This past week, I've been in New Hampshire visiting my family and doing some soul-searching. Often on the road to publishing, challenges can often feel insurmountable. This happens with any creative art, and it's good to get away and recharge. I needed space and time to remember why I love writing.
I've also been thinking a lot about the Ira Glass quote:
I've been working on my own backlog--a way to close the gap between myself and where I think I should be. My first published book was a short story, but it wasn't the first longer piece I had written. I also still haven't published the first two manuscripts that I wrote (don't plan on it, either).
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.
But, that doesn't answer the question: why haven't I published this year? None of my books are ready. The gap between what they are and what I want them to be is still wide open. But now that I have fantastic feedback on Conscious from my fabulous alpha reader, I have a direction to take once I get back home. (A complete revamp will enhance the story.)
Having a backlog is strengthening my writing, since I've been writing so much in such a short period. For the record, here's the list of current unpublished manuscripts I have and their status:
- In a Blue Moon - Querying (edited five times with numerous beta readers and a proofreader)
- Greener on the Other Side (the in between novella) - Drafted
- Conscious - Rewriting/Editing (alpha reader feedback acquired!)
- The End Diary - Drafted
- No Sugar Coating - Rewrite needed
- Good Criminal Heart - Rewrite needed
- Rioss - Rewrite needed
- RUHE - Shelved indefinitely
- Where We Collide - Shelved indefinitely
- The Unanswerable - Shelved, may revisit
Why is this list important? RUHE and Where We Collide were my first two books. They were a developmental mess, and I still have no idea how to fix them (they were that bad). Good Criminal Heart is in it's fourth rewrite because it was the first novel I started writing (at seventeen), but not the first one I finished writing. The first pass had a terrible plot, but great characters. I streamlined it, made it more realistic, and rounded out the side characters. The writing, however, is still sub-par and needs a revamp. No Sugar Coating needs a developmental overhaul, but the writing is fluid. Rioss has great characters and descriptions, but lacks cohesion.
These backlogged stories, despite needing a lot of editing, have helped. They've made me see the pitfalls of my writing. Because of these past books, I know The End Diary is developmentally fine, but lacks proper description, and I knew that Conscious needed a second set of eyes to tell me why the pacing was off.
Recognizing your own weaknesses helps you in the long run, though it can make you second guess yourself. Saying "you aren't doing something good enough" creates negative feelings about your work, but it shouldn't. Artists need room to grow.
Whenever I start second guessing, I take time away. Often, I come to an optimistic conclusion. I'm working towards a long-term goal, and I'm improving. As long as I'm doing a little bit every day, I can feel good about my work. I give myself permission to grow.
Picture of the ladybug for no good reason, other than I thought it looked cool when I took it.