One of the writers' mailing lists I'm on has been having a conversation lately that got me thinking. It started when a new author sent a post to the list asking (and I'm paraphrasing), "Many multi-published authors say their first manuscripts were crap. What is it about your first that made it crap?"
Like I said, paraphrasing. I think the original post was phrased with much nicer language.
Anyway, it got me thinking. The manuscript I'm planning to start querying with after the first of the year is, in fact, my first completed manuscript. After reading the many responses that came across the list from published authors, I started to second guess myself.
Is this manuscript, this story I've worked so hard on, this baby I've polished to a shine . . . is it crap? Am I deluding myself in thinking it actually has a chance in hell of being published?
I went back and read the responses on the list a little more closely, taking note of the problems these authors cited with their first manuscripts.
Head hopping/POV everywhere
- This one was a biggie, and included in nearly every response so far. Most people said that when they started, they knew nothing about POV (point of view).
Yup. I understand this problem. The first draft of Irresistible Harmony
(IH) had this problem, since the concept of POV and staying in one person's head was one I learned after I penned that first draft. But I have learned this concept since then, and that first draft was many moons ago. Pretty sure that problem's fixed in this one.
Overdone narration/description/too much introspection
- I've been lucky enough to have some fabulous critique partners who have, from time to time, said, "Lynn, I'd really like to hear how this went down." That nasty old "Show, Don't Tell" rule that used to give me fits. I think I've come a long way with that. I might not have beaten that monster, but I do believe I wrestled it down to submission. Although that introspection thing might be a problem. Might need to double check that.
Cardboard or two-dimensional characters
- I'm hoping IH doesn't have this problem, and if my CPs' reactions to the story are any indication, it doesn't.
- I've come to believe that dialogue is probably my strongest suit, if I do say so, myself. Matter of fact, it's probably the one aspect of my writing that came the easiest to me.
- Now, this one's a biggie for me. The tone of IH is very different from the stories I've written since. Although I won't say IH is angst-ridden, it certainly doesn't show the dry humor my newer manuscripts have. At least, not throughout. But it's there. But overall, voice is hard to define. And most writers will say that you'll know when you find it. Can you see the giant question mark over my head?
So . . . my conclusion? I haven't really reached one. Except to say that despite my hesitations, I'm still going to go ahead and try to submit this puppy and see what happens. A majority of the writers I've spoken to say that their first ms (or two, or three) have been banished to a dusty spot beneath their bed, never to see the light of day again.
IH isn't going there yet. But there's always a chance.