I read a post by Lorca Damon about letting your writing cool for awhile before you pick it back up again. Her first novel she wrote in 2009 was stuffed in a box until this year when she pulled it out to edit. Despite her mother saying it was a work of great fiction (like the awesome momma she is), Lorca could tell it needed a lot of revision. I’m eager to see what becomes of it now that it’s aged a few years.
I wrote my first novel in November of 2008 during National Novel Writers Month. I sat down and wrote out 50,000 words poured straight from my thrumming ribcage where it bled into my word processor and became words on the screen. (How I did this without ruining my keyboard, I may never know.) I was especially proud of the first chapter and the emotion evoked within. Every moment lived by the main character was heart-wrenching glory. I spent the month of November pumping out each and every word. At 11:53 pm on November 30th, I had jotted down my very last word. I’d spent three hours filling in details in the chapters I’d written because I ran out of places to go in the story. I had no idea what else to write other than detailing out the ways of my writing failure.
I hit submit. I won NaNo. I put the story away and didn’t even want to THINK about writing through the month of December.
I actually didn’t write much other than a few short stories and fan fiction bits for the rest of the year.
Enter November 2009. I passed my state board exam, I’d found a job in my career field and I was looking at moving to Columbus. When NaNo time rolled around again, I pulled out my old story and started reading through it. Other than a few nuggets of joy, the rest of the story was CRAP. I put it back in its box and started a new novel for 2009.
Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s now 2012.
I finally pulled Baby Boy back out of the crate again this year. That entire first chapter I’d been crazy about was polished up to the best of my ability and sent to an editor who was looking for urban fantasy and horror. She offered to take a look.
She sent it back before she could even get through the first three pages, bless her heart. She said the chapter was too graphic and raw to be a first chapter. She suggested it be broken up as flashbacks, dreams or remembrances through the book. She also told me to tighten my writing, cut out a lot of pronouns and suggested I get either a beta reader or a crit partner. Or both. She then strongly suggested both.
Given she even took the time to look it over for me and give me any feedback at all, I was thankful. She didn’t have to do that. She didn’t have to do that at all. I was overwhelmed and I don’t know that she actually knows just how appreciative I am. It both gave me hope that I wasn’t a complete talentless hack, but it let me know I had a long way to go if I actually wanted published.
That first chapter I’d sent to her became a prologue. I cut down 6 pages to maybe a page and a half. Very little is the same at all. I rewrote, I revised, I submitted it to my crit group.
The crits were good. I made revisions based on their suggestions and resubmitted.
Then they hit me with both barrels. Bam! Bam! Dead.
It both gave me hope that I wasn’t a complete talentless hack, but it let me know I had a long way to go if I actually wanted published.
Reading back through everything I’ve done has let me see it with fresh eyes. Yes, it may be good, but it can always use some improvement. I’m not giving up. There are times, though, I want to rip the words out at the roots, put them in a stainless steel shaker and pour them out as a finished martini. I wouldn’t be able to see where I needed improvement if I hadn’t let it mellow. I also wouldn’t have skin thick enough to take a crit if I didn’t let it sit.
Writing is like birthing and raising a child. It takes time, patience and a little bit of sleep deprivation.