This is scary…I actually like my novel

I just finished reading the second draft of my novel.  And I actually enjoyed reading it.  And that scares the bejeezus out of me.

See, before when I made the mistake of showing the first draft to my mom and she didn’t have anything to say about it, ever, I thought, “that’s ok.”  Because, when I sat down to read it, I didn’t really like it.  (I think I may have mentioned once or twice how flat the writing was?  And the three plot lines needed a lot of work to intertwine properly and I needed to tighten the connections between characters.  And…Let’s just say it needed work.)

So, having someone not like that first draft made sense to me.  It wasn’t very likable.

But now.  Now I think I like it.  I have some edits to make – a few chapters needs to move around at the beginning and I seem to be overfond of the word “of” in addition to “that.”  And there were the inevitable typos.  And I still need to double-check all my uses of lay vs. lie.  And I can see that the chapters from the first draft that I didn’t rewrite aren’t quite as well-written as the newly written chapters from the second draft.  But…

It’s readable.  (Is that a word?  I’m declaring it one for today.)  If someone had picked this up and read it, I wouldn’t have been ashamed to admit I wrote it.

Which scares me.  Because, now, if I give it to my betas and they don’t like it, that’ll hurt.  Before, I could agree with them.  Now, I may just curl up in the corner and pout for a few days if they don’t like it.

It’s the nature of the beast, right?  Not everyone will love it.  My mom’s a pacifist who likes romance.  A lot of people die in this book and most of the relationships are of the thwarted love type.  So, I know in my heart of hearts (I swear, I save the clichés for the blog – at least I hope I do) that this isn’t a book written for someone like my mom.  But it’ll still hurt when she doesn’t like it.  Because I do.

I know it just needs to find its audience.  And I’m going to keep repeating that to myself over and over again as my betas come back with comments.  It’s not personal, right?  It’s just the novel they don’t like.  Right?  Right?

It’s a damned good thing I have an ego the size of a house and that my father has long since passed away.  No matter how bad it gets, I can always imagine that he would’ve liked it.  It’s a fantastic thing sometimes to have an imaginary beta reader that is always supportive and encouraging…

Well, at least I have a week or so before I take up nail-biting as a hobby while I wait for my betas to send in comments…It’s not quite ready to go to them.  I have to input all the edits first.

Good times!

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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3 Responses to This is scary…I actually like my novel

  1. Keri Peardon says:

    I wrote my first book without anyone knowing it. I didn’t even tell my husband until I was getting ready to have a proof copy made. I was all nervous when he read it (I liked it, but would he?), but when he declared he liked it, I felt a lot of relief–and encouragement. My husband is not one to give undeserved praise, and he has good taste in books; I was sure I was onto something.

    So I know your pain!

    If your book is not in your mother’s preferred genre(s), then I would not give it to her to read. Not at this stage. You need people who read your genre and who can give you constructive feedback. This is where a writer’s group (online or in real life) is great. They’re less likely to pull punches than family members and friends (who might worry about hurting your feelings), they know how to read critically (so they can tell you what parts work and what parts don’t), and they can compare and contrast your stuff to other works in the genre.

    Once you have the approval of your peers under your belt, it won’t matter to you so much if family members or friends are less than warm about your book, simply because it’s not their thing.

    • mhleewriter says:

      Thanks Keri. Good advice.

      I’m still trying to resolve for myself who I think will make the best betas. To a certain extent I think fellow writers aren’t a good choice. In the same way that writing has ruined my enjoyment of certain novels, I think writers tend to look for different things in what they read than a Average Joe or Jane reader looks for.

      Hmmm. I’m sensing lots of thoughts on this one. I suspect it will be a blog post in the next few days…would love to hear more of your thoughts when I get it posted, because I definitely haven’t worked it all out yet.

      • Keri Peardon says:

        I admit that my stuff has not been through another writer (I agree with you to some extent; I got enough of other writers in college!), but I did select people who are intelligent and good readers. I think good readers will do just as well. What’s a good reader? Someone who can read something, understand it, and either explain it to others or make good commentary. Not all readers are good readers, but most writers are (hence why it’s usually a good idea to work with another writer).

        What you’re ultimately looking for is someone who can tell you what does and doesn’t work with specifics and examples. I had two people who read my book who just liked it, but when I asked what parts they liked, I got back, “All of it.” That’s good for the ego but doesn’t help you at all with your edits or the sequel.

        My husband, on the other hand, was able to tell me, “I don’t have a good sense of how your vampires’ government works. And the prologue and epilogue are disconnected from the story.” So I cut out the prologue, explained the vampire’s Council a bit more in one scene, then ended the story with the Council discussing what was happening–plus I set up a future problem. My husband reread it and said, “Perfect.”

        The other thing I recommend is, while you’re writing, is make a list of questions that YOU have about your work. I’ve had to ask my husband if a chapter worked or if it was too superfluous. I’ve also had to ask if certain scenes, dialog, or choices are in keeping with my character(s). Being able to ask questions (and having most of your gut-feelings confirmed) makes it seem more like a conversation and less like an attack; it softens the blow when someone points out all the things that are wrong. And if they don’t volunteer the information, be sure to ask them what you did right–so you can do more of it.

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