We fall down when we learn to walk. Skin our knees trying to stay on a bike. Burn a lot of food before we cook an edible meal. Getting better at something comes with mistakes and sometimes pain, and writing is no different.
That doesn't make it any less frustrating though.
I've been working on a novel for a while (okay, two years, ugh) that's a growing pains novel. I'm stretching myself, trying new and challenging things and half the time I want to toss the manuscript out the window and work on something else.
But I can't, because I love this story and want to write it the way it deserves to be written.
Which means I need to grow as a writer and master some genre aspects I've never done before. (can you say romance?) Create sexual tension that middle grade novels don't have, and be gritty and sexy but still stay true to the young adult audience. While this story only has romantic elements (it's not a true romance), I've had to train myself to delve deeper into characters and relationships that I usually do.
It's a good thing, as better characters make better books, but for a plot-driven gal like me, I've had a lot of missteps and done a lot of rewriting. I've also done a lot of reading of the kinds of books that share these traits. (that's the fun part)
It's been an uphill battle the whole way.
I call these growing pains novels.
They're the books we have to struggle through in order to grow as writers.
What keeps me from going totally bonkers is knowing that pushing myself is part of developing as a writer, and growing pains are usually rough. It's not that I suck, or that I can't write this, or that the book is bad, it's just that I have skills to sharpen before I get the books that I want.
No matter how well you know something, there's always room to grow and things to learn. That goes double for a creative process like writing.
If you're struggling through a growing pains novel, take heart. It might be rough right now, but it will get better and you will become a better writer. To help there, here are some things I've be doing:
- Reading novels that do the types of things I want to improve or learn well
- Pushing myself out of my comfort zone and trying it even if I'm worried it won't work
- Finding beta readers who are better at/more familiar with these things than I am (such as finding writers in the new genre you might be trying)
- Giving myself permission to suck big time
- Knowing it'll take me a few tries (or more than a few tries) to get it right
- Accepting that maybe I won't get it right right now, and this could be a book I need to come back to later
So what about you? Let's hear your growing pain novel stories. What has made you want to tear your hair out?