My biggest ‘aha’ moment, the one that transformed me from an aspiring writer to an author, came after I’d written my third book and was preparing it for self-publication. (My first book will forever be unpublished and my second was picked up by a small press.)
I started my first novel when I was about 22 or so. I worked on it off and on for years, more than a decade. I restructured, added bits, ripped other bits out, polished and processed. Turns out, it was my “learning book.” I never wanted to write a learning book. I wanted to write something amazing that would end up on bookshelves worldwide.
Here’s what I discovered: writing is a craft, built on experience as much as talent. That first book was like a painting that had been overworked, a wonky table sanded into a stump by an overzealous novice carpenter. I didn’t know this then, but now I realise that a writer can’t get all the experience they need in one book.
I spent so long on that book that I found it difficult to move on to the next. I had such a time investment, that I couldn’t bear to throw it out. But as soon as I let go and wrote my second novel, suddenly I discovered hints of nuance and subtlety that had been pounded out of that first book. By my third book, I’d learned to play with language.
I could never have done that by continuing to torture that first book.
In those early days, I used to get so annoyed when people would recommend that while I was submitting one book, I should write another. I couldn’t let go. I wanted to make that book perfect. I believed I could, given time.
Now I realise my attitude was all wrong. Growth as a writer requires multiple projects, just as development as a painter requires multiple canvases.
Currently, I’m writing the book that will end a six-book series. I am still proud of the first book in that series, the first one I self-published, but I can look back and see that I’ve developed considerably since then. That growth never would have happened if I hadn’t learned how to let go.
My one regret as a writer is that I didn’t learn that lesson a decade sooner.
India Drummond writes fantasy novels. She knew from age nine that writing would be her passion. Since then she’s discovered many more, but none quite so fulfilling as creating a world, a character, or a moment and watching them evolve into something complex and compelling. She has lived in three countries and four American states, is a dual British and American citizen, and currently lives at the base of the Scottish Highlands in a village so small its main attraction is a red phone box. In other words: paradise. Find out more about her and her books at her website: http://www.indiadrummond.com