A few weeks back, I wrote about how I try to improve with every novel that I write by continuing to read books on the craft of storytelling. I want to improve and push myself to get to the next level.
But sometimes it’s hard to see the results and I wonder to myself, Am I really getting any better?
So the day I finished writing my second novel, I didn’t light a cigar or open a celebratory bottle of chardonnay or take a nap or gorge myself with Chipotle or decide to finally grow a writer’s beard.
No, what I decided to do was read my first novel which I hadn’t looked at in about four months.
While the advice given to new writers is to never go back and read what you’ve written so you can focus on the future, I thought that rereading that first novel could help me write a better book #3.
As I read, I couldn’t believe what I found. It must have been on page two, maybe three, where I first saw it, a huge grammatical error staring right at me. I cautiously read on and found even more.
So I had a decision to make — should I keep reading? And if so, do I make the corrections?
Of course I should and I did. I opened the manuscript and started making the updates to whatever issues I found. As I read on, I found poor sentence structure paragraph after paragraph. I fixed it. Then I found missing quotation marks, incomplete sentences, unclear dialogue, all of it corrected in my manuscript and fixed on Amazon with a mental note to have a talk with my editor.
After making the updates, I closed the lid to my laptop and just sat here and thought for a while.
As disappointed as I was to find all of those issues in my first novel, I realized something — I had improved. Not from someone showing me all of my mistakes, but from seeing them for myself. Somehow, maybe from the books I read or from the sheer act of writing more words, I got better.
It also made me realize something else. We’re so focused on improving, on comparing ourselves with where we want to be, that we never take the time to see that we’re already getting better.
They say comparison is the enemy of joy, that we should never compare ourselves to anyone.
Because there is someone you should compare yourself to — who you were yesterday.
If you think you’re not improving, look at your older work. I think you’ll see how far you’ve come.