I suppose this post is more geared towards writers of my age and younger, or maybe any writer new to the game. (I really need to stop using all these modifiers. I sound ambiguous all the time. Maybe I should use the word “I” more sparingly as well, especially since I plan to write first-person novels in the future.)
I’m not sure if everyone reading this has felt the same, but there is one thing I remember in particular when I first decided to write a novel. I thought my writing was brilliant. I basked in the supposed glory of my perfect prose, my amazing characters, my dazzlingly clever plotting. I kept extending my novel as I realized it had to be longer until it hit about 30,000 words and then I began the sequel immediately. Every single word I wrote of that first ‘novel’ is gone, along with most of the plotting. I completely rewrote it to work with what was originally the sequel, which instead became book one. I thought I was pretty smart at first when I wrote that old beginning. I’ve blocked much of it from memory, but I do recall that the first line was “Duck!” and was immediately followed by a rather nonsensical fight scene.
This glow lasted through the two years that it took for me to write the first draft, though after a while I knew that the first part had to go. However, I thought the rest was perfect. Pride is a dangerous thing.
It’s an important step in any writer’s life when she finally realizes that all her work needs improvement. Sure, it can be depressing to look back on your writing and find yourself unable to read a sentence without finding something wrong with it, but it’s healthy in the long run. Well, provided you don’t do a Sylvia Plath and burn the only copies of a good chunk of your work. No fire allowed, sorry. I know burning things can be fun, but you must resist.
With this new self-awareness comes the opportunity for growth. Finding fault in your work can work as an inspiration to do better, to repair the problems and strive to not repeat them in the future. You might go through a stage of despair when you discover your hard-won prose is not nearly as good as you’d thought it was, like I did, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The trick is to not give up, which is something writers will have to remember over and over again, especially if they want to be published like many of you and I do. Let’s not kid ourselves: the road ahead is full of bumps and potholes and puddles and roadkill. But we will persevere. We will reach our destination.
For me, at this point, that destination is publication.