Thursday, June 6, 2013

An Old Acquaintance

Reading Sterling by Dannika Dark brought back a lot of old writing memories for me. I think there's a stretch in every novelist's journey when you're so in love with the craft that you write unfiltered and straight from the heart. In my twenties I once took a month off from the day job to write a massive fantasy idea I had into a book, and every day was pure bliss. I had so much fun with that novel, and doing nothing but writing for four weeks gave me enormous insight into what it would be like to be a full-time writer and do this for a living.

I did send out quite a few queries and proposals for that novel, all of which were resoundingly rejected. No one even wanted to look at a partial, and that was a crushing disappointment. As there was no digital self-publishing in those days, and I had no money to self-publish the book in print through a vanity press, after a year I boxed up the manuscript, put it away and moved on. To this day no one but me has ever read that particular novel, and in fact only two copies of the manuscript still exist.

If I'd written that book today, I could have (and probably would have) self-published it. For this reason I'm also glad -- for once -- that I am an older writer who didn't have that option. As much as I still love that blissfully-written novel, and remember with pleasure the joy of writing it, now I can look back and honestly say it was not professional-level work. Because I had no editor, the manuscript remains riddled with spelling and grammar errors. There were also some basic flaws with the story, the characters and even the theme. I was so close to the work that I couldn't see any of them. Even if I had, at the time I didn't possess the skills or the experience to fix them properly. Publishing that book would have been wonderful, yes -- but in the end I believe readers would have eaten me alive for it.

I see the same kind of love for the work in Dannika Dark's novel, and unfortunately most of the same mistakes I made back when I wrote my beloved fantasy. I could get into detail, but when I thought about that I imagined how it would go if I could talk to my younger self about all the things that was wrong with mine. My younger self probably would have thought I was being patronizing, and that I didn't understand what she was trying to do and/or that I had some sort of nasty secret agenda. Nor is it appropriate for me to measure this writer by standards she has yet to achieve.

There is promise here, but without the many (and admittedly often ugly) aspects of the submission process that forces us to evolve as writers, I'm not sure what will come of it. Every writer's journey is different, and the direction she's taking is one I never pursued, so maybe she will be luckier than I was. She may not have to work another fourteen years to go through the evolution needed to bring her work up to professional quality.

I am glad I read this book because it reminded me of a very special time in my writing life; one I can never regret. Without that experience I would not be the writer I am today, and I hope the same is true someday for this author.

6 comments:

  1. You've reminded me of the time I did a three day novel writing challenge over the Labor Day weekend. All I did was write for three days. It was wonderful--the experience, not the book that resulted. I learned that I could write a book if I set my mind to it, a miraculous thing to discover since I was surrounded by a lot of naysayers.

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    1. I'm trying to imagine writing a novel in three days. My hands are twitching. Nope, I couldn't do it -- I bow to you, ma'am. :)

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  2. Following your giveaways and the recommendations from all the posters, I've been looking into this author with a view to getting the series. Your review leaves me in two minds. On the one hand I think I'd like to read it to get that joyous feeling, but on the other, if its badly written and full of plot holes, I won't enjoy it. Ah what a pickle ... I think I'll give it a go as its only £1.99 in e-book. After all if I don't like the first book I don't have to read any more.

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    1. I think that's a great way to look at any author you want to try, Fran. Also, remember, my opinion is simply that -- just an opinion.

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  3. Now, you know we all want to read that novel of yours, right?

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    1. (Groan) I knew I shouldn't have mentioned it.

      I've been tempted to get it converted to a Word file and maybe post it online as an example of how not to write a book. Then I think what my editors and agent would do to me if I did, and cringe. :(

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