I’ve just written the best book ever. No, really, I have. It combines depth with a rip-roaring story. It’s an adventure and a psychological study and it’s desperate and it’s terrifying. It’ll grip you for days. Unputdownable. Devastating.
This is a lie. I’m not sure in what way it’s a lie, but I know it’s not true. I’ve finished a draft and I know it’ll be filled with errors. Huge, great, monstrous mistakes that’ll have any civilised reader reaching for the red pen with sonic-boom generating alacrity.
I’m not an idiot. A dreamer, yes, but not an idiot. I want to write well. And I know that in five year’s time I’ll be hideously embarrassed by what I’ve done. It’s painful to think that I sent my first novel out to publishers and agents; it was so bad, or at least so not good enough, that it’s a wonder nobody advised me to get a second day job so I’d have no more time to write. But right now I’m in love. I’m infatuated. Every blemish is beauty; every imperfection a charm. As if I’ve learnt nothing at all.
It’s impossible to be objective about the work you’ve just written. I’ve scrawled my way through seven novels and after each of them I thought I had a contender. This’ll be the one to break me, I thought; this is my masterpiece. I’ll make my name. I’ve felt this after every single draft, no matter how I’ve known that there’s still much work to do. Every time I’ve been wrong.
So what’s today’s delusion? Are my characters cruel clichés? Is my dialogue parade-ground parody? Is my plot as obvious as an elephant in a fishtank? Or will it be a combination of evils that just add up to a sense of ‘bleuch’-ness. I don’t know. I can’t see my errors. It’s too fresh, too real.
I’m proud of what I’ve done. I’m learning. I can see all the mistakes I made in previous novels – wince-making, agonising torments – and I’ve tried to avoid them. But there’s always a new way to grow. Always a skill to improve, a new craft to master. I just can’t see what it is right now. I want to believe. It’s so clear, so beautiful.
It’s a good job I know people willing to break my heart.