We’re back again for another installment.
Last time I mentioned failure. So I wanted to talk a little more about that. Because, you know, I don’t think life is depressing enough.
Anyway. I specifically say: “Stopping writing makes you a failure.” While at the time I was being inspirational this time I wanted to talk practically about that statement. I’ve asked several authors what is meant by the term, failed novel. All of them said that a failed novel is basically a novel that you stop working on.
I want to be clear on this. A novel isn’t a failure because it’s been rejected x number of times, or xx number of times, or xxx number of times, or xxxx number of times. It’s not a failure because it’s never published. It’s not a failure because numerous, very loud people don’t like it. It’s not a failure because, while people like it, the public misses the underlying point that you were going for in the story.
The only thing that makes a novel failed is you giving up on it.
Now I’m not talking about: I’ve been working on this novel for months/years. I’ve written it, re-written it, and re-re-written. I’m at the point that, I as the author cannot do anything more with it; I’m going to need a third party to come in and take a look at it before I can do anything else with it. So you stop actively working on it so you can focus on other things, like another novel, or eating, or your relationship (I swear I had a girlfriend/boyfriend/fiancé around here somewhere).
What I’m talking about when I say a novel is failed is: I got fifty pages in about a couple years ago and then I just haven’t had the time to pick it back up. Or, I tried writing a novel, but it just wasn’t for me. Or, I wrote a whole novel, but no one seemed to like it so, but I’m not going to change anything because they don’t get it; I’ll just focus on my porn addiction for a while.
Basically any time you just stop working on a novel, and just never go back to pick it up. The above reasons are pretty negative, but a failed novel might be a good thing too. Just let me explain. If you spend time writing you should, eventually, get a feel for your writing process, your style, and stories in general. You could have a great idea for a novel, get fifty pages in, and you realize that it’s just not working. Whatever the reason may be: the subject might not translate well, you might be having trouble organizing your thoughts, you might not be feeling the story right then. In that case you abandon the project in favor for a project that comes more easily. Or you might decide that your brilliant idea for a novel actually works better as a short story.
As a writer it is important that you’re able to identify poor writing, especially if it’s yours. Just because you have a failed novel doesn’t mean you are a failure. Apparently, John Green in the wake of The Fault in Our Stars, has started and abandoned four or five novels.
(If you don’t know who John Green is; he’s awesome. If you haven’t read The Fault in Our Stars; you should.)
The point I’m going for is this: Just because you have a failed novel doesn’t mean you are a failure. As the old saying goes: We learn more from our failures then our successes. And again: the only thing that makes you a failure is if you stop writing. So don’t let that one failed novel/story define the rest of your story, learn from it and move on.
Until next time: be yourself, be well; write yourself, write well.