No Writing Is Wasted

by Ruthanne Reid | 56 comments

Have you ever seen an expert do something so brilliantly that they made it look easy?

Writing is like that.

No Writing Is Wasted

Here's the thing: when our favorite authors write, they sit down and they write and they make it look easy. We see (or imagine) their facile skill with words and phrases, and we think, I want to do that. For a while, we even feel like we can do that.

But when we put words down . . . well, they just don't come out like that.

A Million Words to Competency

Writing is one of those skills that looks easy but isn't.

A writer’s apprenticeship usually involves writing a million words (which are then discarded) before he’s almost ready to begin.
—David Eddings

Writing requires the same kind of practice and hard work as Olympic sports. It's not a sport like gymnastics, which is obviously challenging. You probably don't watch Simone Biles perform her signature floor routine and think you could flip and tumble better.

bender

Writing is more like diving. Yes, anyone could jump in the water, and yes, those medalists make it look easy. But the truth is, it takes years to learn how to dive the way those pros do.

It's not easy. It takes an incredible amount of practice, concentration, and self-awareness to pull that off. Writing may not generate the same low resting heart-rate as practicing a sport (*ahem* quite the opposite, if you're not careful), but it requires the same amount of practice, concentration, and self-awareness.

Every Word Counts

Here's what this quote means: your writing isn't wasted.

Yes, what you wrote yesterday might be crap, fit only for the recycle bin. Yes, you may have a trunk novel or two which will never see the light of day, and which your last will and testament instructs to burn in a dark cave at midnight.

That writing still wasn't wasted.

Your favorite work-in-progress may have started and stopped, gotten stuck and unstuck, required a rewrite, or never gotten past chapter one (draft 161 version 2).

That writing still wasn't wasted.

Aim for the Right Goal

You might find it hard to believe your worst words weren't wasted. But this makes sense once you realize what the goal truly is:

The goal isn't to have written good stuff. The goal is to be a good writer who creates good stuff.

One is a product, done and in the past. The other is an identity, a state of being.

This is a really important difference.

The reason your writing isn't wasted is because ANY writing you do leads you toward the goal of becoming a better writer.

One of my favorite quotes right now is from author and poet Erin Bow:

No writing is wasted. Did you know that sourdough from San Francisco is leavened partly by a bacteria called lactobacillus sanfrancisensis? It is native to the soil there, and does not do well elsewhere. But any kitchen can become an ecosystem. If you bake a lot, your kitchen will become a happy home to wild yeasts, and all your bread will taste better. Even a failed loaf is not wasted. Likewise, cheese makers wash the dairy floor with whey. Tomato gardeners compost with rotten tomatoes. No writing is wasted: the words you can't put in your book can wash the floor, live in the soil, lurk around in the air. They will make the next words better.
—Erin Bow

Your Writing is Never Wasted

I know sometimes it feels like the words you worked so hard on were a waste because they weren't good (or as good as you want them to be). But they weren't wasted. They are a product, and they're in the past—and by writing them, you've edged yourself close to the state of being a better writer.

It's okay if you had to delete them (or do that last will and testament thing). Don't hate them and don't regret them. They were one more step toward making you a good writer.

What do you do on those days when it feels like your writing was a waste of time? Let me know in the comments.

PRACTICE

Today, I have some simple but challenging practice for you: I want you to write the next part of your work in progress for fifteen minutes. If you don't have a WIP, use one of our story ideas to start something new.

Yes, even if you don't really know where it's going.

Yes, even if you aren't sure what it's doing.

It isn't wasted. Even if you don't end up using it, it's gotten your brain going, and carried you in the direction you want to go.

When you're done, post your practice in the comments, and take some time to comment on someone else's not-wasted words.

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Best-Selling author Ruthanne Reid has led a convention panel on world-building, taught courses on plot and character development, and was keynote speaker for The Write Practice 2021 Spring Retreat.

Author of two series with five books and fifty short stories, Ruthanne has lived in her head since childhood, when she wrote her first story about a pony princess and a genocidal snake-kingdom, using up her mom’s red typewriter ribbon.

When she isn’t reading, writing, or reading about writing, Ruthanne enjoys old cartoons with her husband and two cats, and dreams of living on an island beach far, far away.

P.S. Red is still her favorite color.

56 Comments

  1. Carrie Lynn Lewis

    Ruthanne,

    An excellent post.

    And absolutely correct. Even writing letters home or journaling count toward becoming a better writer!

    Reply
  2. Tina

    Maybe my goal isn’t to be a good writer who writes good-to-great stuff. There is an ‘alter ego’—a little drunk old lady in my brain (I never touch a drop of booze these days; I don’t “act drunk”, and it comes naturally—My Family Doesn’t Understand Me) that keeps prodding me to talk about these people; not frequently as with a “real” writer; but enough:

    “In these small moments, I forget my other thoughts,” Krisha observed. Then she mused,

    “The arc of my life as a woman is turning and inverting direction, but is more suitable to me now.”

    “You are very much a woman, Krisha,” Gerrard gazed while navigating around some embedded small rocks.

    “It’s stress.”

    “I know. I embrace stress,” Gerrard smiled. “I don’t run away from stress. Toughing it out back down in New York is still underrated. Gotta get away from the stories of pads in the sky and the advertised myth of the ‘seamless-ness’ of the smartphone apps. If cooking is so ‘New Jersey’, why is Crate and Barrel still in business in the city?”

    “Come on—BAD example—what about Pier One?” Krisha winked. “Um, better yet … uh, Target, Bed Bath? Or—better yet—walk down almost any street, grab a rock, throw it—and hit a 99¢ store … they all sell real stuff you use and not just hang, oh-so-organized for your Martha Stewart moment; in a real working kitchen where you cook everything yourself … Incidentally, let’s hear it for camping, my man … um, does REI run cooking demonstrations, too? ….even if this is mostly a very short weekend that you and your client’s parents dragged us on … Damn! My ears just popped!!”

    “Here’s a rock.” Gerrard grinned. “You wanna throw it here? You see any streets? Any 99¢ stores?”

    “You see any overachieving children around? Anybody around here wants to crush the specialized exam?”

    “Touché!”

    “You know, Krisha. I really do like those young women, mom in present company, excepted. Who doesn’t? There is no such thing as a ‘male menopause” But one of them had seemed sooo easy. It had killed my marriage and who knows when I could speak to my son? But I feel great with you!”

    Reply
    • Bruce Carroll

      Yes, I think you do have a little drunk old lady in your brain. She could be the source of some really good material for you. Of course, you may have to do some heavy editing on her behalf. 😉

    • Tina

      Thinking now, that she’s more a muse. She gave me the characters and the situations; a nascent storyline, I do believe. She gave me, in particular, a clueless perimenopausal protagonist who likes things old-school unconventional; and yet is a bundle of nerves. Some of my work doesn’t make it online because I prefer using my leatherbound notebooks and a word processor known as a Pilot G2. I think everybody knows what that one is. She is not the one writing this book … and she’s not as think as you drunk she is … lol

  3. Debra johnson

    Ruthanne, I loved this post because it reminds me nothing I have written is wasted. Even when I think they are – and I tend to be a perfectionist when I write. (If its not right the first time its no good.) so then the stories stay in limbo for a while and I feel blah for days not feeling quite like me most likely because everything that should be on the page is cramped in my brain, but because its not “perfect” it wont see the page….. much learning I have to do. ahuh yes.

    Reply
  4. Carrie Lynn Lewis

    My current work-in-progress is in the book planning stages, so I don’t have actual fiction to share.

    However, following is the synopsis I just wrote.

    Todd Barnes was orphaned at a young age and was taken in by a distant relative and his wife who are traveling revivalists. Todd grew up as a “prop” in their traveling revival show, little more than an actor trained to pretend some disability such as paralysis, deafness, or blindness in order to be healed and to encourage large donations. When he got older, he ran away. Now he’s living under an assumed name in another part of the country, attending university and working his way toward a useful degree and a career.

    At a point when his grades are suffering because he’s working every hour he can work and he’s still on the verge of being evicted from yet another dumpy apartment, Andy Rose approaches. Andy Rose could be his mirror double and their alikeness has drawn Andy’s attention. Andy has a class that evening that he must attend and something else he sorely wants to do at the same time. Is Todd willing to sit in on the class for two hours? Todd wants nothing to do with it, but is in such need of money that he accepts when Andy willingly agrees to his price. The class goes without a hitch, though Todd is uncomfortably aware the someone is watching him during the class. Afterward, he has the same sense and discovers someone following him. Someone who is clearly bent on harm.

    Andy arrives at their agreed upon rendezvous in time to rescue Todd and it seems the incident is past. In repayment, Andy offers to help Todd in a couple of subjects Todd is in danger of failing and Todd once again finds it impossible to refuse. Andy is so outgoing that Todd finds himself drawn into reluctant friendship. Friendship grows to the point at which their relationship becomes brotherly. When Andy muses after graduation that they should trade places for a week—just to see how “the other half lives”—Todd once again agrees. What harm could it do, after all? And there are possibilities for advancing his own future while he has access to the resources available to Andy Rose. Then comes news that Todd Barnes has been killed in a car accident that looks remarkably suspicious.

    Todd knows the true identity of the victim, but not who the intended victim was. Was the killer targeting Andy? Or was he really after Todd? If Todd was the victim, has the killer realized his mistake? Unsure, Todd begins the process of pulling up roots again, only to discover he can’t let Andy’s death go unanswered. He has to find the truth. But how? Part of that question is answered when Andy’s kindly grandmother arrives and, believing Todd is Andy, invites him to stay with her. He needs a place to stay so accepts, promising to stay only long enough to get at the truth. But his arrival in the Rose household meets with the suspicion of Paul Porter, the family investigator, and Todd knows at once that Porter is a threat. That threat is minimized by the beginning of a series of incidents around the Rose household that culminate in an attack on Mrs. Rose herself.

    Todd is frightened by this because it looks like he was the original intended victim. But he’s also outraged that his ghosts have brought harm to Mrs. Rose. It appears there’s only one thing to do. Run away again. Then he changes his mind. If he runs now, he’ll never stop running. And there’s no guarantee his absence will end the attacks. So he bares his soul to Paul Porter, then makes plans with him to face his past and defeat the person or people seeking his life.

    Reply
    • Bruce Carroll

      Sounds exciting! I’d read this.

  5. dduggerbiocepts

    No one can disagree that writing/reading frequently and continually makes you a more skillful reader. we might disagree that practice alone will make you a more economically successful writer I like the Erin Bow (I see she is a young adult author. Poet?) quote a lot. Not for its lack of critical thought in the analogy appropriateness, but the skillful poetic wordsmith usage. However, there is a critically contradictory writing corollary within her analogy it completely missed.

    The analogy is of hobby baker at home, not a commercial baker operating under finite economic limits that determines whether he/she can support their self as a bakery business. If you are home baker the quality of your bake goods are supported by some other economic endeavor. It makes their bake goods no less flavorful, but it isn’t the same kind of success necessary to produce competitive bake goods consistently over a career in a commercial and competitive market place. A market place that today is saturated and that has limited if not declining demand for flavorful baked goods. A market place such that quite frequently the absolutely most flavorful bake goods go unrecognized and unsold – while less flavorful ones are sold for many reasons beyond their flavor.

    Unlike baking which might be a two day process, writing takes considerably more of your time and other resources. Serious time dedication decisions in life should necessarily compete in life. As in there are lots of other interesting activities to do with your life that might in a rational analysis compete with spending tens of thousands of hours developing better writing skills solely for self-satisfaction. Especially considering that writers today live in an environment of over-saturated writing markets and declining reader rates.

    The point here is that it’s one thing to write as a hobby, or as a noncritical second income source, and its quite another level to understand what it takes to become a successful and well paid serial novelist. How about a few articles on deciding who you want to be as a writer and the information necessary to make it a critically thought out decision – like discussing annual book publishing stats, their implication to new authors, and case studies of current successful author profiles – including the number of books they wrote on average before they gave up their real jobs. Or, are you only addressing the “home bakers” here at TWP and assuming they will really never use their well practiced writing skills to economically compete in today’s competitive market place?

    Reply
    • Tina

      Was talking about a transitional mode, of going and doing “baking” in your own home and on your kitchen table; and then going on crowdfund sites, or etsy of maxing out your credit card; long before you take your “baking” on the road … part of the equation?

      I’d bought the “keep your day job” paradigm my life and forced into retirement transition. What could you write about as an old lady who never got very far in the “day job” paradigm? Of course, I did not pick not being born rich.

      There must be some kind of continuum of using your writing.

    • dduggerbiocepts

      First question is do you have to write? It sounds like you are looking for an outlet that will produce income. On a probability basis looking at the growing number of published books and paid content authors in an arguably declining market place, the odds of making a comfortable living at writing are closing on being equal to winning the lottery. Of course winning the lottery has a much shorter learning curve and requires far less prep time – if you win.

      If your answer was that you are compelled to write – then you might want to look into paid content writing as an easier entry into paid writing compared to selling your first novel. You won’t win any admiring peer glances as a content writer, these writers often being referred to as “content whores.” The pay sucks and the competition is keeps it that way, but it’s easier to find and it is getting paid to write – and to practice writing.

      As far as your age – yeah we can agree getting older sucks, but the afterthought is generally… not as much as not getting older. I’m still struggling to adopt the attitude of that old adage that “Aging is like mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” I mind a lot.

      I have always hoped that I would have the courage to adopt the M. Luther philosophy that if I knew I would die tomorrow – i would still plant a (species of choice here) tree today. While writing may suck as a increasingly problematic career choice (sorry Joe), it at least provides an opportunity for some kind of legacy. At least if Google puts in the Cloud.

    • Tina

      “Content whore”—that sounds marvelous compared to all the proofreading and light manuscript editing I’d had to do (of technical, scientific and marketing material) which had driven me crazy. I did those duties for an inventor for whom English is not his first language; but still, he is a remarkably highly skilled, positive and persuasive writer. Downright abuse of the English language [usually of subject-verb transitive-object, order]! Little conception of ideal American English sentence construction! Perhaps I imagined that he was taken very seriously as a result of my work. [As a good part of my last paid salaried job.]

      I just hope I could keep that stuff private, as in they don’t have to use my actual name or pen name.

    • Tina

      That really sounded weird for an old lady like me to have just posted … lol
      If romantic comedy is my favored genre, what kind of content whore would that even portend?

    • Jonathan Hutchison

      This seems to be a dilemma for a lot of us. Can we commit, can we focus, can we find success? I go back and forth about this, but at the stage at which I am entering this new endeavor of learning to write, I just want to write. If somehow, somewhere I get an indication that my writing has promise then that will be the start of stage two – getting really serious which hopefully will lead to stage three being known as a writer. I enjoy playing with thoughts and words and I enjoy reading your thoughts and words. For now, that is joy enough.

    • dduggerbiocepts

      In one of my former lives I did a lot of tech economic feasibility analysis. The process becomes a habit/tool in your critical thinking skills. Any significant endeavor you undertake is evaluated on a risk/reward basis. For any serious investment (I see my time as my most valuable and limited asset, you do a SWOT analysis (Strengths – attributes for success, Weaknesses – attributes for failure, Opportunity scale, and Threats – competition/market volume, market saturation, etc. ). In doing so you establish probabilities of success for any and all perspective endeavors of significance to preclude the creative temptation of chasing everyone of the most exciting of the wild geese that you might encounter.

      Most importantly you do your analysis as early on in the consideration process as you have the information to accomplish it. Writing as a business falls very low on the SWOT scale for probability of success – at least it did in my analysis. Of course, you should do your own analysis and is so often pointed out on TWP there are other reasons for writing (self expression satisfaction) – assuming your basic critical resources (food, water, shelter, energy, security, etc. ) are already in place and secure. My point being you should understand on a critical level what you investing your time in, and be certain that you can accept what are highly predictable probable outcomes in the field of writing.

    • Jonathan Hutchison

      Yup I agree the SWOT analysis is a great idea. I got my MBA several years ago and it is one of the best degrees I have. It taught me an approach to tackle challenges and assess future action( among other things). I really appreciate your comment about another way to look at writing. This was more helpful than you can imagine. Thank you.
      Jon

    • Jeffery Keesecker

      Amen Jonathan. I’m in the same boat as you. Very well said. I like how you think.

  6. Karen Watkins

    I was so hesitant to become a member of this community because I have a fixed income and every penny counts. I find it hard to express how much encouragement I take from the posts and the comments on pieces I post. I am learning that words are paintings, some see the original design, others interpret through their unique lens, but paintings still occur. Thank you Ruthanne. This is such valuable advice for us writers. Gee I just realized I categorized myself as a writer along with these other fellow writers. It is not so much I believe I can’t write or my writing is either good or bad. My struggle is believing that others will find merit, a connection to their lives, an encouragement to keep on keeping on, a uniqueness to the same idea. Of course I desire to become good at writing, but if there is no value in that writing for others to glean something, then what is the point? I am slowly processing that writing isn’t always for others. Writing has internal worth to the writer and sometimes that is the gold medal. (Sorry I love the Olympics). I do journal and find great relief from an angst when I release it on paper. Or clarity to a dilemma suddenly appears when i journal. I love to write letters and have two to three individuals who correspond with me. I even use sealing wax to stamp design on the back flap. Letter writing is an art all unto itself and I fear lost in the day of computers etc.
    Today I decided to do as I was encouraged. Just write for 15 minutes and let it go. You know what, it feels quite satisfying. Thank you again Ruthanne and fellow writers. We are a community of support.

    Reply
    • Robert Ranck

      The gem of my day:

      “I am learning that words are paintings, some see the original design,
      others interpret through their unique lens, but paintings still occur.” …Karen Watkins

      Thank you, Karen. And thank you, Ruthanne for providing the initiating spark.

  7. Jean Blanchard

    Hi, here’s my piece for today’s task. It’s about 450 words which is about what I achieve in 15 mins. Also, I haven’t read what I’ve written so please excuse grammar and spelling.

    Ghosts: A Slice of Life.

    She knew the house was big and spooky. She didn’t believe there were ghosts there though. People just said those kind of things about places like that and they certainly went to town trying to dissuade her from buying. In fact, they even set up some prety stupid ‘goings on’, moving things about, hiding CD players playing spooky music, or recordings of chains rattling or furniture being moved. Myra just laughed. It was all so pathetic for adults to be playing these sort of games.

    ‘You pay your money and you take your choice.’ Myra did just that and moved into the house during the summer holidays. Measuring up for curtains and carpets; scouring catalogues for the large number of pieces of furniture. She asked herself whether she had, indeed made a mistake buying the house and wondered if she’d rue the day the money was transferred. And as she wandered through the rooms trying to sort out in her mind what would go where, a vintage perfume wafted through the room. She could almost see it: a horizontal dusty pink breeze moving through the air from one end of the room and out of the door at th other end.

    Myra felt she had a knowledge of the perfume and stood with her back to the long sash window pensively. She cast around in her mind searching for the source of her memory and as she stood with her chin in her hand, gazing into nowhere in particular, she glimpsed the back of a pink satin shoe, followed by a swathe of pink pleated chiffon skirt, sliding through the wall, as if it had been caught in a door. In her hand an invitation card, she looked at it and said, ‘Yes, I would be delighted to accompany Mr Brogan to the … ‘

    A pink powder puff of ostrich feathers, a silver dressing table set with backs of engineered patterns and pink enamel, pink a crystal tray, little pink pots with lids, a tiny pin tray, a perforated hatpin holder, danced into and out of her mind. She caught a strain of big band music and was entranced by the scene that played out in her mind. As suddenly as they came, the perfume, the sights and sounds, evaporated. And stood alone in the warm bright room.

    So this was the kind of welcome ghosts gave to unbelievers! A huge smile spread across Myra’s face as she realized that her house, and the life that inhabited its very being, wanted to draw her in rather than drive her away, as most people thought ghosts would. Well, ghosts or no ghosts, Myra knew she would be very happy to live there after all.

    Reply
    • Jonathan Hutchison

      Jean
      I really have liked the work you have shared in this group. Your tale has me asking all kinds of questions, wondering where your plot will be taking your readers. The last line kind of eased the tension that had been building up and I am not sure I was ready to be freed from what I thought was going to be a very nasty, unsettling story that you were about to unfold. But if you were able to do all of this in 15 minutes, I’d say you are well on your way to a very interesting storyline.

    • Jean Blanchard

      Thanks, Jon. I agree with you entirely. I set the kitchen timer for 15 minutes and typed like mad, keeping a bit of my eye on the moving pointer thing (can’t think of what it’s called). I had two choices, a. I could end it ‘nicely’ i.e. ghosts aren’t all bad, or b. increase the tension by introducing something that could, as you said, make it all turn very nasty. I chose a. I very often test myself like this but I have a job leaving things open-ended. I am going to keep this story in my ‘look at it again’ file. Thanks again.

    • Bruce Carroll

      I liked all of the pink. The surprise ending works well. I also considered the possibility that none of Myra’s vision actually “happened,” that it was her imagination working overtime in a house she was told was haunted and that the “real” story will begin in chapter two. (I don’t even know if that makes sense, but I’m not sure how else to explain it.)

  8. Carol Thomas Carlton

    The road was west of my house. A small two lane road, marked by a faded, double yellow stripe down its center and illuminated infrequently by old street lights whose rusted shades hung cracked and crooked over oft-missing bulbs. Off to the east in a back corner of what I soon learned was an old cemetery, came the bluish light of a halogen bulb. Something was askew. I looked closer and saw two camp chairs outlined by the hue of that bluish light. In the chairs, huddled closely together, sat two figures. A pick up truck not too far away had it’s back gate lowered. It gripped me. This scene. Pain whispered as I drove past. I tried to forget it, and almost did. Until the next night as I drove the same road and saw the same scene, then the whisper was deafening.

    Fear of cemeteries had fallen away from my childhood mind long ago. This fear that now gripped me had nothing to do with the place. No, it had everything to do with those two camp chairs, that haunting bluish light that invaded the stillness and, the pain that still whispered to me begging me to stop — to come close.

    Reply
    • Jonathan Hutchison

      Carol
      Wow, you really set up some great tension and have drawn me in. I imagine as you work with this, your style and skill will continue to help you create a very eerie and anxiety producing tale.

    • Tina

      She doesn’t even have to spell out that the setting is at least dusk past the magic hour; if not past nightfall …

    • Sondra

      Great writing Carol.. I can almost see the eerie story you are telling..

    • 709writer

      Cool! Great job with the tension here. Would like to read more!

  9. Jonathan Hutchison

    This was a helpful exercise to get me back to work and to get refocused on my WIP. Here’s my Chapter Two (+/-) .

    Take Four – Addition 1

    Tuesday, May 2, 2000, 9:00 AM, US Federal Court, Portland, Maine

    As Ethan took his seat at the prosecutor’s table, he noticed a large manila envelope on the table. The envelope was addressed to Ethan Clark, JD. He asked his assistant also seated at the table if he knew where this envelope had come from. No one seemed to have any idea. Ethan opened the envelope with a small pen knife he always carried. The envelope was not only sealed with the clasp being engaged but the entire top half of the envelope had been sealed with tape.

    In the envelope Ethan found a well-worn black and white photograph of his great grandfather, Edward. At seeing that photograph Ethan began to remember what happened so many years ago in Errol. Edward was posing for the photograph as would have been the practice of photography in those early days. He was holding a safe deposit box in his hands in front of the giant door to the safe. The safe in that picture as well as the original bank building was destroyed by the flood in 1910. At that time, the bank in Errol was the only bank in northern Maine to offer its customers the use of safe deposit boxes, a relatively new convenience that banks were making available as additional security for the storage of various assets.

    Ethan’s great grandfather had been elected President of the Errol Community Bank in 1895. The Clark family was well known in Errol and the family was the largest landowner and farming operation in that area. For many years the old and new bank buildings had served the town’s residents and businesses, especially during the height of Errol’s prosperity in the 30’s and 40’s, when Ethan’s grandfather became the new bank president.

    But it was Ethan’s great grandfather who was so well known for his honesty and integrity in those early days. He was well liked by the locals as well as by members of the Abenaki Indian Tribe who lived north of town. Edward Clark treated everyone with fairness and confidentiality. Townspeople understood Edward’s sense of duty to safeguard the assets and valuables kept at the bank. He was proud of his personal reputation and the reputation of the bank under his care. Clark family members were not only the wealthiest customers of the bank but the entire family enjoyed a very favorable reputation.

    The fastest growing and most prosperous business in the area was the Leaning Pine Lumber Company, Limited. It operated sawmills up and down the banks of the Androscoggin River. Over the years, the lumber operation had clear cut most of the forests located south and West of Errol. The Leaning Pine Company was about to begin lumbering the forests to the North of town. Members of the Abenaki Indian Tribe were becoming anxious, impatient and increasingly hostile with the lumbering company’s operation because the company had recently been given permission from the Bureau of Land Management(BLM) in Washington, DC to harvest the lumber on Indian land that was rightfully the property of the Abenaki Tribe. The Abenaki Tribe were unaware that negotiations were taking place behind closed doors that would involve the involuntarily ceding of the Indian lands to the Leaning Pine Lumber Company.

    When Errol was settled in 1806, part of the treaty that had been agreed to promised the Abenakis the land north and east of Errol in exchange for allowing the town of Errol to be placed at the headwaters of the Androscoggin River. The treaty had been ratified in 1820 and all parties abided by the stipulations agreed to by the Abenaki Tribe, the State of New Hampshire and the State of Maine as well as the Bureau of Land Management in Washington, DC.

    Relations between the Abenakis and the lumber company were worsening each day. Recently a rumor had begun to circulate that the lumbering company had been granted permission by the BLM to dam up the creeks that flowed through Errol. The rumor was very true. Damming up the creeks would allow for the formation of a man-made lake on which the lumbering company could float fleshly cut trees and move timber from the northern woods to the Androscoggin River. In the flooding of the area, the old town of Errol would be destroyed and a new town would have to be built at another location. So in the spring of 1910 after deciding to move the town of Errol to the south and west of its original location, the creeks were dammed up and small charges of dynamite were exploded to reach underground springs in an attempt to hasten the speed at which the lake would be filled.

    At this point the Abenaki Tribe retreated to the North on a small remainder of the land that was once promised them. Hatred for the lumber company grew quickly among the Abenakis. Frequent raids occurred at night as the Indians plundered any valuable assets that remained in the old town before all of the buildings would be covered by the lake waters. They attacked and stripped what was left of the old General Store and they desperately attempted to get into the safe of the bank. They made their stand at the bank. While the waters rose around the bank, the Indian Tribe blocked any attempt the Clarks made to secure the bank and whatever remained in the safe. Edward Clark was killed one night as he and some farm hand attempted to get past the Abenakis.

    As the lumber company became more aware of the severity of the Indian uprising, they contracted hundreds of men to come and drive out the Abenakis. Within a few short weeks the lake became so full that the Indians had to retreat back to the north once again. Within two months there were no indications that the old town of Errol ever existed. The lumber company continued to clear cut the forests, the Indians were bidding their time and the new town of Errol was becoming vital. Seth Clark, Ethan’s grandfather was put in charge of the new Community Bank of Errol.

    Ethan stopped his reminiscing about the past and replaced the photograph back in the envelope in which it had been mysteriously delivered. Now he wondered, where this photo had come from and why now, with just a few days left before the trial would be concluded. Ethan cleared his head and gathered his remarks to the court. But from that moment on lingering doubt would haunt him and eventually cause his boss to wonder if Ethan was going to do what he had been told – to win this case by whatever means possible.

    Reply
    • Sondra

      Hey Jon… It’s wonderful that you have started on this story.
      The only thing I can say is….so far so good!!! Keep writing!!!
      Sondra

    • Jonathan Hutchison

      Thanks. This is as far as I have gone with chapter two. Now I need to go back and add some action, description and cleaning up in general. Thanks for your encouragement.

  10. TerriblyTerrific

    Lots of support in this article here. I feel like I can write anything, in any genre. But, for now, I will stick with what I think I know. Thank you!

    Reply
  11. Fetzy 11

    I really love the write practice. The posts, articles etc in this website is soo helpful! I’m delighted to say! I’m 13 and it is my biggest dream to become an author since I was 9:) I’m finally taking a step forward and I’m going to participate in a competition for kids & teens. It is, of course, a story writing competition. You should write a story and submit it and the winning story will be published. It can be a short story or just a book that you’ve written and if it’s a book, it will be published (if you win of course)
    I don’t really care about winning, but I just want to try this. I have 18 days to write a book and I’m taking it as a challenge. No, it isn’t easy because I’ve been writing a horror story for more than 1 year and I’m still not done with it. But I can do it. I’m not relying on winning this, because even if I don’t, I’ll have a completed book that I can publish immediately in some other way.
    I’m going to write a story about an orphan in the arabian sands. I’m really working hard on it and hope I finish it in 18 days.

    Reply
    • Jonathan Hutchison

      Stay at it. Dream away and let those dreams encourage you. When you do face occasional discouragement, find a friend who will help you get back on track. There are miraculous lives that can serve as your role models. Go for it.
      Jon

    • Fetzy 11

      Thank you! I will:)

    • Carol Anne Olsen Malone

      Good for you, Fetzy. I didn’t start writing seriously until I was in my 50s. Much better to start younger, I think. Good luck.

    • Fetzy 11

      Thanks a lot! I do find writing interesting, a lot better than watching tv cause while writing or reading, you get to imagine things your own way. 🙂

    • 709writer

      You can do it, Fetzy 11. Keep up your optimism and write, write, write. If you need any feedback for your work, you’re more than welcome to post here. Good luck! : )

    • Fetzy 11

      Thankyou so much! I will definitely! I actually do have an update!:)

    • Fetzy 11

      Thanks a lot for those who replied:) I literally did not expect. I actually decided to opt out of this competition because there are some problems regarding it. I’ve got a chance to participate in a huge workshop/event for writers where loads of famous authors (250+) will be coming to the event to give us ideas and tips. There’s also a competition to write a short story with maximum 1000 words and I’m finding it difficult to write a short story. It’s just not my thing. The whatsapp messages that I send for instance, are really long. I don’t get how to write a story that’s 1000+ words. Can I get any tips for writing a short story? Thank you. (Also, I’m fishing out for some posts on write practice about short stories and stuff so I’m sure it’ll help)

  12. Anh Nguyen

    Ruthanne,

    Inspirational words! What I do on days when writing is hard is to show up and do it anyways. On a TED talk, someone said that sometimes all you need to do is to show up and be the vessel. Just be the source, and let the words flow through you.

    That and having a consistent routine has helped me a lot to keep myself on track even during hard times in my life.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Cheers,
    Anh

    Reply
    • Tina

      What has started to help, for me, was on gaia.com—some of the motivational documentaries; and – better – the Success 3.0 Summit TV shows … in particular Tom Chi’s talk “Mental De-Bugs”, which could have also been available on TED for all I know … it was more directed towards scientists and visual artists than it was towards writers. But all of those types of things are … they are oriented towards creative thinkers!

      The best takeaway I got from it was: “stay in the medium” … the “knowledge gap could be closed (just so much)”. In other words, limit research time, severely limit planning time (in the science world, Chi refers to that as gathering “preliminary data”) …. in the writing world, this means just write the actual work itself!

  13. gemma feltovich

    Kirie changed into her dark green summer dress and her mother braided her hair, all the while they could hear Uncle Avarus and Dad in the kitchen. When her mother was done, Kirie faced away from the mirror and took a shaky breath.
    “You’ll be alright, I promise,” her mother said after a moment, but her brow was furrowed just the same.
    “But we don’t even know where they’re taking me. What if they try to kill me or something? None of them exactly seemed nice.” The silence hovering dangerously in the air worked its way into Kirie’s ears and settled there, stuffing them with cotton, thick and itchy and dry against her skin, which had gone cold with dread- had been drained of its usual light brown color. She gulped down the lump in her throat, let herself be embraced by freckled arms. Her mother kissed her head. She kept her lips there for a few moments longer than she needed to.
    “You’ll be fine.” Kirie almost didn’t notice the crack in her voice. Almost.
    They walked out of her bedroom, a little more like a closet than a room, and into the kitchen. The tension was tangible until Artio ran up and hugged Kirie’s legs. She sat on the floor and pulled him onto her lap, rocking back and forth until he started squirming to be free. This seemed to clear the air, if only a bit. She stood and hugged her father. They all left the bakery, which had closed down only an hour beforehand, and started down the street toward the festivities. You could hear it before you saw it- a mixture of screaming children and violins and a general murmur of low conversation. The dances hadn’t started yet. They emerged into the square and Kirie suddenly felt exposed; she tugged down her skirt, which already fell to her knees, but her mother swatted her hands away. “You look beautiful,” she said. Kirie smiled nervously.
    Aunt Nalai tugged away Uncle Avarus to a stand selling sugared lemons, her favorite treat. The Silversun Bakery usually had a market stand, but they had decided to instead sell them ahead of time and enjoy the festivities together instead of in turns. Kirie liked that decision- she didn’t want to be alone where people could judge her in the open. She realized she was wringing out her tail, which wasn’t wet at all. She dropped it and took a deep breath.
    In the corner of her eye, she saw Edric already flirting, standing near a willowy girl with the legs and hooves of a gazelle. She seemed to make some excuse and walked away. Edric noticed Kirie and walked- no, bounced- over. She smiled into her cup of juice.
    “You seem to be having a good time,” she remarked. He grinned. Just then, the music started up for the first dance and they made their way into the large space that had been cleared. They stepped from side to side, twirled, switched places, all the while clasping each other’s forearms. Then it was over- thank the gods, because she hated that one. Too much time for conversation, not enough actual dancing. They took a break and sat on a nearby water barrel, drinking blackberry juice and not talking. Edric was the sort of person who didn’t really bother with small talk or introductions; when there was something to be said, he said it, and when there wasn’t, he was quiet. That was just how he was, and you either accepted it or tried to get him to make small talk. The latter never worked.
    Then the next dance was up, one where you had to switch partners. People kept switching places so as not to end up with Kirie, and she bit her tongue, but eventually the musicians played and she was having too much fun swishing around and twirling that she forgot about that. Edric was a surprisingly good dancer, but the second man she danced with was not. He kept stepping on her toes, but despite being out of breath and red in the face where Kirie wasn’t, he made conversation; albeit with many pauses so he could breathe, but conversation nonetheless. She was impressed, and actually talked back. Apparently the man was a merchant from a town far away from here, in the desert, and he moved here with his wife and child only last year. Then she had to switch partners again and the man was lost in the flurry of faces lit by the rising moon and the faintly blue light that still lingered in the air from earlier that evening.
    Kirie skipped the next dance- a slow dance, which she couldn’t stand- but participated in most of them. As the night grew older she felt herself getting more and more comfortable there, though that may have been the small amount of alcohol in the blackberry juice.
    The last dance was one that everybody participated in, even the little children. They all stood in a circle around the fountain and then they stamped their feet and clapped and grasped the hands of the person next to them, spinning around and around until all the stars in the sky blurred together into a painting of careless brush strokes. And the children in between the circle of people and the fountain threw flower pollen onto them as they danced; it stuck to their skin. When it was over, people rinsed themselves off in the fountain, splashing their faces with the cool water. Kirie could see couples sitting on the edge of the fountain, half delirious with sparkling wine and adrenaline, trying to touch each other’s skin as much as they could with children watching, giggling like it was the first time they’d ever kissed.
    Kirie actually forgot about what would happen, and she floated on her back in the water, feeling the warm summer breeze on her face and feeling as if she was stuck in a dream. She eventually climbed out of the fountain and let her wet hair, chest fur, and tail drip dry. It was only when they arrived that she came to realize that she wasn’t in a dream. She didn’t remember much after that- her head was clouded with blackberry juice and tears- but she remembered picking Artio up off the ground and holding him to her until the elders forced her to put him down and climb into their caravan. They drove away, and Kirie remembered one more thing. She remembered thinking that their stupid, fancy wooden seats deserved to be wet, and she let her waterlogged dress soak the backseats.

    (Sorry this got to be so long; I got carried away)

    Reply
    • Carol Anne Olsen Malone

      As you should do when you write. Intriguing story. I’m unclear about the characters with chest fur and tails. But interesting

    • gemma feltovich

      Yes, this is about the third chapter, so it would be confusing if you hadn’t read the first bit. It’s sort of confusing anyway, and I’m thinking about just cutting the part-animal aspect, but it’s a central point of the story: they take her because her father (biological, not the one in this) was part wolf (predator, which puts him in the upper-class) and her mother was part swallow, which puts her in the lower class. It’s supposed to be the first move of the war that they capture her as a warning to marry within your class, but I suppose I could still just change it to be a random lower-class person they picked to send a message to the rebels.
      (I’m talking to myself a bit at this point; I’ll write this down on my plot instead of here. Ha)

    • Bruce Carroll

      I’m not sure why, but I found this absolutely terrifying. I don’t know if you meant for it to be eerie, but if you did, well done.

      Specifically, I feel frightened both for Kirie and in general by the strange characters, which seem to be neither human nor centaurs and bizarrely seem to have both hooves and toes.

    • gemma feltovich

      I didn’t mean it to be eerie, except perhaps in the last bit. Thank you! I’ll think about that.

  14. Axis Sheppard

    Next part of my “work-in-process” will be to polish my story. I have my two main characters and a few others, but the core of my story is currently missing. I have what will make one of my characters in trouble, but I still doesn’t have THE big problem for my two characters to stick together. I guess determining that main problem will be the next step. I will probably do some other writing exercises; sometimes, I end up with news ideas while I was free-writing and I can continue going forward in my draft. After I will have decided the greatest idea of getting (all of) my characters in trouble, I will add some other important characters and I will finally start writing it!

    Ps: Thank you for this motivating article by the way! I am trying my best, but I know my grammar is still a mess. It was encouraging to read that my work may be not all waisted. ^^

    Reply
  15. Bruce Carroll

    Fire. And smoke. Acrid smoke filling her nostrils.

    But mostly fire. The flames. The brightness of them as they surrounded her. Consuming the unfamiliar building. Licking her flesh.

    She awoke with a start. The darkness was never so welcome as when she awoke from the dream.

    The firefighters and doctors had said she was most likely unconscious when the fire was started, but Akiko wondered if she had awakened, if only for a moment. As for her sight, no one could say for certain when she had lost it. It seemed to be from around the time of the fire. She could remember the sensation of sight, just as she could “see” in her dream. But she could no longer experience vision. Seeing was one of the few things she could remember from before the fire. Before three months ago.

    The doctors were still trying to determine exactly why she couldn’t see. She did not appear to have any physical injury to her eyes. That meant her blindness was either neurological or psychological. Either way, it didn’t really matter. Her waking world was darkness.

    Just as she wondered what time it was her alarm clock buzzed. She reached out to where it sat on her nightstand and switched it off. She sat up, reluctant to start her day. She could already smell the bacon Mrs. Olsen was cooking downstairs.

    She washed her face and got dressed. She never had to worry about what colors she wore. When Mrs. Olsen had bought her clothes, Akiko had asked for everything to be either black or charcoal grey, so she wouldn’t have to worry about clashing. No one at school ever said anything about her clothes, so she could only assume her foster mother had complied with her request.

    As for school itself, Akiko felt very fortunate to be attending the public high school. The institute for the blind worked closely with the school and provided a personal aide for Akiko in the form of Mr. Treacher. “Mr. Treacher, the blind teacher,” the students called him, though, of course, it was Akiko who was blind.

    She ate her breakfast quickly. She was anxious to get to school, not so much for the classwork, but because of Sarah. The two girls shared several classes and had become friends. It was Sarah who had told Akiko that Tommy Porter liked her.

    “He always eats lunch with you,” Sarah had pointed out. “And you should see the way he looks at you.”

    Akiko had been skeptical. “Why would Tommy Porter be interested in a blind girl?” she had asked her friend.

    “You are the new girl,” Sarah replied. “The new girls always attract the attention of a few guys, no matter who they are. And you are cute. Exotic-looking. I think Jenny McGivens is jealous of you.”

    “Jenny McGivens the cheerleader?” Akiko had asked incredulously.

    “Mmm hmm,” Sarah answered. “Besides, you haven’t seen what Tommy looks like.”

    Akiko giggled. “Is he ugly? Deformed or something?”

    “I’m not saying anything,” Sarah said smugly. “Just don’t sell yourself short.”

    This particular day, Akiko was looking forward to both Sarah and Tommy. Recently Tommy had made it a habit of reading to Akiko in the library between lunch and their next class. She had been learning Braille with Mr. Treacher, but she had a long way to go until she was fluent. Besides, all of the books in the school library were regular print books.

    Akiko took the bus, naturally. It was crowded and noisy and smelled of unwashed teenagers and clashing perfumes. Akiko found it difficult to engage in conversation on the bus.

    Reply
    • gemma feltovich

      Hello! Your writing is intriguing, but to keep the reader engaged, it’s a good idea to not have so much exposition in the beginning; more action. The dialogue is a bit cliche, as well, so maybe think about that. Otherwise, keep working on it! (If it isn’t just a short short)

    • Bruce Carroll

      Thanks for your comments. Actually, I hated this piece, and I hated posting it (mostly for the reasons you’ve already mentioned). But the assignment was to write for 15 minutes and post that, so that’s what I did.

    • Tina

      This isn’t at all bad. Does she have an overdeveloped sense of touch? In other words, would Akiko try to touch any part of Tommy’s body—like his hand, his shoulder? Would Sarah have mentioned anything she saw of interactions with the character, Tommy that were nonverbal if it didn’t involve touching, or if it did?”
      Does Akiko ever smile noticeably?
      Could she hear loads of gossip from strangely far distances away (overdeveloped sense of hearing—I realize that that’s the stereotypical one)?
      I getting the impression Akiko is the one with superhuman abilities in realms having nothing to do with sight …

    • Bruce Carroll

      Thank you for your kind words. I hadn’t thought of including touch in Akiko’s relationship with Tommy. (And I feel kind of stupid for that.)

      Akiko is, as you have surmised, a super-heroine of sorts. Her senses — hearing, touch, smell — are all heightened, but her strongest sense is her sense of spatial relationships. She can put an object down and, as long as no one moves it, pick it up again hours later. (Notice she doesn’t fumble as she turns off her alarm clock.) This heightened awareness of her surroundings becomes evident later when we discover (along with Akiko herself) she has extensive martial arts training.

      As for smiling, I think Akiko smiles a lot. She would be aware of this, of course, but she might not realize whether others see it or what their reaction is. I suppose I should mention her smiling so the reader understands that.

      Thanks again. I feel like I have something with which to work once again.

    • Tina

      Please don’t feel stupid. I had been one half of a coupled relationship with a man who was going blind; and once had a legally blind friend. I also do know, firsthand, that witnessing a highly developed kinesthetic sense (in little, everyday ways—not just prototypical “black belt” ways) made me—a cerebral, hardly physical person—gape endlessly in awe.
      On the other hand, I am in great awe of your mining Akiko for her prototypical attributes. I’ve been waaaaay short on that in my trying to wrestle with Krisha’s “everyman”-ness … I’ve got to kick that (mostly) to the curb in composing the character. In sum, the reader is interested in the vast, (hopefully) enchanted forest—rarely the trees.

    • Bruce Carroll

      Thanks, Tina. This story is turning out to be a YA adventure, so I agree, Akiko should be prototypical.

      I had a blind friend once. I distinctly remember him carrying his cane in the crook of his arm instead of using it. I have a scene in which Akiko does the same. Actually, with her superhuman senses, she rarely uses a cane. My friend sometimes went cane-less, too.

  16. Susan W A

    oooohhhhh … lovely, Ruthanne. Thanks for this post and the thoughtful quotes, insights and encouragement.

    Reply
  17. Alyssa Elwood

    The rattle of wooden wheels over cobblestone pulled Gaston from his easy sleep. As the heavy-laden cart passed his open window, golden sunlight pricked his sleepy eyes open. Gaston stretched his 6-foot 4-inch frame and yawned happily. In a fluid and practiced move, he rose from the bed and fell promptly to his morning routine of push-ups, lunges, and assorted calisthenics. After a rousing session where he broke his record of 200 push-ups, Gaston dressed in a red tunic and brown leggings. A large buckled belt and leather boots completed his outfit. On his mind was a general plan for the new day. First, he would break his fast at the inn. Perhaps his town folk friends would be up for a hunting venture this weekend. Plans would be made!

    In good spirits, Gaston started down the road from his cottage towards the business area of Province. The streets grew noisier as he made his way towards the Wolf Inn and Tavern. Padgett the Innkeeper was sweeping the stoop with a bare-looking broom. His clothing was rumpled and stained. Gaston, very nearly bouncing, walked forward and boomed “A grand morning to you Padgett!” and chuckled as he passed through the door.

    “A grand morning to you as well.” Padgett responded, smiling despite his tiredness. He followed Gaston inside. The interior of the lower floor of the inn was dim. There were windows in each wall, but they were darkened by soot from the fireplace that constantly burned. No small amount of cobwebs hung from the corners of the low ceiling. Padgett swept the floor weekly and wiped the tables as needed, and that was good enough for Gaston. A man snored into the bartop, and other was quietly eating from a bowl in the far corner. Gaston took his normal seat between the fireplace and a window. As the morning drew on, his friends Parren, Tyeis, and Larue would join him at the stout table. For now, he was the first. “A dozen eggs and a pint, good man!” He called as he took a seat.

    Reply

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