Your book doesn’t have to be the next Pulitzer Prize winner.
There’s this fallacy that the only books worth writing are the ones that are going to win awards. I hear it all the time, “My idea isn’t anything special, so what’s the point of writing it?” First of all, how do you know your book isn’t going to be an award-winning masterpiece if you haven’t written it yet? Second of all, just because a book doesn’t go on to be the next big thing, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth writing.
This is something I’ve been thinking more and more about recently, as I dip my toes into writing my own books (rather than ghostwriting books for other people). As writers, many of us dream of our books making us rich and famous, with accolades and awards coming out of our ears. I know I do. I’ve even got the house I’d buy saved on my Zoopla app. But I know it’s just that, a dream. And do you know what, the fear that my books wouldn’t be good enough almost stopped me from writing them in the first place.
When I think back on all the books I’ve read, many of them achieved no awards at all.
Some didn’t even achieve any recognition. Does that mean they weren’t worth writing? Of course not. You don’t have to be some literary genius to write a book worth reading. Some of my favourite books haven’t been works of literary revere, they’ve just been damn good stories that allowed me to get swept away by the narrative. Whatever story you have stuck within you, somebody wants to read it. There’s a reader out there for every writer, no matter the content or style of writing.
Would I love my books to be the next best-sellers, bringing me money and fame? Hell yes!
Will it happen? Probably not.
Does that mean I’m going to stop writing? Nope.
I’ve come to the realisation that how a book is received is down to the opinions of others.
Your influence on their opinions can only go so far. You can ensure that your story is well-presented and edited, and that you’ve told it in the best words you can muster. But, at the end of the day, if you’re writing a book with the sole purpose of it winning prizes and making you rich, then you’re basing your happiness on the actions of other people. And that is never wise.
There’s also a snobbery among writers that is hard to overcome. A hierarchy of different genres. Not every author is this way, not every reader is this way, but it’s still prevalent. Every single time, horror and romance writers seem to end up at the bottom of the pile. Why is that? This seems to add to the new author’s fear of writing the book they want to write. Trends come and go in waves… For a while it was teen fiction that reached the top spot, then it was fantasy fiction, then it was thrillers, next it may be something else entirely.
Write the story you want to write.
No matter what genre. If you want to write erotica, write erotica. If you want to write ‘chick-lit’ (a term I despise by the way), write that. If you want to write Harry Styles fanfiction, do it. It breaks my heart to think of all the books we won’t get to read because people thought that their ideas weren’t good enough, or that they’d be judged for writing a certain genre.
The best thing you can do is get some words down on the page. As Terry Pratchett said, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” It’s trial and error when you first get started, finding what works for you. We’re all different. Some people like to write straight from the top of their heads, others need a detailed plan. The thing is, that you won’t know which one you are until you start writing.
Writing a book is nothing to be embarrassed about.
This is something else I’ve noticed. People say that they’re writing a book like it’s a confession of sin. They whisper it in hushed tones, behind closed doors. “I’m writing a book, but don’t tell anybody.” Why should you be ashamed that you’re doing something as incredible as writing a book, sharing your story with the world? Of course, it’s deeply personal and that plays into it, but I think there’s also an element of ‘but what if it’s not successful?’ and, at this point, you have to consider what success means to you.
If you’re writing a book for the sole purpose of becoming a world-renowned author, then the odds are not in your favour. Your ‘success’ is based on others’ actions. Instead, perhaps focus on writing the book you want to write and sending it off into the world. Isn’t that success enough? Think about how many people fail to complete their manuscripts. For whatever reason, they gave up. Imagine being able to say that you didn’t give up. You succeeded and your book is out there, available for people to read. That, to me, is a triumph.
What is your definition of success?
If you were to write your own book, or maybe you already have, how would you define whether it was successful or not? I’d love to hear from you, whether your opinions are the same as my own, or different. Imagine me, standing on a soapbox, preaching, “Your book doesn’t have to be a Pulitzer Prize winner to be worth writing. Write the book you want to write, not the book you think you should write. The world will be a better place for it.”
 Anna Todd’s bloody incredible After series started off as Harry Styles fanfiction. I finished it a few days ago and I’m still reeling. #teamhessa. It also gave me the idea for this blog post.
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