I got a critique yesterday for one of the beta copies of the first third of my first novel. I'm thinking now that maybe I should have given people the whole thing to read instead of only the first third, but the pressure to get the middle section done while the first part was fresh in their minds was enough for me to get it done.
The review was positive but wasn't stellar. I think she would have liked it more if she had the middle section, if she could see where I was going with it. I hope so, but the novel is what it is.
Forgive me while I nerd out for a second, but this morning I was thinking about this one review and about the many software applications I developed in the past over the span of ten years - more than 30 not including the revisions. The first application I wrote was classic ASP, which means the programming language was embedded in the web page - it's as simple as it gets. I had a degree in English and didn't know what the hell I was doing, so I used a co-worker's pages for a different application as an example. The experienced programmers watched from afar, wondering if I was going to be able to pull it off or not. I wrote one page at a time, one button at a time, until it worked. It was ugly; it was unoriginal; and it worked. Success.
The next application I wrote was more complex. I learned every HTML tag, came to understand the underbelly of how these things should work, and I wrote an application that deviated much more from the model I was given. I was my own - and it had 1000 web pages combined together to make it work. Ten years later, probably now even, five years after I resigned, that application was still in use - used every day by thousands of employees. Shortly after I wrote it, I realized 1000 web pages makes for a very badly designed application. Super bad. But it worked. It worked well. It was done and was functional, so I moved on. Live and learn.
Within just a few years, I was designing and developing applications that were much more complex and was mentoring other programmers. The applications were component based - written in pieces that were interconnected. I could write the stuff in my sleep and could come up with a design - even for the underlying database - while in meetings with end users and map the thing out for them like I had been thinking about it for weeks.
To tie this back to the first review I got for my first novel, this novel is a huge success even if everyone doesn't absolutely get it. It is a huge success, even if I don't find a publisher, even if all of my readers aren't thrilled with it. I love my story and am very proud. I understand there's room for improvement. But this one is basically done. Besides small revisions, this is it. I will make small changes when all the critiques are in, will finalize it, and move on to the next project.
I have a stack of outlines, beginning chapters, and ideas at my elbow - literally a project pile six inches high. If I persevere, learn from the one before, and continue to write with the same determination I applied to software development, I will write multiple novels over the next ten years. Everyone may not absolutely love them, but I will.
My financial guy got very excited a couple of months ago when I told him I'm writing novels. He said, "All you need to write is one Hunger Games!" That would be some very good commission for him if that happens, but I expect my success to be smaller than that. Eventually I may write one that's very successful, but that's not the point right now. The point is to write one, then another one that's a little better, and on and on until I can do this in my sleep.
I thought today was going to be a much better day than yesterday...but my little guy just puked in his bed. So I'm back to super bad.