Sometimes I feel like I got to a bit of a late start with this– I’m 42 years old, and my writing career is just getting started. A lot of other folks my age have been in the trenches for years.
But my path has been my path, and I needed those years to learn how to write, to learn how I write. That’s been a long, hard process, and while it’s paid off, I wonder what message I could send myself to help ease that process.
I think the thing I’d tell myself is that there is no “how you’re supposed to be writing” as defined by someone else. Be it a pace set by NaNoWriMo or that one needs to use a specific formula to craft a story or answer these questions about a character… that there is no the way and part of the journey is finding your own way.
“But, Marshall,” you might say, “You’re often going on about your twelve-part outline structure. Isn’t that you telling people a the way as well?” Well, no. I try to take care to say, “Hey, here’s a thing that I’ve come up with that helped me write outlines, maybe it can help you as well.” It’s a tool in my toolbox that I like to point to and say, “You want to borrow that? It’s cool if you do.” But I never say THIS IS HOW YOU MUST OUTLINE because that’s not helpful or useful. I never even say YOU MUST OUTLINE because while that’s something that is critical for me and my process, that isn’t a universal. Plenty of great writers don’t outline.
Now, I could, conceivably, tell me younger self, “You would do better outlining and here’s a twelve-part structure you can use and setting a pace of 500 words a day will probably work best for you in the long run. Have fun!” But I suppose that would undermine the process of learning and mistake-making that got me there in the first place.
So maybe instead I’d tell myself, “You’re going to make mistakes. And you’ll learn from them. So be ready to learn from them.”
I may also say, The Thorn of Dentonhill and The Alchemy of Chaos are going to have sweet covers, you’re really going to dig them. And younger me will be all, “The huh of what?” because I hadn’t come up with that stuff yet.