Reading my First Drafts Always Inspires Fear

I’ve been facing fear the last few days. As of this writing, I’ve read 28 chapters of my latest book, Ghost of a Chance.

No, it’s not out yet. I’m reading the first draft. I finished writing it last Friday, and now I’m reading it and making notes so I can start the second draft.

What’s so scary about that? Well, I’m an author, which means not only am I filled with enough arrogance to believe someone would want to read what I write, I’m also consumed with self-doubt about the quality of my stories. It’s a weird life being a creative. The roller coaster ride of pride and loathing is dizzying.

The first draft is one of the worst parts of the process for me. It takes me two months or more to pen a novel. Ghost of a Chance came in at almost 127,000 words — the longest book I’ve ever written, meaning it took even longer to write. It’s 51 chapters long (at the moment), and I didn’t write more than one a day. And there were numerous days in there I didn’t work. (I take weekends off whenever possible, and I moved cross-country in the middle of this process as well as published a different book.)

In other words, it’s been a long time since I started this novel, so I don’t exactly remember what happens. Reading the first draft of one of my books is always an educational experience for me. I have to remember what I did, and I have to see if it all fits together properly.

Editing

As you can see, there is some suckiness I need to edit out before publishing.

That’s where the fear and self-doubt really come in. I often discover continuity errors, and I always worry that the book doesn’t really do what I wanted it to. I mean, what if it sucks?

They usually don’t, fortunately, and the reason I write multiple drafts is so I can edit the suckiness out before publishing. I like to believe I succeed at that.

But it’s always daunting reading that first draft. It’s always a fearsome prospect delving into my work looking for mistakes — expecting it to suck.

The good news is I haven’t encountered a sucky book so far in my reading of Ghost of a Chance. I was a little worried because the plot is complicated, there are multiple story lines, and there is giant mystery that requires a lot of research and investigation — not always the most pulse-pounding prose.

But 28 chapters in, I’ve gotten caught up in it. I’m finding it exciting, interesting, and well paced. Given that I know how it ends, I interpret that as a good thing. If I can entertain myself despite my knowing the story, it stands to reason I can hook readers.

Of course, there are still sucky parts that have to be edited out. There are continuity errors. And with 23 chapters left, it’s entirely possible the whole thing could fall apart into a giant heap of dreck.

So I’m not satisfied. I’m wary. The self-loathing part of my author’s brain is hyper-alert for any sign I’ve totally wasted the last several months penning this thing.

But I’m excited too. I like where it’s going. I can’t wait to finish reading it.

Then I’ll start rewriting it. After all, I still have to edit out the suckiness.

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