The first few days of revising my novel draft were deeply depressing. I was glad to read from Demian Farnworth that this is not uncommon. He compares revisions to shoveling snow in a snowstorm*: No matter how much you shovel, you look behind you and everything you just did has to be done again. Add to that a crippling anxiety about how completely awful and probably unsalvageable the sidewalk under all that snow is, and you’ve got it.
It helped somewhat to print it out. There’s something deeply satisfying about words on paper. It’s more real that way. Sorry, Kindle, but a screen will never be the same.
I’m talking to you about revisions, because yours really needs them, dear.
In an effort to cheer me up when I was worried about my own draft, Carey found part of your draft online, and showed it to me. It is really pretty rough. I’m being kind. It is awful. He thought it would cheer me up to see that mine is at least better than yours. It didn’t. I felt so sorry for you. And then I thought, “That author has no idea just how bad it is. She thinks it’s great–it’s her baby. Would I know if mine were that bad? Probably not. Maybe it is.”
Still. I handed off the first five chapters of my partially revised book to Carey last night, still rough but readable at least. He said (drum roll please!): He likes it so far. He is, in fact, obligated to say that, of course. It’s part of the contract.
What he is *not* obligated to say is that he is being honest and he still really likes it. And he did and he does. He even laughed out loud at one point. He asked me for more.
It’s funny that what other people think matters so much, isn’t it? If I slave over a blog entry and turn out something that I think is really amazeballs but nobody reads or comments on it, I start to genuinely believe it was kind of crappy. It becomes one of my least favorites, unlikely to ever be resurrected again. But if I toss one off all in a hurry and run about my day and come back and there are five comments and 50 views and somebody shared it on Facebook, I’m like, “Wow, I’m amazing. This is the awesomest blog post EVA.”
So anyway. Carey has really great taste in books. The best. And he likes my book. Honestly. So obviously, my book is the awesomest book ever. Well, it’s good, anyway. He didn’t actually say it’s the awesomest book ever, so it’s really just that it’s the awesomest book I’ve ever written. Which is absolutely, swear to goodness, the truth.
But none of that matters, and I’m sorry for being kind of boasty in a letter about how much your draft sucks. The central point is, I did it. I wrote a draft. And even if it’s as awful as your first draft, it’s okay. Because you know what? I’m so proud of you. You did something most people never do. So what if your first draft sucked. Everyone’s does. Maybe you went on and fixed it already, anyway. Who knows, maybe in some form it’s a published novel somewhere now and you’re laughing at little newbie me worrying about whether my first draft is good. I believe in you. So I’m going to believe in me, too.
My book has a climax and a conclusion and lots of literarily mentionable things like foils and subplots and imaginative environments and stuff, and at least half of that I didn’t even put there. I mean, I wrote the words, but I didn’t mean to put in themes and motifs and fancy plot twists. They just magically appeared after the draft was done. Maybe those elves really do come in the night.
Anyway. Read Demian’s blog post. It’s by far the best thing about this letter. Scratch that. I will have confidence in my work. This is an AWESOME LETTER and you WERE RIGHT TO READ IT. Now go read Demian’s post too, because it’s ALSO awesome.
P.S. I know this is a really crappy letter to address to someone whose first novel draft sucks. Sorry about that. Except, it’s not really crappy, because it’s really a letter to me, for all those cringe-worthy things I’ve ever written. Which is a lot. And that’s cool. Dear me: Keep writing the cringe-worthy stuff, because without some of that, nobody would ever write the good stuff. And without the good stuff, this world would be a poor place indeed. Sincerely me.