Back when I was a newbie writer, before I officially partnered up with Sherylyn and we started writing together, I’d foist my stories on anyone who’d read them. Friends and family had novels thrust into their hands as soon as they said, “That sounds interesting.”
Back then they were paper copies too, and printers only printed on one side of the paper, so potential readers left holding a ream of paper that they didn’t really want to read, trying to look enthusiastic about something they weren’t.
And of course, you’re the writer, so you expect them to be as enthusiastic as you are. To go home and read it immediately. And then come back to you the next day and tell you how wonderful it was.
Of course, they never did.
I was handing out first drafts. Raw, unedited fiction.
“Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist. It’s perfect in its existence. The only way it could be imperfect would be to NOT exist.” Jane Smiley
Even back then, some of my ideas were good. But my characters, oh my goodness. They were awful.
As Sherylyn used to say, “I can’t stand Scott (or whoever this novel’s hero was). He’s a wimp. He’s full of himself. He’s unpleasant. I don’t like him, I don’t want to read about him.”
She said it book after book.
She was the only one who gave me honest feedback. Other readers, when they did read my stories, said things like, “It was okay.”
After I teamed up with Sherylyn, the characters improved a lot.
I do wonder what it says about me as a person, though, when I write (wrote) such awful people.
I won’t read books by other authors whose characters are a turn-off, no matter how great the book is. So why do I write them?
For example, I have a lot of sympathy for Jordan Rossi, even though if I met him in real life I wouldn’t stand him. Luckily for those of you reading the book, Sherylyn wasn’t as enamoured, and made us cut a lot of his scenes. Nor, later on, were Caitlin and Anne—agent and editor, respectively—who made us take out even more Rossi.
Thank goodness for the drafting process.
“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” Terry Pratchett