As I write my third fiction novel (the second is in editing stages, and the first Acceleration is available), I have been thinking a lot lately about the ins-and-outs of writing a novel. In a lot of ways, this is actually my fourth completed book. The first lives only in archival copies kept for my own record. The book was a disaster. Although, it was written when I was a teenager, it was a book and I did complete it. Often I don’t talk about writing. It feels a bit cliché or strange in a way to hear a writer’s perspective on the craft, so I often bottled it up. Now, though, I feel less imposter syndrome, and more of an interest in exploring writing as a craft.
Getting back to my first novel, the disaster. It was a seething pile of teen melodrama with some weird plot, odd clanky writing, and characters who made very little sense. In fact, let’s share something from this absolute horror-fest (my apologies to those who read this first novel, I am sorry I tortured you!):
I move my feet forward, careful not to move out of step. Sparkling lights drape from awnings. The decoration committee that mostly consisted of my friend Amanda and I, had spent hours ensuring that each light was particularly placed in a way that would bounce off the sheer dresses we had spent all our allowances on. My dress, gold, catches each twinkle, and lets my hazel eyes steal the show.
Besides being an overly-dramatic, overly-described hot mess of boredom, the book just isn’t that good. I say that with love, because I did write this book. Teenage me just wanted to write a book. I wanted to be some kind of super-star writer. The problem was that the book was really bad. S. E. Hinton I was not.
Then the impossible happened. Light burst out of Jonah’s hands. A bolt of lightning that mimicked Thor fried the creature where it stood. I had no way to explain what I had just seen. Not even with knowledge that I gathered throughout my many lives. Jonah though, looked casual. Aside from his hair which was matted from the roll in the forest dirt – he looked normal.
There aren’t words that even exist to grasp a situation like this. So what did I do? I put it in the simplest of terms. “What the fuck was that?”
I can’t even read that passage without laughing (and cringing). When I say this book was bad, I mean it. I considered re-writing it, but there’s really no redemption. The plot is about an ‘old soul’ who suddenly wakes up to the fact she was reborn every time she’s near death. Eventually she discovers her soulmate, and then realizes her punishment was to not know who she is, where his punishment is to always remember. Something-something lovers crossed from two different sides. Okay, fine. But the writing is bad. And the plot makes little sense acted out. But, I wrote a novel. 50,000 words of absolute hellish writing. The build up and tension lead to a sudden explosion of exposition. At least there’s this great kitchenette in heaven…
My house in heaven looked just about the way an ordinary house would look, it was small and quaint. With a kitchenette, a small living room and an upstairs for a bed. The rooms weren’t large but they didn’t need to be, material things weren’t really a big deal where I was from, so you got used to it fast.
Thanks heavens for this wonderful description of heaven. But in all seriousness this book was a gateway to better books. It was a learning experience. I don’t regret writing a bad book. I don’t think I need to save it or re-write it, and I don’t mind looking back and laughing. That was growth and progress. The key to writing many good books is to be fine with falling flat on your face.