadn’t gone.
Did I get involved with the reviewer? No! Did I want more feedback about what didn’t work on this story? Well of course I did, but one thing an author needs to be able to do is separate themselves from their reviewers. It’s not my place to shoot down a review even if I disagree. That’s maturity in that you need to be able to not react to something that you’re not happy about. Maturity to keep going in the direction you’re going and know that the right people will find your work and enjoy it. Maturity to accept and move on.
This also adds to your experience. Until you experience this you’ll never know what I’m talking about. I’ve gotten bad reviews for Astel as well. Mostly for the editing, not the story, but still poor reviews. These hurt and I know that I should have done a better job with getting the book edited. I need to learn from that, do what I can about it, and move on. There’s a lot of words that need to be written and if I’m immature and reactionary and don’t learn from these lessons, I’ll never become a better writer. What I will become is a self-serving, excuse-making, bad author.
You can be young and experience a lot. You can be mature beyond your years. It will still take time to get to your overall goal. For someone like me, it’s taken years to get a level head to the point where I know what I want and I’m taking the correct steps to get there. I’m no longer wallowing in self-pity because I keep getting rejections and I’m having a hard time getting people to read my work. I’ve learned from my tantrums, from my rejections, from my missteps.
It took me a long time to learn these lessons and grow from them. Too long. It’s put me far behind where I should be. But that hasn’t detered me. As I said in the start of this. Most authors that I enjoy are far older than I am and have been only writing for a couple of decades. If I can get a start now then I’ll be in good shape to have a long writing career and I can be one of those pot-bellied, gray-bearded writers that people enjoy reading.
Until Next Time!