The Hard Question for New Writers

I’ve talked about this a little before, about how we live in an age of immediacy. We have many tools that allow us to instantly connect with anyone, anywhere else in the world. I feel this connectivity is a double-edged sword because of something very simple, yet very important to all creative people.

Before I get to the whys and hows and whats of this post, I’m going to post the question first: Are you ready?

So what does that mean, anyway? Even though that sounds simple enough, there’s a lot more to it. You see, writing it’s just the process of putting words on the page or sticking up a story for readers to buy. It’s a journey. It’s the kind of journey that isn’t exciting or glorious or even fulfilling at first, because it can be very complex and grueling. After all, writing a short story isn’t the same thing as writing a novel. Writing a technical report isn’t a blog post, and it’s not marketing copy. Each form has its own function. Its own purpose.

To go from “new” to “professional” requires something that I feel the internet is obscuring. The steps — some emotional, some not — almost every writer goes through to get from Point A to Point B. The first one, of course, is to figure out what you want to write, and write that. The second is to study that form. I mean, really study it. If you like a genre, read books in that genre. Uncover why you like it. Etc. This process can take a short time or a long time, but the end result will help shift one role away from the other. Instead of being in the position of “receiver” or “consumer,” you will start to steer towards being the “creator.” This philosophical shift is huge, but often difficult to explain because being a creator resonates through every action you take — how much TV you watch, how many books you read, what music you play. The more you learn, the more you’ll go through. Emotionally, physically, mentally and even spiritually.

Where I feel the connectivity is hurting new writers is the way that it obscures and minimizes these processes. The medium facilitates immediate distribution and — in some cases — immediate creation. My blogging software allows me to type quickly and then publish the post with the click of a button. Once you’ve finished a book, all you have to do is go and publish it. Does that make you a creator? You created something and now it’s available for a consumer. So yes, right? Yes, it does — whether or not the work was ready to be published or not.

Earlier in this post, I posed a question. Are you ready? For me, this question means that it’s okay to not submit a finished novel or a short story until I feel it’s ready. It means that if I want to try a new technique, I can write a story and never submit it. I can write trunk novels or trunk passages and use them to experiment, to practice, to freshen up. With deadlines in the mix, it means that I have to gauge my time accordingly.

The idea that not everything you create has to be consumed is a freeing one, because now the decision comes back to you. If one project isn’t ready, then don’t submit it and move on to the next one. Abandon it. Use it as a learning experience. This is crucial, but especially when you’re new. Why? Because when you’re a creator, there is someone else you’re creating for — yourself. Allow yourself that luxury. Recognize it. Revel in it. Then, when you’re ready, take the next step. Whatever that is. Just don’t be afraid to say: “No, I’m not ready yet.”

One Response to The Hard Question for New Writers
  1. Vicki Kunkel

    A brilliant and insightful post! And, I think you’re right: Too many writers today publish just because they can; it doesn’t mean they always should.

    Your post is very timely for me. Just this past weekend I was lambasting myself for having two completed novels just sitting on the hard drive of my computer. I couldn’t put my finger on why I didn’t just publish them already. It wasn’t until I read your post that I realized it’s okay NOT to publish them because they aren’t ready and, on some deep subconscious level, I knew that.

    Thanks for giving me permission to be a publishing slacker! LOL. Seriously, it has given me a huge sigh of relief to know that I don’t have to publish everything I write to be a writer.

    I think I am going to send a link to your post to my literary agent who, since my last book was published, has been hounding me to write another. I keep telling her that when I have something that I think is worthwhile and valuable for an audience, THEN I will give her something to peddle to publishers. Or, better yet, I’ll self-publish. 🙂



Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

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