At first you’re going to suck

This morning I pulled out an older manuscript of mine, determined to give it a thorough editing. It was one of those pieces that I’d written and, when finished, thought “gee, this turned out better than I thought.” It was one of those pieces that had got me to thinking that maybe I could take a crack at the whole “getting published” idea.

As I read through the chapters my optimism rapidly dissolved. “How in the world did I think this was good?” The writing was hokey. I immediately poked a tonne of holes into the story and the characters. I’d started so many different subplots, which thread was meant to be the main plot? I hadn’t even finished the story itself.

Reflecting back on it, perhaps at the time it was a good piece for me. It surprised me that something only three years old could be so awful. Because I write every day, I don’t see the improvement I’m making – the same way a parent doesn’t notice how their kids grow until they see an old photograph. Three years is a long time to improve my skill, even if only enough to see where I went wrong with the manuscript.

One of the best writing tips I think I’ve ever received is, “at first, you are going to suck.” And it’s true. Nobody is perfect on the first attempt; or maybe the second, sixth, or one hundredth. But every attempt you make, you will get a little better.

Despite knowing that, it still socks it to my self-esteem. Will I ever improve to the point where I have a finished manuscript that I’m satisfied with enough to submit to a publisher?

I hope so.

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