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Humble Pie

After finishing the first draft of Sapling, I decided it made sense to read both books all the way through. I printed them out and took a moment to bask in the fact that I have written not one but two books. It feels like such a massive accomplishment. Then I stupidly Googled how many books are published a year, both self-published and traditional, and the number is well over a million. Sigh. Luckily, marketing this trilogy is a problem that’s still a full book away.

Not to mention I have bigger problems to deal with. I need to completely restructure the last three chapters of Sapling. You know what’s a terrible idea? Having your protagonist not present for the climax of your book. There is some beautiful writing in there about her thinking things over while swimming and waiting for a call in a greenhouse, but it’s not exactly thrilling reading. Editor Kelsey is kicking Writer Kelsey in the butt right now. Writer Kelsey is burned out, though, so I figure I’ll take a breezy fourth pass through Acorn. It’s been beta read and edited so many times that I should just be keeping an eye out for typos, right?


The good news is that I learned so much while writing Sapling. The two most important things being:

  • Giving my limited third person protagonist more interiority

  • How to attribute dialog to people without the dreaded “said” and “asked” tags

Giving Erica, my main character, more room to think and feel helped ramp up tension and stop some plot points from feeling as random as they did. I also found places where characters seemed to know things they hadn't been told yet, or where they were reacting to situations in the way I wanted them to as opposed to ways that were consistent with their personalities and motivations.

Killing your darlings with pretty blue ink

Did all this take me three months to clean up? Yes, yes it did.

Am I deeply humbled by how proud I was of myself for finishing that first draft almost two years ago? Also yes.

As a stereotypical millennial gifted child, I have a desperate need to be the best at everything. When I'm not, I tend to give up. I set myself up to fail with this project. When I said I'd publish three books in a year, I had no idea what I was talking about. I read too many articles about self-publishing that tell you to worry about quantity over quality. Just a few weeks ago, Brandon Sanderson made $15M on Kickstarter by putting out FOUR books he wrote in the last two years. What a madman.

But I'm not Brandon Sanderson or the writers of the bizarre Chinese RPG-style cultivation novels my husband reads that have literal thousands of chapters. I work a full-time job. I'm building a farm. And, importantly, I don't actually have that much experience writing novels.

So, yeah, my first draft of my first book sucked. Most people's probably do. I'm pretty confident that the fourth draft is much better and that the second book is even better than that. And, if I don't give up, my twentieth book will hopefully make this trilogy look like scrawls of a mad child. All of which is okay and something I need to embrace.

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