Wednesday, February 8, 2017

My biggest writing regret, and what I learned from it

So as I've been going out doing book signings and trying to get my name out there after the release of the third Ninja Kat book, I keep having to remind myself that, while just this latest book is new to me, for most people, the entire series is still brand new to them, and they have to start from the beginning before catching up to where I am. However, therein lies a bit of the problem. That being, all these years later, I'm not exactly thrilled with the way my first book turned out.

Granted, despite its flaws, the book has consistently received far more praise than otherwise, mostly due to people loving the story, often referring to it as a breath of fresh air in the fantasy genre. So there's definitely something there. Yet, they always say that they love the story despite all of the flaws with the actual prose. And, well, that's a criticism that I very much find myself agreeing with.

While writing the first novel, I was still learning how to actually write, and it shows. And as such, it was also a novel where I brought most of the earlier chapters to critique groups in order to get it workshopped and receive advice on how to improve upon it. The thing is though, I brought the book to these critique groups at a time when I still hadn't yet learned how to decipher between good and bad advice, and so, I sorta just incorporated a little bit of all of what everyone was telling me. And, well, yeah, that's sorta how I got where I did with a lot of the execution in that book.

Looking back at it now, I can see the flaws in its prose light as day, because looking back at it now, I've learned enough as a writer to know what works, what doesn't, but more importantly, why. And this is all stuff that I hadn't yet learned as a writer at the time. And so, not knowing any better, I churned out the best that I had in me at the time, and took an amalgamation of indecipherably good and bad advice, and put out a book that's a bit of a choppy mess in places, even if the actual story itself is thankfully good enough to still manage to shine through an otherwise less than stellar execution.

So that's become pretty much my biggest regret as a writer, the fact that the first book reads pretty amateurish. And the fact that every new reader that I make has to first get through that book before moving onto the others sorta bothers me a bit, too, as even if I have improved and become more confident in my writing since then, that's their first impression of my writing, and so that's what they're going to be judging me on before deciding whether or not they want to move forward and continue with the rest of the series.

That said, while that particular aspect is a bit of a regret, and the first book is the one that I most can't wait to at some point revisit and re-release a fixed edition of, if I didn't go ahead and just push through and put it out there, then it's very likely that I may well still be stuck on that project to this very day. After all, since finishing that novel and putting it out there and moving on to the next one, I have become far more confident and far more comfortable as a writer, and I feel it really wasn't until the second book where I truly started to find my voice as a writer.

And who knows, I might still yet be trying to find that voice if I were still wading through the mess of that first book, going back over and over again trying to fix it up, and probably just tinkering it to its own detriment all the while. And if I was still stuck on that book, I just know that my confidence as a writer would more or less be shot by this point in my life. So really, I may not exactly be pleased with how that first outing turned out, but if I hadn't just gotten through it and moved on, then I may never have truly evolved as a writer after all this time.

That's not to say that I don't still have room to grow even more, but at least I'm not still stuck in that stagnant place. So I suppose there's a bit of a lesson to be learned with that. I know a lot of writers who are still stuck on their first novels years after the fact, still tinkering with them. And I wonder, even if they're not pleased with those novels, how might they grow as writers themselves if they just said "good enough", put their novels out there, and moved on to their next works with a clearer perspective and a clean slate, able to now look back at all that they learned and apply it with a fresh take, no longer burdened with obsessing over making something "perfect".

But yeah, I dunno, that's just something I've pondered over from time to time, particularly as I look back at my past work and gain new readers who have to start from the beginning. But then I look at how far I've come in the time since then, and I think that perhaps it was worth a bit of a rough start. After all, with the recent release of my third book, I'm closer now to wrapping up this series and moving on to the next project than I was even a year ago, where as, had I continued to just keep tinkering with that first novel and tried to piece together a mess to this day, then this point that I'm at now would still feel so far off.

And that can sorta delve off into other topics, such as my argument that it's easier to edit while you're writing, as opposed to going back and trying to edit after you're done with a full draft, due to the sheer overwhelming mess you'd have to tackle, as opposed to just cleaning up little chunks here and there if you edit as you go along. This has worked wonders for me, and has turned the "editing phase" into more of a fine-tuning as opposed to a full on re-writing, and I know I personally would have never finished a single novel through to edited completion had I not edited as I wrote. After all, what's easier, to let your clutter and trash pile up in your house until you're left with a big whole mess to clean up, where you have to set aside time to explicitly go about cleaning your house up, or to just throw away your trash and put things back in their place when you're done with it, and never have to worry or think about it again?

But I digress, that's just what's worked for me personally, and so I figured that I'd share it for anyone who might find it helpful to them. It was a hard lesson to learn for me, but it's lead to satisfying results for me personally, as I've ended up very pleased with how the second two books have turned out thus far. And like I said, I wouldn't even be this far yet had I not just gotten through that first outing, so while the end results may have been a little rough, I suppose that experience was worth it in the end all the same for helping me get past that point and move onto better things.


  1. hello! totally not related to this post, but I randomly found your blog looking for 'swiss army man' reviews. I really enjoy your passion and love for movies. keep it up!

    1. Thank Lisi! That's really kind of you to say. I'm happy to hear you've liked what I've written. Stick around, and I'll do my best to put some more out there. :)