Monday, October 31, 2011

Don’t Try Harder

This week I’m sharing my thoughts on I’ve heard a lot of writing advice during my time as an aspiring author. Some of it was useful, some of it I already knew and lots of it made promises that are not likely to be fulfilled.

One of my favorites is “try harder.” People from your grandmother to those people you reluctantly accept as friends on Facebook will tell you that, if you try harder, you will get published, sell your movie rights and get rich enough to buy an island.

I’ve found that none of that is true. I experimented by trying really hard at a few passages. They sucked. In fact, they sucked about as hard as the ones I was lazy about. This led me to a conclusion: if you don’t want to suck try pretty hard. This is particularly helpful when you’re editing your work and experimenting with more and more elegant ways to send your main character down the hall for a drink of water.

There’s another problem with this maxim. It suggests that, if I try hard enough, I will become (cue the music) the greatest author that has ever lived. Let’s be honest. Emily Dickinson blindfolded could write me to pieces.

Here’s what I’ve decided to take from this revelation. Getting published would be SWEET! Being known as a great writer would be AWESOME! But being proud of the book I created and the craft I learned will be harder. To do this I’ll need to work pretty hard for the right amount of time.

This blog would be irrelevant if we all could use a great idea that the book “The Future of Us” by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler brings up. It’s set in the late 90s. The main characters go onto the internet for the first time and find their modern-day Facebook pages. This excellent book can be yours if you answer one simple fill-in the blank question: if you knew then what you know now you never would have ______________. Be sure to add your email address.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sam
    We met in New York a couple of weeks ago, at the YA writers night. Thanks for saying hello!
    The question you raise here was one I used to joke about when I was first published: if I'd known back in the early 90s (I'd say) how hard writing was, I would never have started. That isn't true, though. I would've done it anyway, because what else is there? Nothing!
    Good luck with everything. I hope we'll get to hang out in New York again soon.