How I’ve Grown as a Writer Since My Debut Novel

A little over a month ago, I celebrated my fifth anniversary as a published indie author! Sometimes, I can’t believe that it has been half a decade since I first released my debut novel, Can’t Beat the Heart of a Carolina Girl. Other times, I can’t believe how much I’ve grown as a writer since I wrote the first draft of that novel at just seventeen years old.

It’s been eleven years since I finished that first draft, and five since the book was published, so there has been a lot to reflect on in terms of growth. So, in what areas have I grown as a writer in the past eleven years? Keep scrolling to find out, friends! ๐Ÿ™‚

Full Transparency Note:
I apologize for not being very organized in this post. Because of edits on The Fall, among other issues that have come up, pre-scheduling blog content has fallen to the wayside, and I’m scrambling to get this post up. Hopefully, soon, I will get back in gear for y’all quality-wise. I hate that I have pushed blogging to the back burner recently, and I just want to thank each and every one of you who are sticking around week after week. It means a lot. โค

Vastly Improved Formatting

Y’all, whenever I go back and look at the document I first wrote CBTHOACG in… whew. It’s a hot mess.

For some reason, I thought multiple characters could speak within the same paragraph. And that a single paragraph could be a couple pages long.

I used ellipses (…) as much as I used commas.

I had no clue to use the “Justified” setting for paragraphs.

The overall formatting was akin to the MLA style of high school English papers.

It was just ugly, quite frankly. XD

Thankfully, one of my friends from high school worked as a writing tutor for the university she attended at the time, and pitched in to help me out before I published the book. Ever since, I’ve ingrained her wisdom in each of my writing projects ever since, often preformatting the documents for paperbacks before I start writing in the document itself.

Learning and Implementing the Magic of Story Structure

Probably the biggest area I’ve grown in as a writer since first penning Can’t Beat the Heart of a Carolina Girl is learning the basics of story structure, and thoroughly evaluating my writing projects according to those story beats to ensure the pacing and storytelling are working for the books.

When I wrote my debut novel as a teenager, I had little knowledge of what the three act story structure was, minus what I learned in my English classes. Even then, I didn’t know how to apply it to my own writing, so I just did my own thing, and ended up with a “completed first draft” at 31,600 words.

Again, I had no idea what I was doing. But I had done something, and that’s all that mattered.

Before publishing the book, I added several new scenes, and beefed it up to somewhere around 50k, if I remember correctly. Some of the new scenes I added helped enhance the structure of Riley’s story, but, after re-reading the book since it’s been published, I’ve realized there are not enough stakes present, and Riley’s wants, fears, and misbeliefs could use serious overhauls to make her more relatable, and give her a stronger character arc.

Part of me wants to do a serious edit and rewrite the novel, adapting it to an organized story structure to enhance the reading experience and overall story, but I’m not 100% convinced I’ll ever do that. It’s my debut novel, and it serves as a learning experience. Some readers have thoroughly enjoyed it, despite all the flaws I notice in it, so I’m okay with leaving it as is for now.

Learning the Art of Character Development

I have a confession to make: Riley and her friends from Can’t Beat the Heart of a Carolina Girl feel like paper dolls to me now compared to the cast of characters from my other novels.

Riley, the book’s main character, is full of cliches. It irks me, rereading the book, to realize that the main character is a typical Mary Sue. Trent, who I wrote intending for him to be a goofball jock, is often mistaken for a nerd by readers. Carter, as one reviewer pointed out (and, looking back, I totally agree with) was too perfect and had no relatable flaws. Brett, due to his redemptive arc, was one of the only ones that I had fleshed out, and he was the perceived villain.

Taking those critiques to heart, I aimed to improve on my character development with my sophomore novel, Speak Your Mind. Learning from Abbie Emmons’s videos on YouTube, I feel that Victoria and the characters from Speak Your Mind are much more three-dimensional than those of my first book. Ever since I learned the basics of character development, and how to create irresistible character arcs that pull readers in, it has become one of my favorite aspects of writing.

Talk to Me, Arrowheads!

If you’re a fellow writer, how do you feel you’ve grown in your writing craft since writing your first novel or project? Let me know in the comments!

Aim high, stay strong, and always hit your mark.

-Allyson ๐Ÿ˜€

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As an author and blogger, my goal is to teach writers that there is a way to write realistic, thought-provoking, redemptive Christian fiction that honors God while not sugarcoating the realities of the world.ย 

7 thoughts on “How I’ve Grown as a Writer Since My Debut Novel

  1. Great lessons here. I myself have realised how terrible I am at character development and how much I suffer from white room syndrome, and that’s AFTER I completed my manuscripts. So some lessons can only appear after we’ve put in the work, and it seems that your lessons are well deserved through the effort you’ve put into your craft. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I also wish I had learned about characters’ desires, fears, and misbeliefs BEFORE my debut novel, and I have also wondered if I should make a second, improved edition of my first book! I think my dialogue has improved from my first novel’s style of perfect, text book conversations to being closer to how people actually talk. And I think you might be harder on CBTHOACG since you’re the author….reading it (before I’d ever contacted you) inspired me to self-publish Avalanche ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. I agree that your dialogue has improved a lot, though I donโ€™t think it was bad in Avalanche! Iโ€™ve really enjoyed all of your books. ๐Ÿ˜Š Oh my goodness, thank you so much. Reading that just made my day! ๐Ÿ˜Š Iโ€™m so glad you decided to publish, because youโ€™re an amazing author!

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