Finishing my first novel was surreal. It had been a dream of mine for a long time and I finally mustered up the guts to do it. Thanks to the NaNoWriMo community, I pushed through and finished a 50,000-word middle grade novel on November 30th. Cue the celebratory Wildfire Whiz-bangs.
The feeling of accomplishment lasted for a solid three months. I focused back on writing and revising my picture books, yipping and yahooing myself for starting and completing a longer work. A few weeks ago, after I submitted my best PB yet to various agents, I thought, onto the next middle grade book.
And no, I hadn’t forgotten about the first manuscript. Truthfully, I wanted to block out the next step: revising. It was the Basilisk of my bedroom closet. If I didn’t look at the binder it rested in, I wouldn’t be petrified by the chaos inside. After all, it’s my first novel. Let’s rephrase that. The first draft of my first novel. So, in other words, a wild and unshapely thing.
Avoidance seemed better than dealing with a manuscript that needed a massive overhaul. And one that will likely never sell because it’s about talking animals. Yes, talking animals. And yes, I knew when I began NaNoWriMo that no editor wants anthropomorphism in MG.
So as I excitedly began plotting out my next MG novel (with no talking animals), I had to pump the breaks. Time to break out the Veritaserum and be honest with myself.
Honestly, there’s plenty of MG novels with well-written anthropomorphism that have done well. But more importantly, I need to follow through. This is my first novel, and I need to finish it from first draft to a more polished manuscript, even if it never goes anywhere. I need to go through those novelist motions of writing and revising. I need to make the magic of revising happen.
My story meant enough to me to agonize over it for a month. I owe it to myself to sift through the pile to see the shapes hidden underneath. If after shoveling it still looks lumpy and sunken, then I’ll put it away. I do it all the time with PB manuscripts that just don’t sparkle like I expected. But being a first-time novelist and an insufferable overachiever, I’ve solemnly sworn to myself to work my magic on this manuscript.
After reading the story, taking notes, and making a list of edits (which includes Evanescoing away half the words), I’m doing it. I’ve already transfigured the first few chapters into something more readable and recognizable.
Hermione would be proud.