If there were one piece of advice I could go back and give my former self, it would be this: You will get better.
I’m not sure about you, but back in my early days as a writer, I thought pretty highly of myself. Sure, I was disabused of the notion that I was any sort of singular talent, and fast, but I still approached my work from a weird, flawed position.
I was afraid that if this manuscript didn’t sell, then obviously nothing I wrote ever would. This manuscript was my best effort. It had to sell. If it didn’t, I would’ve wasted all that time I put into it! All those beautiful words!
But here’s the thing: that first book? Good or not (it was not), the process of writing it taught me so much. It helped me figure out that I do in fact need to do at least a little bit of plotting. It gave me a better sense of how to approach my pacing. It afforded me the chance to get a sense of my own voice.
Whether or not it sold (it did not), the time I put into it was in no way, shape or form wasted.
Writing is a craft and a discipline. It takes talent, but beyond that, it requires patience and practice. We improve by practicing our craft. And sometimes, we may not even be aware of how much we have improved.
I recently had the occasion to go back and look a manuscript I wrote a couple of years ago. While I was writing it, I thought it was the best thing I’d ever written, and even though I’d come a long way, I still had that niggling fear at the back of my mind, telling me that it might well be the best thing I ever would write.
Now? It looks amateurish. I have come so far, and I had no idea.
So here’s my advice to my former self: You will get better. Don’t worry about this manuscript, or the next one, or even the one after that. You’re learning just by writing them. You’re not wasting your time.
Delete that scene, even though it cost you blood, sweat, tears, and hours. The next one you write will be better.
Let go of that book that isn’t getting any nibbles. The one you write next will be better.
Keep going. Keep writing.
Because no matter how good you think this book is. Remember. The one you write next will be better.