TCWT Blog Chain: What I Wish I’d Known


This is a really great prompt. At first, I had no idea what to write, but I slowly began to think of all the things I’ve learned and the lessons I wish I’d learned earlier – because I probably could have saved myself a whole lot of time.

First, I wish I’d known that ideas do not come fully-formed. In elementary and middle school, I was convinced I had not been gifted with the gene for coming up with great story ideas.

“How do you get your ideas?” is one of the most commonly asked questions published authors receive from readers/aspiring writers. I was at the front of that line. Any time I went to a book signing, or met an author face-to-face, that’s the question I asked. I searched for answers online. I bought books. And then finally, finally, I learned there is no magic formula for coming up with great story ideas.

Experience and every-day life inspires story ideas, but once you’ve got the initial spark it’s your job to flesh it out into an actual plot.

Something else I wish I knew when I started writing: stories need structure.

I believe it’s the reason I wrote so many unfinished drafts. I’d get super excited to start writing, and then I’d lose steam and the story sagged because I had no foundation.

Structure is not inhibiting, but freeing.

And the last thing I wish I’d known: it’s OKAY to write a terrible first draft.

I’m a perfectionist, a type A personality. What I’d once thought was a strength suddenly became a major weakness (especially in high school). Overanalyzing my work and giving everything 110% was absolutely exhausting, and also unnecessary. Not to say I shouldn’t have tried my best, but there comes a point when you’ve reached an unhealthy extreme. That was me.

And gone were the days of writing something just for fun – the first page of a story, or chapters of a fantasy that had been floating around in my head – I thought my drafts needed to be perfect. Seriously, I don’t think I’d ever heard of “revision.” And because of this, I thought I needed to write the story correctly the first time around. Obviously, this just creates fear and pressure and then you’re staring at the blank page for far longer than you should.

In my 11th grade AP Lang class, we read an excerpt from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, in which she discussed the importance and necessity of a “shitty first draft.” (Had to move past the curse word first, because even in 11th grade the elementary and middle school naivety had not yet worn off.) But after that, I realized that even my favorite authors wrote multiple drafts before they reached a finished product. And they all swore these drafts were terrible – “shitty,” in fact.

The true origins of great ideas, the necessity of structure, and “shitty” first drafts – these are the things I wish I knew when I started writing.

That said, I continue to learn every day, and I’ve realized in writing this post that I don’t think I’d go back and change my writing journey even if I could.

Be sure to check out the rest of the chain! And feel free to share your thoughts. πŸ™‚

5th –
6th –
7th –
8th –
9th –
10th –
11th –
12th –
13th –
14th –
15th –
16th –
17th –
18th –
19th –
20th –
21st –
22nd –
23rd –
24th – – The topic for August’s blog chain will be announced.

4 thoughts on “TCWT Blog Chain: What I Wish I’d Known

  1. Tara Therese (T. T. Kesley)

    Your third point is something I relate to very much. It was NaNaWriMo that enabled me to finally finish a full length novel – I was forced to stop looking back.

    I’m loving how different everyone’s responses are to this prompt!

    1. brooke Post author

      This really is a great prompt – I got a chance to step back and evaluate what I’ve learned. And you make such a great point! NaNoWriMo totally promotes the “shitty first draft” idea. πŸ˜‰ Thanks for commenting, Tara!

  2. John Hansen

    Yes yes yes on all of these, but especially the third. I even know the third point well, but I still struggle with it. I’m a bit obsessive, so it’s really difficult for me to shut off my brain and ignore the fact that the first draft I’m writing is completely terrible. Sometimes I even end up going back and rewriting the first few chapters over again, which is never a good thing. It’s just a habit I struggle to shake, no matter how hard I try. *shakes fist at self*

    Great post!

    1. brooke Post author

      Thanks! πŸ™‚ I do the same thing. I doubt myself, convinced I’m writing my story entirely wrong, and start over. And every time I have this foolish belief that if I just start over everything will work out this time around. Of course, I actually just repeat the process all over again, which is especially frustrating. So though I’ve learned that first drafts are supposed to be messy, it’s definitely something I have to remind myself of again and again.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge