It has been said, often and by many sources, that an author's first book (or books) will likely never see print. This is a polite way of saying you had no idea what you were doing and that story, while probably quite special to you, really isn’t special at all. In fact, it could be a study in rookie mistakes. Probably is, and you’d see that if you had the guts to go back and stomach all the passive language, all the cliché smiles and overloaded adjectives, and all the holes in your rather predicable plot.
Crafting a story is hard work. Brainstorming, plotting, drafting, editing. More editing. Reading. Editing some more. Getting critiqued. Editing ’til your eyes cross. Like most things, we learn best by doing. Classes are great! Critiquing someone else’s work is surprisingly insightful. Reading craft books or other works of fiction are wonderful tools for learning as well. But I truly believe that good old fashioned blood, sweat, and tears on the page will work your writing muscles in a way nothing else can.
In my own writing career (ambitious wording there, but I’m always optimistic) I have seen whatever natural talent I possessed when I first so enthusiastically started vomiting garbage on paper grow and hone and sharpen with each story I have written. Simply put, every story I write is better than the last. Why? Because I am learning from my mistakes. I am finding my voice and embracing my style. Oh, I haven’t arrived. And I doubt I will ever learn all there is to know. But I have found my groove.
I’m not Stella and I didn’t exactly get my groove back, but I did take my groove back to the beginning. Back to those first bumbling, adolescent attempts at story. And let me just tell you, collecting dust can be one of the best things you can do to revive those decaying words. Time and experience can grant a perspective not even the most relentless editing can expose.
So here’s what I’ve learned this time around…
Unearth those lost stories and give them a read, start to finish no matter how much it pains you.
Take notes on the things that make you cringe so you can focus your attack instead of just adding words—which you will be tempted to do more than is wise. After all, you don’t want to bloat your manuscript, you want to give it a good balance of eloquence and movement.
Get to work. Be relentless and meticulous. Your words make your story. What you say and how you say is crucial. Don’t be satisfied with a sentence just because it’s already written. Take it to trial and try to make it better. Be choosy. Trim the fat but enhance the flavor. The time spent will pay off.
And then finally, read like a reader. Just read. Put your editing eyes away and enjoy the story. It still may never be published, but stories aren’t meant to be exiled. Share them. Post them up. Give them away. Most importantly, don’t give up on them.
Talk to me Alley Pals… Have you ever read back and caught a rookie mistake? I was (still am) an overwriter but back when I was a newbie my adjective use was atrocious! What was your biggie? Be brave and share. Good reminders for all of us in the thick of editing. Happy Friday!
Amy Leigh Simpson is the completely exhausted stay-at-home mama to the two wild-child, tow-headed toddler boys, one pretty little princess baby, and the incredibly blessed wife of her hunky hubby.
She writes Romantic Suspense chalked full of grace that is equally inspiring, nail-biting, and hilarious. And a little saucy! Okay fine, a lot saucy. :) She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and now uses her Sports Medicine degree to patch up daily boo-boos. Her greatest ambitions are to create stories that inspire hope, raise up her children to be mighty warriors for Christ, invent an all-dessert diet that works, and make up for years of sleep deprivation.
She is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, Inc.