Finishing Your First Novel


About a year ago, I finished my fourth draft of my novel. I thought that would be it. I actually started submitting to literary agents before I decided to go the route of self-publishing online.

Except I had a problem.

It was crap. Honestly. The Literary agents I sent it to probably read the overly ambitious first paragraph and threw up a little in their mouths.

Cut to a year later, and I have trashed half of my novel and almost rewritten the rest of it. I’m still working, and my novel, though its parts are simpler and cleaner, is in shambles. I was hopipng to publish soon, but I’m now thinking it will be months before I get it on Kindle.

It’s only my first novel. It shouldn’t be so difficult…. right? I like to think that finishing my second novel will be much easier. After all, I have already learned so much.

One of my current obsessions is Lin-Manuel Miranda and his musical, Hamilton. Personally, I like In the Heights, his first musical, much more than Hamilton, but overall Hamilton is a much more cohesive work than his premiere musical. 

In the Heights may have reignited my love for musicals, but it tries WAY too hard. There is an over-abundance of characters, and each character has their own style of music (based on where in Latin-America they immigrated from). There are stories and sub-plots galore, and I read somewhere that his first versions of the show, which premiered at the college Miranda went to before going to Off-Broadway and then Broadway, had far more characters and stories than the ones that ended up in the final Broadway cut. The music itself is at times overwhelming, with layers upon layers of instruments and vocals. It’s extremely comprehensive and well-developed, but at times, it is too much.

Hamilton, on the other hand, is a masterpiece. It’s simpler, utilizing themes and leitmotifs like Romantic era operas, as well as the “Reprise,” a classic Broadway composition technique to bring back musical ideas from previous songs. There are still plenty of characters, but each one stands out in their own way, and many of the characters take background roles rather than have their own subplots. The drama and the love and the emotion is all there, and the simplicity allows it to be seen.

The difference between Lin-Manuel’s first and second works is enormous.

When In the Heights debuted on Broadway, Lin-Manuel was 28… three years younger than I am now.

I keep reminding myself that: a) I am not a genius like Lin-Manuel. Just a hard-working woman looking to accomplish this goal. And b) many more successful people did not discover their success until they were much older than I am. There’s still time for me.

DO YOU STRUGGLE WITH THIS TOO?

Please tell me I’m not alone.

 

THE SOLUTION TO THE PERFECTIONIST’S WOES:

1.) Above anything else, work for progress.

If novelists worked for perfection, books would never get published. When you write, strive to get words down on the page before you start any editing. I’ve heard about people editing as they go… it simply does not work for me. I waste time and prevent myself from making progress. Keep your writing time and your editing time separate.

2. Realize that you’re never going to be satistfied.

It’s not just Alex and Angelica who aren’t satisfied. Admit it, neither are you.

If you make peace with the fact that there will always be something to fix, and tell yourself that it’s okay, things get a little easier. I’m sure that as you continue writing and continue responding to the feedback of your first publications, your writing will continue to improve, and you will have fewer things to “fix.” This is why you should already have an idea for your next novel in line!

3. Undoubtedly, when you publish that novel, you will be wondering if it’s good enough. Remember that you’ve created something that no one else has!

How many people do you know who have published a book? My guess would be a few, a handful, maybe. I can think of two people in my personal life that have accomplished something as grand as publishing something. It’s a special thing. Don’t take it for granted. It may not be perfect, but you have created something special.

That’s good enough for me… at least for my first novel!

 

.            .             .

 

What about you? Do you have any tips that keep you going when your perfectionism sets in?


“Why must you write like you’re running out of time…?”

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