Monday, November 22, 2010

Use Your Failures

(Apple II) Use your boxy original to craft a shiny, sleek next generation

I'm currently writing my fifth novel. That blows my mind when I actually sit down and think about it.


Of all the crazy things I've done in my life (and there have been a few), writing five books since 2008 is probably the one I'm second-most proud of. Childbearing being the shiny, uncontested first.

But writing books is second to that because it's similar to childbearing in many ways-- a long labor of love that results in something entirely unique, a new creation with its own fingerprints and innate personality.

Because each novel is born of a labor of love, we never really let them go completely, even if we delete them from our hard drive or scrap and start completely over. No matter how many novels we may write, we never really move on.

It's kind of like in X-Men when Rogue explains to Wolverine about the first boy she ever kissed (and sucked the life force from):

"I can still feel him... and it's the same way with you."

My early novels are far from perfect. Seven rounds of edits each would likely not repair what's wrong with them. But I'll always love them, always compare my new characters to my old ones and marvel at how much they've grown. I'll always wish I could have raised 'em right and sent them out into the world properly, instead of keeping them on memory sticks in various locations all over my house.

People say you've got to move on and keep writing and all that, and they're totally right. We can't spend all our time revising sub-par work when our writing style has grown so far beyond it that a total rewrite is the only sure course. We'd spend so much time and energy re-working something that might work better *gasp* scrapped for parts and incorporated into an entirely new story.

But that doesn't mean we can't still love our babies, and feel giddy when somebody recognizes the talent behind the newbie mistakes. And who knows? Maybe someday, you'll dust off that old MS and have a stroke of revision genius that makes your little baby into a full-grown salable book.

In the meantime, use what you've learned from your past work to make your WIP as shiny as possible. Never forget how flat characterization stifled your last book, or how a floppy plot arc made the book before that one fizzle out at the end. Use the pain of failure to succeed this time. And  don't worry if your WIP lets you down.

There's always the next book.  

Amparo's on Operation Awesome giving out inspiration: Why You Should Keep Going When the Going Sucks


  1. Aw, great post Katrina. And wow, I can't believe you've written 5 books.

    I know what you mean about not letting them go completely (I still have some of the characters from my early screenplays floating around with me). But it's also good to keep moving forward, because you really do grow SO much with each book or draft. If you've got five under your belt, I'm betting the next one will be knock-people's-socks-off-awesome. :)

  2. Such a heartfelt post, Katrina! I don't think letting go completely ever happens...I remember, as an adult, my mom asked, as I prepared to leave the house, if I had my car keys. And so it is...

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  3. Shannon, thank you for the vote of confidence. I sure hope this next one is THE ONE. ;)

    Kittie, it's so true. Parents with their children and writers with our stories. We're all attached for life, but in a good way!

  4. Wonderful post, Katrina. I still have some dim hopes for my first unpublished novel, but I'm so proud that I was able to keep going. You should be proud too.


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