Story Worms: Starting Over


I’ve been immersing myself in writing advice a lot lately. I think it’s a really important thing for any writer to do on a regular basis. Not only do trends and styles keep changing in literature, but there is always something new to learn, however accomplished or experienced you are. But, for me, that’s the beauty of writing.

I’ve just finished reading ‘Writers Workshop of Horror‘ edited by Michael Knost. Packed with essays and interviews from some of the biggest names in horror writing (including Clive Barker himself), I’ve learned something new in every single chapter. I highly recommend this book.

The only problem I have with reading writing advice books, is that my mind keeps drifting to whatever story I’m working on, thinking of the improvements I could make. I find myself having to re-read so many paragraphs. I do the same with the Podcasts I listen to. I guess that’s not a bad thing really.

But the thing to remember about advice is this: it is only one writer’s opinion.

The creative process is such an individualized one that it is completely different for everyone. Not all of the advice you read or hear will be the best advice for you. It is simply what works well for that particular writer. But that’s certainly not to say all advice is useless – you will only learn through trial and error what works best for you. Take the advice, try it out, see if it fits.

I’ve ignored a lot of writing advice over the years. Advice like; write for 8 hours every day, always finish a first draft before you do any editing, writer’s block is just an excuse used by lazy writers. Some writing advice is good, but doesn’t work for me, and some writing advice is just bad. Only experience will tell you the difference.

Over the last couple of months I’ve ignored another piece of writing advice; never, ever give up on a story. It’s advice bandied around all the time by a lot of writers. But it does not always apply.

Back in May I took the gut-wrenching decision to shelve a novella for the fourth time. I have tried to write this story so many times now, and I was determined not to let it beat me again. But it did. To be honest, I don’t think I have the experience to write it yet. I will write it, but now isn’t the time. It was a decision I wrestled over for weeks; thinking that this failure forecast the fact that I will never be a long-form writer.

The trouble with writing advice is, for every gem that makes us a better writer, there’s advice that makes you feel inadequate, foolish, guilty even. For years I believed that I could never make it as a writer unless I did that daily 8 hour slog. But you have to find your own way in the world, and shelving this novella, giving myself the space to write something else, has worked out for me brilliantly. My new novella is literally falling out of me. The ultimate truth is that you will never be a writer if you don’t write. And you need to write to completion. If that means starting over with a new idea, so be it.

I’ve just finished the 1st draft of my latest short story, a story I started afresh with after my first attempt stalled. My first idea for this submissions call brought some unintended themes into the story that I’m simply not comfortable writing about. I came to despise, even fear the story and the implications of its plot. That’s why it stalled. So I started over, and within two days, I had almost equalled the previous word count that had taken two weeks to achieve.

My second attempt came so easily (well, as easily as writing ever comes), that my fingers could barely type as fast as my brain demanded. You know those times. Yesterday, as I was approaching the climax of the story, I could literally feel excitement bubbling up inside me. I could barely sit still in my chair. I’ve never experienced something quite like that before.

So never feel guilt-tripped into following advice that doesn’t work for you. Never let another writer make you feel inadequate. You only have to answer to yourself. As long as you’re writing, as long as you’re finishing things, then you’re doing it right. And if not, try something new. Try ignoring some advice.

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6 Responses

  1. Hi Angeline,
    followed you here from Misha and Beth’s Five Year Project blog hop! Great post. Like you , I am slowly learning not to take every piece of writing advice I am given, not even from the best writers. Because we are all different.
    Love this sentence: “The trouble with writing advice is, for every gem that makes us a better writer, there’s advice that makes you feel inadequate, foolish, guilty even.”

  2. Hello Ruth

    I’m so glad you liked the post. We’ve all read pieces of advice in our time that we’ve failed to live up to, and we’ve all lost heart because of it. It takes time to work out what the best methods are for you, and those things will keep changing as your life does.

    At the end of the day, if it gets you writing, it’s the right way to do it.

  3. Thanks for the shout out, Angeline. And your writing advice is spot on. In the foreword of Writers Workshop of Science Fiction & Fantasy I talked about how no two writers take the same path to the big stage. Keep up the great job, and thanks again!

  4. Angeline says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post. I happily recommend the book, I was really quite sad when I finished it – you’ll have to do a volume 2! I think learning which advice to follow is an important, and difficult, lesson to learn, and one that we can only learn by ourselves and over time. It took me years of writing to find my own path.