I finished my first complete manuscript of a novel a few days before my twenty-first birthday. When printed out, it was like a mini skyscraper – and, for me, a towering achievement. It was a giddy experience – I can remember that feeling even after all these years. It had taken me just over a year to write and it was over 90,000 words.
I decided to send it over to a manuscript appraisal service. In the days before email, you had to send your manuscript by mail. My friend’s mother took me to the post office to have it sent by registered post. ‘Do you know this is a book he wrote all by himself?’ she told the bored woman behind the counter. I was embarrassed but also a bit proud.
I was expecting this unseen but benevolent editor to send a letter confirming my young genius. Imagine my surprise when she sent back page after page about what was wrong with my book. She did say it had potential – she was being kind – but when I look back it was a phantasmagoric mess. I did end up writing a complete second draft of that novel but it was just too far-fetched. It ended up in a drawer and eventually lost completely.
Yes, that first manuscript was a mess, but it was finished. I’d written two of the most satisfying words in the English language on the last page. The End. And, psychologically, that’s an important milestone you have to hit as a writer.
You have to get that first bad book out your system. You have to finish.
Other posts by Anthony:
- Why Dreamers Will Always Have Enemies
- Why You Have To Give Your Readers What They Want
- What A Family Of Bears In A Car Taught Me About Storytelling
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