As with any trade, the more you work at it, the better you become – and it’s the same with writing.
Looking back now, I can see how clumsy and amateur some of the prose from my earlier work actually was. A part of me wishes I could go back and tighten up some of this – especially my first book, Pearl’s Hereafter – but I have neither the time nor the patience and want to focus on what I’m writing at the moment.
It’s not so much that I’m embarrassed by my earlier work, as I think that it’s great story-wise, but it’s just the idea that people might have formed judgements about my writing based on its early shoddiness. I’m reassured, however, by the fact that Stephen King dismisses his first two novels as utter crap. All writers – even great ones – began from somewhere.
It takes a while to find your writer’s voice and hone your craft. Like Stephen King, I also feel apprehensive towards my first two books (one of them hasn’t even seen the light of day yet). With my third book though – The Essence of Sunshine – the quality of my prose dramatically improved and I was very pleased with the finished piece. In fact, it is the first project that I haven’t felt the need to go back and fix.
At the moment, I am writing a fantasy, which has yielded my best writing to date. I am excited to share this latest work and want to focus on bringing it into fruition. However, I do think that my earlier books need some TLC, so I am now considering hiring an editor for this purpose. If I can get someone on board to tighten up my earlier works, then I can carry on doing what I truly love and invest all my creative energy into my writing.
Sometimes, it is very important to take a break, even if it is from something that you love doing.
This month, for example, I took part in a writing challenge called NanoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where you try to write 50,000 words of a novel throughout November. I was doing very well for the first three weeks, but then I started to grow weary and decided to call an end to the challenge. For the sake of my health and the quality of my book, I simply had to recuperate and stop writing for a few days.
However, with 40,000 words in the bag, I don’t feel like I have “lost”. There is no losing when you take part in NanoWriMo, as any word count that you produce is better than what you started with! And without the challenge, I would not have been spurred on to write such a large quantity of material.
But of course, it’s not all about the quantity. I’m a great believer of getting something right the first time, and so I put a lot of effort into producing an excellent first draft, which saves time later on when redrafting. This month, after three weeks of intense writing, I started to feel the quality of my work begin to slip, which is when I knew that I needed to rest.
Now that I have recovered from my mental exhaustion, I feel ready to carry on writing. I am nearly halfway through the book now, so I’m very excited to deal with the latter half of the narrative =)
Contrary to what most writers say, a first draft CAN be amazing.
I have learned that if you invest the time and effort into producing a quality first draft, then it pays dividends when it comes to the editing stage. I know that a lot of writers advise against taking too long on a first draft, but I believe in getting it right the first time. It saves a lot of hassle later on, especially if you’re not a big fan of editing like moi.
Now that I’m doing my second draft, there’s not much that I have to fix, apart from minor typos and a few plot inconsistencies. But I’m finding it fun because it’s mainly just polishing something that is already edited. Arguably, I was editing as I wrote, because I wouldn’t move on unless a sentence passed a general standard of quality.
Of course, you can’t get everything right the first time. There’ll always be things that need improving, but it doesn’t hurt to try and make life easier for yourself. I understand that a lot of writers just want to get to the finish line (God, do I know), but is it really worth spewing any old crap onto the page? If that method works for you, then that’s great. I just thought I would point out that slow and steady CAN win the race!