Words of Wisdom for New Writers

I found this quote on Artist – Mother – Teacher, and I very much resemble it. And, apparently, a lot of other people resemble it; I’ve been checking out a lot of other writers’ blogs lately, and so many people lament the fact that their first bit of writing isn’t what they want it to be. So I feel the need to spread this around as much as possible.

I wrote a little in elementary and high school–including poetry–but I didn’t really start flexing my creative writing efforts until I went to college and started taking classes.

One day I had an idea for a short story. Then I decided I liked it too well to keep it short, so I started to turn it into a novel. But–just as Ira Glass says–I grew disappointed with my budding novel. My main character didn’t seem to have any personality. She was weak and rather helpless. She fell in love with my romantic lead, but only because I wanted her to; there was no real build up of their relationship, no blooming of love. Unsure how to correct what were pretty major fatal flaws (and rather disillusioned with the entire writing process after some bad experiences in those same creative writing classes), I put my book aside for nine years.

Then, in 2009, while I was derping around on the internet, bored and depressed and unemployed, a friend mentioned National Novel Writing Month on Facebook. With nothing better to do, I decided I would participate. At the very least, I thought, it would give me a sense of accomplishment when I finished it. God knew I wasn’t getting anything else done at the time. The few resumes I sent out never got call backs. Some days I couldn’t even find a job posting which I was qualified for (despite the fact that I had 6 years of legal experience and general office–and even retail–experience, plus a degree).

So I decided that I would write a cheesy romance novel–just for shits and giggles. Then I decided to make it a cheesy vampire novel. Then I decided that I might resurrect the characters from my old novel. I had no expectations for myself except to write 50,000 words (no matter how crappy).

I’m going to be publishing that book, Acceptance, in November, three years after starting it.

After I had my first draft done, I actually pulled out my old binder with all the printed pages of the original novel in it (the computer file disappeared on a floppy disk ages ago). I started to read it.

It was even more horrible than I remembered.

But the potential was there. I did a lot of background research on vampires and the Bible, and–with only some small tweaking–all of that came into my new novel intact. (You can read all of the background information here.) I kept the idea of two different types of vampires–one good and one evil–although I altered how the evil vampires worked and where they came from. Kalyn was in her early twenties in the original book; I knocked that down to sixteen and started the book off with her “coming out party.” The original vampires did not keep humans; the new ones not only keep humans (Yaechahre), but the humans are there willingly and have their own culture which is both separate from and connected to the culture of the vampires.

There’s an axiom of writing that I’ve seen referenced in several different places which also needs to be told to new writers: You have a million words of crap in you.

One writer said that when she learned this, she set herself the goal of writing 2,739 words per day for a year, with the thought that she could get out all one million crappy words at once, then start on her career as a writer.

Even bad writing serves a purpose; it siphons off the crap. Just keep plugging along, and eventually you’ll start writing things you’re proud of and it will become easier to do so. Writing is like any other talent: it requires practice.

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11 comments on “Words of Wisdom for New Writers

  1. A very helpful post, thank you. I particularly like the Ira Glass quote and the ‘million words of crap’. If I just count novels, I have about 600,000 words to go. (If I could include two decades of academia I’d be well past it by now!)

    • Keri Peardon says:

      I actually started thinking back to my first book, trying to estimate how many words of crap I used up on it, plus on the other things I wrote in college. LOL. Plus I have to count the stuff I’ve cut out of my novels. I’ve probably written twice as many words as I’ll ever publish just in that one trilogy.

  2. petriesan says:

    Really cool post and something to think on.
    I have a story on vapiric origins in the Bible. . .actually with Jesus. What is yous about?
    Regarding a million wordas of crap. . .I think we all have many more than that, and the more you write, the more crap comes out, but maybe, just maybe, the percentage of non-crap increases as we write

    • Keri Peardon says:

      I think we probably have more than a million, too, but I think you’re right that the more we write, the more of what we turn out is good.

      I read someone’s self-published book years ago where vampires were on the hunt for the blood of Christ. If they could bite a descendent of Jesus, they would become like gods. Mind you, this was before The da Vinci Code, and was the first novel that I ever saw proposing the idea that Jesus had physical descendants (although I had encountered such an idea in documentaries before).

      I thought it was a really awesome idea, and the last 30 pages or so of the book were terribly exciting. Unfortunately, the first 200 pages were terribly boring. Lots of potential, but needed a rewrite, for sure.

      If I wasn’t in the middle of moving my book info over to a website, I could give you a link to all of my back story. Basically, my vampires claim to be descendents of Cain–although evidence points to the fact that they actually evolved in Mesopotamia sometime after 5,000 B.C. The prevailing theory among them is that they met with the Israelites when those people were exiled to Babylon in approximately 500 B.C., and for whatever reason, they attached themselves to the Jews and followed them back to Judea when they returned from exile.

      It seems that at that point the vampires rewrote their history to place themselves in the Jewish Bible, and they modeled their entire society on Jewish society. Their laws are modeled on Jewish laws, their form of government is modeled on the Sanhedrin, and their calendar runs on the Jewish calendar and is calculated with Jewish years. They are not, as a people, Jewish, but they do consider themselves an allied tribe and monotheists.

      Originally their numbers were made up almost exclusively of Jews and Jewish converts, but after the Diaspora, they took in Christians, and today about 30% of their numbers are Jews, 60% are Christian or born-Christian-but-not-practicing, and 10% are misc./atheist/agnostic.

      So, in short, I have Jewish vampires–and all the religious problems that entails.

      • petriesan says:

        Sounds really sort of warped. RIght up my alley. My story, which includes the “Gospel of Jospeh of Arimathea” starts the blood sucking at the last supper.

        I answered your question to me with a new post, so, you are the second person I have encountered on here who was been a muse

      • Keri Peardon says:

        Whose blood is getting sucked and who’s doing the sucking? I am intrigued.

        I can’t take credit for the Jewish vampire idea; I got it from a girl I met doing online role playing, and she, in turn, got it from her rabbi. Interestingly, he assigned it to her as an exercise in theology. Drinking blood is forbidden, but so is suicide. If you would die if you didn’t drink, do you have an obligation to do it? From what I know of the law surrounding kashrut, yes, you must drink to live. That’s all well and good if you were turned without your consent, but what if you chose to be a vampire? Is that an unforgivable sin?

        I actually have my characters hashing it out in my second book. (Both Micah and Joshua are vampires (Canichmehah) and born-Jews, but Micah is secular and Joshua is modern Orthodox. Joshua is the leader of their people, and Micah–who has known him for many years and is distantly related–goes to him for advice on a personal problem.)

        Joshua leaned forward and opened the lid of a beautiful box, ornately inlaid with mother-of-pearl in geometric patterns. He pulled out a pair of tefillin and offered them to Micah. “Have a relationship with God.”
        Micah stared at him in disbelief. He didn’t move. “Are you serious?” he finally managed to ask.
        “Of course.”
        Micah snorted, then started laughing and couldn’t stop. Joshua merely looked at him with polite patience.
        Micah at last shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
        “Why not? I know you’re not an atheist.”
        “No, I’m not. But believing in God and being a practicing Jew are two different things.”
        “Of course. But if you have the former, nothing stops you from being the latter.”
        “Um, how about God striking me dead for being a hypocrite?”
        Joshua sat back, looking surprised. “Do you think I’m a hypocrite, Micah?”
        “No,” Micah hurried to say. “But I would be.”
        “Why?”
        “Because….” Micah struggled to explain himself. It wasn’t something he consciously thought about; it was a feeling more than anything. “Because God would know I’m not sincere.”
        “Micah, if you ever put on tefillin again, it will be out of a sincere desire to be closer to God. There’s no hypocrisy in that.”
        “But… I shouldn’t put them on. Being what I am.”
        “Do you think you’re not a Jew anymore?”
        “I… don’t know,” he said honestly. “What I was born and what I am now are not the same thing—on many levels.”
        “If you’re not a Jew, then what are you?”
        Micah shrugged. “I don’t know.”
        “A Gentile?”
        “A Canichmeh,” Micah replied.
        “Interesting,” Joshua mused. “A halfway point between Gentiles and Jews if there ever was one. Never has a group of people more wanted to be Jews, I think.”
        “And never has a group of people been more unable to be Jews.”
        “So, where does that leave you and me?”
        “I have no idea. Haven’t people been debating this for as long as we’ve been around?”
        “The last twenty-five hundred years, certainly.”
        Micah looked at him. “Why do you keep the law? What’s your rationale for it?”
        “I’m a Jew; it’s what I’m supposed to do.”
        “Why do you think you’re still a Jew?”
        “Who told me I wasn’t?”
        “Hasn’t anyone?” Micah asked with surprise. “A lot of the Yaechahre—here, especially—don’t like to think we’re Jews.”
        “Yes, well until they figure out a way to change who my mother was, they have no case against me.”
        “You don’t think your sire replaced your mother?”
        “No, I do not. The law says that the womb is what is important; Jewish parents who use a surrogate mother who is a Gentile must convert the child, because it’s born Gentile, even though its DNA comes from two Jews. My sire may have given me a virus that partially rewrote my DNA, but he did not gestate me in the womb. So he did not replace my mother.
        “Furthermore,” Joshua continued, “The only time you are exempt from following the mitzvot is if you are physically or mentally incapable of performing them. And even then, you are required to do what you are capable of doing.
        “I can’t live without blood,” Joshua said. “I think of that as… a handicap, of sorts, which prevents me from keeping absolutely kosher, but I don’t think it exempts me from performing all the rest of the laws.”
        “But,” Micah countered, “isn’t it your fault that you can’t keep kosher? You chose to be turned, so every time you drink blood, is that sin not on your head?”
        “I chose to turn because my life was unlivable. The woman who owned me…” Joshua looked at the floor. It took him a moment to continue, and he didn’t look at Micah as he spoke. “The woman who owned me when I was Yaechahre raped me. Not infrequently. Her sire made her tone it down some when I married, because he wanted me to have the time and energy to have children—reproduction was, after all, the reason why they bought me in the first place—but when my wife died, there was no stopping Hadassah. I was looking at spending my remaining years as her….”
        He visibly swallowed. “Her sire offered to turn me. In those days, when Yaechahre were slaves, you were technically communal property, and no individual could sell, free, or otherwise dispose of a Yaechahre. The only way out was to be turned. I either turned or lived with Hadassah until I died.”
        He glanced at Micah, his eyes burning. It shocked Micah, because he wasn’t used to seeing that much emotion in Joshua. “I can’t express how much I hated the woman,” Joshua said. “If I could have killed her, I would have. In fact, I tried as soon as I was turned. She tried to bully me into having sex with her, and when I refused, she threatened to take my oldest son, Eleazar.”
        He shuddered. “To think of her humiliating and degrading my child, my firstborn, the way she had me…. That was the first and only time in my very, very long life that I ever hit a woman, and I tried very hard to beat her to death. I would have, if our sire and two of our brothers hadn’t drug me off of her. Elon gave me to a friend of his to raise and I left that week. I never saw her again.”
        He looked down, then showed Micah his hand, curled so tightly in a fist, his knuckles were white. “See?” Joshua said sadly. “Even now, I can’t think about her without becoming enraged. She’s been dead for over fifteen hundred years, but I can’t let go of the hate.” He took a deep breath and, with effort, relaxed his hand. But Micah had a feeling that inside he was still burning.
        “My choices were few,” Joshua continued. “Murder her, murder myself, or become Canichmeh. I chose the latter—and only because I was never able to accomplish the first two—which, believe me, I tried. Whether turning counts as murdering myself, I don’t know, but I was honestly past the point of endurance, Micah. I hope God will have pity on me for it.” He sighed and sat back against the couch. He looked tired and old.
        Micah looked down. “I… it wasn’t that way for me. I chose….” He stopped before he said more than he really wanted to say. That was a conversation that was off-limits, even with Anselm.
        “I can’t answer to how God will judge any of us,” Joshua said. “But if we have committed an unforgivable sin, how much worse do we make it by praying and keeping the law? Will God destroy our souls twice over? Is there some extra level of Dante’s hell, just for us, that’s worse than any other part of hell?
        “Our relationship with God may be unsalvageable, but I know if we do nothing to try and maintain it, it definitely will be. I don’t think we risk anything by trying, but we have everything to gain.”
        “And you think being more religious will help me with my control issues?”
        “It certainly won’t make them worse.”
        Micah continued to look dubious. “Look, Micah,” Joshua said, “the purpose of prayer isn’t to change God—that’s impossible; the purpose is to change yourself. Even if praying has no affect whatsoever on your soul after death, it can at least have a positive effect on you here and now. And considering how badly you feel about yourself right now, it certainly won’t hurt you to try.”

  3. petriesan says:

    Interesting read. . .if you want to see the heart of mine. . .

    I will send you a copy of Josep’s gospel on the promise you do not release it to the public ( I worked long and hard to get it out of the public arena. . .even giving back the compensation I got for it) To do so, I guess, I need an email.

    I do not have it on this computer, I do not think, so it would have to be in the morning.

  4. petriesan says:

    Interesting. Petriesan was created as a reaction to a play by email game a very long time ago. . 1996 0r 97. . .something along those lines. . .

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