5 Secrets to Keep You in the Game

The writing game is really, really easy to quit. Maybe it's because your first novel always sucks but, like an American Idol first-rounder, you have no idea. Maybe it's because you need to write a million words before you start writing good ones. Maybe it's because you get rejected 100 times before something clicks and you understand why.

I don't mind if people quit -- less competition for me. But since you guys keep coming back and saying such nice things, I'm going to tell you a few secrets to keep you in the game.

It's okay to rehash old plots. I quit for almost a decade because I rewrote The Fellowship of the Ring without realizing it. Granted that novel would never have sold as written. But I could have worked the story and reworked it. I could've injected it with other rehashed plots, original twists, and my own voice until it was something fresh. Everything's been done and will be done again. Don't let that stop you.

Your first draft will suck. Write it anyway. Everything bad can be made good with revision. Even something good can be made better. But you can't revise a blank page.

Everything can be deleted. That clever turn of phrase? Gone. That supposedly-important chapter? Don't need it. That boy you thought was the protagonist, but actually this girl over here is far more interesting? Delete him. Nothing is sacred. Nothing is necessary. Everything can be cut. Try it and see.

Your first story will not be published. Harsh? Yeah, but it's better for you to know now. Don't let it stop you. Try and get published anyway, because the stuff you learn from failing will help you too. Who knows? You might get lucky. But don't be surprised when your dreams are shattered, cutting your bare feet on the floor.

You have more than one story in you. A lot of folks learn the previous truth the hard way then get bitter, decide the game is rigged. It's not rigged, it's hard. The only way to keep your hopes from piling up on a story that can't sustain them is to write another story. And another one after that. If your dream is to get published, then keep writing until it happens. Who knows? Maybe you can pull that first story back out of the gutter, rinse it off, cut it up, and try again.

How about you? Got any secrets?


Charmaine Clancy said...

Well covered - and keep blogging about your attempts, making it public means it's harder for me to back out.

Emmet said...

you haven't failed until you quit or die. If it happens to be the second one you have other stuff to worry about so who cares.

Adam Heine said...

That's a good one, Charmaine: accountability. It doesn't have to be online, but it definitely helps.

@Emmet: I like that one too. Though a few folks managed to succeed after they died *shrug*.

fairyhedgehog said...

These are all good but especially "your first draft will suck".

C. Michael Fontes said...

well said!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

You're reading my mind today. I wrote a whole post about not quitting. Then I deleted it (ha!).

Seriously, you nailed it.

And I really hope to succeed before I die, if only to have an editor work with me to make my writing better (see Girl With A Dragon Tattoo for what happens when the writer dies first).

Myrna Foster said...

Star Swans is my first. Are you sure you still want to read it?

Great post!

Anonymous said...

"Your first draft will suck." I'm a perfectionist at heart so either I think the first draft was so horrible I'll never look at it again, or it's the best thing since sliced cheese. Hmm, I best get going on that second draft, huh?

Carrie ;)

Adam Heine said...

Myrna wrote:
"Star Swans is my first. Are you sure you still want to read it?"

Definitely! And you've had poems published too. Those count for something!

DL Curran said...

Between your post and Susan's, it's a good shot in the arm first thing this morning. Nice to meet you (again through Susan).

And Charmaine's comment about the blogging... I've found I'm taking my writing far more seriously now that I've started blogging.

Great post!

Adam Heine said...

Thanks, DLCurran, and thanks for stopping by. Blogging's been a double-edged sword for me. I've learned a lot and been held accountable, but I'm often much better at keeping my blogging schedule than my writing one.