Earlier this year, I finished my third novel. After feedback from different beta readers, I’ve decided I need to start over from scratch, keeping the same premise and main characters, but making a lot of major changes. Am I discouraged? Hell, yeah. Do I want to just be done with it and be published already? Oh goodness, yes. Does the thought of writing a whole new novel make me want to vomit? Absolutely, but I’m going to do it. Here’s why.
While at World Fantasy this year I interviewed Dan Wells, author of the Serial Killer novels, as well as two new books coming out next year, Partials, a YA book and The Hollow City.* His advice to aspiring writers is to “write a bad book. Give yourself the freedom to write a bad book.”
A bad book? Who wants to write a bad book? No one! But Dan has more to say on it. “Writing is for some reason the only art form in which we expect our very first effort to be successful. No painter expects his first painting to end up in a museum, no sculptor expects his first pot to sell for thousands of dollars, and yet writers, we always think here’s my first novel, I’m done, give me a contract and make me famous.”
It’s hard for new writers to accept the idea of producing something that could only be for practice. All those hours, all that blood, sweat and tears that goes into writing a comprehensive novel, just to put it aside? Dan puts it into perspective for us. “Of course it’s not going to be good, it’s your first one. Write a bad book, and then write another bad book and write another bad book and eventually they’ll be really good because you’ll be getting lots and lots of practice.”
This has taught me that as writers we need to be patient with ourselves. We have to write the first bad book to get past it and get better. We need to give ourselves time to learn, grow and improve without piling on the pressure of getting published as soon as possible. It will happen when we’re ready and we will get ready by putting in the time to write bad books.
I’m now up to three bad books written. I’m going to write a fourth and see how that goes. How many bad books have you written?
*you can listen to the episode with Dan Wells here: www.adventuresinscifipublishing.com