Recently, I published my first novel: The Drive Home: A Tale of Bromance and Horror. Immediately friends and family were showing their support, near and far, those closest to me and those I’ve not seen in years. It is truly an amazing feeling. However, there’s an underlying fear clawing at the surface, striving for my attention.
“What if my book sucks?”
“What if my friends find every little thing wrong with the novel?”
“What if some internet troll decides to tank my novel with a 1-star review when the book’s actually good?”
These are just a few of the million nagging thoughts passing through any writer’s mind as they write a novel. And they’re all valid points. I’d like to use my debut novel as an example to inform and maybe even inspire someone in the same situation as me. A while back I began writing a blog titled The New Writers Journey, check it out if you’re interested. What I was hoping to do with that blog was follow my process from wanting to write a book to one day accomplishing that goal. It was an “amateur” blog in my eyes, which is what I wanted it to be. But there’s a difference between The New Writer’s Journey and the Sean K. Novels site. Experience. In the time I began writing that blog and my novel, up until now, my writing has grown, I’ve published my first novel and I’ve done a lot in regards to the creation of a novel. With the time and effort, and the experience gained from it all, my outlook on the points raised above has matured too.
The prospect of putting your work out to the world is intimidating, to say the least. How do you get over that feeling? In my honest opinion, you don’t. There were, however, a few factors that lent themselves to dealing with the pressure. The first being that you spend so much time working and re-working a project—be it a book or painting or video game code—that you arrive at the realization that because it’s yours, it’ll never be good enough. It didn’t take long to write the initial draft of my novel, but it took years to re-write, edit, add and subtract content. I soon realized that I will always find something I could do differently, whether for better or worse. You have to come to a point where you’re happy with your work and put it out there to be judged, nagging thoughts be damned.
“But what if what you wrote actually sucks?” you ask?
Well, to be perfectly honest, it might, but how are you supposed to know that it sucks if you don’t put it out there; if you don’t get feedback. I hope everyone who reads The Drive Home has something to say, good, bad, or ugly (hopefully not ugly). There’s no problem with constructive criticism. I love constructive criticism, hell, I thrive on it. How is my next book supposed to be any better than the last if no one tells me their brutally honest (FYI, brutal honesty is something I’m going to cover in another post) opinions? There is a difference, though, between constructive criticism and someone who just posts “this sucks” and nothing else. Screw those guys, but we’ll go ahead and address them too. The way we handle those people is what separates us from the rest of the pack. If someone gives you good feedback about a character or grammar issues, let ‘em know “Hey, thanks. I appreciate it and the next one won’t have that problem.” That will entice them to check out your next novel too and give you a reason to keep improving.
Those trolls, though. How do we deal with someone who just says “this sucks”? Confront them too. Say “Really? Any constructive criticism you can give me?” If they’re anyone who matters, they’ll give you something, and you win. If they don’t ever respond to your inquiry, people will see that you cared enough to find out how to improve your work and that the guy who said “this sucks” has no evidence to back up his claim, and you win anyway.
The moral of the story is growth. Gain the difficult ability to learn from your mistakes and you won’t care if you misspelled a word or your grammar is childish—well, you will care, but you’ll know how to use that to fuel your next endeavor. If your audience sees that you want to grow and you can tell a good story, they’ll want to enjoy the ride as they watch you grow from an amateur writer to a professional wordsmith. No matter how well you think you did on something, you never know how the public will respond to it. It’s how you take that input that really shows what kind of a writer or artists you really are. Which is why I encourage feedback. Even though I stand by and love every single word, comma, and semi-colon I wrote, that doesn’t mean I can’t do any better. Even if the world thinks it’s the greatest thing since the toaster; I can do better. I love the story of The Drive Home. It was fun to write, fun for me to read a million times, and I got to really know my characters. And as cheesy and irritating as it sounds, that really was all that mattered to me. Yeah, everyone wants to make a living doing what they love, but you can’t let the bullshit weigh you down. If you enjoy what you’re doing, then just…do that. I know that’s what I’m going to do. If you’ve got something constructive to say, say it. Give me the opportunity to outdo myself. I dare you.