Monday, February 27, 2012

Babe Ruth and Bad Books

Just a reminder that writing prompts for the 100 word free write are due this evening!

We're starting a new writing series today designed to help us conquer our writing fears. Maybe just knowing others have the same fears as you will make you feel better. When I was 17, I found great comfort from Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird where she said all writers, even writers I love and respect, write [really bad] first drafts. That gave me such a bump of confidence to hear it wasn't just me.

On the Go Teen Writers Facebook group, I asked what fears people had about their writing and they were gracious enough to answer. If you have fears you'd like to get perspective on either leave a comment or send me an email.

I can't cure your fears and anxieties, but maybe talking about them, getting them out in the open, will keep them from being too crippling.

Today we're talking about this big hairy fear:

My book sucks, and I'm completely wasting my time because I will never get published.

I am 100% sure that all aspiring writers have thought this at least once. And that those who are already published occasionally fear never getting published again.

Let's set a few "being published" myths straight. Being published will not:


  • Make you rich
  • Load you up with confidence
  • Allow you to write (and sell) whatever book is on your heart

Let's take those one by one.

If you're writing for the money then, yes, you are completely wasting your time. It's possible to make a living writing novels, but not likely. A much better plan is to marry rich so your writing income doesn't matter. (That's a joke.)

Confidence. I don't know a single working writer who doesn't continually battle with the question, "Is this book/my idea/my writing any good?" I know it seems like published writers should be over that - they have an agent! They have an editor! They have a whole publishing house who invested money in them and bought their book!

But once you're published, there are other beasts out to devour your confidence. Nasty reviews on Amazon. Or "meh" reviews in industry publications. Or the guy in your small group who insists on telling you repeatedly how much he could not get into your book, how he had to put it down after 10 pages because he was so bored...

And getting published doesn't mean you're going to get to call up your editor and say, "Hey, here's what my next book is going to be about," and receive the response of, "Great! I'll put your check in the mail!" Instead you might get, "Well, that sounds okay, but you know what's really hot right now? Vampires. Could you maybe write a vampire dystopian adventure romance with steampunk elements? And wizards? Set in an Amish community? And make it funny..."

My point with all this semi depressing talk is that you're never going to "arrive." You're never going to reach a place where you always know your book is good and that writing is a good investment. So you have to find your counter-thoughts, your defenses. You won't survive this business without them.

Counter thought #1: I love to write.

Even on my worst writing days, where I feel like I'm wrestling the words to the page, and they're not that great anyway, I still love writing. I love characters and story and zippy dialogue and that feeling you get when you just know that's the best way to describe something. Even if I had never gotten published, spending time writing my stories still wouldn't be a waste of time because I love doing it. If you're pursuing publication, I believe the following should be true for you - you write because you love writing.

Counter thought #2: My book may suck. But...

I can fix it. You'll never write the perfect book, sadly, but the beauty of the editing process is that you can fix what's wrong. Cardboard characters? Fixable. Predictable plot? Fixable. Boring sentence structure and weak verbs? Fixable. It's not easy, of course, but it can be fixed.

Now, it's possible you have written a book that, for whatever reason, will never be good. I know I have. But I don't consider them a waste of time because they were part of my learning process and they helped me grow.

Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs in his Major League career, but he also struck out 1,330 times. He said, "Every strike brings me closer to the next home run." Learn from the Babe.

(Potential) counter thought #3: God called me to write.

This may not be true for you, and you may not even believe in a god, much less one who cares about how you spend your free time. If so, you can just skip over this one.

If you feel writing is a talent God wove into your being, if you feel He impresses stories on your heart, that He expects you to do your best with them ... well, then even if you don't get published, you can feel certain you're not wasting your time because you're doing what God asked of you. In that case it's wasteful to NOT write.

It's helpful if you have a supportive family and writing friends who can encourage you through those times of insecurity, but even if you don't, you can always come back to loving writing and mistakes being fixable.

35 comments:

  1. This is SO great. Thank you very much Stephanie. I count you among my encouraging friends.

    That first bit about marrying a rich guy is hysterical. It hit home with me because that is my "plan". xD My joke plan that is. It's always my answer when someone asks how I'll be able to support myself on writing.

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    1. RandomThinker, I'm totally gonna use that!!! :D

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    2. RandomThinker, I think it's an excellent plan. And he doesn't have to be totally loaded, of course. Just "stable" can work well too ;)

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  2. Okay, I'll admit it, I've had thoughts like this one. However, I do believe God has called me to write, I love writing, and yes, everything is fixable, although that's the hardest for me. Thank you for the encouraging post, Stephanie! :)

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  3. I have a life plan. Finish school. Marry a rich investor, a weathly land owner, a well-off archtech...or some such person. Have a few children who will be come successful and famous. Have a few grandchildren who will become the next presidents. Just kidding. But, I wouldn't mind if the person God has for me also has some extra money.

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    1. 4readin, you cracked me up. I'm sure glad God matched me up with an engineer so our kids could have shoes when I'm between contracts :)

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  4. I find that it helps not to compare myself to other writers. When I do that's when the "I'll never write like X" depression sets in. And I have to tell myself " You know, I WON'T ever write like X because I'm not them." The most I can do is make a note of why I like X so much and see how I can make that writing tactic more "me."

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    1. That is so true Allison!

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    2. That's something I regularly have to remind myself of, Allison. I'm so glad you brought that up. I have authors who I love reading their books (Julie Klassen, Sarah Sundin, etc.) but I'm always in a writing funk for a day or two because I'm like, "Ugh, why can't I write like THEM???"

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    3. For me, it's Suzanne Collins. She does such an amazing job combining action and character tension. That's something I've always wanted to do.

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  5. I really liked this post, Stephanie! Recently, I've been going through the "my book sucks, will it ever be good? Will I ever get published?" phase. This was really encouraging for me to read.

    I loved that first counter thought. I love to write. I think I need to just murmur this to myself sometimes. Because it's true. I LOVE it. And I know that even when I have a bad day, when I want to throw my binder across the room, and when I'd rather kill off my MC than rewrite one more scene, you will find me the next day tapping away at the computer, completely engrossed in my story. I keep doing it, even when it's hard. That's enough proof for me that this is what God has called me to do. :)
    It feels really good to know other people understand this crazy, wacky, completely wonderful obsession with words. :)

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    1. Clarebear, what's so funny is that I wrote this post on Saturday yet that evening I had a complete breakdown about a lot of this stuff. (Is my book any good?!?!) Even when I was crying, it made me laugh to think that I had JUST written this post. Sigh.

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  6. "Set in Amish country..." LOL
    Good post!! :)

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    1. Nicole, I thought that was hilarious, too. Next book, I'm going to try setting unlikely happenings with unlikely settings. :D That would make for an interesting book.

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  7. This post really helped me - I have been losing confidence in my writing lately, and this was just the encouragement that I needed. Plus, it was hilarious! And, whenever I get down, God has blessed me with encouraging Christian friends to lift me up. :)

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    1. Lydia, I'm so glad you found it encouraging! My confidence runs in streaks too. I needed to write this post as a reminder to myself!

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    2. Not streaks for me, more like drips... lol. I just gave up on my 30ish page book beginning, because I started it a long time ago, and reading over it, I found myself marveling at how dumb I managed to make it! The concept was great, the 11 year old writing..... not so much :P So today I started taking the writing prompts I've written (along with the ones I opted not to submit) and extending them to see if I have a potential book nugget in there :)

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  8. Great things to remember! I know everyone gets hit with this discouragement every once in a while. As much as I love writing, and as much as I feel that this is something I'm called to do at this point in my life, it's still easy to get discouraged every now and then. But I really liked the Babe Ruth quote (yay baseball!). Every supposed "failure" is a chance to learn and come that much closer to actually making it work!

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  9. Something else I've noticed is you might not be as bad as you think. A while ago, I turned a short story into a teacher thinking it wasn't my best work (I still don't.) and yet she loved it. So maybe I could have done better, but it wasn't awful, either.
    That is why you need to let other people read your writing every now and then. ;)

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  10. Thanks so much Stephanie. The last point was especially awesome.

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  11. Banana, you know now many times I've used,"I'm just going to marry a rich guy!"?! I thought I was the only one, lol!

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    1. even more giggles now when auto-correct added "banana" is bahaha

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    2. I use it so many times xD Another one is "One dayyyy, when I become a bajillionare..." I'm just going to randomly become a bajillionare. Yup. So happening.

      Anyways! BANANA! :D

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    3. Ha, I normally say "my goal in life is to be a trophy wife". Means the same thing :)

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  12. I learned long agao, that when I'm thinking of how I could get published, I get depressed. But when I write, I'm filled with excitement, passion and joy. And I realized, that's enough. And, anyway, that's why I started a blog--to write, not to get published! Though it would be great, if I have some encouraging comments too...

    But, anyway, thanks, Stephanie!

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  13. This blog was so encouraging!

    This may sound strange, yet a little while back I had a pastor prophesy over my writing at a church camp. He said that God wanted to use my writing and encouraged me to keep working at it! I couldn't stop smiling for the rest of the weekend.

    Thanks for the awesome blog, Stephanie! It's motivated me all the more and helped answer a lot of questions I had.

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  14. Funny, this post was supposed to be about writing fears, and Stephanie's passing comment about marrying into money got at least as much attention! I don't dream of marrying into money - only because I'd rather live in some cabin in the middle of nowhere with JUST my husband, children, and books ;) And maybe a horse or ten.

    Anywho, I always worry that nobody's going to want to read what I write. Maybe it's more exciting to me than to my readers.

    Thanks, Stephanie!

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  15. ..that was just a joke? My life-plan has ALWAYS included me marrying a rich guy so that I could just write all day and not have to worry about money!;)


    "Vampires. Could you maybe write a vampire dystopian adventure romance with steampunk elements? And wizards? Set in an Amish community? And make it funny..." *snorts* That's funny. And I reckon that one of these days, someone's actually going to write it. :P

    Ooh, I love that quote! It's on that awesome movie, A Cinderella Story -- except a bit different.

    "Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game."
    Like I said, I love that quote. Great post. So encouraging!:D

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  16. ME LOVES THIS!!!! "Well, that sounds okay, but you know what's really hot right now? Vampires. Could you maybe write a vampire dystopian adventure romance with steampunk elements? And wizards? Set in an Amish community? And make it funny..."

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  17. Well, if this didn't land in my inbox right on time...Thanks, Stephanie! :)

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    1. Rachelle, I needed it to land in mine today! Oy.

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  18. GODSEND! Thank you!

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  19. I love this post! Lately I have had some thoughts about 'I'll never get anything published' and 'I'm just an average writer, I don't have anything good". But I believe God called me to write, and so will do it - because I love to write! I love to read! I just plain love words! It is a lot like horseback riding; I do it because I love the horse, not to compete or be good at something, I just do it because I love horses.

    Hey - that gives me a great idea for my blog post!

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  20. Thanks so much for this. I get that feeling--a lot. Sure, my family likes my writing, or at least some of it, but I don't know. They'd like a stupid poem about a duck if I said I wrote it. They're good for encouragement, but none of them are writers, and I don't physically know anyone else who writes, and who would give me real feedback, except for you guys. I keep coming back to this for encouragement. Thanks again!

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