So I want to start writing a book but i'm not confident enough in my writing skills to actually do it and start one. Should I go ahead and start writing it anyways or should I wait till I can improve my writing skills? Your writing is incredible and so much better than mine I wanted your opinion on this.
(I got this ask a few days ago, but I’ve been waiting until I’ve had proper time to asnwer. Sorry for the delay.)
I’m just gonna start and say writing is hard. And more importantly, writing a book is really freaking hard.
And that is especially true if you’re trapped in the self-doubt phase. (I sure as hell have been there.) You spend like 30 minutes banging out a paragraph of writing, because you need everything to sound right/you can’t make this one sentence work/you don’t have the character’s voice right. Then you realize it would be utterly exhausting to aim for an 80,000+ word novel and you give up.
If this sounds familiar, and you’re new/just dabbling/haven’t completed any major writing projects, my advice is this: start small, start simple, start familiar.
- Familiar. FANFICTION IS A GOD-SEND. That’s not to say you should stop writing fanfiction when you’re a Big Mature Experienced Writer. Fanfiction just gives you a lot for free if you’re getting overwhelmed by all the pieces that go into writing. Characters? Check. Setting? Check. Available plot devices? Check. It’s great for nailing character voice and consistency, since those are already established. It’s great for practicing description (pull up a screenshot and take a swing at describing the house or living room or whatever). It’s great for learning how to put a plot together when you already have elements to work with. You can teach yourself VOICE and PACING and DIALOGUE and PLOT PROGRESSION and SPEED ALMIGHTY SPEED, all within the realm of something you already understand. Throwing yourself headlong at a novel is hefty. There are a million things you need to keep juggling. Let fanfiction take some of the strain off if you’re still getting used to a lot of it.
- Small. Writing gets exponentially harder as the length of a piece increases. It gets exponentially harder as you pile on scenes. Suddenly you have to plan way in advance, have to stay extremely conscious of the decisions you make in early chapters because they have huge butterfly effects down the line. If you’ve already got an idea for the novel you want to write, practice with a bunch of “one-shot” scenes with your characters. Find some meaningful focus, and write a 2,000-3,000ish word piece. Get to know your plot and characters in tiny, localized pieces before trying to make something huge. Or try with a bunch of small fanfiction pieces. This is especially motivational if you feel you’ve hit writer’s block. Tell yourself “this is gonna be a 500 word drabble”. Even at your blockiest, hopefully you believe you could pump out 500 words of something (and hopefully longer if you find your streak along the way)
- Simple. If you’re still trying to do something long and original, an easily-mapped plot line will help you heaps. The first thing I wrote was an 80,000 word Danny Phantom fanfic (which was not easy to do) but I was helped by the fact that the plot was simple. It was a Danny-is-captured-and-experimented-on-by-his-parents fic. So I wrote a story with 80,000 words of post trauma angsting. There were some tricky things to figure out, but for the most part the very nature of the storyline told me what to do: put Danny through his typical life after that, and explore how this experience has messed him up as a result. Plenty of 80,000 word stories have dozens of characters, dozens of settings, intense world building, elaborate backstories, etc. etc. I was careful to do something easily contained and easily explored.
There’s no reason to not try to write that book if you want to. But if you start and find yourself totally overwhelmed, there’s absolutely no shame in putting that on the backburner and focusing on your writing. Because there is so much to writing. It’s not about putting words together in a way that sounds pretty. It’s about understanding voices and people and consequences and reactions and keeping track of the tiniest details. It’s about exploring 100 different ways a scene could go down and knowing how to get the best impact out of it. There’s no firm line in writing of “can write a book” and “cannot write a book.” It’s 14 different spectrums of talent that all IMPROVE THE MORE YOU WRITE. SERIOUSLY.
So practice. Practice practice practice. Ask for advice if you need it. If you follow a writer and you really love how they do “Thing A”, ask them how they do “Thing A.” I love yammering on about my thought process in stuff, because I feel a lot of it gets lost in the final product. Or if not, study how they do “Thing A” really closely. Try writing a piece in “their style” and dissect what you like about it. Write casually. Write disjointed random scenes. Write tragedy for no reason. So much of writing is learning how to get yourself in that headspace that lets you crank out 3,000 words in one sitting like it’s nothing.
You can get so far with all of that.