One of the standard bits of advice for writers (Not to be confused with rules.) is to set a piece of work aside for awhile after completing the first draft. Do something else. Gain some distance and the perspective that comes with it.
Having completed the first draft of my first novel earlier this year, I set off and wrote other things. I wrote a children’s story that was published in April. I wrote a short poem that was published on a postcard in June. I wrote a story that was just published this past weekend. I also wrote a fistful of other stories, poems, and oddities that are either out knocking on doors trying to find someone to let them in or sitting in the waiting room on my computer for me to maybe, possibly, one day go back to.
They’re going to be waiting a while. Yesterday I sent the first draft of my novel off to be printed. When I arrived to pick it up I was handed this:
My sons were discouraged to learn it was not a box full of donuts. Instead, it contained a 112,000 word, 542 page manuscript that looks like this when released from its box:
Now I get to read it. Hopefully, I’ll discover it contains an actual story with a beginning, a middle, and an end and that it is populated with interesting characters, some of whom change along the way. Because it’s the first draft and because it’s my first time writing a novel and because there were gaps in my work on it, I know in advance there will be problems. Some of them substantial. There will be sentences, paragraphs, pages, heck – possibly whole sections where I wonder who on earth gave some poor monkey a typewriter and told him he was an author. Then I’ll remember I’m the monkey and will go and get a banana.
I will also remember this bit of writer wisdom:
Ah! Right. I’ve already done the part I avoided for years and years. I took on a big story and saw it through to the end. Now I get to do something I have much, much more experience with – revise. Tinker. Rearrange. Rewrite if necessary. Add on.
Unless the thing really is an unrecoverable, inoperable mess. Then I get to decide whether I still like the story and just told it badly and should try again OR whether it was a nice learning experience and I’d really rather tell some other story.
Time to find out.