I’m about a third of the way through revisions of my current WIP and one of the things that’s been super frustrating so far is that even though I know this draft is better than the first one, it’s still not good. The pacing doesn’t feel quite right, I still cringe at the prose when I read back through each scene, and I feel like I have more questions than when I started. The one thing that’s helped me keep moving without getting too discourage is asking myself one question: is this the best I can make this right now?
There’s one sure way to get better at any part of the writing process, and that’s by doing it. No matter how many craft books you read, novels you critique, or advice videos you watch on YouTube, it’s only by putting what you’ve learned into practice that you make headway. So asking myself that question whenever I complete a scene or chapter helps me remember that future me will be a better writer than current me because future me will have more practice. That’s why writers write multiple drafts: because you know things in later drafts that you didn’t the first time through.
But it’s not just practice that will make future drafts better. Oftentimes, as I’m reviewing each chapter before moving on, I have this uneasy feeling that something isn’t quite right. Or I wonder if I’ve included enough detail about the setting or the character (I’m a very light drafter so each subsequent draft usually adds words and detail) or not enough. Will readers get what I’m trying to say? Am I telling too much, shoving to the forefront what should be subtext? Right now, there’s no way of knowing. I don’t have the distance of a reader experiencing the story for the first time.
I’ve always been scared to show my writing to other people. The stories I wrote were as private and sacred as the journals I’ve kept since I was thirteen. But there’s a mental shift that’s happened with this manuscript that I’ve haven’t felt with previous drafts, a shift that helped me gin up the courage to post chapters on Wattpad as I finish them. As I’m writing, I’ve realized that this is a story that I want to be read. Whether it’s traditionally or self-published, I want this story to be out in the words. And for that to happen, I’m going to need help. Even if it’s self-published, dozens of people will need to read it in its unfinished state to give me feedback that will make the novel better. And the first time ever, that’s more exciting than terrifying.
As I complete each chapter and ask myself whether this is the best I can do, I’m not only trusting my future self to make the words better. I’m counting on critique partners, beta readers, and editors to spot what I can’t. And that feels a lot like sharing the load, making it easier to keep plowing this one draft of many.