From first grade on, getting published was my Ultimate Dream. That and marrying Joey McIntyre from New Kids on the Block.
It seemed unrealistic to hope to get published in elementary school or junior high. But high school seemed reasonable. I was constantly writing stories; shouldn’t I be good enough by the time I was an upperclassman?
In past blog posts, I’ve given you the short answer to the above question – No, I wasn’t good enough. I left it at that, thinking the details weren’t really important. This was partially because I didn’t want to think about the details. I had no interest in pulling out old manuscripts and think about all their failings when I had no plans of reviving the story.
|Books I "published" in first and second grade.|
Then I thought about you guys.
One of the reasons I started Go Teen Writers was because as a teen writer, I had nobody in my life who could guide me to “the next step.” My journey involved a lot of fumbling and grasping and bloody knees. I thought a blog like Go Teen Writers might be helpful for someone out there. I’m not agent or an editor, so I can’t provide those kinds of next steps, but I can pass along what I’ve learned along the way.
And when I leafed through old stories of mine from high school, I realized I’ve learned a lot along the way.
One of the things I’ve learned is that there are things to learn. I thought because I was a talented writer, all I needed was to land on the right idea, and I’d be set for publication. When I got in the internet as a teen, I was searching for things like, “How Do I Get Published?” not, “How do I get better at writing?” To my 16 and 17 year old self, there was shame in admitting my writing needed work.
Here are some problems I detected in one of my manuscripts. You can also view this list as a preview of what I’ll be talking about in the coming weeks:
- My ideas were not big enough. I had a hard time making it past the first couple chapters, but I didn’t know why.
- Point of View characters. I was clueless about how to write scenes from one POV character.
- I lacked confidence. I grew so needy of others opinions, I could barely write a chapter without soliciting advice.
- I used flashbacks/backstory with distracting frequency.
- I wanted the story to be perfect the first time. So instead of writing it to the best of my ability and trusting the editing process, I was constantly rewriting.
- I had no respect for my reader's intelligence. I felt the need to explain everything, even if it meant halting the story.
- Dialogue. Bad, bad dialogue. So, bad.
- My writing lacked freshness. There’s a hint of my voice in there, but you’ve got to dig through all the clichés and tired phrasing to find it.
- My characters lacked believability. When I read through my manuscript now, I think things like, “No one would ever say that. No one would think that. Why is she acting that way? That doesn’t make any sense.”
I didn’t marry the band member from New Kids on the Block (which worked out well because my husband is way better looking) but I did finally get that publishing contract. In the next couple weeks, I’ll walk you guys through everything I needed to discover, grasp, and apply before I could get here:
|Signing my contract. What a stroke of luck that my nails were painted! That's not the norm these days.|
Did any of the flaws mentioned on the above list sound familiar to you? Is there anything up there you regularly struggle with?