I am closing in on the completion of the 1st draft of my next novel. Actually, it’s my finally completing what I had started when I pompously decided to put out Part 1: Loss of Limb…
Wait, I didn’t even give you the name of the novel really. My mistake. I should preface these things better.
I am getting close to finishing the draft for “Of Earth and Ice,” my sci-fi dystopic story telling of a how humanity lives below the ice after Earth froze over. In one society in particular, the world meant castes and classes, boundaries that shouldn’t be broken. Yet they were being broken.
My story on writing this began more than 2 years ago, believing that I was going to publish it as a weekly web-serial. When I flaked on that after 8 episodes, I then opted to publish it as a serialized novella, much like I have been trying to do with my Gravity saga. So I put out part 1 in 2016, believing that I was going to blaze through writing it (because I was already doing such a wonderful job writing daily already! HAHAHAHAHAHA… oh sorry).
Needless to say: that didn’t happen.
The last thing I published at all was “The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle,” a YA supernatural action-adventure. Then silence. Sure, I wrote in my blog, posted poems or short stories on my site. But I didn’t publish a damn thing in the way of a novel, novella, novelette, or short story beyond the little freebies on my site.
I was slacking.
In the past, I had a pompous idea that I was capable of suddenly waking up one day and writing my brains out. Then I’d publish something, ride the wave of inspiration from that, and then be able to churn out the next part. The next book. The next saga. When that inspiration died right at the release of abook, however, I never knew how to proceed. Lather, rinse, repeat.
That’s why they call all this learning.
Maybe some of you have read that I’ve been working a lot this year on the very idea of approaching writing as a process rather than some fanciful magic brought on my mystical fits of inspiration and motivation. (Look up some earlier posts from this year.) I had to make all that happen myself. I had to learn to be comfortable falling on my ass and getting my godforsaken slacking self up to push ahead. I had to take a week like I had where after a streak of 122 days, I get a day where I simply can’t write at all and then another day where I get sick and fall short of my goal back to back, and get back up and take the next day as if I am on day 999. Just write. None of it was going to happen by magic.
Now bear with me because I have a few avenues I might run through as I write this whole thing out.
This novel I am about to finish, having been so long overdue, ended up being me realizing that I was rushing through shit, trying to just get work out the door, all the while spinning my tires. I was trying to release it in parts, thinking that it would get me more hits out there. But all it was doing was making me overlook writing the story. I wasn’t writing with consistency either.
I fixed that problem by halting my plans, which I may or may not do still (in other words, I’ve debated on renaming part 1 to just Of Earth and Ice and rereleasing it as the whole novel with the print copy too… maybe), subsequently waiting until I finish the whole 1st draft. This has allowed me a few things: adding elements to the story, changing bad decisions made early, etc, etc. Now, however, a new problem has cropped up: the idea of how good a book do I want this to be?
That’s a pretty fucking silly question, isn’t it? Hear me out. I did say bear with me. I am a writer. I am best when I write out my problems. (Plus, it’s better than talking to myself out loud.)
Being that my goal is to be a successful writer (success being that writing is my job, not that I am a mega-millionaire writer, just that I can sustain my life via writing), I have to ask myself a few questions throughout the process of writing a story. One of those is, what level of expectation do I have for this book?
In a way, I have to keep my expectations low. I already use a short cut by not using an editor, because I honestly can’t afford one at the moment. I use friends, family… you know, the beta reader collective. Some are good with picking out even the trickiest mistakes. Others will completely gloss over the most glaring errors without a second thought. When they have time. The likelihood of my putting out a spellbinding wonder of grammatical perfection is about as high as my likelihood to become pregnant. It just ain’t happening.
Even the best make occasional mistakes (I tell myself to make myself feel better).
I want the story to be engaging. I also want to get my shit out there for people to read, for better or for worse. Having sold so little since starting this journey, what am I worried about? Not selling? That’s already happening. It’s like I tell my son in baseball: you can’t expect to get a hit if you don’t swing the bat.
As I am getting close to completing this first draft, I am seriously starting to question if it’s even any good. Like buyer’s remorse or something, I am starting to question if I just wasted my time writing it at all. I love the concept for Of Earth and Ice. I love some of the characters. I like the twisted love story of two of the characters. But I question if I even did the story justice. Did I write it OK?
For this, I like to remind myself of “The Good Teacher,” the second novel I ever wrote and the first full novel I ever published. I had that story locked up for YEARS in a constant cycle of edit, revise, rewrite before eventually saying fuck-it and publishing it, for better or for worse. I am not even sure I like the story anymore. For certain, I’d write it different today. And that’s my point. Or maybe part of it.
How and what I write today shouldn’t necessarily be how and what I write tomorrow. The idea is growth as a writer. I should always be looking to change. To grow. And in that, it also doesn’t always mean that I am going to always put out a better story than my last.
Then there was another thing I read the other day. It was in a pompous book called the “48 Laws of Power.” It’s essentially a drawn out “Art of War” or “The Prince” with point of historical relevance. But it was one piece that struck me. It was about not isolating one’s self as it puts a leader or someone in power as being out of touch with reality. But it was the story of an artist who locked himself away as he worked on his masterpiece, a similar attempt at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, that caught me here. It talked about how precious the man was about his work, hiding it from everyone and keeping himself locked away, afraid of theft, judgement, or whatever else. After it’s unveiling, it ended up being a terrible failure. And it has been long forgotten with only witness accounts to tell of it.
It got me realizing something: I don’t have to get perfection, just good enough. Then let people see it. Learn from mistakes as they are found and work on it for the next story. In other words, like I had done with “The Good Teacher,” I don’t want to spend too much time hiding the story until I am 100% happy with it. I never will be. I need to get it as polished as I can make a turd and move on. At least until I can afford an editor to help me with that process, I have to learn my mistakes the hard way.
“Of Earth and Ice” is almost done, and it isn’t a masterpiece. It won’t be my best. It might not even be my best yet. If I can’t make myself OK with that, then why the fuck am I even writing?