In 2009 I completed my first novel as part of National Novel Writing Month.
In 2012, after 3 more NaNo-wins and in my opinion completely unsalvageable but finished first drafts, I finally got up the courage to go back to that first novel and start editing it.
I went through the novel, editing and shifting and refining it over the course of several months. By the start of spring 2013 I thought it was time to show it to other people. I even took part in PitchMas, a twitter agent/editor pitching session.
I am very grateful for this, because it taught me two things:
1. My novel idea can generate interest
2. It needs a complete rewrite
Now the agent I corresponded with only suggested changing the start to be more dynamic, but it opened my eyes to a whole load of other problems that my friends would have never pointed out to me. So now I am starting from scratch, which is terrifying in itself, and adding a new POV character, which will be very challenging, and just generally trying to avoid making the same mistakes I did last time.
The reasons I am sharing this is because I want to learn from my mistakes, and maybe you can too. So next time, I will:
1. Look at the big picture; does the story stand out among everything else on the bookshelves right now?
2. Create more emotional distance. After the first draft is done, it’s ok to accept that you need to start from scratch and rewrite the book with a clearer picture of what’s going on. Like Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.”
3. Not waste time polishing a turd, even/especially when people close to you say it’s not a turd at all. Sure there might be hidden gems in the text, but that doesn’t matter if the overall plot has holes in it as big as, or just lacks action in general.
4. Trust my instincts. When a novel is worth editing, then it is worth rewriting as well. It shouldn’t take 3 years to figure that out.
Now I’m sure there are people out there who can write something on the first go, and only have to edit it later on, but I am not (yet) one of those people. And even though I’ve written other novels since, this is still the one I think is most likely to be published (based on nothing but instinct and years of reading). So I am diving in, scared but determined, convinced that I have something worth saying. I just hope I will manage to convey it on the page.
Wish me luck!