About a year ago, I had a friend ask, “How many books have you written?” My response was, “Written? Or published?” Because anyone who writes knows that there are hits and misses. There are great books, there are bad books, and there are books that should never see the light of day.
The first book I wrote was a disaster called Star Bounty about a bounty hunter and his alien sidekick, traipsing through the galaxy, chasing an alien monster that coincidentally looked like the monsters in the movie “Alien.” It took me two years to write, sans outline, with many dead ends and deus ex machina between here and there. Today I am very glad I never got it published.
The next enterprise was the story of my conversion during a year spent in Austria in college. It was a worthy endeavor, told terribly, and ended up once again on the junkpile. But I was content, knowing that I accomplished two things: I got something I felt strongly about down on paper; and I learned a great deal in the process.
I am happy for those writers who make a seven-figure advance on their first book. But I don’t envy them. After a start like that, there is nowhere else to go but down. And nine times out of ten, you never hear from them again. I am grateful for the years of struggle and failure I have had as a writer. For as anyone who has failed knows, you learn more from failure than from success.
Writers should be scarred, but wise. Writers should approach the task with open eyes, experience and determination. It’s an uphill battle to not only write a book, but the very best book we could possibly write.
And we’re good at our jobs simply because once upon a time we were terrible.