by Michelle Davidson Argyle
When I started writing again after a five-year break, it was like riding a bike. I jumped in headfirst, but I was soon thrown off balance. Everything was a bit wobbly, and it took me a full year to get to a place where I was riding straight without fear of breaking my neck. The last thing I wanted to do was make a fool of myself, so I worked on one project until I realized I wasn’t going to get far if I didn’t start working on something different. Let’s say I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
Of course, this leads into the biggest change I made in my writing—altering the way I think about writing. You see, when I started writing again, I picked up the first book I ever wrote and started rewriting it. I kept writing and rewriting, over and over and over. My belief was that the more you work on a novel, the better it will get and the better writer you’ll be. But I was frustrated that nothing I did would make the book what I wanted it to be. I was working so hard. Why wasn’t I getting any better? That’s when November rolled around and I heard about National Novel Writing Month. Intrigued, I thought, why not?
I have to admit, doing NaNo was really difficult for me. All I wanted at the time was to get my first novel published. I wanted to query like all my friends were doing. I wanted to be a good enough writer to move forward to the next step. Little did I know that the ‘next step’ was to throw out that first novel and move on. Luckily, NaNo kept me so busy that it forced me to do just that. I fell in love with another book and didn’t go back to that first novel for a long time.
I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned as a writer is to recognize that gut-feeling when a book needs to be set aside. It could only come with getting obsessed enough with a project that it was hindering me, and then forcing myself to try something new. If it hadn’t been for NaNo, who knows where I would be right now. That first novel finally did get published (in fact, it’s my most successful novel so far, in terms of sales), but it was published only after I learned a lot more about writing by completing other novels first.
If I have any advice for writers, it’s to listen to your instincts. If you’ve been working on one project so long you can hardly see straight, you’d probably better make yourself put it away for a long time, or even forever. In my opinion, writers should write, not tinker like I did for so long. I’ve found that the more novels I complete, the more I learn and the better I get. The longer I spend on one novel doesn’t seem to get me nearly as far. I am not expanding my mind to different ways of thinking, different characters, different viewpoints, and different ways of experimenting with structure and telling a story. For me, at least, only new projects have been able to do that.
I think what helped me the most when it comes to getting a book published to write more and more. I’m still growing as a writer because of this, and I think most new writers are smart if they learn when to move on and work on something new.
Special thanks to Jordan McCollum for inviting me here today!
About the Author
Michelle Davidson Argyle is a mother, artist, and writer who lives in the Rocky Mountains with her sword-wielding husband and energetic daughter. She writes contemporary Young Adult and New Adult fiction (and other genres when she feels like it).
Michelle’s latest release is Pieces, sequel to her YA novel The Breakaway. Two years after watching her kidnappers go to prison, Naomi Jensen is still in love with one of them. Jesse will be released in a few years, and Naomi knows college is the perfect distraction while she waits. But when her new friend Finn makes her question what is right and what is wrong, she begins to wonder if Jesse is the one for her … until she discovers he’s out on parole. Naomi must sort through her confusion to figure out where love and freedom truly lie-in Finn, who has no connections to her past, or Jesse, who has just asked her to run away with him.