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I have a story that I wish to write. I like my story and genuinely believe it to be interesting. My issue is that I have never really written anything before. When I have read advice in the past, I have often been told that your first few stories will suck and that you will have to move on to something new.

If I want to gain experience of writing, should I write a few other stories, not the one I am most passionate about, before moving on to the project I think is best?

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    It's customary to wait 24 hrs before accepting an answer, as that gives more people a chance to answer and give feedback. Choosing an answer discourages further answers, and the fastest answer isn't always the best. – Arcanist Lupus Jan 26 at 0:05
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    Arcanist Lupus beat me to it! While I appreciate that you accepted my answer, it is best to give others a chance to provide answers. You might get some interesting alternative viewpoints. (Best of luck on your writing endeavors, too!) – Gwendolyn Jan 26 at 0:09
  • Oh, sorry, didn't realise what I was doing. What now? – Edgar Gordon Jan 26 at 0:52
  • You can click on the "accept answer" button again - that would un-accept it. You can re-accept it (or accept another answer) later on. You can also upvote any and all answers you find helpful, by clicking the 'up' arrow next to each. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Jan 26 at 13:51
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This is a great question with a simple answer:

Write to learn*

*Read when you're not writing. Learn from authors and stories you love.

But...what should you write? Also a simple answer:

Write what you want to write.

If you want to write about this story you feel driven to write - do it!

The advice that "your first few stories will suck" is only true to an extent. I think you should take it more as "your first [probably large number of] drafts will suck". Most writers don't even get their 100th story right on the first draft. No one is stopping you from writing and re-writing the same story for your entire writing career.

Here's why I love this question: I'm currently beta reading a first time writer's 500 page novel that took 3 years to write. Is it perfect? No. Is it good? Somewhat. I'm excited to help this new writer learn by giving her my feedback. I hope she takes it and continues to work on that same story, rather than getting disheartened by seeing what she needs to work on and moving on to a different story or, worse, quitting writing altogether. She is passionate about it, thoroughly built out her world, cares about her characters... I know she has an amazing story in her, much like you do now, that needs to be written.

She needs to keep writing her story. And so do you.

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I have a story that I wish to write. I like my story and genuinely believe it to be interesting. My issue is that I have never really written anything before. When I have read advice in the past, I have often been told that your first few stories will suck and that you will have to move on to something new.

Other people say the same thing. They have a story. They have never written any fiction before, only read some stuff. All your first drafts will suck. That's a fact that you have to deal with for the rest of your life. No one makes a perfect first draft.

If I want to gain experience of writing, should I write a few other stories, not the one I am most passionate about, before moving on to the project I think is best?

Writing is about passion. You should write something that you are passionate about, allow it to suck, and then revise it. The more your revise, the better it gets. The more passion you have, the more you will be willing to revise. That's why passion is important. If you don't have any passion in your writing, then you wouldn't write your story, let alone revise it or publish it or get through the writing process.

Hope this helps.

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I started working on my first novel (part of a trilogy), 20 years after the idea for it came to me. I took a very good series of online of introduction to fiction writing courses shortly after I started, realizing I did not know what I was doing. I spent around 11 months working on the novel when I was getting stuck not knowing how to handle some of the characterizations.

By chance I read two different authors thoughts on practice novels, and decide I should write a practice novel to help me prepare to properly write my trilogy. I chose to expand the short story I wrote from the writing classes for a practice novel. I have been working on my practice novel ever since, in an amateur writing group, and now in a more advanced online writing class. My practice novel is finally getting better. I look forward to finishing it so I can start my trilogy, the story which is nearest, dearest to my heart.

All this to say, my advice is if you want to write the story you are most passionate about, in the best way possible, try other stories first. I agree passion is essential to sticking to it and getting writing done, but experience is also essential. Try other stories for a short time. If you don't become passionate about them, you can easily go back to your original one, and most likely will have learned something in the process.

I do not think it is guaranteed that your first story will suck, but it seems almost guaranteed that your first story will not be your best.

  • While I think you have a point, I feel the path you took is better than the path you're advising. It's important when deciding between forks in the road that you can usually turn around and go the other route like you did. Sometimes that third route is better for you than going straight down one path or straight down the other. For me, I tried practice novels before the story I want to write. I could not motivate myself to get through the revisions to really learn from those experiences and now the story I wanted to write is fragments in my mind. – Ed Grimm Jan 26 at 5:43
  • I wouldn't even say one has to get through all the revisions of a practice novel to get something out of it. Writing up the first draft of my practice novel taught me things I was not learning with my first novel. – Bob516 Jan 26 at 12:53
  • Not that I have tried this idea, but someone once suggested I take a character or moment from my primary novel and write a tangental story about the character or moment, something not intending to be in my novel, but would give me practice on something I was passionate about, and it might even help my primary story. As for a story becoming fragmented, I had the entire outline of my main novel complete before I started a practice one, so I guess I was lucky that way. – Bob516 Jan 26 at 12:59
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I started writing seriously when I was seventeen and that was quite a while ago. What I began then grew into well over a thousand pages of high concept fantasy that would need quite a bit of work, but I still love the story and the characters. My first effort was a very juvenile attempt at a horse novel, but I was a kid so that was understandable.

I have another, more tersely written piece that I began in my thirties and it is intriguing.

My current work has no similarities with my previous, not in genre nor in style. It is mature and confident because I have learned from both life experience and the previous novels.

My advice to you is write what you love as you see it, let your skills grow naturally. If you choose to write about something that does not fire your imagination, you will make it that much more difficult to create something that others might enjoy.

Passion translates to the page, enlivens the characters and enriches the experience both for author and reader. One of my favourite novels is Magic Mountain and it is simply amazing. Not much happens; a character you don’t really like goes to a hospital to visit a friend, becomes ill and stays. He meets people, but his life is that of a patient - not much happens. It is an enthralling read in part because Mann’s passion for the work infuses it.

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The only way to become a better writer is to write. Yes, you can take classes and read and study, and those things will help, but only if you do them in conjunction with writing.

What should you write? The idea you're most passionate about.

You're worried about "wasting" your idea, but that's not possible. For one, you may not be passionate about it in the future. And two, you don't just get one shot at a story. You can always recycle an idea and use it again. Heck, some people do that even if it's published. It's not uncommon for people to turn a short story they wrote before into a novel, for example.

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Edgar,

Learn, Learn, Learn, Learn, Learn, and then Learn.

Then Learn some more.

Then practice what you have learned by writing the first draft of your story.

Why do I say this?

I say this because writing has a very large body of professional techniques which has been honed and improved over hundreds of years. If you start writing without learning about these techniques, it will be a much more frustrating, time-consuming, effort-intensive journey that it would have been had you learned how to write first.

Would you get on the football field without learning the rules of the game? Of course not!

These techniques aren't hard, you just have to know about them so you can practice them, the same way you have to know grammar and syntax so you can practice them.

The good news is that you can get a fairly solid introduction to these techniques by reading a few books about how to write a novel.

I recommend these books for your consideration:

Techniques of the Selling Writer, by Dwight V. Swain

"Techniques of the Selling Writer provides solid instruction for people who want to write and sell fiction, not just to talk and study about it. It gives the background, insights, and specific procedures needed by all beginning writers."

The Creative Writer's Style Guide, by Christopher T. Leland

"Textbook rules about punctuation and grammar can be difficult to apply to your novel, short story, personal essay or memoir. There are special considerations that normal style manuals just don't address."

Outlining Your Novel, by K.M. Weiland

“Ms. Weiland presents a wonderful roadmap for writing while still encouraging you to take those sidetrips that will make your story better. I feel like I can walk the ‘high wire’ of my imagination because I have the safety net of my outline below it all.”—D. Hargan"

This next recommendation covers some very advanced techniques, but they are very powerful.

Anatomy of a Story, by John Truby

“Truby attempts to inform the entire story, addressing plot, character, tone, symbolism, and dialog. The key here is to grow a script organically rather than force the story into preexisting mechanics . . . Highly recommended.” ―Library Journal

Here's a video of John Truby:

Video

Here's a video by freelance editor Ellen Brock. She has many good videos about writing on Youtube.

Ellen Brock

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