Editing and Young Adulthood: Searching for a story and a voice

*This post was first published here*

Anyone who has ever contemplated or began writing has probably experienced the dreaded editing loop at some point in their lives. Except for Stephen King–I’m pretty sure he sold his soul to the devil, which is why he can simultaneously pump ‘em out but also only writes about monsters. Until recently, I definitely felt like I was the only one who had experienced it for so long. I began writing in the 2nd grade; I was one of those kids who really liked books and I felt that writing would be no different.

Photo Credit: Vincent Tanguay

For the first thing I wrote, this was somewhat true. I was only about seven, so of course, I just went with it and didn’t feel like there was anything I could do wrong (sometimes I wish I could be as not-in-my-head as seven-year-old me). Anyway, it was a story about two baby horses who were left behind by their family. For some reason. I can’t quite remember, but I recently told this story to a classmate and she seemed horrified.

Relatable Content:

Anyway, it makes about as much sense to me now as it did to anyone then, I’m sure. All I remember about it was everyone loving it, because who doesn’t love a seven-year-old’s stories? That’s just common decency. I was later asked to read out loud to some of my classmates and I adored that.

That was the last thing I solidly remember writing between the second and fifth grades–I moved in between these three years and it was a hectic time for nine-year-old me. So, I’m going to jump ahead to the part where I’m introduced to the world of fantasy. I can’t remember much about what stand-alone novels I read, but eventually I was brought to Eragon and Lord of the Rings after that. I was hooked. I solidly thought, then and now, if I could make one other person feel the same way these books made me feel, then I’d want to do that for the rest of my life. And so I began writing on a more impressive scale. I started my first full-blown novel when I was only ten.

I never got past the 30th page.

An accurate depiction of the writing process:

Growing up sucks and, for me, the worst part of writing during my transition from tween, to teen, to young adult, to now, was that I had to look back on my work and recognize it for its poor skill. No matter how good I thought the draft was, by my birthday the next year, it had become childish. I remember that the first draft ever revolved around a 16-year-old–I know, so old–and this was largely indicative of the process. Furthermore, to the best of my memory, that same first draft was a simple emulation of Eragon. I don’t recall any originality in that piece–even the characters were named after people I knew in real life.

Yes.

Eventually, my work and school and social obligations would keep me from my writing. At least when I was in the 10-15 years range I was constantly writing, if also constantly editing. As I lost that free time, however, the editing loop became worse. Due to the long spans of time that fell in-between my writing sessions, I felt like I was playing catch-up every time I logged on. If I had an hour to write, I would spend 30 of that reading and editing, and the other 30 staring at the screen, maybe getting out a sentence every five minutes. With this loop, what started as 30 pages went down by two every month and up by one. I think what I recall feeling most frustrated about is that my writing just felt like others’ I liked.

At 17, I jumped at the chance of being enrolled in a pilot program at my school. I’d be allowed 50 minutes every weekday to work only on my writing. Looking back, I feel as though I squandered it, but not once did I not appreciate it. I took the time to really sit down and build my world–something I had never done before. I quickly discovered the joy that I can only imagine J.R.R. Tolkien felt when he painstakingly created conjugations in Elvish. This process helped me so much, as I grew as a person, I quickly became immersed in something I had created. It remains one of the best feelings in the world.

Looking back on my year in that pilot program:

Though I recognize the personal development I went through during this time in my life, it turned out that my process of worldbuilding had become almost as much a crutch as my editing loops had been. As much as I, or you, may adore this process, it’s time to break out. In almost a feverish state, I created a website over the last couple of days. I’m dedicated to writing 15 minutes of personal content every day and I refuse to edit any of it (of course, it will be proceeded by a disclaimer). I hope to find my way out of this hole because, though I’ve very nearly given up hope on this story, I’m too close to these characters to let go just yet. For me, this story will always be Amaranthine.

Click on the picture for the source.

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