I posted good news on Facebook last Friday – I finished the first draft of a book that I had been working on for most of this year! Woo-hoo! It’s a stand-alone novel, a YA thing with dragons and elves. I worked on this book off and on most of this year, and last week I typed the last words of the first draft, hit save and set it aside to let it percolate for a while.
I currently hate this book.
And that’s okay.
You see, I go through a point in every book I’ve written where I hate the book. Some books I have a couple of points of loathing, doubt and lack of confidence before I beat it into something worth reading. Because first drafts are crap.
Not everyone’s first drafts are crap. I’m sure somebody out there has first drafts that are all sunbeams and unicorns, but I’m not that guy. My first drafts are crap. And at some point, I’ve hated every single one of them. They aren’t ready for public consumption. They require polish, refinement, and in some cases major surgery to get to a point where they should be shared with the world.
It’s why I don’t have critique partners. I typically don’t share things I’m working on, not out of some silly fear of having my ideas stolen (steal away, I ripped off somebody smarter than me in the first place!), and certainly not out of some idea that it’s perfect and ready to sell. It’s because my books are very fragile things, and any criticism, no matter how completely valid, can unleash that book-loathing that bubbles beneath the surface and make me stick the book in a drawer for months before coming back to it.
Some folks can have a work in progress polished and refined and hacked on while they’re working on it. I’m not one of those people. So I don’t do the critique partner thing. I barely do beta readers, honestly. I write in a vacuum, and then work with editors on the books. And when I hate the book, I push through til the end, stick it in a drawer, and work on something else for a month. Over that time I manage to forget how much I hate the book, and I can come back to it and look at it fresh. Then it comes out of the drawer covered in sunbeams and unicorns and I like the book again!
So what’s the point of this, other than to tell you about my process, why I don’t use critique groups and that sometimes I hate my books?
To tell you that we all feel this way. Everybody I know has hated their book at some point. We just don’t talk about that. We talk about soldiering on, the importance of consistent output, butt in chair, hands on keyboard, and all that is important. But sometimes it’s hard. And sometimes it sucks. And we’ve all been there. So don’t get discouraged because you think your book is crap. Just push on through, get to the end and stick it in a drawer for a month.
After that, open the drawer and see if the rainbows and teddy bears fly out. If it’s still crap, maybe you need a little more distance. Or maybe it’s still crap. That’s going to make the next part harder, but you can still mold and polish crap into something awesome given enough time and sweat. And who knows? Maybe once you let it sit for a while and then polish with an objective eye, you just might find that the book you came to hate turned back into the book you love when you weren’t looking. That’s what happened to me with almost everything I’ve ever written.