In 2009, I wrote two books. The Corsican, which was published, and an urban fantasy called Best Served Cold. The Corsican flew from my fingers, and when I finished it I was quite pleased. BSC, on the other hand, was a tortuous journey of self-discovery as to how optimistic I was at thinking I was a writer.
I rewrote BSC several times. It had different titles, and several main elements changed during the course of those rewrites. Finally, finally I felt I had succeeded in getting something that was workable. I eagerly sent it to my friend, who scanned the first 10 pages and then replied, “This is barely salvageable.”
To a brand new author, full of pride at her success with her first book, this wasn’t a slap to the face; it was a roundhouse punch to the stomach. On the other hand, when the confusion cleared, I realized that I had a lot to learn in my chosen profession. My friend’s words spurred me on to greater heights of effort, to turn my book into a winner.
I went so far as to hire an editor. This was another learning curve that I was in no way prepared for, but that’s another story. This editor did her best, but there was nothing that could be done. Thirteen rewrites total, 10 before the edits. I learned a lot about improving my work, but I never pulled that manuscript together.
This would have been an excellent time to give up. It seemed as though my friend was wrong. BSC wasn’t barely salvageable, it was wholly unsalvageable. I had wasted time, I had wasted energy, I had failed.
Except that I hadn’t. Realizing that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was helped me learn how to write better books. It’s tempting to huff the polite compliments writers tend to receive from their well-meaning loved ones, but too much of that can falsely inflate an ego and dull the critical edge you need to be an artist. My friend was smart enough to know that, and brave enough to brace for impact when she loosed her opinions upon my unsuspecting mind. I was too stunned to say much when I read her words, to say the least, but her phrase caught in my mind. It’s a token that while praise is lovely, honest feedback is the best tool a writer can receive.
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Allison here. So I was here through a lot of this. I helped with edits on The Corsican, and I even worked on a piece of artwork for Best Served Cold. We had toyed with the idea of teaming up to work on writing and publishing our fiction, and had even made an arrangement with a mutual friend of ours to start a small company dedicated to independent publishing.
Unfortunately, the further we progressed after the release of The Corsican, the more apparent it became that we had different priorities than our third partner. Eventually, these differences became insurmountable, and we had to go our separate ways.
Tina and I never really gave up, though. We harbored the dream, talking about it in private or in hushed voices, as though exposure to the unblinking eye of external scrutiny would cause our dream to vanish in a puff of dust. We planned, we schemed, and we dreamed. Slowly, this thing began to take shape; plans coalesced, agreements were made, and expectations were revised again and again. We never lost that starry-eyed state. Tina said to me one day, “if we try that again, I have the perfect name. Barely Salvageable.”
And it is the perfect name. We understand that writing does not spring fully formed from the skulls of geniuses, like Athena from the head of Zeus. We understand that to create takes work and time, and that sometimes it’s painful. We understand that in the end, all good rough drafts are barely salvageable, and we also know that this fact is no reason to give up.
The name became a kind of secret magic word, and incantation that we could use to inspire one another. It was a talisman against the myriad disappointments that the world had to offer us. In the intervening five years, Tina and I threw ourselves into our writing. We learned about building communities. We collected like-minded writers in situations similar to ours, we set up writers’ groups and a beloved critique group which we dubbed, with a knowing smile, Barely Salvageable.
Now, with each of us having a book on the cusp of publication, we’re finally ready to make Barely Salvageable a reality. We have big ideas, and big hopes. And we’re glad that we have the opportunity to share this grand adventure with you.