Updated: Aug 11, 2018
If you've been following me on Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, or Youtube (I'm all over the place!) you know that since Uncovering Cobbogoth's release, I've been snatching every moment I can spare to polish up Book 2 and get it ready to submit to my editors at Cedar Fort. Book 2 is currently called The Lemorian Crest (that could change, just like Book 1's title did.) But if I can just take a minute and find the words to express how much more I have loved pre-writing/writing/revising/editing/polishing Book 2 than Book 1 . . . well, I would, but I can't, so I won't try. But just to give you an idea, I will say that I have loved . . .
Every. Single. Minute. Of. It!!!!!
I think I always knew writing Book 1 was just a necessary evil to open the door for the next six books in the series, but I really thought I loved Book 1. And I do, absolutely! But it's nothing compared to how I feel about Book 2.
After thinking about it a while, I've realized that there are a couple of reasons why I love Book 2 so much. First off, I finally get to be fully immersed in the world I always wanted/intended to build, I just couldn't be here until Book 1 was truly finished. Secondly, and more importantly, with Book 2, I already have my PWP (Personal Writing Process) down to a science. And that gets rid of SO much frustration!
So, what I guess I'm trying to say, is that much of the frustration I experienced during writing Book 1 was simply because I was having to do what every author has to do: 1) learn how to write a book in the first place. And 2) learn the process of writing said book that is most complimentary to my strengths and weaknesses as an individual writer.
When I was at that BYU creative writing camp a couple weeks ago, I talked to the kids about writers who are gardeners and writers who are architects. (If you've never heard of this writing concept, I've blogged about it in more detail here.) This concept isn't mine, I learned about it from a friend who attended one of Brandon Sanderson's creative writing classes. When I explained it to the kids from my camp, however, I saw the same light go on inside of some of them that went on inside of me when I first heard it. I knew right then, that for those particular writers, things were about to change in their writing world for the better.
I spent the first five years trying to write Book 1 as a story gardener, when all along I was a story architect. The moment I changed my approach to story writing, was a huge step in figuring out my PWP (personal writing process.) I took an equally important step when I read Becoming a Writer by Dorthea Brande and learned the concept of an author's two brains.
The list of these little bits that make up my own PWP is endless. And yours will be too, but the important thing to remember, is that yours and mine will look very different once you get your PWP in place. Sure, we'll most likely have the same basic elements and tools of story writing in both of our PWPs, but the way we use those elements and tools will be as individualized as how we eventually stumbled across them. That's what I love so much about this craft! We get to learn from and get inspired by the collective whole, while still getting to be organic and authentic as individuals, even down to our creative process.
I guess what I'm trying to say with this post is not that you shouldn't study and learn from other writers (that's necessary to becoming the best author you can be), but just that you shouldn't lose your uniqueness while doing it. Its important for every writer--aspiring and seasoned--to blaze their own trail, even down to discovering and tailoring their own writing process. Yes, learn from those who have gone before you. Absolutely do that! But never sacrifice your gut instincts, or that unique weirdness God gave only to you in order to achieve what's already been achieved. Figure out your own PWP by tailoring what you've learned from other great writers to your own personal strengths and weaknesses, and then write the book that only YOU were meant to write. That's when you really start to experience joy in writing . . . and living, for that matter. You weren't put here to be someone else, you were put here to be you, and if you aren't being you, then you aren't doing it right.
If I could go back and recycle the time I spent listening to other people's advice over my own instincts, or being afraid of my own personal brand of weirdness, or trying to be __(insert latest NY Times bestselling novelist)__ instead of Hannah L. Clark, I would. It's such waste of time!
Thankfully, I learned sooner rather than later that I have just as much right and reason to tell the story that only I can tell as any other writer does. And so do you! So spend all that energy you might be spending worrying you're not enough or don't know enough, or wishing you were someone else, or trying to do it the way "so and so" said it should be done, and just go and figure out how to do it already . . . your way. Because who says your way is wrong anyway?!
If it's working for you, then it isn't wrong.
Besides, consider this, the only reason we have stories like Harry Potter and The Grave Yard Book and The Hunger Games and Lord of the Rings and Narnia and Pride and Prejudice etc, etc, etc . . . is because the creators of those stories did just that; they told the story only THEY could tell . . . and they did it THEIR way. Which ended up being exactly what the world wanted from them, because it was that author's special brand of weirdness they had to offer the world. And the reason why you have about a million failed attempts to copy their weirdness, is because you have about a million authors who decided to try and be someone else instead of who they were meant to be.
We can't mimic what the literary icons have already done--the same thing never happens the same way twice--but we can mimic how they've done it. We've just got to blow the world's mind with our own weirdness . . . and in our own way. ;-)