My 11-year-old self was a better writer

5 Aug

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Tamara Morning posted the latest review of Seconds Before Sunrise, book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy, and you can read the full review by clicking here, but here is a small excerpt, “Ms Thompson has done a superb job of bringing both of her worlds to life, both the magical, and the mundane. Seconds Before Sunrise is an engaging read sure to appeal to fans of both fantasy and young adult, with a twist that makes it different from other novels in these genres.”

My 11-year-old self was a better writer

I have a confession to make. I am struggling. A lot. So much so that I was tempted to go to a thesaurus to find a synonym for “a lot.” (Okay. So not that bad. But I’m still struggling with my writing.)

You see, I’m in-between wanting to rewrite November Snow and getting my content edits for Death Before Daylight complete. From a publishing standpoint, book 3 of The Timely Death Trilogy should come first, but my little writing heart wants to ignore Death Before Daylight for two main reasons:

  1. In the first few chapters, a really controversial scene happened. That’s right. Happened. As in, not anymore. The original version is very different from the version coming out in the future, and I’m happy with this severe change. Even though I did cut out this controversial scene, there is a new scene, and I like the new one a lot more in the sense that it is more honest to the characters and the storyline. That being said, I feel as if I have killed off a character by cutting that original scene out, and I haven’t quite mourned it yet, so it’s hard to move forward at this moment in time. (But I promise I will.)
  2. November Snow is still my favorite novel of mine. There. I said it. I kind of do have a favorite child. Does that make me a bad parent? Maybe. That’s probably why I don’t have children. (Just kidding.) But in all seriousness, I have an urge to write in November Snow right now, even though my publication goal is to release that AFTER Death Before Daylight.

So where am I going with this?

Well, here’s the uglier confession: When I picked up November Snow, it terrified me. Yes. Terrified. I had to force myself to put it down, and it has been sitting on my desk all week. I have barely touched it until I picked up last night, which is probably why I’m writing this.

Why did it terrify me?

The story is controversial. It’s dark. It’s violent. And it’s honest. It forces me to face the facts. I’ve lost a part of myself in my writing. I used to write darker stories, and I want to continue to write them, but I’m afraid to now. There is no easier way of putting it. I have hesitations. I keep worrying about what my readers will think of me, what my family and friends will say. Even though I’ve always thought I have surpassed this, I think I’ve been lying to myself a lot. I keep coming back to that time in high school when classmates and teachers thought I was disturbed after they read November Snow. I keep reflecting on that judgment, but – even worse – I’ve placed that judgment on myself.

So I stopped writing my darker stories or I started censoring the more “twisted” moments. When did this start? I have no idea. I honestly don’t. I know it didn’t happen after November Snow, because I wrote that scene in Death Before Daylight that was very controversial, and I wrote a few more things I wish I could reference but I cannot yet (simply because they have not even been mentioned on this blog before, let alone published.)

But I did learn one thing the other day. I have two different types of censoring:

  1. Necessary – it needs to happen. A scene isn’t good for the story. It doesn’t mean anything. The characters never put it there in the first place. I did, which also means there isn’t a reason for it. (This is what happened in Death Before Daylight, so please don’t think that I’m censoring book 3 in The Timely Death Trilogy at all.)
  2. Unnecessary – this is my big problem that I’m currently going through. This is when I’m holding back the truth in November Snow because of various reasons. This is when my 11-year-old self – the girl who started writing this story – is sitting somewhere inside of me and screaming at me (or laughing at me, either one) because she knows I’ll get over it before I even know I’ll get over it.
I was twelve here, but close enough. :]

I was twelve here, but close enough. :]

I feel slightly insane right now, arguing back and forth with my past self. But it’s the truth. She may not have been grammatically correct. (Okay. So she desperately needed an editor.) Her prose may have been so poorly written that it makes me roll my eyes. But she was fearless. She was capable, and passionate, and raw, and she could care less what a reader or a classmate thought as long as she was true to the story. But me?

I am terrified.

I don’t want my female protagonist to be weak. I don’t want readers to think I’m white-washing my characters. I don’t want a reviewer to think my characters are sexist or prejudice or disrespectful or gratuitously violent. I don’t want the message to be misconstrued. But – most of all – I realized that I was so worried about these topics because I was afraid that a reader would reflect their thoughts of my novels onto what they think of me. I returned to what happened with November Snow: I don’t want the reader to judge the book like they are judging me. But I shouldn’t be worried about me when it’s truly about the story.

I find myself fighting these parts in my stories because of how someone might take me as an author when I should be more focused on just being true to the story. It’s never been about me. It’s about the story. If my female character is weak, well, then, she’s weak in the reader’s eyes (and she might, in fact, be weak.) But you know what? She’s a human to me. She’s real to me. And real people can be weak. Just like I have been recently.

It takes a lot to admit how weak we can be in order to become stronger, so I hope this helps me face the facts and begin to grow with my eleven-year-old self again, but I ultimately hope it helps writers who’ve struggled or might be struggling now. I hope every writer who struggles picks up their pens when they know they’ve dropped it somewhere along the way.

~SAT

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23 Responses to “My 11-year-old self was a better writer”

  1. Carl August 5, 2014 at 1:33 am #

    Here’s what I believe about creative work:

    If your work is constantly praised, you’re giving people what they expect.

    If your work is often criticized as controversial, and perhaps you by extension, you’re making people think.

    If the first, you’re at best remembered as a contributor to the arts. If the second, a disruption.

    Its human nature to want to be remembered. Perhaps you can take this struggle and realize you’ve written for both sides of art: that which expresses what society accepts, and that which it fears. Strangely, we often fear the truth.

    Go with what compels you. As you say, its not the author, its the story. The same is true for fans. I wouldn’t want to read many books where I knew what to expect. Shock and surprise your readers, even if you’re afraid too.

    • Shannon A Thompson August 5, 2014 at 1:37 am #

      Great advice here! I agree with you. I plan to return to this post on the future if I continue to struggle, and I will surely read this again as well. Thank you.
      ~SAT

  2. kbeck13 August 5, 2014 at 6:06 am #

    I can totally relate to this. Recently I haven’t been writing AT ALL which is horrible. But I, too, am scared. I worked for the USPS for a while and got so burned out the only thing I wanted to do is sit and watch TV–AGGGHHHHH!!! No reading, writing, blogging, etc…Instead of moving forward, accepting the reasons why that job wasn’t good for me, I am doubting myself in every aspect of my life. I keep thinking I’ll fail, or that my writing isn’t good and people will laugh and set the book on fire.

    I’m slowly moving forward now and I’m trying to tell myself that my writing is good enough, that I’ll only get better, and that I DO have a story tell. I have several, and I shouldn’t let my fear stop me from something that bring such a sense of joy.

    As far as dark writing goes, I’m a sucker for that. My sister-in-law and I self-published a book of dark (horror-ish) fiction last October and sometimes I get embarrassed when someone’s told me they read a particular story, or scene. No one wants to be judged. I also had a hard time in school with certain people about my dark fiction, even had to see the counselor when in English we had to write from an opptimist’s, realist’s, or pessimist’s point of view, and when I picked pessimist, well, it was TOO pessimistic…

    Don’t be afraid to write what’s true to the story. Not everyone is going to like everything you do and you will gain new readers. I think it’s good to have characters that are weak, sexist, racist. These things exist in our lives and writing about them is a great way to come face to face with things we need to fix.

    Sorry for this long comment, but I completely understand where you’re coming from. Keep up the awesome work and write what is fuels your passion for the craft.

    • Shannon A Thompson August 5, 2014 at 6:13 am #

      Please comment long comments whenever. 🙂 And thank you for sharing your story. Knowing how similar our struggles can be help a lot more than I realized. I hope you also continue to write your passionate words, and I am relieved to hear your thoughts on darker writings. Thank you.
      ~SAT

  3. Charles Yallowitz August 5, 2014 at 6:29 am #

    There are authors out there who have made a career off dark stories. Honestly, you’ve established yourself as an author, so I don’t think you have to worry too much about writing such a book. You’re bound to have some readers who mistake fiction for an author’s mindset. It happens to everyone. As long as the story is well-written and the darkness is for the plot instead of pure shock value then people will enjoy. Besides, you have this blog, which gives you a place to show your true voice and help separate you from the heavier material that you write.

    (I think that all made sense.)

    As for what to tackle first, it sounds like you need a small break from ‘Death Before Daylight’. Though I guess it doesn’t hurt to look at it every other day for a few minutes to see if something sparks. One never knows when you’ll be recharged simply by looking at your story.

    • Shannon A Thompson August 5, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

      Great advice! I am still looking at Death Before Daylight here and there, but – like you said – the spark hasn’t returned yet, but I’m sure it will. I even tried writing past that scene, but I can’t really do that. I’m one of those writers who has to write in order. But I appreciate how you pointed out that my website allows me to show me and it separates myself from the darker voice if readers judge it. That’s a good aspect to all this to remember.
      Thank you,
      ~SAT

      • Charles Yallowitz August 5, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

        I’m the same way. I can’t skip around because then I feel like I’m going to screw up my continuity. Glad to see the comment went through. Now I can see it for some reason. Gotta love computers.

  4. Charles Yallowitz August 5, 2014 at 6:38 am #

    (Left a long comment and my laptop restarted before it could post. Now to see if I can remember it.)

    I wouldn’t worry about writing a dark story. First of all, many fiction authors have made a career out of controversial and heavy books. More importantly, you’ve established yourself already and have this blog. Your readers know you well enough not to jump to conclusions and there’s plenty of information to show new readers that you aren’t a creature of darkness. If anything, people will see it as you branching out and showing your versatility. Yes, you’ll always have that vocal minority that judges and makes you think they’re the majority. Every author has people like that and you can’t let them give you pause.

    As for the Death Before Daylight challenge, it does sound like you need to mourn a bit for the cut scene. I’ve done that a few times and gone off to do a few days of outlining or toying with another book. Yet, I make sure to check in with the other work every day and skim through it for 10-15 minutes. One never knows when the spark will return.

    • Shannon A Thompson August 5, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

      Your original comment posted. 😀 But I appreciate how you came back to add it!
      ~SAT

  5. Amelia Groves August 5, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Thank you for this – there’s a really dark story I started writing when I was around 15 or 16 that I keep shying away from now, despite being in love with it. It’s dark and depressing, and there isn’t really a happy ending. But it’s still a really solid concept, I think. And hearing your concerns here makes me realise that, well, we should care less about the reaction to our stories and more about whether or not the story is worth writing. I don’t have a clue what my friends or family would think of me if I published that book. But I still want to finish it, because it’s one of the books I’ve felt most emotionally connected with.

    It’s always nice to hear an author’s honest thoughts once in a while. So thanks for this! 🙂

    • Shannon A Thompson August 5, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

      Thank you for reading and sharing your story! It’s something – I believe – all writers go through every now and then. I hope you finish your story.
      ~SAT

  6. stephsgrn August 5, 2014 at 10:55 am #

    I know that readers are important, as well as book sales, but I say stay true to YOU. If you continue to stray from yourself and what YOU want to write for fear of what others will think, you’ll just become like any other writer out there. Not to take a shot at any writers, but only YOU can set yourself apart from others and be remembered. If what you have to say doesn’t necessarily appeal to your current readers, it will appeal to someone, plus only closed-minded readers would stop reading your work just because they didn’t care for some of your stuff..

    • Shannon A Thompson August 5, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

      Very true! If we aren’t true to ourselves, we just blend in.
      ~SAT

  7. debyfredericks August 5, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    Your eleven-year-old self was trying something new — bold, but without knowing all the consequences. Your twenty-year-old self (I’m guessing here) knows the consequences and also the grammar. Trust who you are now. Trust your fans to get it.

    Most important of all, know what your story is about. You can’t defend the point you’re making if you don’t know what it is.

    • Shannon A Thompson August 5, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

      That is very true! I think it was easier to be true to the darker scenes when I was younger because I was unaware of the consequences that could happen in my real life afterward. Now that I’m older, I understand the consequences more. (Like, someone thinking I treated a controversial subject in a disrespectful way.) But thank you for reminding me to trust in it – the readers and the story – despite the worries.
      ~SAT

  8. April Wood August 5, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    November Snow is such an excellent name for a title! Already intrigued!

    • Shannon A Thompson August 5, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

      That’s encouraging! I’m already shopping around for a new cover, but it’s very difficult since this is the first time I’m not sure what I want on the cover. Thank you.
      ~SAT

  9. eclecticalli August 5, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

    One of the great things about the writing we did when we were younger is that we didn’t have all these expectations about how we SHOULD write or who we SHOULD be. We — well I suppose I should just speak for myself — I let my true self fall across the page, all my emotions, my unfiltered thoughts, it channeled through the characters and story’s that I wrote. Like you say, my younger self needed an editor (heck, I still need an editor!) but the emotions that I was able to let play on the page were so much more powerful. I’ve had to tap into my inner 13-16 year old self (frightening) to help me better write one of my characters, because I am not used to letting an emotion (anger in this case) rule me like she lets it control her… but to write her true, I have to remember what that felt like to be able to feel emotions that raw.
    I’m learning to embrace that willingness to do something that others wont like — to be true to the story and characters even if it is frightening. We unlearn a lot, as we grow up, and I think that one of the amazing things about being a writer (or any sort of artist) is that we have permission to allow ourselves to relearn what we’ve unlearned. As challenging, and frightening, as that may be. I think that the very fact that you’re concerned about how someone might react to your treatment of a darker scene means that you’re going to be paying attention, and that you’ll (likely) handle it well.
    Go for it! I look forward to the results.

  10. D. Emery Bunn August 5, 2014 at 6:08 pm #

    I’m almost done with my first novel, and it’s a very dark tale. “Worse” still, its sequel (outlined and awaiting NaNoWriMo) is even darker. And I’ve struggled with the same things you are.

    It’s hard to be dark, because so much of what we see out there is happy, or at worst neutral. There’s an unspoken pressure to have “happy endings”, positive change arcs for our characters, and feel-good messages like “be true to yourself and you’ll win through”. By appearances, no one wants to go down that rabbit hole of death, pain, and sorrow.

    But I know that what I’m writing is the right thing to write (homophones ftw!). And amazingly, I’ve had the support and encouragement of people who know exactly what I’ve written, know exactly how dark it gets. There’s a hidden need for the darker realities of life, illustrated in far worse ways than we (hopefully) ever experience ourselves.

    So go out there and write the story that needs to be told, and those who refuse to accept that are better left behind.

  11. theowllady August 5, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.

  12. bizarrejc August 7, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

    I’ve always cared too much about what others might say about my writing. Of course, I’m a elementary school teacher and people judge us already so harshly without knowing us. I’ve backed off on the rawness of my stories. I’m slowly coming to a place where it doesn’t matter as much. I feel like it’s limiting to the topics I could write about.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. What I’ve Learned Rewriting a Seven-Year-Old Novel | Shannon A Thompson - August 19, 2014

    […] has been haunting me for all of these years, but I’ve figured it out a few weeks ago when I wrote My 11-Year-Old Self was a Better Writer. I am meant to write darker stories. I know this about myself. I write darker fiction. I enjoy it. […]

  2. #WritingTips What I Learned Rewriting a Seven-Year-Old Novel | Shannon A Thompson - January 18, 2016

    […] my 11-year-old self was a better writer than I am today. (Read this article to see what I mean: My 11-Year-Old Self was a Better Writer) To sum it up, she was fearless. I am not. My younger self didn’t worry about things like word […]

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