Whale Puke to Ambergris

2 Aug

So I finished the first draft of my most recent novel, and man… does it suck. The plot goes nowhere, the characters are unrealistic, and I’m sure if I look too deep, a dragon will appear for no apparent reason. How do I turn this crap into a spun gold?

When I decided to give my “writing career” another try (a year since self-publishing my last book), I figured that doing the July version of my favorite writing motivator – NaNoWriMo – would be a good way to get those creative juices flowing. And it has! I am feeling much better about myself, I’m expanding my outreach, and even started writing this blog! (BTW, I’m grateful that you’re reading this.) However, as much as I’m happy about expanding my writing opportunity, I’m incredibly disappointed in what I wrote.

When it comes to this situation, I keep remembering a scene from Dean Koontz’ Lightning, in which the main character (an author) is writing her latest story. Her husband comes in and asks, “How’s the story coming?”

She responds, “Ugh. Whale puke.”

He smiles and says, “Great! That means it’ll sell another 10,000 copies!”

Ambergris, one of the precious perfume components and is rather expensive, comes from whale puke. I try to remember that your first draft will never be publishable. What’s important is that you get the words out first. You can polish it all you want before you publish, but if you don’t have anything written at all, you have nothing to polish… or publish.

So the current plan is to throw it in the drawer and not look at it for three months. Give my mind a chance to breathe and try and remember what I liked about this universe and where I want it to go. In the meantime, I’ve got another novel that I need to edit and get ready for publication. I’ve got this audiobook project that I want to make of one of my stories. And… as always, continue to promote the books I’ve already published.

Speaking of which, have you checked our my latest Kindle offering? #shamelessplug 🙂

Do I suffer alone? Do you have finished novels that haven’t seen the light of day in… years? Do have uncompleted stories that you just stopped one day and never came back to? Cry on my electronic shoulder in the comments below!

7 Responses to “Whale Puke to Ambergris”

  1. nickreeves August 2, 2020 at 11:12 am #

    …wow (sic)…
    sounds like you are right on track to me.
    Dive in again!

  2. Sabiscuit August 2, 2020 at 7:20 pm #

    But why not dig in and make the characters more over the top and the story more unrealistic? I remember reading one of my scenes again and thinking the conflict was too neatly resolved. So I imagined how a critic would receive this scene, and I put their words into the dialogue, so it was almost like breaking the fourth wall. It worked because the character was analysing her own words and making herself look incompetent, but this was a strategy in itself.

    • albigensia August 2, 2020 at 7:21 pm #

      Ooh… Interesting! Let me think about it while I’m mourning my first draft. 😉

      • Sabiscuit August 2, 2020 at 7:22 pm #

        It’s okay to throw your hands up. Take a walk and talk to yourself. You’ll figure it out.


  1. What Did I Win? | Albigensia Press - December 1, 2020

    […] getting a novel done in a month is only the start of the work. As I learned last time, just because you crank out 50k words doesn’t mean you have a working story at the end. I […]

  2. Saving Mr. Crooked Nose | Albigensia Press - February 8, 2021

    […] on and finished a novel. The problem is on August 1st, I realized that when it was done, it was whale puke. How do I save this story and make it […]

  3. “This is a really great book.” | Albigensia Press - February 16, 2021

    […] my merchant marine in space story is kinda weak tea as well. Thankfully, I already knew that was whale puke, so that’ll have to sit in the electronic desk drawer for a little […]

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