“Needs a lot of work,” he says, shuffling the papers about. At this point I’m starting to suspect he’s intentionally mishandling them just to give me some extra work to do.
He’s a friend of mine, and he’s agreed to read the finished manuscript of my first novel. A brisk reading over, nothing too serious. No, it’s not Chuck Wendig, just a friend who has a love of all things written.
He’s handling my baby, my firstborn, my prodigal son. And he just told me it wasn’t good enough. Six months ago I would’ve been pissed. I would’ve told him he didn’t know what good writing was, or maybe I would’ve kept my mouth shut and not asked him to read anything else in the future.
That was before I found out about Adam Christopher. Chuck Wendig. Kameron Hurley. Sam Sykes. All of these people that are just as human as me. People that wake up, make coffee and find the time to jot out two thousand words. This post is named Wendig Poked Me because not only does Wendig manage to craft some excellent novels, but he also writes about writing, lending very Wendig-esque ‘get the fuck up and write something down’ kind of advice that I can appreciate. Since I’ve discovered this, and all these people, I’ve changed my tune.
I used to think that these writers — and they weren’t people to me, they were writers, mythical creatures pumped full of caffeine and imagination until they tested positive for a bestseller — never had bad days, badly written paragraphs, poorly written characters. Following these (on social media, not in real life) people showed me I was wrong.
I used to sit at my computer and write 50 words then delete them. “Nah, that opening isn’t going to wow them!” I’d finish a chapter and say “I don’t even know where this story is going!” I’d always stop before I even got started.
Then I realized it was just about writing. You have to put the pen to the paper, the fingers to the keyboard, the imagination to the.. whatever you put your imagination to. You can go back, you can fix it, you can change things up. That isn’t to say I’m trying to fill up the page. My ideas are coherent, my characters are thought out, but they’re flawed and that’s okay.
No longer are my plot ideas constrained to the back of a napkin. My writing folder isn’t filled with a half dozen beginning sentences. They’re filled with a finished novels, finished (and published) short stories, finished (and published) literary articles. And some of them are bad. Some of them suck. But I finished them. I learned from them, and I didn’t dwell.
Because I realized that a poorly written chapter is easier to edit than no chapter at all. A book with a plot hole is easier to fix that no book at all. And so now when I visit my friend, and he shuffles those papers about and says “needs more work, Theo.”
I just smile, because I’m glad I have something that can be improved.