Gory title, I know. I'm referencing a tongue in cheek comment I made in a previous post about word count. But here's the difference between beating a dead horse and riding one: you could beat a dead horse for all kinds of crazy reasons: anger issues, severe mental breakdown, or maybe you have an odd way of coping with grief. But to hop aboard and think that the poor lifeless creature is actually going to take you somewhere - anywhere - that's a different story all together.
Ok, time to cut the metaphor and get down to brass tacks (hehe.) The hard truth is this: sometimes your first book - or your fifth - or your twentieth - is just a practice run. But let's focus on that first book, because it's like a first love. It matters in a way that you've never felt about anything else before. You doodle about it when you daydream, talk about it until people start turning the other way whenever they see you coming, cover your wall with pictures of it, stop spending time with friends and family because this first true love consumes you on a soul level. And that kind of love is blinding you to its faults.
I want to interject here and say that I'm not writing this post because I've never ridden a dead horse. Boy howdy have I. The first book I wrote dove deep down into the bleakest recesses of my heart and dredged up all kinds of feelings. I poured them out onto page and page, bleeding words like a stuck pig. It was my truth. My story. So it had to mean something to someone else. Right? I shopped that story all over the place. I even went so far as to print the whole thing out and mail it to a professional connection I'd made at a women's magazine. This is ALL of what she ever said about it: thanks for the notepad (a gift I'd included in the package.) Ouch.
I had to admit to myself that the book, worn out and floundering, had run its race and come up short. But I still won. I learned so much about arc and pacing as I toiled over that first love. I learned about developing my characters and letting them have minds of their own. The hardest lesson of all: I realized that 99.9% of the time, my manuscript is not nearly as ready to run as I would like to think. Patience is a virtue - and one I still have to chase down with a stick from time to time.
That first book was my first true education as a writer. I penned a first word, and made it all the way to the last. I wouldn't trade a thing for all the mistakes I made between them. But I also no longer expect it to get up and run. I've stopped trying to edit and rewrite it into something that will sell. It is my teacher, plain and simple. And at last I've let it retire to a lush, green pasture. Its work here is done.
p.s. As soon as I get my house unpacked, I'm going to jump into the NaNoWriMo universe! So I probably won't have a chance to blog much this month. I will definitely do a little diddy at the end of the month to let you know how my first NaNo attempt turns out. I'm already starting a week behind... but I work best under pressure.