You may possibly have noticed me raving a little bit about my short story, Ailith’s Gift, a few times on my blog. You can hardly blame me: it’s my first story to be published. Well, my second, but the first isn’t viewable any more because the ezine it was published in vanished at some point in the last 5 years. Ailith’s Gift was published in Myths Inscribed back in December; I worked hard to meet the deadline and then to improve it with help from Myths Inscribed lead editor Derek Bowen.
Recently I returned to look at it, and found a few errors, a few things I didn’t like about it any more. Don’t get me wrong: I’m still incredibly proud of it and myself, and for the main part I’m still happy with it, but the distance of time and perhaps a little extra experience has granted me a more objective perspective, not just on the story, but also on my frame of mind at the time I was writing and editing Ailith’s Gift.
Shortly after Ailith’s Gift was published, my parents were kind enough to buy me a Kindle Fire for Christmas, which was pretty darned awesome. However, right before Christmas someone decided to use my debit card details to buy themselves clothes without asking. I phoned my bank, got it all sorted and they promised to send me a new card, but because of how soon it was before Christmas, said new card would be a rather late gift. I had no means of buying books for my shiny new Kindle; while I’d had the foresight to buy two right before Christmas in anticipation, they didn’t last long. One I even reviewed on Christmas Day.
So I did what anyone would do with a gorgeously smooth new ereading tablet but no accessible money: I downloaded a few free books. Alas, I was rather less than impressed. Perhaps if I’d given them more of a chance, they might have impressed me in the end, a little, but I think I gave them enough of a chance.
One began with vague, poetic language about the cosmic magic of the fantasy universe, and I had no patience for it. One threw me in on a dull character’s fast paced but emotionless and contextless adventure. Another began with a dying politician having a very drawn out chat with one of his supporters about the complex court proceedings he as missing, name dropping all the way again with no context. I don’t even remember the others. All featured errors a good editor should have caught: inconsistent character names, homophones, bad grammar, typos and so on.
What was abundantly clear about all of them, though, was that the authors were terribly excited about having their books “published” – this came through in the blurbs and author bios as much as it did in the fact that unfinished, unpolished books had been published, some with very good covers indeed, for free. The authors were too excited about being read – or at least, being downloaded – to want or need money for it, or to bother providing something a discerning reader could finish.
In other words, they let their excitement get the better of them; their pride at finishing something and their eagerness to share their accomplishment meant they left logic and care behind.
To a degree, I was guilty of the same thing with Ailith’s Gift. I had a deadline; I was determined my story would make the very first edition of Myths Inscribed, and persuaded myself that when Myths Inscribed was a big important fantasy magazine in a few years time, its golden reputation would reflect upon me merely because I was there first.
As such I wrote Ailith’s Gift in a rush. The core story behind it was one I’d had on the backburner for a while, and my first attempt at writing a short for Myths Inscribed based on this story was quickly discarded; I was trying to do too much in too few words. I changed the perspective, combined two characters into one, and focused on only part of the story, and wrote the first draft in three days. I left it alone a day, made a few changes, asked my fiance to read it, then submitted it.
It wasn’t good enough. Not quite. Derek came back and asked me to make some changes, and excited by the prospect of publication I obliged. Where I disagreed with him I suggested compromises and after about a week we agreed on a final version which I felt was much improved over the rather rough and ready draft I’d submitted a few week earlier. Changes made, I needed only wait for the magazine to go live – and bask in the inevitable praise.
Now I can’t help but wonder if I was too eager to please, too excited by publication to see objectively. The story as it is published needs work. I can’t fault Derek – his contributions were invaluable, and besides that he had a deadline too, and more stories to worry about than just mine. But I think if I’d held onto it, held back, rewritten the story with a few little bits changed and asked for feedback from more than just my fiance and my editor, I could have made it actually really good.
It’s easy to let excitement get the better of you. It’s perfectly acceptable and understandable to be proud about accomplishing something as big as finishing a novel, or even a short story, and with that pride comes excitement. But these euphoric emotions shouldn’t be the fuel behind making decisions which need careful consideration, decisions which could have a long-lasting impact upon your reputation and ability to make money as a writer.
So when you’re excited about finishing something – whether first draft or sixth – enjoy it, certainly, but give yourself time to think before you do anything with it, so you can calm down, think more objectively and make decisions more carefully. You may well regret publishing something that’s not up to scratch; I doubt you’ll regret holding off a week or a month or whatever to make sure you’re making the right decision for your book and your career.