I’ve been thinking about you brave souls who will start “Summer’s Ultimate Novel” on July 1st. I’m wondering how you feel on this last day of innocence. Perhaps …
1. You’re eager to prove yourself.
2. You’re excited to finally try writing a novel.
3. The story keeps babbling inside you and won’t shut up.
4. You’re wondering what you got yourself into.
5. You’re thinking of excuses to get out of it.
6. You want to be a writer … but what if this proves you wrong?
7. You don’t know if you can write that many words everyday.
8. You’re worried about your plot, characters, etc.
9. You’re nervous to make the leap from dream to reality.
10. You’re scared of failing.
Maybe you feel none of these things; maybe you feel all of them. Each reaction is understandable … even expected.
Only numbers 1-3 are positive reactions. Numbers 4-9 are different ways of stating number 10—fear of failure.
I could spout numerous inspirational quotes about never giving up, following your dreams, courage in the face of fear, and missing 100% of the shots you never take (Wayne Gretzky).
Instead, consider this: if you want to be a novelist, sooner or later you will have to write a novel. There’s just no way around that. So you can spend years putting it off and fighting the compulsive urge … or you can start your novel now.
First novels suck. There’s no way around that, either. It’s better to get the suck over now, while you’re relatively younger, than later on, when you’re relatively older. The average writer writes four novels before managing to publish one. Get those three novels over with so you can enjoy the fourth one at an opportune time.
If I could go back to the 90’s (scary thought), I’d make my teenaged self write a novel. My attempted novel would probably be strange, confusing, and all-together lacking … but I would be one step closer to writing a good novel.
We can’t all be J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer and write bestselling novels the first time around. Why strive for a one-in-a-million shot? Lower your expectations. If you can complete a novel, you’ll still be ahead of the majority of the population, no matter how much the novel sucks.
And remember: failing to finish a novel doesn’t make you less of a writer—unless you give up. Be a writer who learns from mistakes and tries a second novel. You’re learning novel-writing the hard way, but you’re still learning it.
And what a wonderful lesson it is.