Saturday, January 8, 2011

Should We Finish Writing a Bad Book (If it’s our First Novel?)

005-imageI’ve forgotten a lot about learning new skills as a child. Riding a bike? Roller skating? Swimming? I learned how to do those things, but my memory is shaky on it. It comes back to me in flashes, though, when I see my kids mastering new skills.

It took my daughter years to even want to ride a bike. When she finally agreed to have me help her learn, she was terrified the whole time. A couple of times she asked me to put the training wheels back on her bike.

But—once she got it, she got it. And all she wanted to do all day long was ride a bike. She felt completely confident and triumphant and she wanted to practice (and show off) her new skill as much as she could.

Same with my son and ice skating. And my daughter with roller skating.

I was really the same way with writing a book. I messed around with manuscripts in my twenties. I’d get an idea, fall in love with the idea, fervently start writing the idea.

Then I’d get to the point where I lost faith in my ability to finish the book, or I’d fall out of love with the idea, or I’d get a shiny new idea that seemed a lot better.

I think there were three unfinished manuscripts.

The writing I did was still helpful to me. I got a lot of practice and a better feel for my voice.

But I didn’t feel confident. I still thought I might fall off the bike. I hadn’t been able to follow a book through to completion.

If I had finished one of those books, it would still have been a book that needed a lot of work. And one of the unfinished manuscripts would have been a real stinker of a bad book.

At least, though, I’d have had the confidence that I could finish the book. And that would have gotten me writing more and more. Writing more and more would have made my writing better, quicker.

It would have been like my kids, mastering their new skills and then skating and biking like crazy—reveling in the skill.

Is it worth it to finish a bad book? I think it is. Unless you get a shiny new idea that comes into your head almost fully-realized. I think it’s important to prove to ourselves that we can finish a book. Even if it’s not marketable, even if it’s just for ourselves. Because the second book will be better.

What do you think? Finish a bad book…or start working on a better idea? How many manuscripts do you have in your manuscript graveyard (I’ve admitted to three…) :)