As I opened WordPress tonight and began reading, I came across a post by Allison K Williams called Turns Out the Problem was Me. In the post she describes the process of discovering that her memoir wasn’t as good as she had thought it was. It is a great post, and I hope you will read it.
After ten years and 96,000 words, Ms Williams realized that she would never be able to publish the book. Her reaction was probably a lot more sane than mine would have been:
And boy, it sucks to realize that ten years of work wasn’t enough…
I have been having that same thought about the book my son and I have been working on off and on for about 7 years now. The more I read about writing, the more flaws I see in that first book. (I am still telling myself that the second one, which is at about 31,000 so far is much better!) As I try to decide whether or not it is worth trying to “fix” the first one, this post brought me some insight that I think I needed.
Williams says that in spite of what might be seen as a failure, she has really come out ahead. She says:
I still won.
I won the ability to write a whole book–now I know I can. … I won finding out people liked the underlying story, that when workshop teachers and guest writers asked me about the topic of the book they got excited, that somewhere in that 96K is a set of facts worth sharing in some way. I won building a writing habit and sitting down every day alone or with a writer friend and living a life that feels like a writer’s life. … I won being able to step back and look at my work with a critical eye and say, “close but no cigar,” and next time I’ll know it faster. I won knowing that failure isn’t death, or even death to my career.
And that is what I needed to hear, I think. The ability to write a whole book – even a not very good one – is something not everyone has. I have learned so much from the process of writing that book, and no one can ever take that from me.
And there really is no reason why we can’t restructure this book and make it a better book and then publish it. We haven’t burned any bridges with it yet.
But even if we don’t, even if we never publish this or any other book, we have written an 81,000 word novel. I am proud of that fact. But, as Williams, says,
Next project, here I come.