It’s such a great feeling typing that last word, printing out that last page, and finally looking at the stack of paper that makes up the first draft of your novel. I’ve done it once before, a novel that took too long, was written with too little experience, and ultimately deemed (by me) to be beyond salvaging (for now). Just this morning I did it again with my second novel. It’s a victory of time and patience, discipline, and frustration, but it’s bittersweet because that’s the easy part.
Easy part you say?! Yes, easy part, I say. Anyone can do this, anyone can pound away at a keyboard for six months to a year(s) and put enough words down to constitute a novel length body of work. Will it work? Will it sell or be considered good? No idea, that’s the hard part, but not the hardest part I think. The hardest part is looking down at that newly printed mountain you just climbed over the course of a year or more, and realizing you have to climb it again. Only this time you have to see if climbing it a different way is easier, more interesting, or gives better views of the land around.
Editing, to me, is the hard part. I have to go back over words I wrote and ask if I could do better. Well, if I could, why didn’t I do it right the first time? That’s always been my issue with editing, even back to high school papers. I’m not a person that second guesses himself so when I make a decision I usually stick to it. Going back over my work I have to try and think of ways I might have done it differently and that’s generally against my nature. I’m sure I’m not the only one that has trouble with this.
Then there’s all the advice out there. Kill your darlings, avoid cliches, show not tell, and all the other catch phrases that have become so…cliche it’s staggering. At what point does an avoided cliche become so rare that it’s acceptable again? If everyone writes using the same advice, why are so many books so different? How infuriating is the phrase ‘show not tell’ when you aren’t doing a picture book and all you are doing anyway is telling?
I’ve heard that getting published is like being struck by lightning so here I go, up this mountain again, and when I’m down the other side I’ll be standing in the middle of a field, in a rainstorm, shouting for lighting to him me right on the spot. I know many others are climbing their own mountain, for the first time, or the fifth time, and I share your frustration, and excitement. It’s not always fun, but we do it because we can’t stop, we have a story to tell and we want to share it. So, I got my red pen and my rope, I’ll see you on the other side.