Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Journey with Gillian: The Story You’re Not Ready to Write



Gillian Adams blogs over at Of Battles, Dragons, and Swords of Adamant where she writes about anything relating to books, fantasy, villains, and costumes. Her book Out of Darkness Rising will be published sometime in 2014. She loves interacting with other writers and readers on her blog or facebook page.

First off, I’m so glad to be back on Go Teen Writers with all of you. It’s been a long time. I took a much needed break from writing this summer—an unintentional break since I simply didn’t have time to write due to my super-crazy-but-totally-awesome summer job.

But I am thrilled to be back in the writing world and excited to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past year.

Ever had a novel idea that just wouldn’t let go of you?

A story that haunted your waking moments from the second your eyes opened until you fell asleep exhausted at the end of the day? Characters that invaded your dreams and whispered their names in your ears? A magnificent world that revealed itself to you through the magic of paper and ink?

For the past two years, there has been a story locked up inside of me that I’ve been dying to tell.

But every time I tried to sit down and write it, something felt wrong. The characters were flat. My story world was vague and colorless. The plot suffered from a terrible case of predictability and—perhaps out of rebellion—refused to move in the direction I wanted it to go.

So with a sigh, I shelved the story for a while, tucked my notes away, and quieted the voices of the characters inside my head.

I knew I couldn’t write the story yet.

I wasn’t ready.

I needed more experience—not just as a writer, but life experience. I needed to grow more before I was ready to tackle a story who magnitude I was only beginning to grasp.

At first I was frustrated with myself. This was such a great story idea! Why couldn’t I get it right?

But this summer, I finally learned that it’s okay to admit that you’re not ready to tell a story yet, and some ideas take a little more time to germinate than others.


About halfway through the summer, I was struck with an idea. Literally. It practically slapped me up the side of the head. (I told you these were painful lessons!)

And just like that, the story that had been locked inside of me for so long was finally released.

The words began to flow onto the pages. Raw, deep words. Words with heart in them. Within a week, I had over twenty pages filled with brainstorming notes, outlines, character charts, and world building notes. The first chapters were well on their way to being written, and I still loved and believed in my characters and plot—a rarity for me at this point in the writing process.

Lessons learned?

Don’t judge your writing time or process against what your writing friends post on Facebook.

I used to get really discouraged when I saw the number of words or chapters or books other people were racking up. Until I realized that my writing time and process is completely different from theirs and that’s perfectly okay.

I tend to spend more time editing the first draft while I’m writing it than  most people, because I know that if I don’t, I'll get more and more discouraged the farther into the story I get. And that's okay, because that is my writing process. It may be slower than yours, but it is uniquely mine.

It’s okay to admit that you’re not ready to write this story. Yet.

Some stories are harder to write than others, and there are some that you’re just not ready to tackle yet. Some stories need more time to grow, and sometimes, you need to do a little more growing before you’re ready to write them.

Should you get discouraged and think there’s something wrong with you? No, of course not. Because the story idea is still there, and when the time is right, it will resurface, and it will be better for the waiting.

Don’t be afraid to wait and allow the story to work itself out in its own time.

First off know that you shouldn’t use this as an excuse to be lazy and shelve your manuscript each and every time it gets difficult.

That said, sometimes the best thing you can do for a story is set it aside for a little bit.

When I first started having ideas for this story, my vision for the story was extremely narrow, hemmed in by the proverbial box. I tried to push through it. I tried to force the story to work. But it wasn’t until I had put it to rest for a little while, that I was able to approach it free of my stifling preconceptions.

Only then did my writing blossom.

Have you ever felt like you weren’t ready to write a particular story yet? Have you ever tried shelving a story for a bit, or do you always try to force your way through?

35 comments:

  1. I loved this post! I have a book (two actually) that I'm not ready to write yet, but they're bouncing around in my head even as I write my fantasy romance trilogy and co-author another book.

    This really lifted my spirits, so thank you!

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    1. It's always encouraging to me to discover that I'm not the only one whose ever struggle with a certain issue. :)

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  2. I had this same experience, Jillian, or nearly. I came up with an idea when I was 15 that I knew would be turned into a book. But the story was too big for me right then, dealt with issues I knew nothing about. I kept my notes, wrote a short story version of it, and worked on it during college as experience and knowledge of the world came to me. It took me six years, and I wrote 8 other books during the same time. But it was so worth the wait! And it became my first published novel too. =)

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    1. That's an encouraging success story! :D And it became your first published novel, too?

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  3. I have felt that I wasn't ready to write two particular stories. I came up with the cast of characters, main plot, setting but it didn't seem right. I wasn't experienced as a writer or have the right mindset. I put it aside to work on others! Thanks =) Now before I get back to the original 2 stories, I have others to write first that I thought up in recent years...

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  4. Thank you for this post. This has happened to me quite a few times - I know there's a story I want to tell but I just can't tell it. Will keep working and I am very excited for the day it feels right!

    www.alicekouzmenkowriting.blogspot.com

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  6. Nope, hasn't happened to me yet. Until quite recently it was so hard for me to find ideas, really. I have one or two seed ideas in the back of my brain at the moment, but I know I'm not ready to write them yet because they're just titles and "what ifs" and a character or two. Plus, I've got my hands full with the project I'm editing and the one I'm writing ;)

    Thanks for the encouragement, though, I have a feeling someday I'll have an idea like that and I'll remember this. :)

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    1. Good luck with your editing project! *grins* Editing and I have a love-hate relationship.

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  7. There was an allegory I tried to write a or so ago that I still don't think I'm ready to write. And when I wrote my first novel, three years ago, I think I was too young to write that story. I didn't know enough about the world. Now, rewriting it two years after I finished the first draft, I see a lot of stuff it was missing.
    Thanks for the great post, Gillian! I was just thinking that you hadn't posted on GTW in a while!
    ~Sarah Faulkner

    www.inklinedwriters.blogspot.com

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    1. There are definitely aspects of starting to write young that are great. You can write an authentic teen. Your imagination knows no bounds! More time to write and learn your craft. But at the same time, there are some things that just can't beat life experience, some lessons you have to learn as you live them! :)

      I know! I'm excited to be back!

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  8. Some stories just need more time than others. Some need to wait and change and evolve in your head before they are put on paper.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. So true. And my stories usually require a LONG growing period before I'm ready to start writing them. :D

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  9. I have a story like that right now. Several, actually, but one in particular. I don't feel like I'm ready to write it because I'm so attached to it on a personal level and it doesn't need to be told that way (if that makes any sense). Lol.

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    1. Oh yes it does. Sometimes the stories that strike the closest to home are the hardest to write!

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  10. I've had this happen. There's a particular story that I've been trying to work on for a while. Every time I try to write it, certain scenes come out forced. Maybe because it's a personal story, there is too much emotion and I want to get it perfect, yet I can't seem to do that yet. So I'm setting it aside for now.

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  11. Yes, I have around three novels that I'm waiting on. It works out well, because I have some other books to write before them. One of them began two years ago, and I knew I would not be able to capture the seriousness of the story until I grown some.

    The other two sprouted more recently, and while ideas are coming fast and furious, I'm pretty sure I don't yet have the skill to present them as beautifully as I want. One of these was quite stubborn, refusing to become a plot of epic proportions. But as it turned out, all I had to do was scoot my main characters down to secondary characters and a secondary character up to main star. Add in the fact that I suddenly realized both it and its sequel was meant to be an allegory, they flew off into the exact shape I wanted. Now I'll just have to write them someday...

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  12. Yes, I usually have to shelve ideas.
    I have a good idea, I got a good plot, got some good characters, but the story just doesn't come out right.

    There are multiple novels I want to write that just need to wait.

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  13. I'm not even sure if I'm going to pursue writing but if I do, I have a story that I'm not ready for yet. It always comes back to me, even when I'm not interested in writing.

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    1. One of those nagging story ideas, eh? I had some pretty discouraging times this summer when I honestly wanted to forget about writing ... and each time, this nagging story idea would burst into my mind. And all of a sudden, my brain would be whirling with characters and plots and the storyworld. Funny how that works. :D

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  14. There was a novel I wanted to write. I got the idea a couple years ago, and it just wouldn't let me go. But not matter how hard I tried to write it, something was always wrong. Until one event in my life happened, and then suddenly I knew I was ready to write it. I knew what I needed to know; I'd seen what I'd needed to see. Within a few months, I had the rough draft of the manuscript written.

    I have another story idea that I have right now that I want to write, but I don't think I'm ready to write it yet. I'll just have to wait a while and see what happens.

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  15. I haven't tried it yet, but I think I have a story that I might not be ready to write. It's a really good idea that'll take a lot of pacing and forshadowing, and I havn't even gotten the outline right!

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  16. This happened to me with my WIP.
    I came up with the idea about a year ago, and started writing. But I got stuck. I tried to figure out where I was going wrong, but I couldn't. It wasn't going how I envisioned it. It felt too 'big' for me.
    But now I'm trying again, and everything is going much smoother - because I've realised that I am the type of writer, and this is the type of story, that needs planning. I need to build everything from the ground up. So I'm focusing on worldbuilding and plotting right now, and maybe next month or so I'll start writing again.

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    1. I'm a reformed pantser myself. I need to outline and plan, otherwise I get so discouraged when I'm trying to tame my monster of a first draft!

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  17. Yes, I have one story that I was really excited about, but then realized I wasn't ready for. One of those, "More life experience is required," kind of things. The day will come. Maybe. In the meantime, there's no lack of other ideas to run with!

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  18. I have an idea that I want to start writing but I set it aside because I want to LOVE how I write it. I wanted to improve my writing ability before I started this idea. I absolutely love the idea and if I do it well it will be publishable...but I want to make sure I can do it well. :)

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    1. I totally understand that, Amanda. Part of the reason I shelved this story when I first started it two years ago, was because I loved the idea so much that I wanted to make sure I didn't ruin it! :P And it just wasn't the right time yet.

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  19. This is actually a great post for me right now! I'm writing a WIP where I'm not sure I have enough knowledge about that sort of topic to write it properly. The second half of the book is going to get really dark, so I'm planning on writing up to the mid-point and then putting it aside until I'm mature enough as a person to tackle a topic like that. Right now the writing doesn't seem to be coming out too forced though, so I think I'm okay for now. Definitely something I'll need to come back to and revise a lot in terms o content when I'm older, though.

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  20. AHHH YESSS!!!!! Yes!!!! I've got this series that's bouncing in my head!! I've done notes, drawings, brainstorms...but I know I don't have experience to write it. It's a spy novel, and now, I'm working on a time novel/survival novel. I remind myself I need to read books like Alex Rider and spend time in spy stuff before I can begin to really write the thing. Have to keep pushing it back until I finish this other series I'm on.

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  21. Oh, wow. I have quite a few novels I NEED to write, but I CAN'T. Thank you so much, Gillian, for this. It was such a welcome reassurance that waiting to tell these stories is the best thing.

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  22. I guess I always force myself through. Even if the draft is horrible, I feel better that there IS a draft and I can later come back and fix it. This is a pretty inspiring post!

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  23. i feel like i need to shelve my current novel, well, i felt like that a couple days agao, when i was stuck on a hard scene. but then this morning and yesterday, words, words, and more words poured into the story, and now it feels like my 1st novel. this encouraged me a lot that it IS ok to shelve some of my novels if i'm not ready yet, thanks a lot!!!!!!!!! :D



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  24. Wow I needed this post! Awhile ago, I came up with an idea that I absolutely ADORE -- but it is really complex, will require months of research, and I am nowhere near ready to write it. I have "shelved" it until I am twenty or so and can really dedicate myself to interviewing and whatnot. For now, I will work on my much simpler paranormals. Simpler for me, anyway. Thanks for the post, Gillian :)

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  25. Gillian, you make excellent points. You also remind me of something I once heard Jerry Jenkins say. When Tim LaHaye first approached him with the idea for the now-famous Left Behind series, Jerry was not ready to write such a story. If I recall rightly, he waited about a year and let the idea germinate and grow. By waiting, he said, the story became much better than it would have been if he had written too soon.

    It was nice to meet you at ACFW. Blessings to you!

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