I remember the conversation vividly: “Here’s a promo card for my book, but my newest work is the one I’m most proud of.” I said this to Tim Seeley, creator of Hack/Slash and Revival, the latter which is set in my hometown. Mainly it felt nice to reconnect with a former high school classmate, now both as creators. (There’s a part of me, of course, that dreamed he would read one of my works and want to recreate it as a graphic novel. Hey, a guy can dream!)
I’ve had a few of these conversations with people. There’s a part of me that wanted to erase Robot Awareness’s existence. The series is my first effort (something I’ve later learned is a mistake) and when I think what I’m writing now, it doesn’t hold up, or at least that’s how I feel. As Ira Glass once said, you have to write poorly before you can write good. Chuck Lorre has said something similar, I believe, in one of his vanity cards.
Don’t get me wrong — I love Robot Awareness. I love the characters, and I love that they’ve surprised me as I’ve read the series. I think the story is a good one, and I think I shaved enough needless story arcs out of the series to make it worth reading.
Robot Awareness was a learning process. I’ve felt that it taught me how to tell a story in the long term, to build toward something. There are things I did right: knowing exactly how the story is going to end and working toward that; and wrong: trying to mix together way too many themes and plot threads. I think I narrowed it down and later installments are much more focused and to the point.
But what about Part I? There’s always been this fear that Part I was beyond saving, that because it was the first part, that no matter how many revisions it would never live up to future installments, or other projects that I’d undertaken. I almost felt apologetic about it.
That’s where I was a week ago when I set up a free promo for the series. I decided to open up the ODT file and do a little polishing. I read the first couple of scenes…
…and didn’t change a thing. I was taken aback. It was exactly as I wanted it. After reading the first couple of chapters, other than a couple quick tweaks, I scrolled to the bottom, updated the end note to link to Part II, and decided I was good to go.
I felt embarrassed. Why was I so convinced that Part I was so horrible? It really wasn’t. Granted, it took a lot of revision to get to that point. Much more than I would need these days.
But I also felt relieved. It’s a good book. It’s not perfect, but I set out to write a thrilling sci-fi read with a deeper message for those interested, and something enjoyable. It’s fun to read – that’s the most important thing to me.
So this weekend, as I travel to EgoCon and offer free copies, I can do so proudly.
Robot Awareness: Part I will be free this Saturday and Sunday. Or, read it free any time on Kindle Unlimited.
Well said. I recently experienced the same thing.
When my first comix short was published, I enthusiastically shared it with others; I was thrilled to sell my comps at cons & online. Within the year, though, I could barely bring myself to look at the story & felt embarrassed that it was even available. (Putting oneself out there is hard! I suspect this insecurity is a significant reason I’ve not written much since.)
Three years later — just a few weeks ago — I revisited the short. Ya know, it was Not Bad! There are a few bits of dialog I’d tweak, sure, and I should have trusted my collaborator’s initial lettering choices (what saw print cluttered his art & was hard to read; my directive, my fault), but I’m glad “Nimrod’s Son” exists. It’s something I’ve learned from, and — if I do the work — the first step to telling more stories better.
We had similar experiences then. I chided myself a bit: Why was I downplaying my own work? Robot Awareness is flawed, but it is still a cool story and I still enjoy writing it. I think since we are present for our own progress, and utterly aware of it, that we assume others see work we’ve done awhile ago the way we do. But they’re looking at it with fresh eyes, and it’s not necessarily inferior to them. I had been thinking how I could get people to look past the opening chapters to get to the really good stuff, but it was a good reminder that Part I is good stuff too! And then I had to think back to how this is a reincarnation of a series of short stories I’d written – sort of the beta version. In fact, one of them contains a side story I might have to revamp and throw out there some day. We’ll see. Also, I liked Nimrod’s Son. And I’m glad you got into that anthology – that’s impressive on its own!