The other night, I pulled out the first book I ever wrote. The unpublished manuscript has been sitting in a drawer for about five years. An exile I imposed on the material when I finished it.
I immediately started my second book, one I already sensed had better developed characters. Two and a half years later, the second book was published by a small press. (The Hourglass, Etopia Press)
So was there a difference between book #1 and book #2?
Sure. I learned more about writing during that time by:
- Taking on-line classes
- Reading everything I could find on the craft of writing
- Sitting at the computer every single day and pounding out new lines, chopping away at shitty ones, making them better and stronger.
“The only kind of writing is rewriting.” The words of Ernest Hemingway, who was simply telling it like it is.
Time passed and I completely forgot about the first book. I had a larger publisher pick up my next book, a series (Blue Moon Lake Romances, Kensington Publishing.) I even wrote a whole other book and it’s now with my agent. All this, while the first book collected dust in a drawer.
Every single day I had one goal; to produce the best quality work I possibly could. Not seeing my name in print. Not sales galore (although that would be nice).
So, back to that first manuscript. As I read through it the other night, my very first thought was “Thank God this never got published.”
Was it horrible? No. I’ll give myself credit for writing an entire book. Many writers don’t get that far. Plus, it told a cohesive story. But..
- It had weak dialogue. (almost embarrassing)
- No clear goals.
- Contrived conflict.
- Scenes that did little to move the story forward.
- Characters void of deeper motivation.
- Too many POV characters (I now see they were tossed in to create forced conflict, but the characters had no real growth so they shouldn’t have been given center stage).
- Oh, and it was too long… almost 95,000 words. Too many for the genre.
On the plus column, it has a decent plot and might serve as a good outline for another book. And it was an excellent tool to learn how to put together an entire novel.
It sure wasn’t ready for publication.
The art of writing well isn’t easy. Putting words on paper is easy. If you finished writing a whole book, you should pat yourself on the back. Then put it down for a while.
Not just two days. Try weeks. Or months. Look what I found five years later.
And while you’re waiting, go read some books in that same genre from the NY Times best-seller list, or another highly recommended source. And yes, there are some crappy books on bestseller lists; it happens. But try several. Then go pick up your book and reread it with a cup of tea. How does it compare?
Is it ready for publication? Don’t be afraid to admit it isn’t. Simply work hard, write hard, and make it a book you can promote with pride.