When I was 14, I had an idea for a novel but never wrote anything. I'm now 24 and just finished participating in National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo.org) where I wrote a 25k word "long outline" of my novel.

I'm now expanding and editing my novel. I'm very pleased with my plot and would like to do a good job with it. However, I lack experience writing and would hate to ruin an idea I've become so fond of by making it the first thing I write (and therefore terrible).

Should I write something I don't care about in order to "train"? Will writing my novel ruin it? I am interested in much advice.

  • Related: Intro to Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi. The situation seems to be what you are describing.
    – user16184
    Dec 15, 2015 at 1:03
  • That's just the question I was wondering @sirdank :)
    – Cherubim
    Dec 16, 2015 at 16:58

4 Answers 4


1) Mercedes Lackey famously rewrote her first trilogy seventeen times before it was published. You will not ruin your idea by writing it.

2) Even if you get your "first million terrible words" out of the way first, almost every first draft of every novel needs work. Your novel will still need editing whether your have experience or not.

3) Having an idea you love may keep you more motivated than "this crap thing I'm writing just to write."

4) You can write other things in the universe of your novel (short stories, backstories, character diaries) to get more experience, which will contribute to your novel before your start it.

  • 3
    I'm reminded of Magic the Gathering - maybe, MAYBE 1 out of every 100 cards they design sees print. To wit, "we play a lot of un-fun games of Magic so you don't have to". Such it is with writing as well. A good author has dozens of uninteresting drafts so the final product is an interesting one.
    – corsiKa
    Dec 14, 2015 at 20:19
  • 2
    I loved your point (4) - the best of both worlds. The writer taking this route will have to be careful not to give away too much about the plot of the yet-to-be-written novel, but that effort itself will encourage deeper thinking about the ramifications (for something set later) or causes (for something set earlier) of the events in the main story. Dec 15, 2015 at 17:29

Your dilemma reminds me of Bernard Cornwell's tips for success. If you don't know Cornwell, he is an international best selling author, with almost 50 books in print.

  1. Read the genre you want to write. Dissect those books to see how they are crafted.
  2. Don't second-guess yourself.It is natural to lack confidence when you start out, but don't let that defeat you- stay positive and keep moving forward.
  3. Trust your own instincts and write for your own satisfaction, not for an audience.
  4. Don't worry about your final draft when you are writing your first. Get your story right first, then work on the details of dialogue and descriptions.
  5. Be daring - take the plunge. Write. You might fail, but you will never know unless you dare to write.

  6. And finally, the one I like best: Write only what you would love to read.

Good luck!


I once felt the same way about my ideas, and actually didn't write the ones I liked best, telling myself I would "save them till I am ready."

Looking back, here's how I feel about them now:

  1. I can't really write them the same way now because I am in a different phase of my life - I can't properly write a story about my experiences in high school or university, because they're just fading memories now.
  2. I am not as interested in those ideas as I once was - new ideas have come in and replaced them, and when I look back, they don't seem as good as they did at the time.

So my advice would be that there's no better time to write the story then when you're passionate about it.


Dibs to Al Xavier and his Bernard Cornwell quotes. I was thinking something similar. For one, an inexperienced writer shouldn't be expected to boot out a classic first go. The way your answer is written, though, seems to imply that a beginning writer is only capable of writing crap. This is the opposite extreme and still a lie. Many writers do write one or two "throwaway" novels before publishing. I myself am writing a story I'm truly invested in, but don't expect to go too far. Give yourself some slack. Enjoy your story, write like you mean it, and keep it as remembrance.

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