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How to write 47,504 words of crap and feel great

I did it! I wrote a novel! The first draft is 47,504 words and belongs in a nice, shiny trash can.

Writing fail

About 2/3 of the way through my novel, I realized that it was no good. All my illusions of being a naturally talented writer were brutally smashed.

It hurt.

But I picked myself up and kept going, painfully aware now of the quality of my work.

And I’m so glad I did.

Even though the words are worthless and the draft is unprintable, the act of finishing was immensely energizing.

Fail better

I hear the advice all the time, quoting Beckett: “Fail. Fail better.” I never got it. Failure is painful, terrifying, and seems useless.

But I see now: becoming aware of my incompetence gives me the capacity to become awesome. I can now learn how to write well, whereas before I didn’t really have the ability to do so.

How you can write a novel and fail better

Write. Write as best as you can. The point when you realize that your best is no good is agonizing and depressing. Keep going. Finish it.

The point: finishing isn’t going to improve your ability, but it expands your capacity to learn to improve. You now have the capacity to be awesome, whereas before you had no place within you to hold the awesomeness.

4 Comments

  1. Nancy Nancy

    This made me smile. As someone who *loves* books and has great respect for the well-written word, sometimes I feel like I’m disgracing the craft by being imperfect. I’ve discovered, like you, that it’s important to keep going. When I was in high school I attended a writing workshop, and one of the authors there said something to the effect of, “Every writer has a quota of crap that they must write and get out their system.” His point was that the more you write, the quicker you’ll get rid of the garbage and begin writing the good stuff. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

    P.S. If you need a reader, let me know! 🙂

    • Exactly! Of course, a writer needs to be trying to improve as she’s getting all the garbage out, otherwise she’ll just continue to write garbage–I think that is where I was stuck at before. I was just writing, not trying to improve, so my writing did not improve all that much for years. But now I see clearly the quality (or lack of), I’ve been able to move forward.

  2. Hi, Alicia –
    Just curious, did your follow up attempts at getting a novel published work? If so, I’d like to check out your work! Thanks,

    • My fiction writing is on the backburner at the moment… but thanks for your interest, Adrienne!

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