Teens Can Write, Too!

Changing the world's opinion… as soon as we finish this math homework

Why Your Book Does Not Suck

Dear Writer,

I get it.

I really, really get it.

Sometimes it’s so easy to feel like your book sucks. It’s so easy to feel like your book sucks while you’re writing it, so easy to feel like your book sucks while you’re in the middle of revising it, so easy to feel like your book sucks even long after you finish it. And by extension, it’s so easy to want to give up on that book.

But here’s what I have to say to that: don’t.

Doubts like this? They happen to every writer, all of the time. Ask any published author, and they’ll tell you that they not only thought their book sucked during much of the time they wrote and revised it, but that most likely, even to this day they still have moments where they feel like their book is crap. Don’t believe me? Well, what about this: remember how J.K. Rowling mentioned that she wished she’d made Harry end up with Hermione instead? Yeah. So that means, even one the most popular authors of the most popular series of our time doubts herself. Even J.K. FREAKING ROWLING has moments where she thinks her books are no good. So what you’re feeling? It’s what all of the greatest authors out there feel each and every day. That’s because it’s natural. It’s normal. It’s a part of being an artist.

But let’s take a step back for a second. First of all, you’re WRITING A BOOK. A book. A full-length, real book. You’re doing it. Or maybe you’ve even already done it, and are well into revisions right now. Maybe you’re going through your first draft and thinking those thousands of hours you spend writing it and probably crying and smiling and feeling all of the feels at points, were a waste. Maybe you think you’re a failure, but here’s the thing: you aren’t. Because, you did it. Writing a novel is a huge accomplishment in itself. Seriously. Stat-wise, something like 81% of Americans (sorry, can’t find a worldwide statistic, but I imagine it’s pretty close) want to write a book, and only 2% ever finish one. You are in the 2% now. You beat the odds; you finished a book. YOU. DID. IT. And those of you who are not quite finished with your first draft yet? You’re almost there. You’ve already done what most people can never do, and the end is only a little ways away.

Just take a minute to think about that, to enjoy the success. Because all of you, no matter where you are in your journey, are hitting milestones most people only dream of. Let that sink in. And once it does:

 

Done? Okay, good. Now close your eyes and take a deep breath.

So what, I finished a draft? you’re probably thinking. It sucks and it will never get published. And you know what? You’re wrong. Besides the fact that these thoughts are 4,000,000% totally normal (that’s a scientific statistic), the simple fact that you doubt your book makes you better off than most, as it means you are thinking critically in order to make your good book great.

And about the never getting published thing? Even if your book does need work, I personally believe that every book can be worthy of publication. It may require anything from major revisions to a few quick edits, but it will. get. there. I’m sure your book is way better than you seem to think it is, but even if for some reason it’s not, you can always make it better. Just don’t give up.

Also? Chances are you’ll start liking your book a lot more in later drafts. First drafts are designed to suck. That’s their exact point: to suck. They’re designed to get your story and characters out, but they will always need more work. They will always be far from perfect. And that’s okay, because the beautiful thing about writing is that you can always make your book better. You can always get feedback. You can always fix problem spots. You can always turn your novel into something even more awesome.

Even when it’s all done, you will still have some doubts–that’s only natural–but after you revise the hell out of your first draft, the book will start to come together, and you will start to like it.

Point is? Just because you think your first draft is not so great doesn’t mean you should give up on the book. Revise it. Get critiques from people you don’t know too well. Revise it some more. Soon, the book will start coming to together, and it will be good.

YOU. CAN. DO IT.

Love,

Me

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About Michael Waters

I'm Michael, I'm eighteen, and I blog about YA books for Barnes & Noble.

35 comments on “Why Your Book Does Not Suck

  1. karawrites15
    January 12, 2013

    Thanks so much for posting this – very inspirational. Now I’m off to write. (;

    • John Hansen
      January 13, 2013

      Good luck, and have fun!

  2. Liam, Head Phil
    January 12, 2013

    Indeed. Dat’s da twoof.

    My question, however, is always about the revision process. (I’d love to see this as a blog chain prompt, by the way, hint hint.) I’m daily getting ideas for a second draft, but I don’t know how to go about writing it. There are some new scenes, which will need complete first-draft writing, but other scenes will be the same, but will need to be rewritten anyway. How do I go about that? Do I rewrite the entire story scene by scene, like a restricted first draft? Or do I just tweak and tweak until I can’t tweak no more?

    • Miriam Joy
      January 13, 2013

      I’ve done a couple of posts about revisions, Liam…. if it’s a major change, i.e. a lot of plot points, I suggest writing a list of all the scenes you’re going to keep, fit them into the new plot, and then start writing from the beginning. Whenever you hit one of those old scenes, you can retrieve it from draft one but don’t stick to copy-pasting: maybe paste it a few paragraphs at a time and retype them better, as even if they’re staying the same you’ve likely improved since you wrote your first draft and it’ll help you improve the sentences. 😀

      • Liam, Head Phil
        January 13, 2013

        Okay, great. That’s helpful. Thank you!

        Also, any tips for turning into an outliner? I’ve never been successful with any sort of outline before.

      • Miriam Joy
        January 14, 2013

        My first drafts are usually a disorganised mess, if I’m honest. I always outline second drafts but that’s because I already know what’s going to happen. So I’m afraid I’m not hugely well equipped to tell you about outlining.

      • Liam, Head Phil
        January 14, 2013

        Okay. I’ll be content with that, then. Thanks!

    • John Hansen
      January 13, 2013

      Okay, that’s a really good question and something I plan to post about later this week. But basically, it’s none of the above. The second draft isn’t often about tweaks OR changing the whole book. It’s more pinpointing what’s wrong plot and character wise–where are the plot holes? Is the plot paced well? Is your hook strong enough? Are your characters interesting? etc. There will inevitably be somewhat major problems with your book, and the second draft is about pinpointing them and fixing them. If you can’t do that on your own, ask blogger/writer friends to swap manuscripts with you to help you find those problems.

      Also, the second draft can clear up the writing and dialogue a bit, but it’s more known for fixing plot and character problems.

      Does that make any sense whatsoever?

      • Liam, Head Phil
        January 13, 2013

        Yes, it makes sense, but I’m looking for how. I can analyze my work perfectly well– I’ve found plot holes big enough to stick my head through– but my question is how to fix them. Do I rewrite entire scenes? Just touch them up if that’s all that’s necessary? How do I fix it? Finding them is easy. Fixing them is ambiguous.

    • John Hansen
      January 15, 2013

      Responding to your comment below here: This is a tough question, because my answer is really “It depends.” Which is an answer I hate to give, but you have to figure out what’s right for fixing that problem in revisions. So, say you find a huge plot hole. You can fix it by going back and changing some of the background info/world-building, or by tweaking the character’s personality to making it believable, or cutting/adding scenes so the plot point makes sense, or even changing the plot arc; I can’t tell you which will work because I don’t know what the plot hole is, but it changes from problem to problem. The main thing you have to do is take the above ideas and assess which will work best for your plot.

      Sorry for the sucky answer. If you’re stuck, get someone to read it. That’s always helpful.

      • Liam, Head Phil
        January 16, 2013

        I understand what needs to be changed– again, that’s not my problem. My question is, in order to change the background info/world-building, in order to tweak the character’s personality, or in order to change the plot arc, do you rewrite the entire thing? Or does this depend too?

      • John Hansen
        January 16, 2013

        Rewrite parts of the book where that thing-you-fixed is prevalent, I’d say, and skip from scene to scene and fix/change the problem. You don’t generally need to rewrite the whole book. (But yes, it depends, though revisions aren’t often major enough for rewrites.) Great questions! Is it okay if I use these in my blog post?

      • Liam, Head Phil
        January 16, 2013

        Absolutely. Thank you very much!

      • John Hansen
        January 16, 2013

        Happy to help. You bring up really good points.

  3. Pingback: Why Your Book Does Not Suck « Roots Growing Deep

  4. emiga
    January 12, 2013

    Reblogged this on Roots Growing Deep and commented:
    Encouragement!

  5. cait
    January 12, 2013

    And this is where I give a small smile and breath with relief. Everywhere I go (okay, mostly blogs…) writers, published and not, talk about their “first book” and how it lives in a dark drawer thank goodness. I wonder if I missed the dump-first-book-and-start-new-one-memo. I’ve been working on my “first” book for, wow, coming up 5 years now. It’s waaay different to when it started. But every time I hit a roadbump with it, I wonder if I should have joined The Flow (sometimes The Flow as the right idea) and put it in a drawer.
    I feel very inspired right now. Maybe I’ll go…write another book. 😉

    • John Hansen
      January 13, 2013

      Ha, yes. But revising a book over and over also helps you learn, even if it’s the first book. The book I’m finishing up now has gone through at least 12 revisions and a major rewrite since I started writing it last year and at first it was AWFUL. It was practically a practice novel. But I stuck with it, and now it isn’t *entirely* terrible. Point is, if you keep working on something, it teaches you a lot–and the book itself improves a lot.

      However, you might also want to try a second novel .:)

  6. Caitlin Hensley
    January 12, 2013

    Thanks so much for this post! I needed to hear a pep talk right about now, and this was perfect. 😀

    • John Hansen
      January 13, 2013

      Glad it helped! 🙂

  7. Pingback: Encouragement for the Writer « Time to Write

  8. Charley R
    January 13, 2013

    Well said, John! I would like to add in a little note though: I have a situation with the first draft of my NaNovel this year, but having screwed up my courage and let a friend read it during a novel swap, she has really encouraged me in going foward with it. Yes, the writing leaves a lot to be desired. Yes, there are plot holes the size of Saturn in it. But she believes in the potential of the book, and she sees the good things where I did not.

    Don’t be afraid to let people you trust read your book. There’s nothing like a little love and encouragement to push you along 🙂

    • John Hansen
      January 13, 2013

      Yes, great point! Sharing your work is ALWAYS good.

      • Charley R
        January 15, 2013

        Unless you’re writing erotica and ask your granny to read it 😉

  9. Seana J. Vixen
    January 13, 2013

    Okay, okay, okay. I admit, I don’t pop up here all that often, but I saw this post by chance, and I just gotta say…THAT WAS AMAZING. It’s really inspirational!

    Would you mind if I reblogged this on my blog? I’ll make sure to give you credit for it! (:

    • John Hansen
      January 13, 2013

      Glad it helped! And um, sure! I would say to just reblog it through WordPress but since it doesn’t look like you have a WP, as long as you add a backlink and make it clear it wasn’t your post, then it’s cool. 🙂

  10. Patrice
    January 13, 2013

    Yes!!! This is 100% true.

    There were points when writing where I was like this sucks then I finished, majorly revised the ending, and sent it to beta readers & critique partners so I could be done with it. To my surprise they loved it, yes it had minor grammatical errors and some plot incansistances but they liked it.

    Now, even with the psi stove feedback, since I’m deep in query trenches there are times I think my book will never amount to anything publishable. That is until I remember, I’m way too stubborn to let that happen 🙂

    • John Hansen
      January 15, 2013

      EMBRACE THE STUBBORN. Also consider getting new readers, if you have no luck, just to see. You got this. 🙂

      • Patrice
        January 15, 2013

        Thanks John….new/additional readers might help

  11. Jody Casella
    January 14, 2013

    Just what I needed to read this morning as I sit down, take a deep breath, and READ the revision I “finished” before Christmas. This is my 4th or 5th time through (at least) and I’m afraid there may be more work ahead. But that’s okay. I’m up for it. My advice to those of you somewhere along the way in this process: write your draft, put it away for a month or two, work on something else, then print it off in a different font, and read it as a reader. Each pass through you really do get a bit closer– although, I agree with the post that you will always have doubts. What I do is take it as far as I can on my own, then send it out to a few readers I trust to give me their feedback.

    • John Hansen
      January 15, 2013

      Yes! Also, getting beta readers is always helpful, too.

  12. CozyBooks-and-Life
    January 14, 2013

    Thank you! I Just started working on my newest series ‘The Scotland Yard Chronicles’ and it always helps to have a good post to read about when you hit that first bump of ‘well what if I’m really bad at writing dialogue?’ it happens every time I start a dialogue scene. Which is all the time, so it’s nice to be able to just say ‘you know what? so what. I’ll take the time to make it epic later. just get it out onto the paper for now.’ Thanks!

    • John Hansen
      January 15, 2013

      Glad it helped, and I like that attitude! Good luck!! 🙂

  13. CozyBooks-and-Life
    January 14, 2013

    Reblogged this on Cozy Books For Life and commented:
    I love this post! It helps with the tough times. Like when you’re unsure whether people will thing you’re gory because you aren’t afraid to have blood in your book. or when you don’t know whether or not people are going to think what you’re writing as dialogue is crap. So Fun!

  14. A.R. Files
    January 17, 2013

    I loved reading this! I’m actually not done with my first draft, but I WILL finish it, and then revising will BEGIN! Thank you so much for writing this. It’s nice to not hear someone constantly whine, “It’s too hard to be an author. GIVE UP!”.

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