The soft spot I once had for my first book, Blood Echo, is hardening rapidly. I never thought it would happen—I thought I’d go to my grave holding it in a special place in my heart. My very first, very dear characters are all in that book. Two of them have been in my head since I was fourteen years old. Sometimes I even have dreams about them. If someone had told me a year ago that one day I would gnash my teeth at the thought of that book, I would have rolled my eyes. Yeah, sure, whatever you say. How could I hate the manuscript that started this whole writing obsession?
Blood Echo has become that older sister you’re never better than. I might consider renaming it ‘Marcia Brady’. It’s always there, looming in the background, sticking out its tongue at me and laughing because nothing else I will ever come out with will be of the same caliber.
I’m working on my fourth manuscript right now. I have the same beta readers for all my works in progress, and they all say the same thing: ‘This is nice…but it’s not as nice as your first book.’
It’s not a backhanded compliment; at least I don’t think it is, but it feels that way. Whenever I think of that first book now, I grit my teeth and roll my eyes. If it was a person I might consider punching it. You wouldn’t be so pretty with a black eye, now would you? I think. ‘What’s so great about you,’ I wonder as I pound the keyboard while working on another manuscript. ‘You’re not that great. In fact, you suck, and I hate you.’
And it’s not that great! When I started writing it, I was a wet-behind-the-ears naïve little youth, blissfully unaware of even the most basic rules of Writing 101. I didn’t know the point of a semi colon or even the difference between a simile and a metaphor (I’m actually still a little fuzzy on the semi colon thing.) The first drafts were emblazoned with the illustrious title of UNTITLED for the better part of three years. They were Adverb Central, a heap of words with no concrete timeline or direction, a mess of disjointed flashback sequences and too many useless secondary characters. I knew nothing about writing, and it was awesome—I didn’t second-guess myself then, because I was too ignorant to do so. Then somewhere along the road the wet-behind-the-ears Melissa morphed into an annoying Nag Hag in the back of my head. Now I can’t even write a sentence without thinking, ‘My son could probably write something better than this crap. Delete that paragraph, it’s awful. Better yet, trash the whole thing. Yes, right now.’
I don’t imagine I’ll ever be able to completely hate it, but I shudder to think its cast a shadow over everything else I’ll ever write, and that every other character I come up with will always be stuck with second place.
As I type this, I’ve realized my second book is called Doubles, which now seems horribly prophetic.