9.06.2011

DON'T BE AFRAID TO WRITE A BAD BOOK

Anonymous asked...
Whenever I sit down to write, I'm overwhelmed by the ideas in my head; I'm constantly distracted. I can't figure out which story to write, and I keep asking myself: What if I'm working on something that's going to go nowhere? What if I'm choosing the wrong idea? So I'd love to know: How do you know, when you sit down to write a book, that the concept you choose is going to pay off? How do you know it's going to be the right thing to focus on? I hope this question makes sense.

i really sympathize with this feeling. and i understand your need to get it right on the very first try -- i really, really do. but here's the problem: writing a novel is difficult enough without the added (stressful!) expectation of it needing to be The Next Big Thing. we can't manufacture that kind of success.

that's why you have to allow yourself the luxury of writing for the sake of writing -- writing because you love to do it, because you're having fun with your characters, because you lie awake at night thinking about what might happen to them while you're gone. because ultimately, published or unpublished, every single manuscript you write will be invaluable to your efforts. 

every single story you write will help you to hone your craft.

you can't be afraid of your own creative efforts. don't fear failure. don't be afraid of being the person who needed to write a ton of crappy manuscripts and had to burn through a few agents before landing a book deal. because i'm going to tell you a secret? regardless of how it might seem in and around the blogging world and twitterfeeds and facebook posts and the ever-lovely publishers marketplace, the majority of us (read: the vast, vast majority of us) did not sell the very first thing our eager fingers ever created. many of us had to write not 1, but 2, 3, 15 manuscripts before figuring out what worked. a debut novel just means it's the first novel an author has ever published -- not the first they've ever written.

and that's okay.
in fact, if you screw things up it just means you're perfectly normal. 

so take a risk. be open to writing a book that will undoubtedly embarrass you in a few years. go nuts with the adverbs and scatter plot holes everywhere and make your characters say things like i know we just met, but do you believe in destiny? and then he kissed my mouth and i breathed on his face and hugged him goodnight romantically. really. go ahead and fall in love with your hero for no reason except that he is the hero and, well, you made him, so there's obviously no need to flesh out his character. dispense with the motivations and the proper pacing and give your protag a crazy name and a plethora of ridiculous backstories. have every near-catastrophic event solved by coincidence and magical powers that show up only when it's most convenient, and then kill everyone off at the end because it's the only way you know how to finish the book. write the story that's really nothing more than a thinly-veiled effort at fictionalizing what otherwise would've been your autobiography. 

really.

but whatever you do, don't be afraid. never be afraid of writing the wrong thing. because in the end, all of it will help you learn. all of it will help you grow as a writer. so choose whichever story you want; choose all of them if you prefer. but don't ever sabotage yourself by getting stuck in analysis paralysis. don't freak yourself out. don't think you're the only one who's ever had this problem and don't feel like you'll never be able to move past it.

the words get easier the moment you stop fearing them.

we've all been there.
i know you'll get through it, too. 

<3



41 comments:

Marsha Sigman said...

So happy to have a new post of yours to read!

and uhhh you think anyone will get that my manuscripts are all about me?

Tricia Clasen said...

Such a brilliant concept.

Sarah Pearson said...

This should be required reading for all new writers :-)

Hiroko said...

People will read much of anything these days, to tell the truth, but I wholeheartedly agree with this posts. Not only is it motivating, but it's true and reassuring.

Also, I missed this blog while you were on hiatus. :>

Shannon O'Donnell said...

So, so, so true! I love this post, Tahereh. Be careful, though--with all this wisdom, you might start receiving "Dear Abby" letters from writers everywhere! LOL. :-)

Eileen said...

JK Rowling told stories her whole life. It's ok to fail and try again. Believe me.

Lisa L. Regan said...

Awesome post. Thanks, I needed this today!

TKAstle said...

Wonderful post. So, so true...and it applies to way more than writing.

Michelle Levy said...

analysis paralysis! brilliant!

Jen Daiker said...

This was made of freaking awesome!

I couldn't believe it more!!! Heck I was embarassing enough to send out a manuscript that had no plot! You know what, I learned and I'm better for it.

I'm not the only one whose done it either! Lauren Oliver shared when she attended a signing that she too didn't realize a plot was necessary... and look at her now.

I think that's what writers really need to remember. We write because we love it. The words, the kinks, the drama, the angst... all that can eventually be worked out. For now we just write.

Saumya said...

This is such an inspiring reminder. I love it and often forget this valuable message :)

Caledonia Lass said...

Awesome advice! There are times I will write something and have no plot. But by the time I am halfway through, I've come up with one. I throw it all in there and when I go back to revise, I just clean up that first half to make it fit to the plot. Then I clean up the whole thing.
Everything changes when writing, so much to add, things to remove, but that is after it is all said and done.

Hannah said...

Oh gosh Tahereh, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for writing this blog post. <3

Theresa @ Fade Into Fantasy said...

Wow! This was just what I needed to read today. I've had stories running through my head for months now but was too afraid to put any effort into them. THANK YOU for this post!

June G said...

Well said! It's so kind of you to share your wisdom with fellow writers. I just received an ARC of Shatter Me and it was nice to see what you look like :-)

Jen said...

You always have the best things to say, Tahereh!
"...he kissed my mouth and i breathed on his face and hugged him goodnight romantically." -- this is hilarious, by the way!

John Wiswell said...

Well, you could go nuts on the adverbs and then edit later. That would make life nicer on both ends.

Ava Jae said...

Beautiful post, Tahereh--you had me smiling and nodding the entire time. Fear is the worst thing for our writing, but we all face it. The hard part is overcoming it and persevering even when things look gloomy.

Thanks for this wonderful post!

Ishta Mercurio said...

Yup.

It seems so important to write something publishable right away, until you're on your third or fourth or fifteenth book, and you look back and think, "Man, I'm so glad I didn't try to publish that... I'm so much better at this now!" It's just part of the process. The first things you write will almost never be as good as the later things.

Christine Fonseca said...

I love this post. I love the reminders throughout it! And yes, I do freak when writing that first draft. So thank you for this.

The Pen and Ink Blog said...

Thank you. I feel much better now.
Blessings!

Claire Dawn said...

I pray noone ever reads my MS2. gives me goosebumps to think that came out of me. But it taught me a lot of what not to do, and that I should probably stay far, far away from fantasy dystopian. lol.

Em-Musing said...

I didn't believe when people said my first book wouldn't be the best. From inside my desk drawer, I still hear its little sob, "I told you so!" Great post.

Leslie Rose said...

Here, here! *stands and applauds*

Sherre said...

I'm excited to read a new post of yours. I love your blog and your posts. Thanks for the tip...i feel like there's a story in my head (okay it came from a dream really...but i had it a few times and i loved it) and i'm thinking about writing it but i just cant sit down to write it because...well...the truth is....HOW THE HECK DO I GET PAST THE FIRST PAGE!!!...like i feel like it'll be 1 page with no details and only a synopsis, minus any plot, or anything exciting. Idk...i am scared....becides i just started my blog and i cant let my readers down by not posting (yes its just an excuse...who cares) anyway...thanks for the post

Lenasledgeblog.com said...

Great advice. My biggest issue is the fear of success. I know how to fail at something, but to do something successful...whew that can be overwhelming simply due to the pressure I place on myself. So I try to accept that what God has for me is for me and that if I fail, I fail, I'll just try again, but Holy cow if I succeed....there is nothing I can't do.

Congrats on your trilogy. Really enjoy your sound advice.

I am a new follower.

Julie Musil said...

How is it that you always know the right thing to say? Thanks so much for the inspiration, and the green light to do things wrong sometimes.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

straight up this is so true. I wish more people weren't afraid to just get down to it. Every word will make you a better writer. Promise

Amara said...

This is just what I needed to read. I give myself this speech every time I sit down to write, but it never seems to work; I need to hear (well, read) it from someone else for it to affect me.

I really miss the years before the stress of "what if I don't succeed" started to weigh me down--the years before a certain relative's opinion of my decision to pursue writing started chiseling subconscious cracks in my confidence and will to write.

So thanks for a great post. I'm certain I'll be coming back to this next time I need a boost.

arihart234 said...

Thank you Tahereh, you give amazing and sound advice. <3

~Ari

HeatherLambie said...

Like the little kitten in the classic 1980s poster, I'm going to continue to "Hang in there!" Thanks!

Anita Saxena said...

What an encouraging post! Telling myself that it's ok to write something that I might throw away has helped me so much as a writer. Can't wait to read Shatter Me.

Rita Arens said...

You are very wise. And very right.

Erojoy said...

This post was perfect.

I want to write because I love it, and I want to share what I write because I'm excited to tell a story. I hope one day it becomes something I get to wake up and do for a living, but until then *raises her glass* here is to the mighty pen...or keyboard ;-)

Slushpile Slut said...

LOVED THIS!!! <3 <3 <3

Kamille Elahi said...

This is a great post!

But I do think that everyone should write a bad novel at least once in their life. It doesn't have to be awful, just bad enough that the writer learns from their mistakes.

Rissa Books said...

I have been writing full-length novels for the past going-on three years, up to my seventh and every time I finish a new book I look back and pick out the things I need to improve on so when I sit down to write the next one I fix those problems and repeat the whole process over again.
It's about realizing your own faults that make you human and in fact are what make novels such great gems to read. No one is perfect.

Thank you Tahereh for this great post!

Ning said...

Thank you for the awesome post. This is a problem I have as well. I'm trying hard to get past it and know that my first manuscript isn't going to be perfect! I'm bookmarking this to motivate myself!

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Kylie Kaemke said...

Not sure if you even check this blog anymore, and it's been years since this post was written, but I do want to let you know something that I'm sure a million other aspiring authors have already told you: your words have spoken to me. About a year ago I found it within myself to push past my fear of failure and finally write my first novel and that was after reading Divergent by Veronica Roth. Her story taught me to be brave so shortly after reading I got a Dauntless symbol tattooed onto my wrist to always remind me that I need to be brave. Later on is when I started the Shatter Me series and completely fell in love. Authors like you and Veronica motivate me like crazy! So after finishing Ignite Me I looked at my Dauntless tattoo and decided if Veronica influenced my life so much and I got a tat to signify that, then I needed a Tahereh tattoo because your voice got me even more excited about writing. I found the quote "The words get easier the moment you stop fearing them" and I instantly connected with it because like a ton of young authors that's the number one thing holding me back. I had been going along thinking that this quote was from one of your books, but a friend helped me to find that it actually came from this blog post. I read the entire thing and started crying because I felt as though you were inside my head and were telling me the things I do desperately felt and needed to hear. So that excited me even more, and today is the day that I get those words permanently inked into my skin, and I cannot wait. So thank you Tahereh, thanks for everything you have given me and all the people like me. <3

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