Completing my first novel changed my life.
It is an utter piece of trash that will never, ever be published, but its importance as milestone for me cannot be overstated.
For the longest time—most of a decade—I couldn’t finish one, and I beat myself up about it. How can I want to be an author, I asked myself, if I don’t feel strongly enough about my work to complete it?
I think part of my problem was taking those writing advice books to heart. I read too many of them and it damaged my brain. All their guidance about how to write, market, and sell your novel—sometimes with competing ideas—banged around my head and had me writing things I didn’t care about for an audience I truly didn’t know. I must have abandoned ten different manuscripts trying to follow their advice on how to write a bestseller.
What changed things for me was when I decided to write for myself. It still took me six years, but I wrote some crazy shit about an eco-terrorist who used those Coleman propane lanterns to firebomb fast food restaurants. The media dubbed him the Green Lantern, and I thought the comic book joke was funny. I threw in a history professor who was trying to find some Aztec gold buried in Arizona five centuries ago. Oh, and he was running from the Russian mafia too.
It made no sense. It’s truly awful. But it had a beginning, middle, and end, and I was highly amused while writing it. Most importantly, I learned that I could finish a book, and that gave me the confidence to start another one. I wrote my next book in half the time. My third book was the one that got me an agent and a publishing deal—and again, I wrote it to please myself. My fourth and fifth books were written in five and six months, respectively, and now I have the confidence to say I can keep up that pace. I owe that confidence entirely to just getting through my first book—my first, unpublished horror of a book. I will always look back on it fondly.
Kevin Hearne is the author of The Iron Druid Chronicles, to be published in Australia by Voyager. You can visit him at http://www.kevinhearne.com and follow him on Twitter @kevinhearne.
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