We are all guilty of this at some point in our career.
Here are the 5 stages of comparing your unfinished draft to a successful author’s bestselling novel:
- Euphoria. Your favourite author’s latest book is hard to put down and you’ve not surfaced for food, drink, a toilet break or some basic form of interaction with another human being for most of the day. Their book is AMAZING and as you reach a juicy bit in the book you get a rush of what can only be described as reading euphoria.
- Awareness. During this intense spell you become aware of a helpful little voice inside you saying, ‘you couldn’t write anything like this’. You start to think about what the little voice has said. You place the book in your lap as a dark cloud of writer doubt passes over you. In a panic you glance at the pile of papers making up your draft novel. It’s taken you months to reach this stage with your draft novel and the project is not even finished. Up until you read this book you thought it was pretty awesome.
- Comparison Hell. You enter what can only be described as a form of writer comparison hell. Your mind starts to unpick your draft whilst replaying the amazing bits of the book that you are reading back to you. The helpful little voice returns and gives a handy running commentary on how your draft does not have this author’s engaging tone, your draft does not contain the plot twists that this author’s book possesses and your draft does not have the amazing characters which bring this author’s book to life. You reach out for a box of tissues. All those loving feelings for your draft novel are washed away with your tears.
- Writer Tantrum. After some careful consideration and a lot of snivelling into tissues you decide that the best thing all round will be for you to quit writing. You could never come up with something as good as this book. There is no hope for you so why put yourself through anymore misery? The literary dream is over. You wonder whether you should add ‘it was so good I gave up writing’ to your book review on Amazon. You explain the situation to a loved one, close friend, writer friend or a passing stranger. They sit you down, tell you that you are being silly, point out that this author was once like you. They then remind you that quitting writing is not the answer as you are a complete pain in the neck to live with as a non-writer and nothing in life comes easy. You have to work at dreams.
- Acceptance. You finally come to your literary senses after much heartache. You accept the fact that this author has probably gone through endless drafts to get it to this polished state. At some stage they probably had a draft of this book in a similar state to yours. You also accept the fact that readers have different literary tastes and not everyone will like this author’s book (you choose to ignore their Amazon chart ranking). You decide to return to your book as you don’t want to deprive yourself any longer. You also decide not to quit writing and threaten to return to your unfinished draft later. All is right with the world again!
When you think about how silly the act of comparing your stinky second draft to something as polished as a successful author’s latest book you do actually come to your senses.
Here are some things to bear in mind:
- Your succesful author’s book has been through NUMEROUS revisions. It will have been changed, edited and rewritten a LOT before it hit the shelves. It has been polished so much, the damn thing shines! Your second draft hasn’t. You are not comparing apples with apples here. If your story had been through the same process then you could compare it.
- Your draft is still at the ‘ugly duckling’ phase. All draft novels go through this stage.
- Your successful author’s book even went through the stinky second draft stage and probably looked nothing like what it does today.
- Behind every great book on sale are hours, days, months and in some cases years of hard work.
So, how do you stop doing this?
- Congratulate the author on writing a terrific book. Leave them a glowing review.
- Make notes on what made their book so good. Use this insight to feed into your own work.
- Take out an old project you wrote a few years ago and compare your current draft. Look at how far you have progressed. This is the comparison you should be doing.
- Just stop! It really is a waste of your time.
Keep writing x