When I wrote my first full length novel I felt like I had conquered the world. I suppose, in a way I had conquered a world. The world of Lila Jepodia, a warrior elf princess who defeated an evil tyrannical shadow master (that would have had Tolkien’s estate calling their lawyers). I loved my character. She was perfect in every way. I loved my novel.
It was total garbage.
You might think it’s ridiculous for me to cringe at the thought of how bad my first novel was. I was only seventeen when I finished it after all. But the embarrassment comes from how freaking awesome I thought it was and I was for having written a novel! A novel! I thought writing a novel was the challenge and I had completed it.
It’s sorta like falling head over heels for a person you think is super cool. You parade them around and don’t notice that the people around you are cringing. Because that person is actually a total douche and years later you still cannot figure out where your judgement had gone.
That’s how I feel about my first novel. It was a douche. It was preachy. It was juvenile. It had all the cockiness of a teenager with none of the actual life experience.
Fast forward to a few years ago I completed a piece many many years in the making. It was not a douche. It was funny. It was weird. It was dark. It was a novel written by an adult. I spell checked it. Cleaned up a few things and sent it off to every agent I could find. I heard nothing back. I sent it out to more people. I shared it with other writers. I shared it with friends. I couldn’t figure out why half the people getting it were not finishing it and getting back to me. It was really good!
I finally signed up for an online reviewing site and I got the truth.
It was hard to read. Like really hard to read. When the first writer reviews came in I winced. By this time I had thickened my skin up a little bit. You really can’t be a writer if you don’t, but these were harsh. Harsh but true.
I was wordy. I was vague. I went into grandiose descriptions of the sky in one scene and didn’t mention what the main characters apartment looked like that she lived in through the entire story. I had too much and too little back story, depending on who you were asking.
The answer came back again and again, “This needs work.”
But I hate work. Work is boring. Work is stupid. I like making things. I like knowing things. I like doing stuff and having it just be awesome because I did it and I’m awesome.
This needs work.
Now bear in mind I had edited this manuscript 3 times already, so it’s not like I wrote the last line and thought it was done. But I did need direction for editing and that is where the online workshops really helped out. They helped me get past my laziness and just re-write the chapters that needed re-writing, with genuine, helpful criticisms to drive the new work. They pointed out gaping errors and confusions that I hadn’t even realized where there because I knew what they meant (having written it). They insisted that the reader didn’t need to know so much about a character they’d never see again. They asked why they didn’t know more about a character that kept showing up.
I’m sorry to say that book is currently on the back burner while I gear up for a total overhaul, but unlike my first novel, it will rise from the ashes, because while it “needs work”, it isn’t a douche, and I, no longer being 17 and thinking that just because I did something, must mean its awesome, finally have the patience, the balance of ego and the skill to put in the work to make it something people will want to read.
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