I have completed one novel. Getting one book under my belt was a huge accomplishment. I learned much about storytelling, character development, word choice, revision, querying, etc.
That wisdom sometimes feels a lot like cynicism.
I miss the innocent optimism I felt while writing my first book, where each draft felt like it was the final draft. With each round of revisions, I was convinced I had perfected the story. Revising was always an empowering act because I ended each revision knowing my words were exactly what they needed to be. Even if I would later decide that something needed to be added, changed, removed, or clarified, it felt like adding icing to the cake. I could see the story evolve to deeper and deeper embodiments of perfection. All this to say—no matter how many times I ended up revising the story, I always saw the light at the end of the revision tunnel, the light from a gleaming, brand-spanking-new, glossy-covered book.
Now I know better.
I revise a couple of scenes and then immediately make notes on further revisions I need to make to those scenes to bring the story to where it needs to be. I revise 100 pages and then realize I need to start back at square one with fleshing out characters, developing subplots, and complicating the story. I move forward in revision knowing that revising is a process of revelation, a process by which I discover what the heck it is I’m writing about and why. Then I have to go back and incorporate that revelation into previously revised scenes.
Revision means peeling back layers of an onion and facing the chemical irritant that brings tears to my eyes. Revision means knowing the onion’s layers never end. Revision means knowing I’m fool enough to keep going.
I am daunted by the task ahead of me. I am daunted by the many months it will take me to finish this second book.
But I know that the only way to get better is to keep working right at the edge of my abilities, slowly but surely expanding that limit outward, always doing the thing that is just beyond my reach.
Will writing ever get easier? Never. Not if I keep wanting to expand what I am capable of. I will always be in this tension between my abilities and the stories I want to tell. I will always be pushing forward.
The creative edge is an uncomfortable place to be, but it’s the only place I’ll grow.