Dear Authors, Write Crap

No, really, I mean it. This is one of the BIGGEST, HUGEST, MOST IMPORTANT pieces of advice I ever got, and I got it at twelve or thirteen years old and it changed my whole outlook.

You see these posts for artists about how your taste and your skill aren’t on the same level yet, that you draw your best and feel it’s not good enough because you’re comparing your “drawing #257” to a professional’s “drawing #20,985”. It takes time and practice to get the stuff coming out of the pencil to look as good as you want it to.

Same goes for writing.

In this lovely writing group I now belong to, I see a lot of posts from obvious beginners asking “how do I start”, “how do I get good”, “how do I get this book to publishable quality”? The answers? You write, you write lots of crap, and you don’t because it’s crap and you need to hide it in a drawer and write more crap until one day it won’t be crap anymore.

Give yourself permission to fuck up.

Give yourself permission to suck.

Yeah, classes and workshops and books on writing can help. Yeah, reading widely helps a lot. In the end, the only thing you can really do is put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and write. And accept the fact that it will suck. Your first novel will suck and should not be published. Your sixth novel may still suck and might not be salvageable. Your tenth novel … well, that might suck too, but you’ll get there at some point.

I have binders full of printed off stories, novellas, and starts of novels, not to mention discs my computer can’t even read any more FULL of stories, that I wrote from the time I was 13 until I was 28 and published my first novel. I WROTE FOR 15 YEARS WITH NO HOPE OF BEING PUBLISHED.

Let that sink in.

I’ll say it again.

I practiced writing for 15 years. So, don’t ask me how to get that first attempt published. Because you don’t. You write years worth of practice garbage first.

That’s the biggest problem with the indie market. Don’t get me wrong, I love being an indie author and I firmly believe the traditional publishing gatekeepers were keeping the gates too firmly shut. Indie publishing allows non-traditional voices that wouldn’t be able to get books to the public via the Big Five a space in the publishing world. And that is beautiful. But now everything thinks that you just slap words on a page and call yourself an author. You don’t.

Being an author, a professional author, a GOOD author, means practice. It means being humble enough to learn something through critique and lecture and practice. It means admitting that this scene or that character or an entire freaking book is not working and needs to be edited, cut, or tossed in a bin and burned.

Being a good author takes time. And that is something that our fast-paced, production-driven, star-struck social media world has forgotten. You don’t publish everything you write. You don’t publish the first thing you write.

This goes hand in hand with my previous post. Slow down. Get to know yourself as a writer. Give yourself time and space to evolve and develop a style and a voice.

As the dearly beloved Ms. Frizzle says “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy”.

Writer garbage. It’s good for you. Just don’t publish the garbage in your haste to “be published”. The rest of us will thank you for waiting.

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