So…whenever a public figure fucks up beyond belief, it can usually be linked to how old they were at the time it happened. This is especially true when the perpetrator is a teenager and in some cases in their early twenties (not all cases, but some). The younger you are, the more forgivable you are in the eyes of the public. But what about fucking up badly in your later years? Suppose you do something horrible in your late twenties and apologize for it in your thirties or forties? Only then do you not have an easy way out of your predicament.
Whenever a teenager writes horrible fan fiction that accidentally glorifies monstrous behavior, they can be easily forgiven. But if that author was older and allegedly wiser, then the criticisms become harsher. An example of this is Anna Todd, the author of the One Direction romantic fan fiction After. The book got a lot of heat for lionizing abusive relationships, cheating, and overall deplorable behavior. Anna Todd wrote that book’s first draft when she was in her early twenties. Because she should have “known better” at that age, many of the attacks on After were lobbied against her as a person. Is this fair? Does she legitimately not know how the human experience works or is this some part of an evil conspiracy?
As many of you are painfully aware, I have my own experience with writing awful and tone deaf first drafts. Beautiful Monster, anyone? I didn’t figure this out on my own, but the first draft version of Tarja was manipulative as hell and incredibly nosy when it came to being therapeutic to Windham. Yes, you heard that right. Somebody else had to point this out to me. As a bonus to this juicy backstory, I just celebrated my thirty-third birthday when I completed this first draft. As someone with that much life experience, I should have known better than to make Tarja Rikkinen a super-creep. But that’s the thing: I DON’T have a wealth of life experience. I DON’T have a treasure trove of wisdom. In today’s world I’m thirty-four years old and I’m still taking too long to mature.
But when it comes to first drafts, authors should be given as much permission as possible to fuck up badly. First drafts are NEVER perfect when they’re barfed onto the page. Even well-established authors will tell you this. If you see a first draft of a novel and you want to point out mistakes, be forgiving and nonjudgmental. Every author deserves the benefit of the doubt. But the thing with Anna Todd’s book is, from what Book Tubers have said about it, it reads like it never made it past the first draft stage. It has so many typos, so many plot holes, and so many shitty characters. No sane editor would have allowed any of those mistakes to stand. And yet, here we are in 2020 and After not only is a published novel, but a fucking movie. By the way, I’m using the F-bomb as an adjective, but the movie could very well be about the act of fucking.
Here’s my stance on latent maturity. Fucking up badly is not exclusive to any age, whether you’re a teenager, an adult, or shit, let’s extend that to the elder years. My only concern is, did the offender grow as a result of this mistake? Did they change their ways? Did they learn the lessons they were supposed to learn? If the answer to these questions is yes, then that person should be forgiven, provided the crimes committed weren’t overly serious. Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein don’t deserve forgiveness. I rest my case.
So if I really do lack the necessary life experience to make rational decisions about my first draft, then why am I a writer? Isn’t wisdom a requirement for being successful in that industry? It is indeed. In fact, I have just enough wisdom to know that I need help crossing the street from time to time. I certainly don’t want to be offensive when I write first drafts, but it does happen and I need people to point this out to me without holding a blade to my throat.
I used to hate criticism so much that I’d reject all of it no matter how reasonable it was. Now that I’ve gained just a little bit of wisdom, I know that criticism is vital to my success as an author. I can’t have a career without it. Does it hurt sometimes? Absolutely. But does the criticism come from a place of love? Hell yeah it does. That’s something we as creative people owe each other: a place of love, forgiveness, and growth. If we’re being judged all the time for our worst mistakes, we’ll never get anything done. That’s not productive in the least.
Beautiful Monster is hardly the most offensive first draft novel I’ve written. In 2018, I wrote two others named Silent Warrior and Incelbordination, both of which are about school life. Because they are first drafts by their very nature and I don’t trust my wisdom one single bit, there are things going on in both of those novels that I don’t know could be offensive as fuck. Is Scott George from Silent Warrior a creep because of who he’s dating? Am I sending the wrong message by having his girlfriend heal him? Did I also create a bratty protagonist that nobody wants to cheer for?
What about Incelbordination? Is Oswald Crow a whiny bitch? Do I overplay the fact that he has dwarfism? Does he have any real dimension to him other than smoking pot, being short, and listening to heavy metal? Is having him pine for romantic love a sexist trope? It’ll be a while before I’m ready to have those two first drafts critiqued. I’ve got my hands full with Beautiful Monster and Emilio & Marigold. And goddamn, do those stories have some SERIOUS fucking problems!
To cap off what is already a very rambling blog entry, I just want to tell each and every one of my dearly beloveds out there to be kind to each other and don’t judge each other too harshly. Does Anna Todd deserve forgiveness? What about E.L. James? Or Stephanie Meyer? Is being naïve really an excuse or is the damage done too overwhelming? These are all reasonable debates that you can have among your friends and audience members. But when you have these debates…please be kind and if necessary, rewind. I’m Garrison Kelly! Until next time, try to enjoy the daylight!
***BEAUTIFUL MONSTER PROGRESS***
I’m certainly taking my sweet time with editing the shit out of my novel. It could be the creative burnout. It could be general tiredness. Or it could be that my slowness has been right all along and that I should take more time to think about how I’m going to fix these longstanding problems. As of this blog entry, I’m getting ready to edit chapter five, where the readers are first introduced to Tarja Rikkinen, the token female mercenary at Shadow Asylum. Or as Commander Rinehart calls her, the “diversity hire”. We know right away that she’s an excellent fighter, but being insanely violent doesn’t necessarily make for a likeable character. She needs something extra. But what will that extra nuance be? Her love for animals? Her penchant for cracking jokes at inappropriate times? Or maybe…Shelly Atwood will invade her thoughts and implore Tarja to…spill her secret! What secret is that? Well, if I told you all, it wouldn’t be a fucking secret! Stay tuned. Or as Lindsey Doe says on You Tube, stay curious!
***QUOTE OF THE DAY***
“Love is one of the most intense feelings felt by man; another is hate. Forcing yourself to feel indiscriminate love is very unnatural. If you try to love everyone you only lessen your feelings for those who deserve your love. Repressed hatred can lead to many physical and emotional ailments. By learning to release your hatred towards those who deserve it, you cleanse yourself of these malignant emotions and need not take your pent-up hatred out on your loved ones.”