I recently turned in the latest revision of my book to my editor, which means I now get to work on the next book. I opened that draft the other day and…yeah. It was not good. I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice to say it was a bit of a shock after having just finishing a manuscript that was polished highly enough that I could see my face in the pages.
But then a funny thing happened. As I read through that draft, I found bits that weren’t so bad. Some were actually good. And even whole passages that I will definitely be keeping. In fact, I’m now just as excited about this second book as I was about the first. It obviously still needs tons of revision, but I’m anxious to dig in.
So what happened between “Oh-My-God-This-Is-Horrifying” to “Hey-I-Think-I-Just-Fell-In-Love-With-This-Book”? It was the same book, but my expectations gradually shifted to something more reasonable than insta-perfection. I started out knowing what I can do with a book after many, many revisions--in other words, I set the bar WAY too high--so the reality of a first draft was a shock to the system.
But it was a necessary one. I can’t beat myself up for not writing a perfect first draft. No one writes a perfect first draft. Everyone needs to revise in some way, shape, or form. Some books need more revision, some less, but every one of us starts off in the same place: the blank page.
The place to set that high bar is not on the first read through after drafting—it’s for when you’ve taken the time to put in the necessary work and make your book the best it can be. That could be the 2nd draft or the 20th draft; judging your work on the fact that you are making progress is a much better gauge than “Why-Isn’t-It-Perfect-Yet?” The latter will only leave you frustrated and likely depressed, but the former turns it into a positive thing.
How do you manage your expectations when you read through a draft? Share tips in the comments!
MarcyKate Connolly writes middle grade and young adult fiction and becomes a superhero when sufficiently caffeinated. When earthbound, she blogs at her website and spends far too much time babbling on Twitter. Her debut upper MG fantasy novel, MONSTROUS, will be out from HarperCollins Children's Books in Winter 2015.