Don’t misunderstand me, especially any editors reading this (you’re all wonderful, just like those agent people I’ve heard about and I think you should all get medals. And hours of foreplay delivered by the True Blood character of your choice. Doffing cap now and fucking off back onto the point. Ahem.) it would be fantastic to have an editor and be properly published as a novelist but at the moment, I’m still a rookie. Perhaps more appropriately, I would say that I consider myself an apprentice.
A masterpiece isn’t a genre-defining piece of work. A masterpiece is the project that an apprentice would present to their master to prove that their training was complete and that they were now ready to become a master themselves. That, as far as I’m concerned, is what my first novel is going to be. Though it started as a novella, with the hopes of self-publishing it and then writing a series of novels based in that same universe, it has since grown to the point that it will become my first novel and the piece of work with which I intend to sell myself. It’s basically my book-pimp and I’m its private dancer, hanging around on metaphorical corners with my pen hanging out.
A lot of writers spend a huge amount of time picking up projects, putting them down, polishing them and generally changing their minds about what they want to do. I’ve been there and I know I could name several others who have and while it’s frustrating, it seems to be a natural part of the process. So don’t get pissed off and lose faith if you keep flitting from one thing to another, deliberating about what you want to do. The world of literature is vast and is only going to get bigger as people have new ideas, new trends appear and old ones resurface, with new writers adding to them endlessly. You will find your niche eventually so don’t feel you have to rush off in one direction and stick with it, even if you feel you’ve taken the wrong path. Would you do that with any other job? I don’t think so. Unless you’re a bit strange. If you are, good for you. Now get away from me…
Though most writers will tell you to focus on your work and finish it I, in my humble opinion, think that the most important thing to do is remain proactive and remain positive. It’s not good to keep on and on twiddling to the point that you are stagnating as a writer and it’s not good to get bogged down in something that isn’t going anywhere. Maybe it will if you keep going, maybe it won’t, but if you’re getting frustrated with it and keep farting around with it, it’s incredibly unlikely that the result will be your best work. Put it down, take a break to do something else and come back to it later. Maybe get someone to read what you’ve done and have a good old chat about it. Maybe make them some tea. Maybe do a sexy dance. I don’t bloody know how you coerce people into reading your drivel! Stop looking at me like that! I’m married so I just get my wife to do it. Hey she expects me to put out so it’s the least she can do.
If you find your attention wandering it’s possible that you need a breather. Maybe you need a change of scenery. Maybe you’re writing the wrong thing. The point, which as usual I’ve taken a circuitous route in getting to, is that you needn’t be afraid to say “fuck it, this isn’t working” and ditch what you’ve done. I’d urge you not to throw it away because it will be great to refer back to either for ideas or to see how far you’ve come in a year or two, but that’s another point for another day. In the short term it’s fine to hop from one thing to another as long as you’re searching for your groove, but be aware of one simple fact: identifying a project that you can see through from the planning stage to being submitted as a high quality draft is a skill that EVERY successful writer has. When you ditch something, know why. Understand what didn’t work and don’t repeat it. By knowing what doesn’t work and why, you will move closer to being where you want to be. Learn from your mistakes and improve or you won’t get there, but don’t put yourself under pressure to write that amazing novel immediately and be gutted when it doesn’t go the way you expect.
A large number of the unpublished writers I know have a damned good shot at getting published one day and, just so long as you treat your apprentice years as the learning curve that they are, you have every chance of getting there too.
If you get there and realise that this advice has helped you, you own me money. Bitch.