Several times now I’ve gone back to look at my debut novel. Gifted, a Donovan Circus Novel will always hold a special place in my heart. It was my first title, my first self-published book, my first true attempt to really put my writing out there. And luckily, it’s been well-received by most readers (and even with the not-so-favored, I’ve learned a couple things from their reviews).
However, I often find mistakes. I wish I’d written a section differently, added or subtracted things or words from certain scenes, or whatever. You get the idea. Authors often talk about how they’re so glad that their first books weren’t picked up by traditional authors because when they look back on them now, it’s embarrassing. Obviously, I feel differently. I was (and am) so proud of Gifted, so eager to put it out into the world and not a day goes by that I’m not proud of this achievement. I just can’t see myself in ten years frowning at the decision. And I can’t wait to dive back into the second title and hang out with my characters, meet new people, and introduce the next villain.
I started writing Gifted when I was 23. Between life events and plucking up the courage to self-publish after I got tired of waiting to hear back from potential agents/publishers, I was 27 when Gifted became a real book outside of my computer. Because it was my first novel (and partly because I thought I was only writing for me before it took on its own life form), I hadn’t really found my writing style yet. I’m not a beautiful, prosey writer. I’m not quite as succinct as Hemingway, though many of my friends usually say that’s a good thing. I am painfully uncomfortable about situations where I have to say what I write. When I tell them the genre or plot, I’ve always braced myself for an eye roll or that “Are you kidding?” look. Take for instance the Roanoke writers conference – when a new friend said she’d love to read my book I had in my bag, I apologized as I handed it to her, telling her it was “nothing like the other authors here at this thing.” For a moment, I hesitated about my freshman, self-published fantasy book in the midst of serious non-fiction and the classics-loving reading groups.
Then I remembered that I have readers, too. I have people who want to read Gifted’s sequel and the few who’ve read Witch Hearts saying they liked it even more than Gifted. I feel confident now in a way I didn’t before Gifted. My second title, Witch Hearts, is due out this spring. It’s a very different book from Gifted. It’s an adult title, a paranormal thriller mystery with some romance (okay, an urban fantasy but my definition is more accurate). It dives into some spooky territory I didn’t know my mind could create. My villain is a worst nightmare, the details creepier than before, and the tension, I feel, racketed up more than Gifted ever achieved. My writing, it seems, has grown in my experience with writing for magazines (I have word counts!). It has grown in my reading lots of other books and trying lots of different authors in the genres I love. (I can afford this because I buy $0.99-$4.99 indie books on my Kindle/app, by the way. Just sayin’.)
It seems to me, my friends, that we as writers will grow more each time we write down new words. The upside to your writer’s growth, especially in a series (at least I hope), is that the books – with sharp writing and well-developed characters – will only get better. I love Gifted with all my heart, but I know several mistakes to avoid and styles I’ll roll with this time. Because I’m now (slightly) more comfortable thanks to experience, support, and Scrivener, I hope I continue to grow and make my writing better. I want each book to be better than the last and for my readers to love every new word.
I mean, someone out there reads paranormal mystery thrillers with romance and murder (not at the same time). You guys are probably here for a good reason, right?