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!