This week was the three-year anniversary of the day I finished the first draft of my first novella, Iapetus Shift. That’s right, the same novella I just published last month. It took me about three months to type out the 30,000 word draft, but over two years of it sitting in my metaphorical drawer before I could even think about doing anything with the beast.
Not that I didn’t try. I would open the file every few months and start to read it, get a page or two and just close it in disgust. It actually made me feel physically ill to look at it I hated it so much.
I’ve often had this reaction with my short stories. It takes some time to be able to step back from something you’ve been working so closely on. Usually after sitting for a few weeks, a short story has fermented enough for me to enjoy the taste, so to speak. But this novella, being the longest thing I’d ever written at the time, it took a lot longer to age. And because it took so long for me to get past my disgust at it, I started to think that maybe it wasn’t this same effect of being ‘too close’ I had with shorts. Maybe it was something else.
Maybe it actually just sucked.
Once you get a thought like that in your head it’s hard to shake it, and I eventually decided to just forget about the thing and take it as a learning experience. But it was always there, in the back of my mind, like a box of junk in the corner of a crowded closet. You know there’s good stuff hidden in there if you can ever find the time to dig through all the crap… but mostly you just don’t want to bother.
In the end, it took two years before I could look at it and think ‘yeah, I can work with this’ and then another year of rewriting and editing. And even during that time I swung back and forth between ‘yes I can do this!’ and ‘oh god this is awful why am I bothering’, but eventually that pendulum settled on ‘I like it!’
And it only took three years.
I sure as hell hope my next project doesn’t take that long…
Anyway my point is, just because you hate something doesn’t mean it sucks. Get a second opinion, even if that second opinion is from yourself a few months (or years D: ) later.