This has been a busy year for me. A lot has been going on and I didn't get nearly as much stuff done as I had hoped. And I still feel like I got a lot done! But there's one thing I hoped to have done a lot earlier that I'm still working on and that's my second novel.
I started it over a year ago and I'm still editing it. I knocked the first draft out right at the start of the year and since then it's gone through a lot of test readers and is in it's fifth draft. The book it was is no longer the book it is and the book it will be is still on the horizon.
"More than a year? Really, Carl? Come on! What's the hold up?"
Yeah, okay. It's a slow process. I feel like I'm going to slow. But let's remember that there's a lot of other stuff I've been doing this year. I've written scripts and short stories and blogs and writing guides. I've got a secret project, another novel and a novella all part written. Yeah, I've been working hard and doing a lot. Sometimes I get a little manic and have lots of ideas and end up with half-a-dozen projects in the air. And that isn't terrible - we should always be writing and we should always be spacing out our revisions. That said, you could do just as well with only two concurrent projects and not six.
But, still, more than a year? What's going on?
Well, I'll tell you. There's something else I've been doing this year. I've been learning. I feel like I've learned a shit load about writing since January 1st.
Jim Parsons, the editor of Sorceress' Blood, took what was still a rough and barely passable draft of that book and made it into something good, something people would read and enjoy and want more from. And that's exactly what has happened, people have liked it. What more could I ask for? I learned a lot from Jim's notes and it really sunk in that even though I'd learned so much and come so far since I first started writing, there was still a lot more I could learn. So I started learning it. It was an invigorating moment. It was like being in year 12 English, all over again, and my teacher was showing me the power of stories.
And it's been no simple task. You see, I'm an idiot. I need things really spelled out for me before I get it. I need to revise lessons again and again or I just forget them. My brain is like a colander.
The nature of writing is (or at least should be, in an ideal world) that every time you write something it instantly becomes old work that you could improve on. When we write, we learn and when we learn, we get better. We are better than our latest writing and can always go back and improve it.
(And lock ourselves in a cycle of striving for impossible perfectionism. But that's another post for another time.)
What I'm getting at, here, is that I want my next book to be the best book I can make it. I want it to be a great story and a great piece of writing so even more people can get something out of it - especially a few hours of enjoyment. This has meant tireless re-plotting and rewriting. Whole chapters have been scrapped and more than a few have been recreated from the ground up. It's been a massive task.
But we, as writers, writing for an audience, owe it to our readers and to ourselves to do that work. And do you know what the best part is? We get as many tries as we need. At any time this year I could have said "Good enough!" and published. But that's irresponsible. That's a waste of my time and yours. There's no excuse for not making something the best you can.
So don't call it done until it's done. Edit, revise, rework, rewrite, rethink. Do it again and again and again. Learn new tricks and new lessons and then apply them to your writing. Be better, make better. Nobody is stopping you. You can go around again as many times as you need and you should. Don't rush.
Like the man said: Make good art.