What makes good writing? (a personal question)

I just finished the first draft of my second novel!!

A very happy day.  It’s a bit on the short side (51K), but so was the first draft of the first novel.  I tend to underwrite in my first drafts, focusing on character development and dialogue and have to go back and add in descriptions and subplots, so I hope I’ll add 20-30K words before I’m done.

Now, the interesting thing about this novel (and the reason for the title of the post) is that I’m not sure it’s better writing than my first novel.  My first novel was speculative fiction.  I made up a world and my three main viewpoint characters were people very different from me.  Not just in terms of their world, but in terms of their lives.  They say most all characters have some small sliver of the author in them, so, it’s not like those characters have no ties to me whatsoever, but far less than the new book.  (I do hope that’s not true of my creepy character who only has about three chapters, but I can see it in others in the book.)

The most recent novel is present day.  And the viewpoint character is basically me with a few twists.  I would suspect that this novel has a much stronger voice than the first one.  (Partially because there’s one viewpoint, but more because I happen to be a fairly outspoken person so any character drawing on me is going to be outspoken.)

The story itself is made up completely.  The events in the story have not happened in real life.  (And let us hope they don’t.)  But how hard is it really to write yourself?  Or a version of yourself?  You know your entire history.  You know your own thoughts and actions and reactions.  Sure, sometimes we really don’t understand ourselves well, but even then, I assume someone who doesn’t understand themselves well still understands themselves better than they understand other people.  (Although self-delusion can be amazing…)

Even assuming that the character is appealing to readers (and not an emotional train wreck that people want to beat with a “get a clue” stick), I’m not sure that writing this story qualifies as good writing ability.

If it succeeds then I’ve shown that I can string sentences together well enough and put events in a certain order that creates a satisfying experience, but is that really what it takes? Or is there more?

So, this ought to be interesting.  I’ll probably pick it up again in mid-April.  (I need to do a road trip to research a few things for the book.)  At that time we’ll see if I just wrote the biggest stinking pile of crap ever or not.  I think I still have to see it through to a final version no matter what.  As self-administered therapy if nothing else.  But I may have just spent however many hours on something that will never even see a beta read, let alone a query letter.

Oh, and the follow-up question to this, of course, is what happens if it is good and I can sell it?  I’m not likely to have a similar dynamic to write about any time soon, so what if I do end up with my first book sale as a traditional fiction book about me?  I can’t do that again and not sure anyone’s going to want to hear how I’d like to now right SFF novels…

The first and second novels are so different from one another that I (and I’m damned good at spinning things when I want to) couldn’t even spin a story that they fall under the same “brand.”

Ah well.  It’s all part of the learning experience, right?

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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