I am fairly new to the idea of taking myself seriously as a writer. I am working on my first novel, it's the first time I've created anything resembling fantasy, and as far as I can tell, my experience has been fairly abnormal so far. Most advice I see for new writers follows the formula of "write a lot of stuff, learn how and why it sucks, toss it, write something new, repeat." My process has been similar to that except at the "toss it" step, I powerwash what I have down to a few core nuggets and start rebuilding. After many cycles of this process, the result has been quite a bit of world-building, and an assorted pile of pretty solid story elements; but no real story. A side effect of this has also been that I have spent far longer than normal in the planning stage of my novel–years, to be honest.
Naturally, this was really discouraging for a while. I spent a lot of time kicking myself for not being able to successfully move on to the next steps without producing something that crumbled. On several occasions, I wondered if it was just better to abandon it and move on to something else. But I always decided against it because I hadn't lost my excitement yet. I had created a world I really found interesting. The characters were becoming way more fleshed out. I was still excited about what I could make from that pile of nuggets and story elements. As discouraging and painfully drawn out as my process had been, it was producing something I could really see potential in.
So I have been continuing with this process, and thankfully, the pace has picked up significantly recently. I actually am starting to form the basic skeleton of a story with those nuggets. Which may not sound like a big deal, but it is huge. It doesn't even matter that it's dreadful and wobbly in its current state. The fact that I have some of my nuggets arranged in any sort of structure that isn't crumbling–that is just stable enough to build off of and mould–that is an enormous and exciting step for me.
At the same time, I have also been reading a lot of advice on this sub lately that has been extremely helpful, both encouraging and critical. Especially the threads from people who work for publishers, which have given me a new perspective on the whole writing process (I hadn't really considered the publishing aspect yet since I'm nowhere near that stage and am not banking on this being my main income). But as helpful as that has been, I have also found a fair bit of discouraging advice that has left me struggling with self-doubt. There are lots of opinions shared along the lines of "if your work checks these boxes = bad writing." Classic fantasy elements, especially Tolkien-ish ones like dwarves and elves = cheesy and corny. YA novels with any sort of dysfunctional world that developed from the modern one (and if the catalyst for that change was an apocalyptic event) = cliche and derivative. X=cringy, stahp, don't do it.
My novel, to a degree, checks both of those boxes. Does that automatically disqualify my writing? Maybe not from being successful, as those elements became a cliche for a reason, but does it disqualify it from being "good writing"? What about the fact that the elves and dwarves in my world were a sort of fresh take on the idea, similar to when zombies changed from magical voodoo creatures to the result of a virus? Or that the fantastical elements of the world are grounded in realism enough to be believable? Is an apocalypse-spawned world order change automatically cheesy, or does it matter that it provides a good historical backdrop to my world and flows well with all my nuggets? What if it's applied in a way that's tasteful, fresh, and nuanced?
I may have built a really interesting world, but what really counts is if it is going to matter to anybody else. And even though I'm aware that nothing matters more for getting people to care than having a well-written story and characters, fantasy runs the risk of being corny and cheesy more than most genres.
Now obviously all of these are just people's opinions, not laws. Usually, when I start to struggle with these doubts it doesn't take long for me to conclude that there must be exceptions to all of these claims. Even with the oldest genres, subjects, and tropes, there are always artists who find niches to inject some fresh creativity. So even though I know it's possible, I can't help but have a little lingering doubt about whether my work is original enough to accomplish the status of good. How can I be certain, or at least mildly reassured that I'm doing enough to escape the label of "bad writing." So far, my approach has just been to take the role of a harsh critic and try to tear things apart that I'm unsure about and see if I'm still satisfied with it, and it seems to be working ok. But I felt the need to vent into the void of the internet about my writing journey so far and what I'm currently struggling with.
If anybody has thoughts or comments feel free. Has anybody taken this long to plan a novel? Especially interested to hear from people who have an "x=bad writing" opinion and if there are any conditions/exceptions in your view?