When you finish your first novel, your troubles have only begun
January 28, 2014
Remember how it gnawed at you? How it obsessed you? How you couldn’t put it out of your mind? How it distracted you from concentrating at your day job? How it drove you to your keyboard in the middle of the night, or long before the light of day?
That first book you had in you that must come out.
All my life I had dreamed of writing that book.
And finally I did it.
Or more accurately, I made myself do it.
The binder in which I keep the manuscript of book one (what eventually became Last One Chosen) tells me I wrote the last word of the first draft on July 9, 2009.
I have to say that July 9, 2009 was an “aha” moment for me in the sense that I felt as if I had walked through a door, not into another room, but into an alternate reality.
And it was an alternate reality.
For fifty-seven years I had a dream of writing a book.
On July 9, 2009, that dream vanished.
What happens when dreams vanish?
I can only to speak to my experience in the world of writing.
When my dream vanished I found myself addicted to the process of creating books.
I could write them.
I had demonstrated it.
Not so fast.
Herein lies what I will call the Indie Delusion.
The Delusion consists in a person’s believing that he is an author because he typed the words “The End” on a manuscript.
When a person types “The End,” her troubles have only begun.
Like a kid on a bike for the first time, she doesn’t think about the slope of the pavement ahead of her until she is caroming down the hill toward the ditch. In her elation at the accomplishment of gaining her balance on two wheels, she doesn’t yet know how hard it is to peddle uphill.
The Indie Delusion is the notion that one book is as good as another.
One book is not as good as another.
That’s where craft enters the picture.
The main thing I have learned over the last five years or so of writing is that each day presents an opportunity to improve my ability to put words on paper, to hone my skills, to abandon techniques that don’t work in favor of those that do.
Ray Bradbury’s admonition that the first million words don’t count, and Malcolm Gladwell’s observation that it takes ten thousand hours to become proficient at an enterprise are right on the mark.
Now that I am approaching those two benchmarks, I have a better idea of where the road leads, where the ditches are and how steep the mountain around the bend.
If it was easy, anybody could do it.