A writer e-mailed me to ask, "When it comes to your first book, I'm not sure what kind of mindset to have. Do you take the approach that most first books aren't published, so it's a weak idea and it might suck, but at least I wrote it? Or hold out for something you are in love with and think is great?"
I think this is a great question. And a difficult one to answer.
The first thing I want to say is there's nothing wrong with not "being there" yet. Most writers I know have a perfectionist streak to them. We want to be our best, and we want to be our best now. Something I had to work to accept was that yes, I had some natural writing abilities, but this writing thing still involved work.
My husband is brilliant at math and science ... but he still needed his engineering classes in college. And even with four years of college under his belt, he really started learning how to be an engineer once he got a job and started engineering.
I say all that to make the point that training is a part of life and a part of writing. Is it possible your first book sucks and is destined to be hidden away in a filing cabinet? Yep. That's where mine is. But was it a waste? Absolutely not.
Every word you write matters, because with every word you grow. You develop.
There's that old saying, "Anything worth doing is worth doing well." Sometimes I don't agree. Sometimes all I can manage is a half-hearted attempt at dusting my house. But with writing, you'll reap much more if you sow your best. The writers who I see rapidly improve are the ones who throw themselves into writing their stories. Who study the craft, who work to improve. The problem with approaching your story like it probably sucks is it sets you up to write half-heartedly, and while you'll still improve as a writer and learn from the experience, it won't be as much as if you give it your all.
The other thing I want to say is that at some point during the process of every book I write, I'm convinced it sucks. And these are book ideas that I loved maybe just days before. Ideas I couldn't stop thinking about.
What I keep in the forefront of my mind is, "I can fix it." That's what the editing process is for. The steps we've talked about so far can help us detect big holes in our ideas before we get started, but there's still bound to be a few of those, "This idea is trash," kind of days. Remind yourself that you can fix it. Character too flat? Writing sounds weak and tired? Is your plot too predictable? All fixable.
Hopefully that helps.
This is the last day to get in your writing prompts so make sure those get to me by 11:59pm Kansas City time.