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Saturday, August 22, 2020

Never Submit Your First Draft. Trust me. (by Patty Blount)

 Embarrassing writing moments -- oh! There are so many! 


When I was a brand new unpublished writer, the first novel I ever wrote was called Penalty Killer. It was a young adult murder mystery written for my son. I published it by taking it to Kinko's and having it printed and spiral bound. He let a bunch of his seventh grade friends read it and all enjoyed it. They enjoyed it so much, they asked their English teacher if they could use it as the subject of their book reports. 

I received a note from the teacher asking me for a copy of Penalty Killer. It was back to Kinko's for a second draft that I happily sent to school with my son. 

It was returned to me a month later, COVERED IN RED PEN. The 7th grade English teacher GRADED my novel. 

It was a humiliating moment, for sure, but I was undaunted. I figured I wrote one book, I could certainly write another. 

My second attempt was called Postpartum Deception. Another murder mystery, but for adults, this time. This novel was 170,000 words and when I finished it, I burned a bunch of CDs and handed it out to friends.

Not ONE OF THEM ever read it. 

I tried querying agents and thought I got a few requests, no one every wanted the story so I shelved it and kept trying. I went on to write several more books and finally, SEND, my fifth attempt, was the one that got published. 

But I never gave up on Postpartum Deception. In the years that had past, I'd learned a thing or two and knew where I'd gone wrong. Clearly, 170,000 words is too many. I wrote it in omniscient third person and gave POV time to damn near every character I'd created. Main characters, secondary characters, tertiary characters. I even gave a POV scene to a newspaper placed at a table setting. In the rewrite, I decided to make it YA and write in first person. That draft was called The Sky Was Scarlet.

Still no interest. 

"A series! That's the ticket!" 

I revised it AGAIN, splitting the story into 3 books. 

I even put this book on Wattpad and Radish. I tell you, I can't give it away.

The lesson I've learned is no matter how much you love a story, how great you think it is, don't send it anywhere until you've revised, edited, and revised it some more. 

Finally, one of the most embarassing stories in my writing was my early attempts at fan fiction. Fan Fiction was how I got started in writing. The characters and their world are already fully developed, leaving you to write the situation in which they must escape. I wrote an X-File. 

*blushes* I had a mad crush on David Duchovny in the '90's. My X-File was nothing more than a day dream, a fantasy. Even worse? I sent it to the producer. 

These early stories are the equivalent of camera phones today. 

I'm not even going to tell you about the email I sent to my entire staff with an X-rated typo in it. There's embarassing and then there's complete humiliation. 



5 comments:

  1. So true. I have 7 books sitting in limbo in part due to laziness and in part because I shudder every time I hear my sister Kate, with 18 published books, talk about how much effort goes into marketing AFTER the whole editing process. Safer for me to read and review.

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  2. I remember you talking about Penalty Killer in an online interview. SUCH a cool story.

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    1. It was my very first attempt at novel-writing and sadly, all of my son's friends figured out whodunit by the 3rd chapter.

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  3. Don't forget another good way of simplifying your writing is using external resources (such as DigitalEssay.net ). This will definitely make your life more easier

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