Friday, October 28, 2016
On not being a New York TImes Best Seller by my Second Draft
I am a writer.
I am not Neal Shusterman. Or C.S. Lewis. Or even Orson Scott Card. I am not Maggie Steifvater, and I am not Catherine Fisher.
I am Morgan Margerison, aspiring author, chronic self-doubter, hopeful God-lover, talkative Mental health advocater, Out-there aunt of the friend group (because I'm too irresponsible to be mom).
And my writing reflects that. I don't have my narrative flow down pat. My descriptions occasionally make zero sense. My plots still look messy. And, sometimes, when I look at all the things I have to fix, and all the things my favorite writers already have mastered, I get a little sinking feeling inside.
And I have a feeling, if you write, you probably know exactly what that feels like.
Although it's reasonable to be a bit daunted by the journey ahead of me, I think I (and the rest of us writers) need to stop expecting my next draft to be publish-worthy.
Because, let's be honest, I haven't always been serious about writing. I started a book when I was nine. My concept of a book was a long-ish short story involving (essentially) the snake from harry potter (why??), gum, and a bit of Alice in wonderland. With drawings.
I wrote stories for school and classes and loved doing that, but I didn't do it a whole lot.
Picked it up again when I was fifteen and sick of trying free amazon books that had too much kissing in them. So I decided to write a kiss-free sci-fi novel. I did finish that, actually, but we don't talk about that mess. (Maybe I'll start over with it, someday XD)
And about two years ago, with Wayward, I got really, really serious. Because I finally realized what writing meant to me.
But that means I've only been seriously writing for about two years, and yet I expect my work to be on par with people who have written for 10, or 15, or their WHOLE LIVES.
And it's not.
It's just not.
And that's okay, for two reasons.
1. I am not writing to be my favorite author.
I might look at the Unwind series and think "wow, I want to be that." And I could sit at my desk, and study it for hours, and figure out how Shusterman does that third-person-present thing right, and use his themes, and mimic his voice. But it wouldn't be me.
While reading another author's writing teaches me a lot about what I want to see in my books, and how to write better, it shouldn't be my goal to write just like any one author. It should be my goal to be the writer God wants me to be. Not that there's anything wrong with learning from other writers and incorporating their methods into your learning process--I've learned a lot about transitions and emotions and plot by reading Neal Shusterman, actually. It's just that the goal should be to learn from them, not become them, and to be happy when my voice emerges differently.
2. I'm not done yet.
I want my writing to be spotless, but that's just not how it works.
That's where the hard work comes in. That's where I sit down and, instead of focusing on where I'm not--focus on where I could be. Reading should inspire me to reach new levels of narrative flow, to master transitions, to explore new ideas. It shouldn't be upsetting. As writers, we should be able to recognize someone else's skills and look for ways to develop our own, maybe even by studying what the author did right and comparing our work. We should look for constructive criticism wherever we can get it, and then we should practice (and edit) until we like what we see.
All of those authors I love had a beginning, and their first book--at least, their first draft, was probably pretty terrible. But, over time, with lots of practice, they created beautiful worlds, learned how to use their words in just the right ways, and developed characters that jump off the page.
And I'm not there yet. But one day, I could be. So I'm going to keep working. I'm going to write more drafts.
I hope you will do the same.
Because writing isn't about becoming another author. It's not about being the next best seller. It's not about creating perfection. It's not about throwing a book out into the world that looks just like the ones we love.
Writing is having a passion. Writing is having a voice. Writing is patience, and teach-ability, and tenacity.
And it's worth all the time it takes to get there.