I have to admit to feeling an unhealthy jolt of jealousy when I read about fellow authors writing and selling novel after novel, writing faster and -- almost impossibly -- better with each book. That can't be. Can it? I'm always a little doubtful when I read such things.
And then, boom -- I think I may have figured out how those writers are doing it, and doing it so well. I think those speedy, skilled authors have finally given in and trusted themselves.
I learned this lesson while in the trenches of a challenging, but incredibly stimulating marathon session of revising and rewriting this summer.
(Pull up a chair next to the fire and let Ol' Mike tell you all about it. Drinks are on me.)
My revelation arrived when I was approaching the end of my book, a young-adult urban fantasy that I'd started years ago, and then put in the trunk for a while after picking up a bunch of rejections on it. Time passed. And the, back in May of this year, I pitched the book to my shiny new agent, and as I was talking about it, I grew more excited about the characters and setting and situation, so we agreed that this book would be my next project.
I dove in headfirst, moving stuff around, chucking out whole chapters, adding a ton of new stuff, totally revamping the "magic system" that determined how my teenage protagonists from Dubuque, Iowa, could suddenly use magic.
I was tired by the end of the book, from squeezing in time to work on the rewrites either early in the morning or late at night, while my wife and two sons were still sleeping. I wanted to be done with the book and get it into my agent's hands. I wanted to rush things. I really wanted to take a nap.
And the little light bulb went on as I was reviewing those last few chapters. As if someone had highlighted them, the sections that really needed work leaped off the page at me. I could tell where I was glossing over events, giving my characters short shrift, all so I could get to that glorious section where I'd typed "The End" years earlier.
In spite of my fatigue, I found myself reading like an editor. I'd been so engrossed in the world and the story that I could tell immediately where something wasn't working. Trusting my judgment, I went back to those mentally highlighted sections and fixed them up. I was trusting myself, and I was also being honest with myself. I wasn't going to let myself off the hook and send off something half-baked, even if it was just a scene or even a line of dialogue. I knew when I emailed the book off to my agent that I'd put forth the best work I could have done.
And that's a pretty amazing feeling. I'll bet those fast and effective authors with multiple books under their belts (you know who you are!) are nodding and smiling along as they read this. I hope you're one of them. If you are, I promise not to get too green with envy...