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On Being Too Young (Naive, Inexperienced, Immature, etc.)

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by DragonOfTheAerie, Sep 30, 2016.

  1. In one scene, it's the MC's (or, one of the MC's) wife who's giving birth; in the other, it's a more minor character. I suppose a ton of detail isn't necessary, but then again i don't want to get anything wrong.
     
  2. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Childbirth is an excellent example of something that one mother could write one way, and another a second, and another a third... and on and on and on. Even the emotion of looking on their child the first time will vary substantially depending on mindset. Pain can only be described so much, and for particular sensations, I'm sure it's been written by real mothers which can give inspiration on how to handle it. But me, as a man, when approaching this or a multitude of other things, I tend to focus not on the physical but stick to the emotions... I know the emotions of the character, therefore they are more difficult to argue.

    A different example. I know the sensation of being surprised by a person grabbing my shoulder and my making a defensive maneuver that put me within a split second of breaking that person's arm at the elbow... but it was my older sister and I knew it wasn't a real attack whomever it was, so I never intended to cause pain. Now, if I write that scene to a more violent conclusion, I still don't know what it's like to break a person's arm like that, the sound, the feel, etc., so I stick to the emotion of the moment... terror? cold-blooded? anger? The character's emotions I know for fact, it's my character.

    Personally, I don't think you're giving your creativity enough credit. Yes, you will get better at it, and much of that will be due to experiencing things, but that shouldn't stop you from writing forward.
     
  3. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Yes! No! Maybe! Splunge! (if you don't get that, google Monty Python Splunge)

    Every writer will inherently be lacking in some facet or another. And here's the thing about your example, 5-6 years of experience at your age compared to a 68 year-old is going to give each writer advantages in different ways even if they are theoretically equal in writing skill. Relating to a younger target audience is one, the younger writer can have an advantage here IF their life experience dictates it. The writer needs to know how to take advantage of the life experience they have and fudge the rest, LOL.

    Being older, I do think it's tricky to get around life experience for a writer. There are reasons why people can often tell early works and mature works from the same author, and not just in the writing style, but it doesn't keep the young from success. Worry less, and Just keep writing.

    And think of it this way! You better be writing now, because we just don't know long it'll be before our coming robot overlords replace all biological writers with AI that can write "perfect" stories for every market category, heh heh.
     
  4. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    When you fake it, there a couple of things you can do. You can research you arse off or can be vague enough and only drop in one or two very specific details that will make it sound like you know what you're doing.

    The more details you put in, and the more specific you are, the more details the reader has to figure out if you really know what you're talking about. If you slip up just once, you can expose yourself.

    My background is computer science. I know how to speak and think logically. One time I was at the hospital with my Dad, who doesn't speak English, and when the doctor came, I told him all my dad's symptoms and relevant medical history in a clear logical manner.

    The doctor paused and asked me if I was a medical student. At that point I sort of had him fooled. If I said yes and walked away. He wouldn't have been any wiser, but if I tried to speak on medical terms with him, the gig would have been up. But if I knew one very specific thing to say that was spot on, I think I could have fooled him further.

    Just something to think about.
     
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Why don't you want to get anything wrong? Never mind; I know. You don't want to get laughed at. Fair enough.

    But it probably won't get that far. You will have beta readers. They should catch at least some of that stuff. Then you will have an editor, who also should catch that stuff.

    I'm not saying don't do the research, but I am saying that you should simply do your best research, then go ahead and do your best writing. No one writes alone (or, if they do, they're foolish).
     
  6. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    I agree with Des about not giving your creativity enough credit. All of us here make shit up for our stories. Right now I'm writing a book set in 1947...and I grew up in the 80s/90s. I've had to do tremendous amounts of research about the culture and way of life in America late 1940s. Truthfully? This is my first novel set in normal times and history. Everything else I've written (save for when I was ghosting) has been fantasy. So I've had to learn some things about writing historical fiction, too. So see? I have no experience about something huge in this novel: setting and culture. I've also never been to Portland. The story takes place in Portland. I'll be traveling there at the end of this month, but by then the novel will be complete so...

    What I'm trying to say is this: we writers rely on making shit up in order to exist. Just because you're an adolescent doesn't make your voice any less important, or your creativity at a level below than that of an adult. I'm sorry that you're insecure around the rest of us...but just because we have kids or beer bellies doesn't mean writing comes any easier for us. About the only thing I can relate to in my WIP is the romantic aspect...but even that's a bit skewed because dating was so different in the 40s.

    There has to be more than one thing you can relate to in your stories. And I bet even those things aren't your strengths. I've never read your writing so I can't speak to your prose, but remember this please: writers are storytellers entertaining an audience. You are a storyteller. What's real in your head and imagination can, and will, become real on the page, too. Are you also frustrated because you believe your skill is lacking compared to others here? Please don't short yourself that way. We've all been teenagers, too!
     
  7. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I was thinking about this earlier in the morning and I came to think of something said by Greg Street (aka GhostCrawler, former lead system designer on World of Warcraft). It's not related to writing, but rather to the perception of right and wrong as compared to good and bad.

    This was in the context of game design and it went something like this:

    Not quoted verbatim.

    The essence of the message, the way I see it, is that there's too much focus on the wrong thing. It's easy to look at facts and point out that something is wrong. It's a lot more difficult to look at how someone performs and tell whether it's good or bad. This is true in the game, but I believe it's true in the real world as well.

    It doesn't matter how well optimized your character is; if you stand in the fire you will still burn.

    If I make a statement and say "it takes four minutes for light to travel from the earth to the sun" then it's easy for someone to look that up online and claim that it's wrong.
    If I describe the feeling of seeing my daughter perform in her first school play there's no way for anyone to check if I described that feeling correctly or not. All they can do is compare with their own experiences or expectations.

    No one will be able to check if your description of your feelings are correct. They can only decide if they believe you or not. To convince them about that takes skill, not facts.

    One way of doing this is to put yourself in your writing. Open up and give of yourself and your own feelings and beliefs. Don't write about what you think it would be like for someone in that situation. Write about how you would feel in that situation.

    This is, unfortunately, really really difficult on both the personal and emotional level. It takes a lot of guts, and it doesn't get any easier, but with practice you get better at it.

    If you write well enough, and with enough conviction, your reader won't care about silly little details like facts and realism. They'll believe what you tell them and feel what you want them to feel. At least, that's the theory, and it's got some good support - check the 8th point here: Neil Gaiman?s 8 Rules of Writing ? Brain Pickings

    To sum things up: Don't worry about getting everything right, worry about not standing in the fire.

    EDIT:
    It takes about 8 minutes for light from the sun to reach the earth.
    I don't have a daughter.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2016
    Heliotrope likes this.
  8. I think in the end, we all have the shared experience of being human, which we can all use as a reference, and be certain our readers can relate to it. Some of us don't fully understand the pain or joy of specific things, but pain or joy itself? yes.

    My dreamy bit of philosophizing for the day, lol...
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2016
  9. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    "Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto", or "I am human, and nothing of that which is human is alien to me." (Terence; there are more pleasing translations.)
     
  10. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    While not being precisely on topic, Lionel Shriver's controversial keynote does in a sense touch on the fears of the writer. I don't have a clue about Shriver's writing, but I think she's spot on. If you haven't read that, google her Brisbane transcript.

    Although the topic is fiction and identity politics, there is a connection between your fears and the current PC concerns of writers.

    Lionel Shriver, from the Brisbane Writer's Festival: "Which brings us to my final point. We do not all do it well. So it’s more than possible that we write from the perspective of a one-legged lesbian from Afghanistan and fall flat on our arses. We don’t get the dialogue right, and for insertions of expressions in Pashto we depend on Google Translate.

    Halfway through the novel, suddenly the protagonist has lost the right leg instead of the left one. Our idea of lesbian sex is drawn from wooden internet porn. Efforts to persuasively enter the lives of others very different from us may fail: that’s a given. But maybe rather than having our heads taken off, we should get a few points for trying. After all, most fiction sucks. Most writing sucks. Most things that people make of any sort suck. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make anything.

    The answer is that modern cliché: to keep trying to fail better. Anything but be obliged to designate my every character an ageing five-foot-two smartass, and having to set every novel in North Carolina."
     
  11. I'm going to derail the other thread with my despairing, so I'd like to put this out there here, at risk of sounding even more like a drama queen. (Who are we fooling? I am a drama queen.) I still think it needs to be said, or at least I need to say it to something other than the inside of my skull.

    I do understand the great merit in gaining life experience and using it to inform your writing. I also understand that I am at a disadvantage in some ways, due to not having as much experience (writing and life, mostly life) as others do. I understand that I'll get better. My writing will grow, improve and expand as I grow, improve and expand. I haven't yet reached my full potential...no one ever does...and I have a lifetime of writing and improving ahead of me. It should be an optimistic outlook from here. Lots of time to sharpen lots of my skills, lots of possibility and opportunity. It should be anything but depressing.

    However. I'm far from where I want to be. (Aren't we all? But this is a different kind of far.) I'm not yet as experienced or capable or qualified as almost any published author or anyone here, on account of not having been alive long enough. They all have an advantage I don't have, an enormous advantage it seems. I'm crippled right now. And I cannot remedy it. I can spend long hours at the computer typing, improving the craft itself (and I do!), but that's not going to give me more life experience or perspective. All I can do about that is live. And living takes a long time.

    The book I (temporarily) quit recently still smolders, ready to be picked up again when the time is right. Thing is, I'm not qualified to write it. Perhaps this why it was so impossible for 15 year old me to tackle; I don't know. The characters are older than me, they go through things I have never been through, they are shaped by experiences I don't yet have. I no longer feel able to write that story. I feel like I will fail it. I feel like it will inevitably fall painfully short of what it could be. All the emotions will be bland and inauthentic. Everyone will be able to see right through it. Because of these doubts, my Golden Idea might be in hibernation for a long time. Forever even. Who knows if I will even want to write it once I'm in my 20s or 30s. It's a scary thought, the story never actually being written, but it's a real possibility. Who knows. I might look back on it in five years and think, "What a bunch of childish BS; I'm glad I cut that tumor out." (Drama queen, remember? I don't think I'll stop being that ever.) Not knowing what future me is going to think is a scary idea sometimes. But the fact remains that I don't feel qualified for it now and if I want it to not suck im going to have to stick it in a box somewhere until I'm qualified enough, which could be...years.

    For someone my age, five, ten, fifteen years sounds like a long time.

    Until recently, I didn't think this way. I thought skill and practice of the craft of writing itself would make up for any other deficiency. So, I worked my butt off, I was committed and stubborn. But, apparently that's not all there is to it. A frustrating discovery for someone who doesn't really have anything but the craft itself to work with, to be sure.

    Basically, I realized that just because I had the skills down didn't mean I was as good as an adult writer. Despite working my butt off for it just as much. More even. The adult has an adult perspective that I cannot fake.

    The stories I care about, that truly ensnare me, the stories that fill my head and heart...those are the same ones that venture far beyond me and what I've been through. This is what makes it so frustrating. The advice I'm usually given is to spend time practicing and improving the craft, to go and find some fans on Wattpad (which, yeah, I might try that), to not take myself too seriously at this point, to be content writing stuff that won't matter in the large scheme of things. Ok, maybe those exact words were not used. But that's the implication, that the work of now is just practice. I won't publish anything I write now. It sucks anyway. And I can't fix it by pounding away at the writing alone. I'm just too young. Too inexperienced. Too unqualified. Is it true? Probably. Is it something I need to accept? Probably. Is it crushing and infuriating? Absolutely!

    If ten, twenty years of 'practice' is what it takes, sure. I'll do it. I'll wait thirty, forty years for my manuscripts to see daylight. I'll wait, gladly. But I dare to hope that there's something else out there for me at this stage in life.

    If you've been on my Writer's Work thread you know I'm failing to bond to my current story. I'm throwing out excellent wordcounts, but it's just a job. I like my main character, but I know the book is bad (I didn't plan), will never go anywhere and I really don't care about it. It's just something I'm doing while I'm waiting to be able to write the other story (or any story I truly care for) and honestly I am TRYING to care about it but I'm not sure if it's working. I think maybe it's working a little. Maybe? Anyway, I enjoy writing itself, I really do, but...I hope my writing is destined for more than just sitting in a box in my closet. Ten years more of books destined only for closet boxes (and maybe the eyes of close friends and family)...I mean, I guess I'm up for it. Anything for the writing dream, right? But isn't it a little discouraging...? Maybe I could publish it but I feel like I shouldn't try because i will look back on it later and cringe at its transparent childishness. I just want to vaporize the golden idea right now because I feel so ashamed of how excited I was about it and what high hopes I had for it. I'm ashamed of all my ideas already, sure they're foolish, and embarrassed of all the people I shared them with. Why didn't I see how ridiculous it was? Why didn't anyone in my life bring me back to earth? What if those people have just been trying not to break my obviously very breakable heart? I'm probably catastrophizing by now. But I can't write anything in that Golden Idea book at this current time to the level of authenticity and depth I want it and I wish I had figured it out earlier so I hadn't wasted two valuable years on it.

    I feel stupid and ashamed for trying to write about adult things as someone who isn't an adult.

    And yet, the characters are still here in my head, very real.

    Look, I've been drunk on ideas of publication and writing great stories and making people happy for much of my childhood, and maybe I just need more time to come to terms with reality, I don't know. I just don't know. Is publication what I even want? I don't think so, not deep down. But what do I want?

    To feel like a legitimate writer able to write books as good as any? To have readers and bring joy to them? To feel like all my hard work is worth something?

    I don't know where this depression has come from so suddenly. It's made me doubt everything.

    I don't know why I'm writing this, since the only thing anyone can tell me is to "just write." I'm doing that. (Visit my thread in Writer's Work.) I have no idea what to do except KEEP doing that. Heck. I'll keep doing that.
     
  12. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Danged nab drama queens anyhow, heh heh.

    I'm still working on my golden idea from when I was fourteen-fifteen... I took a lot of years off in actual writing (head work, but not much on paper for story, more world building and story collecting) and the story really is the world... I've always seen the writing as an epic series of not necessarily directly connected books, taking the world right up to its destruction. I figured it was a thirty book project then, I suspect it still is. And I have lots of other far more simplistic ideas, but, this is the one. Now, it has evolved, oh dear has it, and a lot of that is aging, life experience, and furthered education, yadda yadda. You've the internet, something I didn't even dream of, so that's a helluva step ahead for you.

    The one beautiful thing about writing is it's not a pro sport, if you don't feel like writing in your 20-30's, fine, you can still do it in your forties or beyond, LOL. I said that alot, because, in my 20's and 30's, I really didn't write much, it was there, but waaay too much going on... now, it's back. I'm going for it. Might explode on impact, but what the hell.

    You don't HAVE to keep writing. There is more than one way to skin a dragon.
     
  13. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    First, you're express yourself very well, regardless of age, and it shows in your posts. Second, Neil Gaiman, he held onto an idea for a very long time because he didn't think he was good enough to write it. Then one day he said, I'm not really getting much better, so I might as well get on with it. That story turned out to be the Graveyard Book. So you're not unique in your predicament.

    Can't write this story? Not mature enough? Then just write something you think you can handle.
     
  14. La Volpe

    La Volpe Sage

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    I'm going to say almost the exact opposite of what PenPilot is saying.

    You're always going to be better than you were a year back. If you're 50 years old, you could still hold off on your idea and think that you just need a little more practice. I.e. you might end up never writing it.

    There's a quote by Annie Dilliard that I've always tried to follow:
    "One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes."

    I'd apply this to your situation as well. You're holding on to your Golden Idea, thinking that it is the best thing you'll ever write. Which is not the case. That doesn't mean your Golden Idea is "Bad" or "Good for a teenager". Look at any author with a couple of books under her belt. Compare the first and last books she wrote, and you can see the improvement. That doesn't make the first book terrible.

    You seem to think that when you look back in a couple of years, you'll think your previous stories were all lame and childish. But every author I've ever heard talking about their first books usually have good feelings about them.

    So what I'm saying is this: Write the story you want to write now, to the best of your ability. More ideas will come. More Golden Ideas probably, if your pattern holds. But the only way to get to those is to finish your story.

    As a side note: Saying that teenagers can't write stories about older people is like saying men can't write about women. Or people with sight can't write about blind people. Or South Africans can't write about North Americans. In short, you'll be fine. Personally, I think that skill, practice, and the craft of writing will make up for your "deficiency" of being young(er). I'd add "good research" though.
     
  15. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    DOA:

    Writing is a very tough business.

    Firstly I respect you for writing frequently. There is nothing wrong with treating it like a job and getting words on the page. You will build skill and discipline that way.

    Secondly, you have very good writing skills from what I can tell. I remember your first piece in the Showcase here. IF you feel down go back and look at people's positive reaction to it.

    Unfortunately, not only is writing tough, life is too. When I was a young lawyer I was faced with lawyers with far more skill, experience and resources than I had. I guess I could have quit law to become a construction worker, but then I would have been surrounded by guys with more experience, strength and skill than I had at construction. Such is life.

    Choose what you want to do and do it to the best of your ability. Be realistic about your capacities, and analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Work to your strengths and work on improving your weaknesses. When you are finished with that process it is time to make funeral arrangements.

    Be realistic in what you take on. Recognize what projects might be beyond your current skill or resource level. IF something is beyond your current skill level look for ways to raise your skills up to where they need to be.

    Keep writing, and try to enjoy it.
     
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  16. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    I should also add... You SHOULD keep on writing, live and write and find your path. But it doesn't necessarily mean write obsessively. We all get where we're going in different ways... some just walk whackier paths than others.
     
  17. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    DragonOfTheAerie, please, please, please, do not despair. You can be your own worst enemy if you let your fear of failure stop you from trying. If you want something badly enough, then do not accept defeat. Work at it, work at it, work at it. Do the absolute best that you can in the present, because the present is all you have.

    Be observant. Everywhere you go and everything you see can inform your writing. A trip to the mall can be research; watch the interactions between people and pay attention to the smallest gestures, the body language, the volumes of voices, what makes people laugh or cry or pout or swing a fist or give a kiss or push someone. There is more to romance than being in love. Relationships are complex and every relationship is unique, but there are commonalities.

    Whenever you have opportunity, write. Write until your fingers go numb and your head feels like it will explode. Finish that first draft and when you are done, set it aside for a week or two or several, and then revisit it. Read it. Revise it. Read it again. Revise it again. Find everything that bothers you about it and cut it out or rewrite it or decide that it is okay after all.

    Work on your story, the story you want to write, the one that is aching, yearning to come out of your head to take form in text. Let it flow out of you when it will, and wrangle with it when it is stubborn. Get to know all of your characters, every step they take, every thought they think, as Sting sings, every breath they take. Experience their realities until they become second nature to you. They will tell you if what you have written is false. Listen to them and they will tell you their truths.

    When you've done all that, then elicit the help of beta readers. They will tell you what feels wrong to them. Take their feedback and do not let it bring you down. They are trying to help. Study what they tell you and try to understand where they are coming from. Look for the nuggets of truth about your story hidden in their feedback, and use it to make your story better.

    That's how it's going with my debut novel, anyway. I still need to get an editor and possibly make more revisions. And after all this work my story still might not be well received by its target audience. But I'll be proud of it and eager to write the sequel, no matter what anyone else has to say about book 1. Because I know I will only get better. I will learn from what's said about the first book, positive and negative, and use it to make book 2 better than book 1. The only authors judged entirely on their debut novels are those who only write one book.

    You'll come up with your own processes, but the point is, there's a lot involved in writing a publishable novel. And at every point in the process, you might feel like giving up, because it at times feels overwhelming. You have to tell that nagging voice that, yes, it might be right, but you're going to do the best you can and move forward. If you stand still, if you make no progress, then you're wasting precious time. Because the present is all you have.
     
  18. Azora

    Azora Acolyte

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    I'm young too and I think about that all the time. I just tell myself that if I stop now, I wont be better in the future. So I write to get better and better so by the time I'm older and people take me seriously, I will be really good. That is what keeps me going. When it comes to the whole romance thing and fighting thing, I understand that if you've never been in a romantic situation its hard to write about, but with fighting (which I haven't been in many fights, and definitely no sword fights) I research it. If were talking weapon combat, I study medieval sword fighting and that kind of stuff.
     
  19. Thanks for listening and responding, guys.

    And, well...All of my writers panic episodes conclude in the same way. I can either quit writing or keep writing. And I can't quit so I keep writing. I keep writing whether I feel euphoric or whether I feel despondent. I can't not write no matter how severe my current situation seems. There's never a thing I can do except just keep on keepin' on.

    My Golden Idea (as I find it convenient to call it) is ambitious and scary. I don't feel ready to write it *just yet*, that's why I'm writing some other books (three in total, according to the plan) before returning to it. I probably will be 17-18 before I go back to the Golden Idea. Will I be able to write it then? I don't know. I could wait. I could wait until *the right time*, after my skills are much better, after I've had all the experiences I worry I won't be able to authentically describe...but, the story comes when it comes. It's on my heart because it needs to be written, and that alone should qualify me. I don't think there's any point in waiting to get better. I'll write it when it comes. (The series could take twelve years to write and edit by my calculations, so there is that.) Why worry?

    Meanwhile, I don't know where my current projects might go but I'm excited for them, even if they're not the Golden Idea.

    I'd like to pose several questions and ideas, though:

    First, I'd really like to keep putting things in Showcase for serious critique because I know there are lots of people more experienced and knowledgeable than me here that I can learn from. Im here to learn. Not sure what to post though.

    The Top Scribe competitions have already put me outside of my comfort zone a lot, and I feel like it has helped me, so I'll keep doing those. Also, I might post older top scribe entries in showcase (after editing) for critique...thoughts?

    Second, does audience play a role in this (being qualified?) I'm probably writing YA or NA (new adult.) I don't really know what it will be, but it seems like it could do well on the YA market. It is somewhat a coming of age story, a story of growing up...Does that help my situation? I *am* a YA. I read YA. I feel like I should be able to write for people my own age just fine...better, even, than adults. But I don't know what it is, I said already. It might be better suited to the adult market with some tweaks. So...thoughts on this?

    Third, might writing things outside of my own experience and comfort zone be *good* for me? Might just writing and practicing writing a wide variety of topics I feel less confident in improve my writing as a whole? They say to write outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself. If you don't stretch, you won't grow. When I think about it, it seems like a terrible idea to refrain from writing about something just because you don't feel like you can write about it accurately. TERRIBLE idea! You have to write hard things that stretch your abilities and imagination so you'll learn! Right? Why didn't I think in this way before?
     
  20. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    YA is your current wheelhouse, it's what you know and live, so to speak. But by all means stretch your synapses until they threaten to break, but writing in your strength is hard to fault.

    And post things to showcase, although I haven't paid much attention to that of late, I try to limit the amount of time I waste on MS, LOL. And if you're ever interested in my brutal opinion, you can always direct message me, muwahahahaha.
     
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