Today I have L.S. Engler here on my blog to do a guest post. Please give her some love by commenting. 🙂 Psst! This is a very good book!
There’s a lot a person can learn when publishing their first novel. They can learn about pacing and plot, on how to make sure all the details fit together and how to tighten their writing to get rid of excess details that don’t enhance the story. They can learn about character development, character consistency, and character interaction. They can learn that, no matter now many times you edit your novel, it will never be perfect and there will always be something you’ll want to change. Despite my background in creative writing at Central Michigan University, I still had a lot to learn on all these things when I wrote up my first novel, Soulless. But the one thing that I really had to learn is easily the most difficult aspect of writing, as well as something that, once you conquer it, will make you unstoppable.
I had to learn to just keep going.
Something I hear over and over from people when I tell them I’m a writer is that they, too, would love to write, but they just can’t do it. They get a good start going, then they just kind of peter out, losing interest, or starting to feel like what they’re writing is just plain awful. Or you have other writers, like my boyfriend, who obsesss over making sure everything you put down is perfect. They write the first page, decide they don’t like it, and start again. Another first page, and they don’t like that, either, so, riiiip, start again. And again. And again. Lather, rinse, repeat. I used to be one of those writers, and conquering that obsession was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. And Soulless was a big part of that.
For a majority of the rough draft of Soulless, I hated it. It was sometimes a chore to go in and plow through and write up what I knew I had to. I was so tempted to just drop it and pick up something new and shiny, or to just scrap the last five chapters I had written and start them all over again. I refused to let myself do that, though. I made myself sit down and write at least a page of day, reassuring myself that these rough patches would be over soon, and the the sooner I got through them, the sooner I could get to the chapters I really wanted to write. I had to push forward, almost blindly, full speed ahead, until I reached the very end, even if everything left in my wake was pure and utter crap.
Because you know what? A first draft is supposed to be crap. The biggest challenge and the greatest success can come with merely finishing a rough draft. When you’re done, it doesn’t matter how rough or perfect it may be. You finsihed a book. It needs some work, probably a lot of work, but it’s still there, and you did it. The editing and revision process is where we take this big lump of an idea and mold it into something more refined and beautiful, where we smooth out the edges and fill in the gaps, something that’s much easier to do when you have the whole picture before you rather than little bits and pieces. It’s easier to put together a puzzle when you have the final image to compare your progress to than when you’re just blindly putting the pieces into the spots that fit, right? Right.
Soulless and I had an incredibly tumultuous relationship, I’ll admit that, and I was very close to giving up several times. I’m so glad I didn’t, as hard as it was to forge forward against my critical judgement. The experience taught me one of the hardest and most difficult things I’ve ever encountered in my fledgling career: never give up, no matter what. Set yourself a goal and an end game, and, even though you could set it aside for another time, even though you could push that deadline release day back…don’t. Don’t you dare. You forge through and you fight to the very end. You’ll be bloody and bruised from the battle, but the victory will surely be yours.
In a way, this is all a metaphor for the plot of Soulless, too, which features a bold, strong, fearless warrior, constantly faced with the desire to just give up and let herself go to the monsters that she’s spent her whole life fighting. But she doesn’t give up, not even when all the odds are against her and the world seems to be descending deeper into chaos. The Slayer and I found our strength together, and, hopefully, you’ll find some of it in our respective stories as well.