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May 13, 2010 / Chersti Nieveen

why i am glad i am not published

I know, anyone reading this post probably thinks I went mental since my last post. Nope. Sorry to disappoint you. However, maybe I should rephrase the phrase to be: Why I am glad I am not published. . .yet!

Okay, so I’ve been writing since I was little. I never wanted to go into writing, however. I wanted to be a lawyer. I had teachers enter my writing in competitions, and after awhile, I wanted to get better at it. So when I turned sixteen, I started writing seriously. As in putting in serious writing time everyday. I even went to a writing conference.

That summer, I finished a YA contemporary novel. It is a YA contemporary issues novel with a murder mystery in it. The premise goes that a senior in H.S. saw things, was declared insane and spent the summer at a mental institution. The story starts when she goes back to school, and she starts to see her dead dog again.

However, I j ust took a look at this completed story and realized: I AM SO GLAD I DIDN’T GET THAT PUBLISHED. Not that’s is bad. Actually, I am impressed with how good it is. At the conference I went to, I had an editor request it. I just never sent it off. But I am glad for 2 main reasons:

1.)I wasn’t good enough to make this book what it could have become. Not so much on the sentence level, but on the plot level. My ultimate goal was to make the reader wonder what was real and what was not, all inside the mind of someone who was declared insane. Even after the book was finished, I didn’t want that issue closed. Did the girl really see her dead dog, or was her mind playing games with her? Where is the line between reality and our own coping mechanisms?

2.) That book is not me anymore. What does that mean? Well, think on it for a minute. A writer’s name becomes a brand. You can trust when you pick up a book by Carrie Ryan that it will have amazing prose and an awesome world. Same goes for other writers. And frankly, that book doesn’t fit too tightly with what I write now. I’ve grown beyond that, and come a long way as a writer.

The same goes with my second book, an urban fantasy which has been undergoing revisions to cut the wordcount. When I first started that story, it was *almost* chick-lit. The second draft I went through and rewrote the whole thing (meaning I basically discarded the first draft, though I kept the ideas). Not that I am against either of those genres, but looking back, I can see more Meg Cabot or Caroline B. Cooney in that writing than me. It took those books and the many drafts since to help me find my own voice, and the type of stories I want to tell.

Even then, I am so glad I wrote that book, and the dozens of short stories and book partials that lasted up until I was eighteen. Why?

1.) I knew I could finish a novel. I’d proved it to myself. Not only that, but I knew better how to plan my next novel. The first one was almost like a practice novel to help me understand exactly how it worked.

2.) Every author has to get your bad words out — though we each have a different amount of bad words in us. I am now a MUCH better writer after having spent so much time on this manuscript.

3.) That story helped the other ideas solidify in my head. I saw what elements worked in a story, and what rules I needed to follow for my story to succeed.

Mary Kole had a great POST about allowing yourself to grow as a writer, where she said:

The worst thing you can do is write words once and think you’re done writing them for good. Those words could be great words, sure. But there could be other words that are even better. The only way you can find the exact right words is by trying things, playing, letting loose.

Her post talks about how we should experiment with our own writing to see what feels right for that story. I have to agree! One of the best things I have found for my writing is when I take a scene, paste that scene in a new word, and then tear it apart. If I don’t start in the new document, I’m afraid that I’ll somehow mess up the original and I don’t change much. But with that new document open, I can play around with it until I find something better. And if the original was the best it could be, then I can always revert back to it. But the secret here is: the original rarely is the best you can do.

(I just want to add that teens now have so much more of a jumpstart than I did. things are a lot more readily available online, especially now that a lot of agents and editors blog and/or are on twitter or other social networking sites. So go you teen writers and get yourselves published!)

So how about you –what has your writing journey been like?

And just in case anyone cares, HERE is a glimpse.


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8 Comments

  1. Leisha Maw / May 13 2010 8:23 am

    I pulled out an early version of my first book the other day and blushed at how bad it was. So glad it’s not out there floating around with my name on it. I think I’d have to move, change my name, and go into hiding. I just hope I don’t feel that way in ten years about the stuff I’m writing now.

    • Chersti Nieveen / May 13 2010 12:26 pm

      It’s so funny to look back! But it’s all a growing experience. I do think that once it is published, it has gone through the AMAZING editing process, so you have other people helping you make it great.

  2. Nikki Mantyla / May 13 2010 9:04 am

    Can totally relate. I got serious about writing for young adults when I took Louise Plummer’s class at BYU. She required us to write the first 50 pages of a novel. I loosely based it on my own experiences from high school, and it was TERRIBLE! So I didn’t go past the 50 pages. Then I wrote a full novel for my thesis, and it was much better, but still has such a long way to go that it’s a little embarrassing knowing anybody can check it out of the BYU library. What’s cool, though, is recognizing how much better each attempt is. I learned so much from those first two that have helped make my current ms SO much better!

    • Chersti Nieveen / May 13 2010 12:25 pm

      There are so many unfinished projects in my drawer, because they weren’t even worth pursuing. I think I might have to sneak over to the HBLL and find your thesis!! It’s also nice to go back and revise, because each time the novel gets better 🙂

  3. shalleemcarthur / May 13 2010 9:18 am

    This is so true. All of my early stuff helped me get where I am, but it was so not ready for any eyes other than mine. In fact, I feel like my current stuff still has a ways to go!

    • Chersti Nieveen / May 13 2010 12:17 pm

      It’s nice to see how we improve in our writing! It’s definitely a life-long process to become the best writer we can be.

  4. S. Elle Page / May 13 2010 1:31 pm

    I totally agree. My first novel was an utter catastrophe, but it taught me that I had the stamina to write a full-length novel. Revising to submission-worthy perfection” is another matter!

  5. Sarah / May 13 2010 1:59 pm

    I’m glad you aren’t published yet, too. Because when you DO get all famous and stuff, I will be able to say “I knew her when…”

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