I get asked pretty regularly if I have any advice for newbie writers. Usually I say: Learn as much as you can. There’s so much going on behind the scenes of making a book, it benefits you to know as much about it as possible beforehand. This is one of the reasons I keep making Behind the Book videos. I hope my adventures will make your journey smoother.
But today I thought of something else, and I want to pass this on as well: Forget perfection.
Forget it. It doesn’t exist.
I say this because as I sit here working on Book 2 in The Selection Trilogy, I’m looking at a pile of purple marks on my manuscript, and I’m a bit overwhelmed. Granted, this feeling is probably because of the baby brain, but still. And this isn’t technically the first round of edits. The first thing I handed over was so jacked up, Erica (my editor) didn’t even bother doing line edits because I basically needed to gut the book and fix it. And, actually, that wasn’t even the first round because Elana (my agent) and I worked on it before sending it off. She put notes in the margin saying “Why? Just why?” at one point. It was that bad.
And I’m pretty sure that, no matter how long I do this, I will never send out a manuscript that doesn’t come back with something that needs to be changed. I will never get it right the first time.
And neither will you.
You will always have to work at being better, and really that’s a good thing. Hopefully it encourages you to be the best writer you can be and create the best books for your very generous readers. At this moment, it’s hard to look at those notes that way, but I know that every purple dash means you’re getting something better than what I originally put on the paper. As easily tired and confused as I am these days, I can’t complain about that.
On a related note, The Selection is less than two months from hitting shelves, and the pilot for the (potential) series is being shot right now. People have ARCs out there or have gotten hold of the script, and I’ve heard all kinds of opinions on this. There’s a range from “this is the best book I’ve ever read!” to “why are they making this piece of $h!t book into a show?”, and, honestly, that too is a good thing.
Yeah, sure, I wish that only the nice stuff made it to my ears. It’s already a pretty daunting task what I’m doing here, and it’s not always easy to do when you feel like there are people excited at the possibility of you failing— whatever failing even is— but haters are a good thing.
Hard to believe, I know, but that’s how I genuinely feel. If everyone loves what you’re doing, you’re not reaching enough people. If you get out of the safe waters of people who adore you, you will run into those who CANNOT STAND what you’ve done. Querying alone will teach you that.
This is one of those things you have to accept. Your idea of the perfect story will not be the same as everyone else’s. Try to be supported by the good stuff, ignore the bad stuff, and NEVER go looking for either. Trust me, enough of both will make its way to you. Alas.
Let perfection go. Aim for your personal best. And as things change, adjust that goal.
For me, I’m not even sure what that is right now. Maybe just seeing that gorgeous cover finally hardbound and on a shelf. That will be a goal four years in the making. I know, right?
Anyway. Just learn what your best is, always make the effort to create exactly that, and roll with the rest.