Last week I re-read one of my favourite romance novels and marvelled again over how deftly the author sets up this sweet yet imperfect relationship then sweeps the reader along on the up / down rollercoaster of making the whole thing work. It’s a book that makes me sigh with envy (over both the hero and the skillful writing) every time.
I don’t make much use of my e-reader, I prefer physical books. But it’s perfect for romance novels (all those embarrassing cover jackets). But after finishing the latest reading of my beloved romance, I did a search for the author on my e-reader. I found the online shop stocks her full back catalogue and all for very reasonable prices. It seemed churlish not to click the ‘download’ button.
I started with her first novel but a third of the way in I had to put it down. The characters are clunky and come off as cruel rather than cute. The plot is threadbare and too many of the scenarios simply ridiculous. I find it hard to believe the same person wrote both books.
But it’s encouraging too. It goes to show how much you grow as a writer over the course of your career. When the author wrote book one she probably thought it was the best thing since Michael Jackson moonwalked. Now she probably wishes she could snatch it off the shelves and bury it in a shallow grave.
Similarly, I bought a new edition of Alice Walker’s The Bluest Eye not too long ago. The introduction includes a section written by Alice Walker detailing her dissatisfactions with the book and the changes she would make if she revised it now.
I take two things away from this:
1. Accept your work will never be perfect. Perfect is subjective. The you who likes what you’ve written today will find flaws next week. So revise, revise, revise, then bite the bullet and send your work out.
2. Think of the creative life as a journey, each mile making you a better writer. The writing process may not get easier but at least you can look forward to marked improvements in your finished projects.