it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken

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quit it. *

Yes, you. Those of you have finished a book and revised it and done everything you know how to do to it to make it better, and won't send it out because (a) you hate it or (b) you think it's still broken. Quit it.

They're all broken. Every one of them. Every novel I've published, every novel I've sold, every novel I've ever read has something wrong with it. Every novel I've ever loved is irretrievably fucking broken, all right?

Broken in ways that can't be fixed. It doesn't matter.

And no matter what you do, there will be people who dislike your work.

That's okay. In fact, I would venture to say that you can't write a book that some people will love unless there are also other people who will hate it. Strong emotion is not raised for the bland, my darlings.

Here's what you do if you want to be a published novelist.

You write a book. You put your guts into it. You get naked and you get honest and you get off your ass and you write a book.

1) Write a book.
2) Revise that book to the best of your ability. You will know that you have reached this point when you cry when you think about opening the file, because you're so sick of it you could puke, and you have no idea how to fix what's wrong with it.
3) Start sending out queries to agents and/or publishers.
4) Write another goddamned book.

Repeat as necessary.

Five years down the line, if book one hasn't sold, book seven may have. And then you will know you have the skills to write a publishable novel. And then you can pick up book one, look it over, and decide if anything there is worth saving.

(You know, I have it on good authority that nothing scares an editor more than hearing from a writer that they really like the manuscript they're working on, and they're sure it's the best one yet. On the other hand, my editors and agents all seem to respond to my cries of inepitude, incompetence, horror, despair, and self-loathing (which, yes, accompany every manuscript) with "Excellent. I can't wait to see what you do with it. No, we can't move the deadline.")

I have four broken novels in print, and a collection of broken short stories. In the next eighteen months, I expect to have four more broken novels out, and a broken mosaic novel, too. Three of those broken novels won two major genre awards for me. Were they broken?


But they are also as good as I could make them. Now, they're on their own.

The difference between published novelists and you is that they finished the damned books and sent them out to work for a living.**

(N.B. This does not apply if you *do* know how to fix it. If you can fix it, then for the love of Mike, fix the damned thing. If you go through the manuscript and twiddle commas, it's done. If you open it and are blinded by its awfullness but have no idea what elese to do ito it, it's done. Get on with your life. Learn to be a serial monogamist. You'll learn more writing a new book than fixing the old one endlessly.)

*Being some notes inspired by more serious discussion spun off from the (mostly humorous) "How to Write a Novel" thing.

**This does not apply if you have finished a book and sent it out to seek representation. In that case, all I can say to you is, good work, man. Good luck. And if I were a Christian, I'd say, "May Christ have mercy on your souls."

By the way, in case you thought any of us knew what we were doing, here are a whole bunch of published novelists talking about how to write a novel:

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