There's really nothing more gratifying than reading something you've written and realizing to yourself, 'hey, this isn't half bad.' I'm currently in the long, gentle process of giving my first two books a polish and it's strange how at peace I am with them all. Normally, I tend to be my own worst critic. I think a lot of people work that way- and not just people who write, but of late, I think I've kind of been giving myself a little bit of a break with these first two books.
How did my writing process for these books work? I'm not entirely sure I could tell. It just sort came out of me in a rush and when it was done I realized several things. First was, 'holy shit, I've got a lot of words on my hands' and second was, 'there's got to be a book under here somewhere.' Turns out there was- it just wasn't the book I expected to write, because much in the same way that Star Wars worked, for some reason the best part of the mountain of words I had on my hands was the middle of the story.
So then I began sorting and shuffling and discarding and writing and re-writing plot points until finally I had something that seemed like a book in front of me. Then I wrote and re-wrote and revised some more and I had a slightly better book in front of me. And then I made some tweaks and polishes and shoved it over the finish line.
Is it perfect? No. But having done a pretty deep dive on the first book to see what I could clean up, I'm more than willing to embrace it's flaws. It's a little rough around the edges, but the me that wrote that book? I honestly think it was probably the best writing I could manage at that time in that moment. Maybe I rushed it over the finish line too fast... (that's been suggested to me before) but I write so much it's ridiculous and at the time it was incredibly important to finish something for once. I had momentum going with the first book. It was my, "I can do this" book.
And so, it became The Prisoner and The Assassin.
I wasn't done with the story yet, because, you see the advantage, weirdly enough of starting in the middle is that you know how the story of your characters is going to end and, more to the point, you know all the history that has come before. I think at some point in the process and I wish I could actually say when, because it's kind of important, the characters started to come alive for me. I think before that point, I could tell you a plot all day long, but I didn't have a good grasp on characters yet. I could tell you a story, but to me, the trick sort of became to bring the characters to life so they could tell the story. Once I figured that out, it became easier in a hurry.
I haven't done a deep dive on the sequel yet. (That's The Arrows of Defiance.) I'm planning on starting that here soon, but I did a quick read through of it the other day and was pleasantly surprised (yet again) by what I read. It wasn't bad. It wasn't bad at all. Most of the time when I dive back into totes of what I've written in the past and pick it up to read it, I cringe and want to burn what I find. It's a novel experience to be able to look back on your work in hindsight and realize that while it's a little rough around the edges, it's not bad at all.
Is it 'good enough'? (Because, in the words of Brian Grazer, 'good enough equals shitty') Again, my answer is no. It's the best writing I had in me at that time. Does it have flaws? Is it a little rough around the edges? Yes, it is. It suffers somewhat from being a sequel. (Which made writing it so much harder than it needed to be. Next book is totally unrelated to anything that's come before and will not have a sequel. Period!) But overall, I think the story is the story of my characters.
And that's really what makes me happy about giving these books a polish. I still love these characters. I still feel deeply invested in their story and the work that went into creating these books. (Spoiler Alert: but I know their story isn't finished yet. There's at least one, maybe two- hell maybe even three books lurking there. I just have to write a couple of more that aren't part of that story so I can come back to them with fresh eyes.) I want to get these books pushed out there a little further than they are. I'd like to get them slightly better covers so they look their Sunday best. Then, I want to sort of release them into the world and keep on writing.
They're not good enough.
They've got flaws.
But, they're a beginning. And I'm going to embrace that beginning, because in hindsight, they're not making me cringe. That means something.