Want to know what an amateur writer’s biggest mistake is? I’m not talking about misspellings, flat dialogue, boring characters, chaotic plot structure, or anything related the actual completion of the story. I’m referring to the point after the story has been taken all the way from thought to outline to finished novel. One would hope that the author would have a handle on the proper way to tell a story by that point, although many admittedly don’t. Still, I’m mostly referring to my experience, so I can personally relate this big, fat writer’s mistake.
The mistake is to believe that the book is finished. Thinking that a first draft is a novel. And trust me, this happens to a lot of first time writers.
I’d spent several months dedicated to writing my first novel. I lost sleep, ran myself haggard working two jobs and typing in the wee hours, wholeheartedly pouring my imagination through the torrent that ran from my brain to my keystrokes. At the end of the ordeal I had a massive epic fantasy novel. I checked it for errors, ran it through spell check, and BAM!
I was done. Bring on the agents/publishers.
If you know anything about writing I’m sure you’re laughing by now. Because finishing a novel doesn’t mean in any way that the novel is finished. In fact, the project has only gotten started. There’s a thing called editing, and rewriting, and editing, and rewriting, and editing…
Of course at the time I had no idea about any of that. To put it in Game of Thrones terminology, I was only a green boy with the smell of summer still on me. I didn’t know anything of winter: the battles with revisions, the waiting for submission responses, the stinging cold of rejection again and again.
There comes a time when a book is finished. It is never perfect, and a writer is never completely satisfied. But there comes a time when you know. You’ve done endless editing, revisions, sometimes rewriting major portions of the manuscript to make it right. You’ve gotten feedback that you either apply or ignore, and have released your emotional attachment so that you can kill your darlings, as it’s said. Then you know that you’ve done all that you could to make your story the best that it can be. Only then can you say that it’s finished.
I wasn’t even close. I had a colossal manuscript, a swell of pride and an over-sized ego. I wrote a book, and that made me an author. (False assumption, don’t let it happen to you) Since I was an author, the next step was publishing and the bestseller lists. All I had to do was submit my work and wait for the heavens to open and shower me with riches and glory.
But when the heavens opened, the only thing that fell from the sky was a ten-ton anvil of humility. Obviously the subject of the next entry of The Journey will be focused on the bitter taste of… rejection.