Wednesday, June 15, 2005

As Time Goes By

When we start out with our writing, we want to GET IT OUT! It's like having a literary exorcism. Um...there's no head-spinning, but God knows there's head-hopping. And some bad grammar. Questionable style. Fragments. It's ROUGH. And we self-edit. And self-edit. And then give it two weeks. And then self-edit some more.
We edit what we have. Let's say it's literally our first book. An editor would probably wince when they read it. Or want to gouge out their ocular orbs with the nearest fountain pen. But perhaps there's a grain in there that reaches out to them. It's a good plot. The characters have interesting dialogue. SOMETHING grabs them. And then we're in. But the fun has just begun. Because you know you can do it now. The idea fountain has been tapped, and it's flowing all down your gray matter. Your brain is literally flooded with ideas, characters, and plots. You scramble to write what you can down so you can utilize it later.
Your second book is a little better. You have a feel for it. You think you've narrowed down the head-hopping and fixed the fragments. The grammar is better. But you still leave a little to be desired in the style department. You do the editing thing...repeatedly. And then you send that baby out, too. Instead of the fountain pen, the editor scratches their head and thinks it's a little better. Perhaps with a little time...
You continue to work on your craft, because practice makes perfect after all. Or at least, that's what you're hoping. And your third book spills onto the page as if it had a mind of its own. It flows seamlessly. There are no huge mistakes that make an editor swear they should have listened to their parents and gone to law school. It's a good story. Strong characters. The grammar and style are pleasing. And it feels good.

My point? Do you ever look back on your own, or another author's writing and say, "Oh my. I can't believe that was ever published?" I have. With my own and other books. Bestselling books. Books with advances that could pay for my house twice over. It gets better. It always gets better when you put your back into it.
The more I write, the better I am. I can actually see the improvement. People have commented on it. And I can see it in other authors. I'll be honest. I didn't like a lot of the early Nora books. Yep. *Gasp* *Wheeze* I just said that.
We're all incredibly immature at the beginning of our careers. It takes time. It takes commitment. And it takes a will to embrace anything and everything that can help our writing. And then we grow. And maybe someday, we'll be that author on the NYT bestselling list that never gave up. And when we read our first book, we'll put away the fountain pens. Because we need those eyes.


Rene said...

Funny, I just ran into an ms I started when I was very young, probably 20 or 21. Anyway, I started to read it, cringed in many places, but I saw my "voice." It was so clear. It was a weird feeling. I couldn't believe it. The book will never see the light of day because I'm really not that interested, but it was so cool to go back and visit my "roots."

My first complete ms was cringeable. But what a wonderful teacher. I will always love it for being such a great learning tool.

kacey said...

I was just talking about my first manuscript...from like 10? 12? years ago to some writing friends. They remembered it...and they still stayed my friends *g

chryscat said...

Rene and Kacey: YES! Last night I was thinking about my very first book I wrote. It triggered this. That sucker was written longhand in five notebooks. And, OH GOD, it needs revisions deluxe. But there are parts which I still absolutely love. It's such a process to go through.
And the more we work the craft, the better we are.

Suzanne said...

I sold 13 months after I started writing so my early books were actually published. It's a cross between humiliation and sentimentallity when I look back at them!!! Sort of like seeing your sixth grade yearbook picture. ACK!!!

Gina said...

All the time. I'll read stuff of others or my own, and just cringe.

Tess Harrison said...

I'm not published but I'm afraid to look at my first completed manuscript. My second is better, my third even better. I can look back and see how far I've come and what I've learned.

chryscat said...

Suzanne: Exactly! *snickering*
Gina: It's amazing just how personal it can be. And tastes are so different. And then looking at some published works, I just have to shake my head. That or slit my wrists with a paper clip. *snort*
Teresa: We're trailblazers. It's an unknown wilderness out there. And we're making it with only our pens/keyboards and our wits. Heaven help us!

Nancy J. Bond said...

You said: "When we start out with our writing, we want to GET IT OUT! It's like having a literary exorcism. Um...there's no head-spinning, but God knows there's head-hopping."

And let's not forget the projectile vomiting! :-)

I just came across a box of writing I did in the late '80s; some of it was salvageable, for the ideas if nothing else, but 90% of it found its way to the recycle bin! Eeew!

Michelle said...

It's funny how, in those early books, your craft and style are so raw and inexperienced--yet your true "voice" shines through. Without anything to hinder it, you can see the true writer inside. I read an old story of mine that I wrote in high school. Though it would never be good enough to publish, it holds a special place for me, because that's when I began my journey to be a writer. I've never regretted a single step.

Silma said...

I think even the most famous writers can look back at their works and groan. *lol* It's like that with all creative arts. You grow. You learn. You perfect your abilities.

chryscat said...

Nancy: Nothing like a little literary cleaning. I need to do the same. Heh
Michelle: YES! That is the one true constant. Our voice. And it's one of the most important things we, as writers, have. It's inherint.
Silma: I hope so!

Lyvvie said...


I'm at the scary, writing my first manuscript, phase.

I'm already feeling guilty thinking about some poor soul performing ocular gouging with a fountain pen.

My story is not wanting to "Get Out" though. It seems to like playing hide and seek behind the damask curtains.

Tori said...

I cringe when I read the first stuff I ever wrote. POV? What the hell's that??? And the was the least of its problems. *g*

chryscat said...

Lyvvie: It's a personal choice. I would think agents/editors would remove all gouging utensils off their desk. Heh
Can you lure your story out with chocolate? Promises of grandeur? Any other bribes?
Tori: You're preaching to the choir. LMAO