On Tuesday, I finished the third and final book of the Hanover Chronicles, The Fallen Emperor. While I definitely have some work to do, it is very bittersweet. I’ve been working with these characters for years, and now their story is complete. It is also nice knowing that the story ended up the way that I had imagined it years ago when I first started this project.
There are so many things that I learned during the process of writing these books. Lessons for life, but also things about my writing.
1. Practice makes things better
There is the old adage that practice makes perfect. This is something that I was reminded of when I was younger as a way to get talked into practicing-whether that was swimming or the piano. But I think that while the idea that practice leads to perfect is misleading. There was never a perfect race at a swim meet, and there was definitely never a perfect performance on the piano. Instead, there was better races, faster races, and better pieces, smoother pieces if I practiced.
The same is true for writing. There isn’t an author out there who has a perfect book or the perfect story. We write what we know, and that is not perfection. However, the more you write, the better you get. I still have pieces of my writing from when I first started writing seriously, and not going to lie, it’s pretty terrible. (I used to think it was amazing.) If I hadn’t continued to write, I wouldn’t have learned how to write the way I would. But all those hours spent looking over the things I had written, revising it, re-revising it, and actually writing it taught me how to craft a good story.
2. I can’t be a successful writer without reading
I’ve been a big reader for as long as I can remember. Being a quieter person, books allowed me a way of escape so to speak. I could get lost in a world for hours on end. It let my imagination run wild. I got my ideas of what a good story looks like from the books I read. Sure I could get ideas from movies and TV shows, but reading a book showed me how other authors carefully crafted these amazing worlds and stories, giving characters dimension in a way a movie never could. I used to read for hours and hours on end, finishing book after book. I remember going to the library in middle school and having to bring a bag to carry all my books back home.
As I transitioned from high school to college, finding time to read became more difficult. I had more homework, a job, and a sport. Everything took my time, and Netflix became my biggest distraction. It was so much easier to just sit mindlessly at my computer watching some series. While doing that isn’t a bad thing, the amount of reading I did significantly lowered. It was during these times that my writing also suffered. Sometimes, it was just me not taking the time to sit and write. Other times, I would sit and rather painful type out a few paragraphs that later I would delete.
This last summer, I spent a lot of time reading. At the same time, my writing came so much easier. While not all of it was good writing, it was much more inspired than what I had done during the school year. I found that it was a joy to write. I knew my character’s thoughts, and what I was going to have happen. Instead of struggling to get into the heads of my characters, I was already in them. While reading and writing may not be connected in the same way for other writers, I found that the amount of reading I did either increased or decreased the amount of good writing I got done.
3. You have to share with your support system
This lesson was one that I learned this last summer. I have been blessed with that fact that I have an amazing support system. My family loves and supports that I write. They deal very graciously with the times I carry a notebook to a family function to write while they all socialize and the times that I babble about my newest story, newest set of characters, or newest ideas. They even inspire me, and there are interactions in my series that come from things I observed with my family.
But there was some learning on both sides that had to happen for this to become the way it is. My family wanted to know what I was doing, but I was rather reluctant to share with them beyond basics about my writing. I was terrified that someone would read it and think that it was horrid. Eventually, I got the courage to share my book with several of them as well as some of my really good friends.
The results were amazing. No one thought my writing was terrible (or at least no one told me that they did). In fact, it made them more invested in helping me in whatever ways they could. I wouldn’t have been able to write third full length novels without their support. The hours that I spent staring at a screen or pouring over manuscript pages was because my parents were gracious enough to allow me to do that. The times that I would sit in a family gathering, working on my current WIP (work in progress) was because my whole family knew how important my writing was to me.
I probably would not be a writer without their support. Maybe I would be doing it on the side, but not as a serious things. Thank you to my family for allowing my writing to become a part of who I am as well as sometimes taking over family events.
4. I am my own worst critic
I am quite a perfectionist. I like things to be a certain way, and I always strive to do my absolute best at things. As a writer, this can’t be both a blessing and a curse. One of the hardest things in writing is the editing phase. For me, this requires printing out my book, getting several red pens, at least 50 notecard, and white out. During my editing process, I read through every single sentence of my book and fix the sentences or sections I don’t like as well as fixing any grammatical errors.
My issues comes when I later type up all of my edits. I tend to get stuck on sentences, rewriting them a dozen different ways, trying to find a way to say it better. There is always something that I want to fix. I’ve come to realize that I will always think that. I will never be 100% happy with my writing because I will always have this tendency to nit pick everything and think that I could write it so much better.
When I first allowed someone to read the first draft of The Fallen Crown, I thought it was terrible. I had tried to characterize that characters a certain way, but I knew they weren’t perfect. I had started it how I wanted and ended it where I wanted to, but the in-between was a mess. At least that was what I thought. While my friend agreed that there was several sections that were rather messy, she seemed to enjoy it. For me it was a relief because I had come up with a million reason why she would hate it. I realized that I would always think that it was bad because I’m the one who spends hours writing it.
By realizing this, I also discovered that I could be less concerned about other people reading it. I made it easier to write the second and third book because I now longer felt this need to make it perfect before giving it to my friend to read. I would always be harder on myself than my family or friends would be.
Those are some of the major lessons that I learned during this first part of the journey. I know that I still have a long way to go before this journey is complete. I’m looking forward to editing and hopefully pursuing getting these books published.
Until next time,