Don’t Let Your Work Go Near the Proverbial Cliff
This past week I became overwhelmed with the prospect of editing and re-writing my first novel that I nearly thought about throwing this novel over the proverbial cliff. Don’t fall to this temptation. It is an easy temptation, especially with your first novel, which can be seen as a practice novel or a training novel. It is a work of art, your art. It still has intrinsic value.
In Steven King’s book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, he described how his wife saved the character Carrie from the trash can. Anne Lamott in her book, Bird by Bird, has an entire chapter devoted to Shitty First Drafts. I am not alone in this and neither are you. I think we all write poorly especially when it is our first book or short story or draft.
My family convinced me not to assign the novel to the trash heap and they talked it back away from the edge of the cliff right before it jumped into the abyss. I also reached out to a writer friend, Sheryl Lee, and she too encouraged me to save it from the trash. Her advice was that even if I didn’t publish as is, it could be used in other ways or other places. I took everyone’s advice and I’m glad I did. As difficult as it has been to face the flat dialogue, the overuse of ’that’, and too numerous to count run on sentences, I began to see the possibility in these words.
I swallowed my pride, took a deep breath, and sent the first five chapters to an editor. And I am happy I did. The editor somehow found something worthwhile in my jumbled mess of words. In getting the first sections back and reading the clearer passages and tighter sentences, I suddenly became ‘unlocked’ from my self-imposed prison. I have been able to view the rest of my novel with a clearer and more insightful eye. I’ve been able to start editing on the parts ahead and starting to see for myself that the words are not so bad as I had feared. They are decent. Sometimes even good.
Yes, it is still overwhelming to look at my novel in its entirety and think of all the passages that need to be re-written or the chapters that I have decided needs to be added. But I will take Anne’s advice and take it Bird by Bird.
Don’t Give Up
The Moral of this story is to not throw something away that you have written. Get someone else’s opinion before you decide to chunk it, or in my case, before I put it somewhere safe in my hard drive where I would never be able to find it again. Don’t give up on something you have written.
May Your Muse Be With You
If you have any questions or comments about this blog post, please comment below. If you like this type of post, let me know as well! Have a great week!