As with any large project, writing No Angels has taught me many valuable things over the years, and my writing has improved tremendously along the way. Here I boil it down into five lessons I’ve learned throughout my journey.
For so long, I visualized my favorite stories when I thought of what I wanted my own to look like. While inspiration is necessary, it took me a while to truly find what I wanted my own story to look and feel and read like outside of what inspired me. My stuff used to be mostly rather embarrassing carbon-copies of other works, but since I’ve flexed the creativity muscle more and more, my own ideas have come about as a result.
2. The Value of Editing
I edited No Angels thirteen times. Thirteen. 13. 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + . . . Well, you get it. These weren’t small rewrites either, but full-on rewrites. Cutting out characters and putting new ones in; rearranging or in some cases deleting entire scenes; altering the language to flow more smoothly; finding what was hackneyed and what wasn’t. This process took years, but it was worth it. Even if editing can be a royal pain, it’s like working out; laborious and at times irritating, but it just feels good.
3. Letting the Words Breathe
This one was extremely hard for me to grasp. I used to jump from one thing to the next so fast in my books, not taking time to let the scene or happenings sink in and breathe. But you have to let the reader absorb the mood without throwing five billion things at them at once. If I had to choose, I’d still take a faster paced book over a slower one, but I don’t have to chose. I can find a way, as I still am every day, to write with solid pace.
I don’t understand people who can work without outlines. I mean, I can, (I didn’t use one for my first two books), but now it’s unfathomable to me. It allows me to do the groundwork beforehand so that when it comes time to write, I can just sit down and write. I can take care of most plot holes, see potentially more satisfying avenues, etc. For my first books, I certainly wish I’d taken different directions with some things, but what’s done is done and I’ve learned what I can from it.
This one sort of speaks for itself– but only half way. I wrote a fourteen page story back in fourth grade, which has now turned into No Angels today. I knew I wanted to get my story out there so other people could read and enjoy it, despite that I was so young and inexperienced. Some were quick to point that out. Along the way I’ve had people say my dreams were too big, that I’d never actually see it through, and so on. I’d doubted myself, trashed parts of my work, spent countless late nights and early mornings and holidays toiling away, and let me tell you, it was all completely worth it. It’s perhaps the most valuable lesson I’ve learned over the course of this all, and one I’ll be forever grateful for.
Despite only being 20, I’ve learned a lot in my time, in no small part due to this twelve year endeavor. What have you learned in your years, specifically relating to a project of yours? Comment below!