Ode to the First

Essays  Standalones  Writing

My first manuscript was a clusterfuck, and I tried so hard to do it right.

I had my first manuscript professionally edited, twice. After the first round, I read and considered every editorial stroke. I learned a lot about my writing, especially the squishy parts I hadn’t noticed before. Like, my habit of starting sentences with “there was.” The dreaded “it”; what did it refer to? The overuse of -ing tense, which is weaker than just being direct.

I was so set on doing things the right way—(also, nix “things”; much better practice to be specific)—that I implemented the edits, hacked that draft to pieces, wrote a second draft, and submitted it to a different editor—you know, for a fresh perspective.

That second, ostensibly better draft of my manuscript had an ending like scrambled eggs. None of the plot turns made sense except in my head, and I’d communicated few of the motivations I’d ascribed to my characters onto the page. Cliches abounded; often, against my better judgment, I’d succumbed to the draw of writing through those cliches, making them mine. An enjoyable process, like a personal ride on a popular roller coaster. Fun the first time, with a decreasing return in satisfaction on each pass, until eventually you get nauseous.

In all this time, only three people had read what I’d written. Two of them were paid to do so and one was a trusted friend. I’d wanted to release the best product I could. And, of course, I was protecting myself. It’s much scarier to write to the world than to a control group.

My first manuscript was the literary equivalent of submerging a water filter before use. I had to get the impurities out, or activate its magical filtering powers—or whatever the reason is we have to do that shit.

I learned a lot through that process (the manuscript, not the water filter, which is still a mystery to me), mostly about what didn’t work for me. In its wake I went through a period of avoidance, personal exploration, and intensive diva rap therapy. When I came back around to writing, my approach had changed.

I want to create and let go, and maybe what I put out there will find reach somewhere.

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