Monday, May 16, 2011

Write another book

The best piece of writing advice I ever got? Write another book.

The best piece of writing advice I can give? Write another book.

Sometimes newer writers despair when they hear that most published authors published their second, fifth, or even tenth book written, not their first. They think, "You mean I'm going to spend months and years pounding out a novel, pouring my soul into its pages, and it's still not going to be good enough? No one will ever even read it?" Yeah, probably. And that completely stinks.

But writing is hard. Just like anything else worth doing well, it takes work and years of practice. You wouldn't want a doctor performing her first ever operation on you. Or an accountant filing his first tax return on your behalf.

And here's the secret to writing multiple books: you get better with each one. Each new book also helps you to gain perspective on the older ones, your many drawer novels. You can see how your previous books weren't working. You might go back to them someday, now that you're a better writer. But you also might keep pushing forward, writing better and better books, no looking back.

Sure, some authors do publish their first book. Some first books are bestsellers. But some authors have to write 10 or 20 books before the industry decides their writing is good enough to be published. Maybe some of us are slower than others. Or maybe some ideas are more marketable than others. Maybe a lot of it has to do with pure luck.

But here's another secret: when you start thinking about all of the above, really despairing that you're not smart enough or lucky enough or whatever to make it, keep writing. Because before you know it, you'll be completing your next novel. And instead of agonizing, suddenly you have a whole new baby to present to the world, a second chance, then a third chance, then a tenth chance...

Not that I know this from personal experience or anything. ;)

Agent Rachelle Gardener recently blogged about this: "Will Your First Book Be Published? Four Reasons You Should Write Several Books Before Seeking Publication." Her blog, as always, is incredibly wise and encouraging. But I also found the comments really helpful--lots of writers pumping out lots of books. We are not alone.

More Greece pictures on Wednesday!


  1. My husband is a big believer in the "10,000 hours" school of thought (from a book he read, "This is Your Brain on Music" by D. Levitin).

    "ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert — in anything. In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again."

    So when I get discouraged, my husband will remind me that I'm putting in my 10,000 hours, that whatever I'm doing counts towards mastering my craft.

  2. This advice isn't always easy to stomach because we don't want to think the manuscript we poured ourselves into won't see publication, but we have to move on and write another book. Great post!

  3. Great post, Anne, and great advice, though I agree with Kelly that it's hard to take sometimes. But you're right, push ahead, no looking back. Get those 10,000 hours under your belt.

    Looking forward to more of Greece on Wednesday...

  4. SO true! If I hadn't kept working on new projects, I would have never gotten an agent or a book deal! You never know which project will be The One.

  5. Elisabeth: Yes! That's such a good reminder! I think sometimes, because a book is a finished product, we forget that it's all just practice.

    Kelly: Thanks! It is such hard advice to stomach, and certainly not a perspective we want to take while we're in the midst of writing (oh, if this isn't any good, I'll just write another!). But yeah, a new book really is the best way I've found to move on.

    Andrea: It's kind of like getting over a bad relationship, isn't it? The best way to stop thinking about it is to start dating someone else! =) Thanks! Looking forward to sharing more of Greece with you--I've had such fun picking out the pictures!

    Anna: Thank you! Your response is music to my ears! I'll keep hoping (and writing)! =)

  6. This is so true Anne! I'm currently working on my 4th book, and my writing is only getting better and better.

    I cringe now when I look at my first novel. LOL.

  7. Thanks, Karen! Hopefully we keep moving onward and upward with the writing, huh?!

  8. This is advice I didn't want to hear at one point, but it's just SO TRUE. I have seen this exact thing working for so many people that I am a total believer in it now. I am so glad I moved on to something completely new (and better!).
    Thanks for sharing! Ah, and as a side note, a present! The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award, for you:

  9. Kiperoo: It's not easy advice to hear. I was just on the phone with a writer today who was telling me how she LOVES her main character and can't bear to move on. But yeah, I'm a total believer in moving on now, too!

    Ohhh, a present! =) Thanks so much for the blog award--made my day!

  10. I have to say, that is excellent advice. Luckily, I always feel unfinished after I've finished a novel, so I generally start another book within days, if not hours, after completing a ms.

    I love your blog, bu the way. You have received ANOTHER award, this time from me! You can claim it over at

  11. That's a great trait to have, Cat. Do you always have an idea for the next book too? Sometimes I can feel quite worn out after finishing a book, and want to write but be unsure how to move forward.

    Aw, thanks for the compliments for the blog AND the award. Really made my Sunday morning.


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