What do you do when you’ve lost confidence in your own fiction writing? What if somebody has told you that what you write is “crap” — and you believed them? How do you pick yourself up and get going again?
Duncan posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
A few years ago ,a colleague saw the following opening for a piece of fiction I had scribbled in my note book.
When i asked him why he was reading my notebook, he retorted sharply:
“Wish I’d not exposed myself to such a crap.”
And sure a crap i became. Since then every time i set out to write fiction I find it very difficult to compose more than a few sentences before i see a crap of sentences staring me.
Question:How can i gather enough courage to write?
Randy sez: Sooner or later, every fiction writer faces this question. It’s a common saying among novelists that ninety percent of a first draft is crap. The trick is to figure out which is the golden ten percent and then to have the guts to fix the other ninety percent.
There isn’t any easy answer for this. Maybe the best thing to do is to realize that all authors everywhere get told that their stuff is crap.
Go visit the Amazon page that lists the top 20 bestsellers. This page is updated hourly, so it’s never going to be the same for long. Pick any book on this page and read the 1-star reviews. (I can almost guarantee that any Amazon bestseller has a pile of 1-star reviews.) There is always going to be somebody with a load of bile in their brain who hates your book and isn’t shy about telling you that it’s full of crap.
Now check out agent Steve Laube’s blog for today, which includes some memorable rejection lines, such as, “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.” Steve includes a sentence he wrote (when he was an editor some years ago) telling a certain wannabe writer that he was a good writer, but his characters weren’t really memorable enough. That wannabe writer was Ted Dekker, now a New York Times bestselling author whose books have sold millions of copies.
Duncan, if writing fiction is in your blood, then write fiction. Maybe it really is crap and maybe it isn’t, but write it anyway and get it out there and let the professionals figure out if it’s got merit. If it does, then you’re gold. If it doesn’t, then work on your writing to make it better, and get it out there again.
After all, when Shakespeare’s play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream came out, one reviewer wrote: “September 29: The most insipid, ridiculous play that I ever saw in my life.”
If that can happy to Billy, it can happen to you. That’s the nature of the beast.
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.