Some of us will never stop doing this.
All we can do is learn to survive it.
Here are the stages of comparing your unfinished draft to a successful author’s bestselling novel:
- Reading euphoria. Your favourite author’s latest book is hard to put down and you’ve not surfaced for food, drink or some basic form of interaction with another human being for most of the day. Their book is AMAZING. As you reach a juicy bit in the book you get a rush of what can only be described as reading euphoria.
- Panic. 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 unfinished draft novel. It’s taken you months to reach this stage and the project is not even finished. Up until you read this book you thought your draft novel 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.
- Gigantic cloud of self doubt. After some careful consideration 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.
- 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 unfinished 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 draft hasn’t and more importantly it’s still not finished. You are also 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 unfinished 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 learn to survive this?
- Make notes on what made their book so good. Use this insight to feed into your own work.
- Read book acknowledgments more. This is where an author documents their struggle, pain and journey to publication. If you read these you will see that the journey to a published bestselling novel is long and arduous.
- 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 we should all be doing.
Keep writing and finish your book!