Currently being in a place and time that gives me a bit of free time to do my own thing, and currently living in a different time zone from my partner which means I have nothing better to do with my free time, I’ve begun to look back at my past writing to see what it is I’ve actually done in 23 years of existence on this planet.
The answer: not enough.
When I was eighteen in 2008, I completed the first draft of my first novel, a retelling of a traditional Welsh folk tale. And damn was it awful. But I did it. I wrote an entire story, from beginning to end, and I sweated and cried over it and once the first draft was finished I looked back and saw that it was shit. But it was practice. And even Beyonce probably has to practice her moves before she takes them to the stage. So I shrugged, and filed it away as a learning experience, and didn’t attempt another novel until –
2012. This time around, I dug up some old notes from a sci-fi story I’d started writing when I was about seventeen, and reworked it into a better plot. Then I rewrote the thing from scratch, beginning to end. And again, when I looked at the completed first draft, I thought, “Shit.” I spent a few weeks tooling with it, thinking about sitting it down and editing and rewriting it into proper shape, but in the end I lacked confidence that there was anything there to be worked into better shape, and let it collect dust (metaphorically) on my hard drive.
This week, I’ve been going through and rereading those dusty first drafts because it’s time for me to write book three, and I want to see what I can learn about myself and my writing before I head into it. First thing I noticed: while both drafts are pretty rubbish-y, the second one is much less shit than the first. The writing is stronger, more confident. My turns of phrase aren’t always as cringingly bad. I think part of this is due to an increase in age and general life experience – after all, between book one and book two, I’d lived in three different countries, become an English teacher, and basically Sorted My Shit Out. But also, I’d like to think that every word I write is just practice, so that the next words are better, and better, and so on. And someday, trailing endless words behind me, I’ll write something beautiful and publishable and worthy of my love and attention. That time may not be yet. Book three may be another one to chuck in the drawer. But that’s ok. Because it just means that book four, and five, and six, will be even better. And someday I’ll get there.
I could throw one of my novels on Amazon right now, and self-publish that shit, but I suppose I have too much pride in myself to do that. I would not be proud of that work, and I would not want people to associate my name with my flawed, floppy, and strange creations. When I am ready to be read, I’ll know. And you’ll know. Because you’ll be reading the shit out of my book, along with all your friends. Booyah.