Going Back to the Beginning
Updated: May 11, 2022
For writers, our books are like our kids. We nurture them, from that moment when they were barely a twinkle in our eyes until we release them out into the world to fend for themselves.
We also have a favorite, we just don't usually talk about it. It's kinda considered uncouth. You want everyone to love all of your books.
Luckily when it came to kids, I only had one. I can tell the whole world that he's my favorite with no fear of judgement. But now that my third novel Redemption & Ruin is coming out in only one more month, I thought it was a good time to take a look back at the book that started it all for me: The Stairs in the Woods.
Stairs is still my favorite book that I've written for that very reason. It's the book that started me on this journey. It was also extremely cathartic, as a lot of the themes in the book were about a transformation I was undergoing at the time that I wrote the book.
To be fair, it's also the worst book I've written.
"But Matt, you said it's your favorite of your books?"
Yes, this is true. But the reasons why a writer may love their own books is usually different from the reason why a reader loves them. A reader usually falls in love with the story and the characters. And truthfully, so does the writer. But we also tend to know a lot more about what was happening in our own lives at the time that we wrote each book. In the case of Stairs, I was in the middle of a divorce, and I was learning to grow and become my own person again. Thus the reason why Kaitlynn's story is one of growth and her acceptance of her true self. There's a tremendous amount of parallel between the fictional character I created, and the person I was at the time. I see her growth, and I also see my own. This is why it's still my favorite of my books, and probably always will be.
All of that being said, I have grown so much as a writer since I released Stairs. I look at each book I've written in succession, and I can see the growth. I know what my weaknesses as a writer are now, and I know to be on the lookout for them in ways I couldn't even begin to understand when I was working on Stairs.
I also have a larger support group now than I did when I first started writing. As a writer, sometimes you simply don't see your weaknesses. And what's worse, you'll see when other people have the exact same weaknesses, but when you're reading your own writing your brain fills in the gaps because you knew what you meant. So having other writers that I can count on to share my work with is a massive asset.
The best part about growth, is that it never really ends. If you ever reach the point where you believe that you're the best at something, I hate to break it to you... you're not. And that's okay! The chase of perfection is half the fun. Getting there seems like it would be pretty boring though. It also feels like it would be pretty limiting. I'd rather be flawed and keep improving as writer, and a person.
So in summary: keep learning, keep growing, and surround yourself with good people. You'll be glad that you did.