A friend of mine started a survey a while ago asking “If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be?” (You can still find it here, if you’re interested in contributing.)
It got me thinking, and the only thing I could honestly say I wish my younger self knew was how to format dialogue. That sounds like a really silly thing, doesn’t it? But the thing is, many of the mistakes I made contributed to how I write today and what I’ve accomplished as a writer. A lesson I’ve learned through trial and error that I now share with other people, for instance, is to stick with one project at a time. How? By writing down ideas and allowing yourself a few days to focus on them before returning to your main project so it gets finished. (Which is something I recommend to authors who have trouble finishing things, not authors for whom it works to write a dozen stories at a time. Whatever works, works.) If I’d heard that advice when I was seven I may have finished more drafts, sure, but I doubt I’d have the expansive story universe I do now. So many of the pieces that have been cobbled together to make my vast story universe have come about because I explored stories for several weeks or months at a time and plugged them into the universe I already had.
I could tell myself not to steal characters from other writers and thus avoid my entire first short story from when I was six (which was really awful), but I wouldn’t have learned not to write in the mystery genre and I wouldn’t have started my expansive universe (which started out as Legend of Zelda fanfiction and developed into something original and much more amazing than I would have thought).
So much of writing is trial and error and learning what works from what doesn’t. You can’t form an individual writing process without trial and error. You can’t learn what genres you enjoy or don’t enjoy writing without trial and error. To take away the error from my childhood writing would be to remove the foundation of my writing now.
So I’d just teach myself how to format dialogue. Because it’s a tiny thing, but darn would it make it easier for me to read over my old writing. XD
What are some of the errors in your early writing that contributed to how you write now? What would you teach your younger self about writing if you could? I’d love to hear your thoughts down in the comments. :)