When You Want to Burn Your Book

If you feel like burning your current or first draft, it may be a good sign. One would think that wanting to burn your book is a sign that it is condemned, but no. I think it could mean that you and it both have some potential.

Right after I finished my first draft of Portal to Japan, and even during the writing of it, I had an intense animosity to it sometimes. In the end, I even wrote down that I wanted to burn it. There were parts to erase and I couldn’t wait to tear it to shreds (editing-wise, not literally.)

But then the summer passed, in which time I typed it up and got a new printer and printed it out. In the fall I went over it with a pen, not to much avail. At least for me, the more I look at my own writing, the more perfect it seems. On the other hand, some parts just weren’t right, and I still knew it.

In the meantime, throughout the winter, I was learning new things and realizing that my true intentions for the story were in agreement with what some people were saying about the spiritual nature of the times. Things that had happened in my book were like landmarks for events in real life on a national scale. I would notice something that happened or was going on, and I would think very excitedly, “I wrote about that!!” (As far as I can tell, I’m not crazy. If anything, I know God is in control and nothing takes Him by surprise.)

And in the spring and into summer now, small bits and pieces of my ideas are making their way into the text itself. There are moments that I still wish I could spend a spell tearing it apart and rebuilding it.

I am a nobody, but there are others who have also had a “condemned” first draft. C.S. Lewis literally did burn his first draft of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; it was deemed bad by his friends unanimously. However, the picture of the little faun holding a parcel and an umbrella still stayed with him, and with the encouragement of a friend or two at least, he created the new version we know and love today.

According to a documentary on PBS I believe, Margaret Mitchell’s first draft of Gone with the Wind was so bad that the editor said he had never seen a worse draft in his life. How she got an editor and one that would continue working with her after that I don’t know. After relentlessly changing every bit and part of it, a better novel was born, and the only phrase that remained was “gone with the wind.”

The more one works on the actual meat of the novel, the easier changes seem to become. Ideas brighten, and at the very least, some of your ideas make it onto the document. Will it become as sensational and essential as the two classics above? Don’t worry about it.

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