Heard from my agent today re: the first 140 pages of the new draft of my YA novel STRANGER. She’d taken long enough to get back to me that I had started to think along the lines of, “She’s putting off the unpleasant task of breaking it to me gently” even though my much more rational self understood that this is a busy time of year for pretty much every human being under the North American sun, the world does not revolve around me and/or the suckiness of my fiction-in-progress. She emailed that she was “VERY impressed with this draft — so much tension and such great characterization” which I found greatly reassuring.
When to show your work to others is always a bit of a question mark — at least for me — I hate showing people first drafts, for the simple reason that they’re crappy. And I am not saying this in an attempt to be charmingly self-deprecating; that is simply the nature of first drafts. In fact, once I’d embraced a quote by Ernest Hemingway — “All first drafts are shit” — I felt liberated. You write badly, at least at first, so that you can revise very well. Showing the first draft of STRANGER to Andrea (my agent) proved beneficial — because this second draft is stronger for it.
Speaking of quotes, here’s one from J.M. Coetzee re: the importance of the humanities:
“The world is not always ready to offer careers to graduates, particularly in the social sciences … Whether the world stands waiting ready to offer you lucrative careers remains to be seen,” Coetzee said. But “the claim that we ourselves are a worthy subject of thought and inquiry, and that we show ourselves off best in our intellectual creations, is a sign of faith, and an extraordinarily optimistic one”.
(taken from the newspaper The Australian)
I never regretted studying literature; it’s a body of knowledge that might not land you on Wall Street but makes the world a richer, deeper place to experience. If I could go back I would jettison my ‘practical’ courses — for all the good they did me — and take a lot more history and film.
Oh — for those interested, I am now part of the merry band of dark-fantasy writers over at StorytellersUnplugged. I posted my first essay yesterday — which is basically about how obsessive reading screws up your childhood.*
*Not being entirely serious, of course. Maybe just a little bit serious.