You’ve written your first book. Maybe it’s a short story, maybe it’s an epic fantasy, perhaps you leaned more toward a gruesome horror tale. Whichever route you took, you’ve penned that masterpiece, took that fateful dive into the tumultuous sea of publishing. As soon as you pushed the ‘Publish’ button, wave after wave of doubt hit you. Did you dot all the proverbial i’s and cross all those t’s? Of course you did. You’re the best writer in the world. Words flow from your pen, oozing out with the most amazing skill.
Not a second goes by that you’re not thinking about your book. You’re on the computer every five minutes, checking for a review, checking for a sale. Will readers like it, or will you be crucified and hung out to dry. You KNOW your book is awesome.
You start mixing with other authors, thrilled to be counted as one of them. They discuss their editors, their agents, their public speaking engagements. They discuss the ins and outs of prose and poetry. They talk about ‘those authors’ who struggle with the most basic of story telling and scoff at their lack of experience. Then you realise, they’re talking about you. You struggle with the basics of story telling. You don’t have an editor, having no money left after each week of hard work. You read your book again, finding error after error. Too much showing, not enough telling. Commas out of place, blatant grammar no-no’s. Your heart sinks into your boots. You’re officially the worst writer in the world. You failed.
So you’re not the best writer in the world. I have news for you. No one is. Of course there are writers who can spin a yarn to make your toes curl. I can bet you they didn’t start off that great. In fact, throughout history failure had been the catalyst for the most amazing and successful people.
Henry Ford’s first business failed miserably, leaving him broke five times! Bill Gates’ first company Traf-O-Data was a complete flop. Harland David Sanders’ (Kentucky Fried Chicken) recipe was rejected 1009 times. Walt Disney was fired as a magazine editor for his lack of imagination. Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four years old. Isaac Newton didn’t do well in school. Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime. Charles Shultz’ Peanuts cartoon was rejected time and time again.
There are literally hundreds and hundreds of failure to success stories.
The great thing about writing is that it’s a skill that can be taught and refined. Sure there are natural writers out there. People with imaginations as vast as the universe. Even if you’re not one of them, you can still be a great writer. I believe in two main ways in which writers can write better.
The first is to saturate yourself in art. Read as much as you can, in all kinds of genres. The bigger the reader, the better the writing. Reading a variety of books will expand your mind and thereby your imagination. Go to the theater and watch movies, paying particular attention to dialogue and how visual art uses the ‘show’ aspect of story telling. Learn how artists express their emotions through art, and find out in which ways paintings and sculptures speak to you.
The second is to saturate yourself in all aspects of your writing. As writers we need to admit our weaknesses. Maybe we’re not that good with our verb usage. Perhaps we struggle with pacing. The technical aspects of writing can be learned. It simply takes time and doesn’t have to cost money. There are a myriad of online educational sites that offer free grammar lessons. While practicing your writing, practice editing as well. Learn how to self edit and make use of the many Beta Readers skilled in this important function. Most of them do it for the love of reading, and not to make money.
I have no doubt that my second book will be better written than my first. I believe my writing improves with each poem, each children’s book and each short story I write. I believe yours does too. The important thing is to keep on writing.
Much love XXX