Life Coach Magazine

If I Only Knew Then…

By Writerinterrupted @writerinterrupt

The phrase, “If I knew then what I know now…” is applicable to my life in many ways. There are many things I wish I could tell young Stephanie.

Like that bangs are not a good look for you. Nor are shorts-overallsIf I Only Knew Then…Or, “You should not wear that hat.”If I Only Knew Then…Or that making a scrapbook of Backstreet Boys pictures is only going to get you laughed out by your future husband. Who will be way better looking that Brian Littrell.If I Only Knew Then…

But if there’s an area of my life that makes me often think, “Man, I wish I knew then…” it’s writing. 

From first grade on, I knew I wanted to be a novelist. I began to pursue that goal in high school (mostly during my chemistry and algebra classes – not a good choice) by sending out full length manuscripts to random publishing houses.

While there are lots of really basic things I could have benefited from knowing (what genre I wrote, what a literary agent was, the appropriate way to query) here is a list of 5 not-so-basic things I wish I knew as a teen writer:

The story you are writing will not be published, but it still needs to be written
If I had known that the story I was passionate about writing would barely make it into some editor’s slush pile, I likely would have thrown my hands up in the air and said, “Then what’s the point of writing it?”No, the stuff I wrote in high school was not good. Nor was the stuff I wrote in my late teens and early twenties. But with every word I wrote, I learned. I landed a 3-book contract at age 24, and it wouldn’t have happened had I not invested all those late nights/early mornings writing those junky stories.Your stories cannot be about you
At age 20, I had a revelation – all my manuscripts were about me. Every. Single. Story. Me if I had great hair. Or me if I really was amazing enough to land a job writing for television. Me if I was able to say all those sassy things to my frenemies.Whenever I read stuff I wrote in high school, I wanted to scream at that girl, “It cannot be about you!” It wasn’t until I became intentional about character building that my stories improved. When I sat down to write Me, Just Different, I thought, “Skylar is not me. Skylar is going to be my opposite.” (The title, chosen by my publishing house, makes that moment rather ironic, I think.)
If I Only Knew Then…
You Will Get Nowhere Until You Write a Full Manuscript
I love the beginnings of stories. There’s still so much potential! The characters are still so alive in my head, and the story is still kind of foggy. I’m always eager to get to work and figure it all out.Around chapter three – even now – I often hit a place of, “Well, crud. Now I have to figure out what this thing is going to be about…”As a new writer, I chased the high. When my enthusiasm for a project fizzled, I just pushed it to the side and started on something new, something fun. I did this for a long time, It wasn’t until I forced myself to write a full manuscript that I really began to grow as a writer. That first time I typed THE END, I learned a ton about what concepts sustained a story, what plot lines added tension and which merely added words, and what kind of character arc was required for a full manuscript.You Can Do It – But It Will Not Be Easy
As a budding writer, I truly believed my life as a novelist would involve me writing whatever story I wanted, sending them to my editor, and then writing the next story that came to me. Maybe I’d have to squeeze in a book tour from time to time, but basically I thought my life would be writing stories.It’s okay to laugh at my naive self – I do it too.The sad truth is rejection does not end with getting a book contract. There will still be rejection – not just from publishing houses, but also from readers who don’t like the way you portrayed something in your book.Sometimes I have days where I look at my to-do list of blogging, marketing, researching, book proposaling, and I think, “What about writing? When do I get to do that?”Pursue it with all your heart, because no other work will do for you
This is one of those things that I kind of knew as a teen writer – that nothing captivated my interest quite like novel writing – but I wish I could affirm this to my young self. That when I was knit together in my mother’s womb, I was given writing. Whenever I’m forced to go a couple days without getting to work on my current manuscript, I get cranky. I feel like I’ve somehow become derailed from my life’s purpose.There were so many things I didn’t know when I first started on my writing journey – what’s an SASE? what’s an unsolicited manuscript? – but I did pursue my dream with all my heart. And that’s what landed me here:

If I Only Knew Then…

Taken at my first book signing

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