Thursday, September 9, 2010

Goober Writers Anonymous--Me

I'm so glad everyone has shown such interest in this group!  There is nothing better than being able to share all our mistakes with friends.  I can't even tell you how much I've learned over the years just by listening to people who had to learn the hard way.

Now, because I'm the organizer of this group, I thought I'd start it all off with a little tale of my own.  It was really hard to narrow it down, I must admit.  I've made a LOT of mistakes since deciding I wanted to be a writer.  A lot.  And they never seem to end.  No matter how much research I do, or how hard I try to prepare myself, I always seem to make at least one little flub.

But the story I'm going to tell you today wasn't exactly a little mistake.  I actually consider it the most devastating, life-altering mistake I could have made.

I think most of us have this one thing in common:  we all excelled in our creative writing classes, whether in middle school, high school, or college.  Well, when I was in school, I was pretty sure I was alone in my abilities.  I know--arrogant.  But hear me out.  I was always the best in my class, my English teachers never failed to praise me in whatever I did, and though I received A's in all my work, I knew it wasn't even close to what I could do.  And there's the problem.  I never once pushed myself.  I was an extremely lazy student.  I did well without trying.  I'm not trying to brag here.  I actually consider what I did to be the stupidest thing a person could ever do.

I had a dream growing up to be one of the youngest published authors ever.  Did I research this?  No.  Did I have a clue who was the youngest author ever?  No.  I just decided I wanted to be a teenage writer, so I sat down and tried to write a book.  I'd always had a passion for writing even before I really knew how to write.  I would scribble lines and pretend they were words (with pictures included, of course) and feel so fulfilled when I stapled my pages together.  I knew I was destined to be a writer, it was just a matter of sitting down and finishing something.

Sadly, though, I didn't put one ounce more effort into it than I did my work for school.  I just assumed that if I was so much better than everyone in my classes, then I had to be as equally better than everyone else in the country (and therefore, other writers).  I deluded myself into thinking this for years.  When I look back at what I wrote in school, I want to slap myself.  It was crap.  Straight up horse manure.  I can't even believe my teacher would give me an A for the stuff I gave him.  And the sad thing is, I knew at the time that it was crap and I was still happy with it.

But that's not all.  Oh no, that is. not. all.

You know how I mentioned I failed to do any research?  Well, when I started writing (half-way seriously), I tried to mimic the books I read in school.  In other words, I wanted to write something similar to a 100 year old classic, not something people today wanted to read.  I just didn't know any better.  I didn't know what modern books were like.  Which is odd, because I read a few, but they were still adult and it didn't really hit me that they were much different from the classics.  I had no idea that I should have been writing YA.  I didn't even know something like that existed!  I skipped right over it in my reading.  So I wasted years trying to write stories about people doing situations I had no clue about.  I was a teen trying to write for adults.  It was a disaster.  But I didn't even know it was a disaster until I finished my first book.

In fact, I didn't know it was a disaster until I was half-way through with ELEMENTAL and realized what I was really writing was a YA and trying to push it off as adult.  My rewrites were intensive and even now, I'm trying to catch up with my YA reading.  I wasted a good 13 years of my life because I was lazy and didn't do an ounce of research.  When I think about all I've learned in just one year, I'm disgusted with myself.  I could have been at the point I am now when I was 15 if I'd only taken this more seriously.

So there's my big goober mistake.  And let me tell you, I feel like one big goober.  I still make mistakes and I have LOTS more stories to share, but next week Carol Riggs will be sharing one of her flubs with all of us!  Make sure you check it out!  And if you want to join GWA, just leave a comment below with your email address so I can contact you about a guest blog post.

~Emily White


  1. I would say yes but I'm so behind on reading posts right now! I shall read older ones and come back!!

  2. Just read your querry ay QQQE,and thought it was great. I totally relate to "I'm-the-best-I-know-so-I-must-be-the-best-ever." I know people in their late 30's like that, and there's no talking to them.

  3. I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid (what writer didn't?), but I wasn't gifted with the talent at birth so I gave up my dream. I didn't know about researching on how to become a better writer. Sounds like we made the same mistake. Only thing is it took me a long time to realize I was wrong.

  4. Yeah, I was always creative writing teacher's pet. I often blame 'life got in the way' as a cop out as to why I quit writing, but the truth is, I figured I had to move to California or New York to be a writer, and I didn't want to so never pursued it. Now, years later I've learned I can live anywhere, and now it's a game of catch up. I curse myself often, as now it's ten times harder to be published than it used to be.

  5. Christi--Yes, catch-up. That's EXACTLY how I feel right now.

  6. LOL @ "Straight up horse manure." You are too funny. :) I remember writing in scribbles and pretending it was a fabulous piece of writing, but I never thought of stapling it together! You're a genius!

    It's tough when you know it all, isn't it? Thankfully, you learned and discovered and now you are well on your way. Yay!! A happy ending!

    I can't wait for the next Goober installment!!

  7. i lazily coasted through english class too, but having an aunt and mom who tried to get pubbed, but didn't made me realize how hard it was at an early age. and then my brilliant AP english teacher (dreamy Mr. Phelps) wouldn't take lazy writing. he had us rewrite and rewrite- always striving for better work. which was great for the quality of writing in the class... but made me certain that i'd never write anything publishable... so i never really tried. maybe i had the opposite problem as you??

  8. Michelle--Hehehe! Just one of my many quirky sayings!

    I am so glad I finally got smacked in the head and figured out what I was doing wrong. I feel like I'm finally moving forward.

    Matthew--It is really nice! I think sometimes it's tempting to pretend we already know it all and never once screwed up. It's good to get past that and really open up.

    Vic--Oh no! Part of me insists I would have liked a teacher like that, but I have to admit I probably would have given up on writing altogether (at least for the time being). Writing is such a touchy business. It's amazing how necessary the sandwich method really is.

  9. I was my English teachers favorite too. In fact, I had her for three years in a row. When I got to college and got an F on my first paper I was stunned. My teacher started to point out all the crap I'd written and I sort of got the hang of it, but that was more business writing. Now I'm having to unlearn those skills and let my creativity grow.

  10. When I first wrote my fantasy novel I mimicked Tolkien and had three stories. Then I found out, you don't do that anymore. I set it aside, raised the kids and took it out about nine years ago. It needed a lot of work and is now one book, totally different from it's original and will soon be published.

    Tomorrow, there will be a blog award on my site for you Emily. And I would like to join your group.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  11. Well, water under the bridge--at least you've realized where you belong. Some people NEVER discover their true niche. So there! I do know what you mean by not having to try for the A's though. Been there, done that (especially with my artwork, since that's what I went to college for).

    And really, I dunno about teens "having" to write YA...I've met a couple teens in blogland recently, and they are writing adult novels, not YA. You'd think it'd make more sense to write about what they know and are close to, but that's not always the case I guess!

  12. Me again! I posted a link and am spreading the word on my blogsite, Emily, about the GWA! It's at:

  13. Yup. Been the "teacher's pet", had the rose-coloured glasses ripped off my face by reality.

    At least you got past it! We all have to get over ourselves, and it's a good thing when we do. And thanks for sharing this story.

  14. Sandy--Yes, all those amazing teenage writers out there actually doing what I wanted to do put me to shame.

    Carol--I wish I had had a college professor who did that to me. Unfortunately, they coddled me as much as my high school teacher had.

    N.R. Williams--Congratulations! What's the title of your book? Or are you not allowed to reveal that info yet. Well, either way, keep me informed! I'd love to read it!

    And thanks for the award!

    Jai--Yes, a VERY big goober. *covered in shame*

    Carol--I don't think teens have to write YA either, but now that I know better, I realized that was always what *I* should have written.

    And thanks for spreading the word!

    Ishta--I am VERY glad I finally got serious and didn't waste even more years just skimming by.

  15. Haha, hear hear on thinking that this would be easy because, well, it's always been easy. Silly us.


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