Don’t think your first draft is perfect. It’s natural to be very proud when you finish something, to see it as the perfect flawless flowering of your talent – but Sophie’s Choice aside, first drafts always need work. They might even need drastic amounts of work. You may in fact need to cut 25,000 words out, make the secondary character the narrator, lose the first six chapters and start with chapter 7, or any variety of extremely painful, drastic things. You will not be able to see this when you have just finished it.
You need to put it in a drawer for a few weeks or a month, even longer if you can stand it. Give yourself long enough that you can gain some distance from it and read it with fresh eyes. This is really, really important. Then when you come back to it, hopefully you can read it with joy and pride, loving it, but also be able to see how it can be made better. Be clear-eyed and honest, and be brave. Open your mind to new ideas and new ways to make your story better. It’s never too late to make a bold change. Be willing to rewrite a scene a dozen times or more – as many as it takes. Go above and beyond the call of duty. You’re striving for your best – never be content with a scene or even a single line until you love it.
Remember: something is not good or valid just because you did it. I know there are people who will argue with me on this and assert that all creative product is “valid”. Maybe it is in kindergarten, but not when you’re a grownup striving to get published. It doesn’t matter how important the story is to you, how much you want it to be published. All that matters is how good it is. How interesting, and how well told. How much it makes the reader care about it.
How is it that I’ve only just discovered Laini Taylor’s old blog and this post?! If only I’d read this before I’d sent out BLOOD PROMISE to literary agents, it would’ve saved me a LOT of waiting and dashed hopes and subsequent angst. Ah, well. Never too late to learn, I guess.
I’m plodding through the middle of BLOOD PROMISE. Right now, it’s a lot of goo and unpleasant things slowing me down and threatening to eat up the rest of my story, so I’d have to rewrite practically everything. *tears at hair and claws at face, bangs head against desk and rolls up sleeves* So I’m plunging into the icky mess and hopefully emerging with a new and improved manuscript. Watch this space for updates.
And since it’s Monday, I figure we all need some perk-me-up. Babies, pink anything, sun, sea, sky, and pretty faces (not necessarily in that order) are perennial fail-safe mood-lifters – at least for me.
Those kind, sweet eyes. I die. And yes, I’m a fangirl. Shut up.