There’s a piece of advice always given to writers who are trying to be serious about their work: at some point, you have to absolutely hate your book. This is so a writer can approach their work objectively and take whatever measures are required to get it to its absolute best.
I used to understand this rule. Typically after writing a first draft, I would glare in loathing at the finish product until something shinier distracted me.
Very few books got rewritten this way.
And then along came Soar, an experimental story I shared with Nina as I scribbled it out in a binder (she’s a very willing test subject and is very open in her opinions about my writing). I did not set out to write Soar for anyone but myself. I had no plans; I just wrote what came to mind and what felt right. And when I set it down around Chapter 9, I could not stay away. Eventually I came back and finished it, topping 100,000 words in the first draft.
With Nina’s help, I posted my little experiment on Wattpad, and over time it gained its own modest little fanbase (read: <2 dozen people). I learned some things: it is a bad idea for me, the control freak, to post unpolished work on the internet (unless it’s a blog post); when I care what other people think, it affects my writing; and I can cave to peer pressure.
See, Soar was only ever intended to be a cute standalone. I had everything neatly tied up at the end, open for readers to use their imaginations but with no promise to answer any “where are they now” questions. And then people started asking for a sequel; people (including my father, who has always been honest with me about my work) said it was well-written; and I listened.
Long story short-ish, my NaNoWriMo project is Soar‘s sequel.
Soar itself is also undergoing a rewrite, because when one decides to take a stand-alone and turn it into a series, things need to be adjusted to accommodate that wider story arc. I was already aware of plot holes I had developed when the story was nothing but a pet project; also, several characters popped up, pretended to be important, and then disappeared without a trace.
I’m not afraid to cut things out or rearrange them until they look nice. However, I do it with the betterment of the book in mind, not out of spite for it. Since before I finished the first draft, I’ve had these changes planned. More, I’m enjoying this stage of bookcraft more than the first draft. I’m relishing it.
Or, I was.
Until I neglected NaNoWriMo for a week to finish reading the final book in a new series I picked up.
Now I hate myself. I hate my work. I’m pretty sure it’s all garbage and the preteens on Wattpad don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. I made a mistake by distracting myself just as I was coming to the middle of the first draft, and now I don’t want to look at it.
I’m back to where I was two years ago, chanting to myself,”It’s only a first draft. It has to be messy. It’s not going to be perfect; just get it out,” while I rock back and forth.
Where other writers read to determine what they hope to achieve, so they can set up that pretty vision in the distant future and push toward it, I tend to work in the opposite direction. I see a shining, polished, famous literary work and analyze it as only a writer can, compare it to my own work, and decide I haven’t a prayer.
Cue writing slump.
But while I have a terrible habit of ruthlessly comparing myself to others, I am also stubborn and hate knowing I’m letting people down. So one way or another, this sequel will get written. And, now that I am happily disgusted with Soar, I can approach it with all the objectivity I lacked before and whip it into shape.
Or if not, I can set it aside and dive into a new book, refine my craft, and keep moving forward.
Have I mentioned I’m not a very patient person?