I came across a "new" writer online recently. By "new" I mean that this person could feasibly have been writing for years, but they didn't know the rules very well.
By rules, I mean: proofread before you put your work out. Don't put material online that you eventually hope to publish through a traditional house. Punctuation makes a story easier to read. Things like that.
I think the internet has turned out a generation of very well-prepared authors who have all done their research and know how to put a sentence together, along with the ins and outs of querying agents, etc., but this particular run-in got me thinking about when I was new and fresh to writing. Sort of.
In December of 2008, I was lamenting to my now-husband (then-boyfriend) about a book that I'd started writing about six years prior on my waaaaaay old dinosaur of a computer. The thing had Windows 98 and I lacked the experience to get it running and get the files off the computer, but I really, really wanted that information. It had been a long time since I'd written anything, but I tried to write my first novel when I was nine. I'd been reading since I can remember. Writing was in my blood.
Anyway, he kindly and patiently took my old hard drive out and extracted the files and there it was-- the first fifty pages of WIND FURY, the first novel I would complete. When I re-read those pages for the first time in six years, I got really excited. This isn't bad, I told myself. In fact I think it's pretty good. (Of course I did).
Then I was trying to pick a class to take for the spring semester at my college and discovered that Novel Writing was a course they offered. Hey, why not take that so I would have motivation to keep going?
So I did. Most of the class was share-and-critique, and the first few people to read their work were the people who had been taking the class for a while already, some of them for years. And I cringed. They critiqued a guy a couple weeks before it was my turn, and I saw a lot of the things they nailed him for in my own work.
I went home and re-wrote the first fifty pages and had them in to the teacher to distribute before my class-wide critique.
Embarrassing? Sure. A little. Important? Absolutely. This was probably the biggest learning curve for me in writing, though I would say my level of learning has stayed roughly the same since then. I did my research, and I started following agents online, and eventually I arrived where I am today: still learning, still finding things to teach myself.
My little run-in with the "new" writer this weekend got me thinking, though, about all the things I used to not know about writing. All the things I still don't know, which scare me more, because as the title says, I don't know what I don't know. But I look at those early mistakes with fondness, and resolve to keep moving forward as a writer. Keep working on what I don't know and learning wherever I can.
Do you have any stories to share about things you used to not know?