The Hard Truth About Writing: Good is not good enough (but you can be better than good)

Nov 27, 2012

Okay, folks. Today I've got some hard truth. But keep in mind that "hard" doesn't mean "bad"-- so stick with me a bit. I can always find a silver lining. ;)

While working on revisions, I had a conversation with my agent. She mentioned that in a lot of cases, editors are turning down good books they would have picked up not long ago. I joked that I'd better work hard to make my book "much more muchier" (Mad-Hatter-style) so it could really stand out.

And that's it, friends. That's the hard truth. Writing a good book, even writing a really good book, is not good enough. Thanks to wonderful writing blogs, writing books, and writing conferences, with some hard work, anyone can become a good writer. I firmly believe that-- and actually, I firmly believe that's a good thing. It means if we really want this dream, we have the tools to achieve it, no matter who we are. That makes my optimistic little heart happy.

Here's the flip side: it's also an equalizer. If anyone can be a good writer, it's a heck of a lot harder to stand out. It's a heck of a lot harder to get a thumbs-up from an editor/agent. And if you self-publish, it's almost more important. The self-pub market is glutted with a mix of good, mediocre, and terrible. If you want to sell more than a few books, you HAVE to stand out in that crowd. You can't be good. You have to be extraordinary.

So, then. Be extraordinary.


If only it were that simple, right? But you know, I truly believe if we want it bad enough, we CAN be extraordinary. I believe we were designed to be extraordinary. It takes hard work. It takes faith in yourself. It takes sacrifice. And that's what makes it worth it.

Granted, good books and bad books and mediocre books get published every day. Which is both encouraging and discouraging at the same time. Here's how I think of it, though: If I have it in me to be extraordinary, why wouldn't I shoot for it?

So, my friends, don't sell yourself short. Have confidence in yourself and your ability to get better and better every day. Work hard. And be extraordinary. What will you do to be extraordinary today?

14 comments:

Julie Luek said...

This is both good to hear and hard to hear. I think I'm good. Truth? Not sure I'm exceptional. It feels like this nebulous goal to strive for. When is my writing excellent? I keep reading about the craft and trying to learn what that looks like, but it's not a secure feeling at all.

Shallee said...

Good point, Julie. It is a nebulous thing to strive for. I think the best we can do is keep trying. We do the best we can do at the moment, get crit partners to help us make it better, then send it out. If it gets rejected, we write the next one and make it better. Heck, if it gets accepted, we should still make the next one better!

I think the goal is to keep stretching ourselves-- keep learning, keep practicing, and keep improving.

Linda Jackson said...

Great post, Shallee. That "extraordinary" factor is why all good ball players don't make it to the pros. Thanks for the reminder. :)

Tonja said...

I believe we all have it in us to be extraordinary. It's a matter of how hard we are willing to work. I think that's true of any profession.

Deborah Walker said...

I agree, Shallee. And don't forget to enjoy the journey.

Alexis Bass said...

Well said! It's hard work, but always worth it. :) Happy writing!

Hart Johnson said...

You're so right! It think it IS getting harder and harder. Yet in a way, I feel like the publishing industry is also grasping--trying to hit the next big trend, and so sometimes they put something out that is just terrible.

Also can't underestimate the value of making sure your network is place. Even a much more muchier book will only be noticed if people hear about it.

Budd said...

I would say they are pickier in some genres and less picky in others. If it is a hot genre, you could get away with just good, but who wants to write just good. Be extraordinary.

J. A. Bennett said...

It is a hard and starling truth, but one that must be learned from anyone trying to succeed. Whenever we think we're at our best we need to push that much harder. Thanks for the pep talk!

Steven said...

This is why I am trying to follow an old coach's advice to "leave it all on the field." I think many times we hold back some of our effort, our creative energy so that we have more to give later. The truth is we can give it all on a book, and the funny thing is our abilities actually increase. Of course, this is much easier said than done, which is why I'm not a master of it, yet.

Cherie Reich said...

It's actually good to hear how hard it can be, and sometimes we have to push ourselves harder to make our manuscripts extraordinary. :)

Tamara said...

I think this was a great post. I am revising AGAIN--after swearing I was done--because someone gave me a great idea. I was resistant at first because part of me just wants to be DONE, but then I realized how stupid that was. haha. In order to be "extraordinary" I have to keep polishing until it's the best it can be!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

And hence why I have a writing-craft-book addiction. lol I'm always looking for that piece of advance that will help me push my writing further.

Gene Phillips said...

Excellent post. I know that many writers need a "place to be bad" when starting out, but even if one can start making one's bones in the self-pub world, writers should be wary of getting lost in that shuffle. Online publicity may have usurped the old role critics used to perform.

 
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