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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

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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Thanks. ::heads back to the salt mines::

;-) forgive the tough love. I'm a perfectionist too.
Bravo! My dad uses the colorful metaphor of "(scatological reference deleted) or get off the pot!" in these situations. Now, if I could just get myself to do that with my short fiction, I might have the gumption to start a novel.
Some possibly contrary observations:

1)Not every writer is suited to every length. If you're a novel writer at heart and waiting to get good at finishing short fiction, you may be wasting valuable writing time.

2)Implacable deadlines can be useful. I had come to believe I couldn't really write at the short-story length, and yet in the last few months I have been mostly meeting a deadline of a story a week. It's been very liberating.

3)It's easy to get too precious about your writing time, not wanting to commit to the time it will take unless the result is good. The thing is, writing a novel's worth of wordage isn't that big a deal. So get started already.

4) It works much better if you learn to enjoy writing. Sweating blood isn't strictly speaking necessary, so if you can have fun doing it, you may get more writing done.
Hear, hear!

I just concentrate on making the parts I do *right* as good as I possibly can, and hope I'm tapdancing fast enough to distract attention from the parts I can't do at all.
Mainspring was, I believe, my seventh effort to write a novel.
Hammered was my seventh or eighth. And my fourth completed one.

I like this post. But, still, I can never cease my futile quest for perfection...
Yeah, I know. Me either.

I have mostly managed to transfer it to "maybe the next one will be better---" though.
Yes. Yes yes yes.

This is the way and the path.
Reading this gives me a bit of relief. I knew that I have to just keep on writing, I knew that some people are going to hate my writing and that's a hell of a lot better than being ignored, but it's been the revising that's made me want to take up nailbiting as my new, self-destructive hobby. I figured that all I could do is fix things until it felt like beating my against a wall, but that didn't quiet the little voice that wailed, "But what if you aren't doing it right?" I live in fear of Not Doing Things Right regarding the end processes of writing. The litte voice has shut up now, though, so thank you.
Well put. I'm a perfectionist, so the hardest thing for me was to recognize that perfection wasn't attainable and to just send the damn thing out.

Though honestly, I didn't realize how broken my novel was till it sold to a small press and we began the editorial process. Some things we could fix. Others were inherent flaws caused by my inexperience when I wrote it, and I just had to let them go and accept that it was the best book I was capable of writing at the time.

I expect that you're right and the next one will be broken too, just broken in different ways. That's an oddly comforting thought, actually.
Yessm. Sit down, finish novel. Yessm. If you have several buzzing around your head at once, do you arbitrarily pick one, or work in parallel, or what?
If I'm on deadline, I write that one. Otherwise, I work on the one that is shiniest, or the one that I think I am most likely to finish.

I have a fetish about finishing things.
Thank you. I needed to hear that today!
It's out - but I still change commas around as a hobby. 5 per reject. As if I could just punctuate it into publication...

I am learning on the 2nd one that if I don't put so many in - I won't have to worry them out...
quit it. *

Yes ma'am.

Because you're right. I've sold sixteen short pieces in the last two years. Everyone one of them has something wrong with it, but I wrote them, polished them, and sent them out looking for work and they found homes.

Now I need to do the same with the book (and the next one when it's done).

Thanks for the thwap!
Thank you.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.

Thank. You.
Maybe there needs to be a crutch icon that says "My book is broken".

Thank you. The kick in the ass is appreciated. The reminder that no book is perfect is a needed one: too easily is it to fret over a book or a short story being as broken as (insert name of book here) and forgetting that said book is published.
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