Woes of a Writer, to a Writer

Last night, while working on the rough draft of Devil’s Blood 3, I had to reference back to something in the first book, and the second, so I had all three documents open. Sound like a normal, ordinary event, right?

Windows 10 has this feature where if you hover your mouse over the Word icon, all the documents open will appear as miniature versions of themselves on the bottom of the screen. It was that moment, sitting there with all three document lined up, “Devil’s Blood 3, Rough Draft,” “Devil’s blood 2, Final Draft,” and “Devil’s Blood, Final Draft,” – it hit me:

I’m a writer.

(insert girlish squeal of realization/epiphany)

I am currently writing the rough draft to the third book in a series, which I’ve published. I’m a published author. People have bought my book and said nice things; strangers have bought my book and said nice things. I’ve made money from being a writer. (Not a lot, but some, nonetheless.)

I wrote the first draft of Devil’s Blood as an undergrad. It was untitled at the time, and I don’t remember what genius name I called it. “Book,” is a likely candidate. I was piecing together all these bits and pieces of settings, characters, and plot that I’d made up since my sophomore year in high school. I sat where thousands of people sit – in front of the computer trying to write that novel.

Granted, that first draft sucked. I smothered on the exposition like sunscreen on a white girl afraid of skin cancer. I had no main character; I treated all my characters like the main character, all four of them. Two-thirds of the book was backstory and character set-up. I did the common problem of trying to write too many stories in the same novel. I had dozens of loose threads that went nowhere, and a thin plot as solid as warm gelatin.

When I scored my first  beta reader, I felt like I was really getting somewhere. (First comes beta reader, then comes agent, right?) Then came the not-so-good feedback. My novel had problems, but I was reluctant to admit it. I tweaked things on a sentence level and sought a second opinion.

My next full-novel beta reader told me that my novel wasn’t good as it was, but she also said those problems could be fixed. Underneath the not-so-well written novel was a novel waiting to be polished. This time, the full-novel feedback came from someone that understood more about writing and fiction; or they were better at putting that advice into words.

It was then I realized that my novel needed a lot more work that I thought. It was after that second beta reader’s advice that I rewrote the entire novel. I started almost from scratch. Face-lift revision.

I’m looking for that very first draft of Devil’s Blood so that I can show other writers struggling with the revise/advise dance. It’s not the same book, but it’s the same story, told better (through one character, not four). I had to figure out how to narrow my lens to get to the story I wanted to tell.

I revised with what I knew about writing and danced around the feedback/revise loop until I’d arrived at what I called the final draft, the draft in which beta readers’s suggestions where simple things; the plot connected; threads met; threads reached out into the distance for a second book and a series.

So, when I say I understand how daunting it is to stare up at the seemingly endless metaphorical mountain range of writing a novel, I really do. I know what it feels like to receive advice from a beta reader that doesn’t make sense, or that makes me realize that my novel needs a lot more work that I thought, or that makes me revise and rewrite the entire novel from scratch.

I know what it’s like to feel not good enough, to assume the problems of a story to great for my puny skill and talent to fix. I know what it’s like to stare at yet another rejection letter kindly telling me “it’s just not what I’m looking for at the moment.”

I know. I also know that persistence in this business is crucial. And optimism. Remember, Writing Rule #2: Persistence. Writing Rule #5: Optimism

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