I just finished my sixth completed novel and sent it away last night. As I was writing this novel, I discovered something.
Every time I write a complete novel, the end result is better.
Now, this may seem like common sense, and maybe it is. But, one of the things I have done a lot of in the past eight years is edit and revise my first novels. And while that’s good and helpful, it doesn’t really make me a better novelist.
Part of what is so hard about writing a novel is not just one thing, it’s the whole thing. Figuring out how to begin and end something. Figuring out what details are necessary and what conflicts are sustainable. This can only be done when you sit down and write a complete novel.
I absolutely loved the first novel I ever completed. I thought it was amazing and soo good. I was also twenty. It’s gone through major revisions over the years and I sat down to reread it this summer to see what it would need to be submitable.
Turns out, it’s really, really, really bad. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the characters, the community I created, parts of the story line, but it’s also slow, outdated, and some of the conflict is awfully contrived. What would I have to do to make it submitable? Rewrite it. Completely.
And I hope to do that some day because, like I said, I love the characters. Good characters make a good book.
The point is though, that I got better not just because I got older, but because I continued to work at the process of writing a novel. I continued to make mistakes, make discoveries, and learn the craft of being a novelist.
My most recently completed novel was finished in a matter of weeks (in fairness, it is a shorter length), because I knew what I wanted to accomplish, I had a clear goal in mind, and I had a deadline. And it didn’t come out feeling rushed or forced, and I learned a process that works for me to get all these ideas into novel form, and I’m getting better.
And getting better is the most important thing.