I was a little hard on The Rub when I last assessed it. Contra myself, the book isn’t all bad: a few chapters almost satisfy my standards, there’s some wonderful absurdity, some prose that sparkles, some likeable characters, good tension, a noodle in a glass of tea that will sear into your memory—but the truth is that the novel fails as a first-page-to-last whole. The paltriness of its story vision just can’t sustain novel-length treatment, at least not without modifications so great as to turn it into another book altogether. There won’t be a second draft. I’ve moved on to the next thing. And it’s only through working on the next thing that the real benefits of writing The Rub become apparent.
When I began The Rub a debilitating worry was that my prose wouldn’t satisfy my standards. When I sat down to write I couldn’t meet the bar; I felt like my creative tissue was dried out. The struggle with The Rub finally put it into working order. Now I know with enough effort and revision I can write at a high enough level to satisfy myself, which means I don’t have to agonize about it, so I can focus on more important things.
I’m close to halfway done with outlining the plot of the next novel, currently known as Untitled. When I began The Rub I didn’t believe in plotting too much ahead, nor would I have been able to if I had wanted. I had no idea what sorts of scenes I could write or how to grow a story. Now I do. And now I know I need to plot because it’s like writing three drafts without all the waste. It’s one more lesson built on top of many wrong avenues I had to take. I keep trying new things: some don’t work, others become instrumental to my writing process.
Though there are many other things I could mention, from pacing to tension to voice, I don’t want to bore you too much more—let me just say, lastly, that though at first glance it may seem paradoxical, the biggest benefit of the failure is confidence. I did something I hadn’t done before, even if it wasn’t all that good, and now I know I can do it again (but much better). I learned a million little things that I can apply to the next one. I’ll only get better. The next novel will be great—and if it isn’t, then the next one or the one after that. It’s only a matter of persistence.