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Some Books are like Problem Children
I often joke that A Midsummer's Nightmare is like the problem child who tortured its parent (me) for most of its young life, then made a gradual turn around and somehow ended up graduating top of its class and attending an Ivy League college. I used to have really negative feelings toward this book. I didn't like the characters, I felt like the writing was all over the place, and I was sure I could never fix it. There was just no recovery for this thing I'd written.
But now . . . it's probably the best book I've written.
It wasn't easy. I had to spend a lot of time working on it. Sometimes I didn't want to. Sometimes I was just so fed up with the book and the characters and how nothing seemed to go the way I wanted it to. Sometimes even looking at the document stressed me out to the point of tears. But, because I knew there was a good story somewhere in there, I just kept trudging through.
It took a lot of rewriting - sometimes whole scenes and plots were cut or changed, sometimes I just rewrote the same scene to improve the prose. The change didn't happen over night, but at some point I remember looking at the manuscript and thinking, "You know, this isn't so bad."
Some books are always easy - the first drafts are strong and they just get stronger as you revise and edit. Some books you love from the start.
But some are like problem children. You love them, you want the best for them, but they just don't want to go your way. They take more time and energy, and sometimes they are frustrating beyond belief. But just as a parent could never give up on their child, sometimes its best as writers to not give up on our stories, no matter how they terrorize our brains, because something wonderful is buried below the surface.
It's tempting, I know, to scrap first drafts that are going to be painful to work on. We've all had that thought of "It would just be easier to write something else and forget this mess ever existed." Maybe that's true with some manuscripts, but I think it's a decision you should weigh carefully. Because with the time and effort and passion you could give to that project, it might end up surprising you.
Some of the best books probably started out as messy, frustrating, terrible drafts.
Just as some of the best people may have been rebellious, maddening children.
Don't give up too easily on a manuscript you think is worthless. You never know how it might turn out in time. Who knows? It may end up being one of the best things you've ever written - you just don't know it yet.
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