Feb 15 2015

Is my next book good enough, or: writer's anxiety

Dear reader/writer,

You may not have this problem, the worry if your next book will be good enough. Maybe you do. No one is judging you on that but I do want to address the issue. So what is the problem?

You wrote a book. It is a good book. You know that and your readers  know that. You see 4 and 5 star reviews that toot your book sky-high and you into the seventh writer-heaven. The book made your day, maybe even your week or fortnight. And then you face that next thing. That next book. You sit down and you worry:

Maybe it’s not as good as the previous one. Maybe they’ll hate it.

Okay, all right, step back. You haven’t written a single word yet and you’re already fretting about the 1 star reviews? Did you do that when you wrote the first book? If so… poor you! Worrying about the first book isn’t really clever, you know. It has to be written and edited. And beta-read. You know the drill, I assume. And that is what has to happen with the next book too. You write it, you go over it again (and again?), you submit a few beta-readers to it, go over it again if necessary and in the end it gets edited. And you go over it again.

Yeah, okay, but what if the beta-readers hate it, loathe it, laugh at me for making this thing? What will stop them from coming over and kicking my ass?

Well, let’s take this apart.

  1. There would be the travel distance that would stop them. And what would they gain from kicking your ass? That would only make that you can’t sit down to make the book better, using their comments on the rough and weak spots.
  2. Do you really think they will hate it? Do you really believe that you are able to write something so horrible after a first (hopefully successful/good) book and that you have no idea it’s so bad, so you’ll send it off to your beta-readers?
  3. When they laugh at you: ask why they laugh. Maybe you wrote the beginnings of a bloody good comedy!

dont_panic_button

This is the only advice for those situations. Why shouldn’t you panic? You haven’t written that next book! Sit your butt down at your computer, iPad, notepad, whatever pad you like best and write the thing.

And why? For the simple reason that it is not you who decides if a book is good. You’re the writer, not the judge. The people out there, who are waiting for your next book, they are the ones who buy your book, read it and put out the reviews. If you are a writer, it’s your obligation to write the best you can, not the best that other people expect of you. That would be insane and it’s unachievable. Do what you can, the way you do it best. Write the book. Hand it to the beta-readers. Look at their comments. And maybe you’ll find that all the while you’ve been fretting about the book was a waste of time because they don’t laugh, loathe and hate.

Maybe. There’s no guarantee. Maybe the betas do hate it. In that case, you still are the writer. Sit down and change it. Make it good. But stop worrying and fretting about something that doesn’t exist yet. Tell me, how often do you worry that this big UFO will fall on your head or house? I bet you don’t, and that’s for the same reason: it doesn’t exist. (Well, not that we know of anyway.)

Do you think that Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Mercedes Lackey, Neil Gaiman or George R.R. Martin never had doubts about their work? If so, have a look at this, because even the pros have doubts. It’s something from 2007, so nothing new here. But they pick themselves up and push on. Now pick yourself up and push on.

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