Friday, 9 October 2015

Reading, Writing, and that 'Perfect' First Novel

*This post is inspired by a recent status update by author Cindy Dees in regards to self-publishing and a straight-to-the-point look at some author mentalities.

So hopefully you've checked out Cindy's post before getting here but, just in case, here's a quick recap: The post tackles what I agree is the elephant in the writer world, success and failure, and the likelihood of one versus the other. Plainly, the post aptly surmises that not everyone is going to make it in the publishing industry.

And she's right. Yep, I agree, despite my love for the writing craft and the passion I have to go far, I'm at the point where I get that I might never accomplish what some of my favourite writers have accomplished. Once you reach that sort of clarity, you really find out whether writing is for you at all. Can you live with being a writer who writes for passion? Even if that passion is never recognised?

I can, because in my eyes there are two different reasons to write: For monetary purposes, or for personal fulfilment. You can be both, of course. Hey, even with my often pessimistic attitude there's still the hope that bubbles beneath the surface that, one day, I'll reach where I want to be. 

Dreams are good, and that's something you should never forget, or stop striving to achieve.

Cindy then goes on to discuss the world of indie writers and the quality of the mounds and mounds of stuff that's self-published each year. And here, I agree with her again. Traditional publishing, while not perfect, does do a good job of pulling the diamonds from the rough and making them sparkle. With self-publishing, it's definitely hit or miss.

But I also disagree. In amongst all that is the opinion that one bad self-published book ends any future for you as a writer. In essence, say goodbye to success. It's this point I want to talk about. Using the three elements of my heading, I'm going to break down my opinion. I can only speak from personal experience, but here we go!


I know, cheesy picture alert, but breaking up the monotony here.

Reading is instrumental, for any writer. The experience and knowledge you can glean from reading alone is crucial. That and reading is awesome.

But before I was a writer - meaning actively writing, I've always had aspirations - I was, and still am, an avid reader. You can probably tell from my reviews that I'm not fussy; I'll honestly read anything and everything as long as it piques my interest. I have a wide range of stories, from traditionally published to self-published. And there are books in both that don't meet the criteria for 'perfection'. 

Does that make them bad books?

Nope. Not at all. Like the breakdown in my reviews, there are four pieces of a novel I look at and rate: Plot, pace, characters and writing. Personally, not all these parts have to be flawless for me to enjoy any given work (although I am majorly particular about plot). Especially the writing. Now, there's a certain standard every reader expects. The work you've put out there has to be readable, a reader needs to be able to follow the story.

But what about perfect grammar and spelling? They're important factors that you should always strive to smooth and tighten. Always. But - yep, there's a but - in the case of self-published novels, you really have to think of the person behind that particular piece of work you've picked up. 

I can, with almost no problem, gloss over typos and funny grammar, as long as they're not too prevalent throughout. Because, I understand to an extent. And that leads on to my next part.


I have two self-published novels out. They're both free (still working on Amazon, but the US website sells them for nothing) and they're not perfect. When I finished my first work, I'm not ashamed to say I was young, naive and idealistic. I was passionate and jumped the gun. I published on the internet, and that's when the doubts kicked in.

When it comes to other people's works I'm extremely optimistic, and when it's mine, pessimism doesn't quite cover it. I'd fallen out of practice with my grammar, I'd read so many conflicting versions of the English language that I wasn't entirely sure about which set of words to use where. To get to the point, I was an amateur (in many ways I still am) and I acted like one, and wrote like one.

But after a few long months of tortured debate on whether or not I should just drag the novel down and scrap it, I lucked into some clarity. I asked myself why? I didn't expect people to pay for it (at the time I only knew of Amazon as a self-publishing platform) I just wanted to enter the community, learn, grow and become a better author.

I wasn't in the financial position to hire the help of a proofreader, or an editor, or any of the parts a lot of books (including mine) need. I took on these roles myself and did my best to be as great at them as I could be.

Do I think I made a mistake self-publishing so quickly a work I was terrified about? Yep, call me impulsive. But there's also a certain level of pride. You get better. I look at these pieces of writing and see them as building blocks, steps that get finer and smoother as I learn more about the craft. There are cringe moments, times I can't find problems because I've been over it so many times I can't see them, even though I know they're there; but there's also hope. I see where I'm improving, and with the help of great readers and fellow writers, I grow every day. 

That's priceless. The reader/writer communities are some of the best groups to be a part of. 

I don't think one, or even two, iffy self-published novels will derail your career. 

You're only as good as the next novel you write.

That 'Perfect' First Novel


I'm going to clarify something: Perfection is not something to shy away from. Its difficulty is not an excuse to give up. When I twaddle on about how things don't need to be perfect, I don't mean don't strive for it. Because, at the end of the day, it's what all your hard work is for. 

But does everything you do need to be perfect? What is perfection (whoa, too philosophical)?

You can't know everything, and mistakes are the foundations for improvement. 

If you're passionate, dedicated and determined, that 'perfect' novel will come. If being an author is what you want, learn and grow and come out swinging, no matter what.

I'd like to give an extra thanks to Cindy for opening up the debate because, she's right. It seems to be a taboo subject. Looking at the realities of this profession doesn't mean you absolve any hope you have.

So what do you guys think? Do you enjoy seeing the growth of an author? Do you pass over mistakes to get to the story underneath? Or are you a hardcore perfectionist? Where mistakes and faults have no room in your life?

Neither is the wrong opinion. The beauty of this community is that there's no mandate that says you have to agree, just disagree kindly.

Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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