When You're 85% There.
Oh, how times have changed. When I started publishing 13 years ago, my hope was that each new book I presented was “the one”—the perfect book. The success. The book that sang and resonated with readers. I often discarded and unpublished them altogether or tried to rewrite and re-present them. But the new rewrites were doomed to the same failures as the first drafts and it was back to the drawing board. During this time people often encouraged me—italics are mine and intentional—by saying they were benevolent towards my work but couldn’t pay it any real attention. I should just keep writing and eventually, I’d produce a readable book.
But as the years went on and I turned out more and more books, I started to wonder if this “perfect” book really existed. It appeared to me that I’d never write it. The benevolent onlookers started to urge me to be realistic. After over a decade, I clearly wasn’t cut out to be a writer. I’d had chance after chance and failed every time. Then I remembered what I believed as a religious person, specifically a Christian—that nobody is perfect. It’s an error to even attempt such a standard. Perfection belongs to God only. Everything that I had been raised to believe said that people are actually irredeemably faulty without the help of God, the perfect deity. Not everyone today believes that, but it is what I believed.
I suddenly looked at my work through an entirely different lens. Why was I chasing perfection? Instead, I should examine the books for what they were. And I saw each book was actually a success. I’d become more analytical about audiences and found 22 core audience types that appeared consistently throughout every book and movie I saw. I never viewed myself as in the shadow of pop culture and desperately trying to get the attention of people who would rather plug in something audiovisual instead of reading. I loved books, which was why I wrote them. But I noticed that the exact same underlying audiences appear throughout any type of storytelling.
I also realized that my books held those same audiences inside them. In fact, now that I have 10 books + #11 (Celestine) to be published this year, I have included all but 3 of the audiences in my work! I was embarrassed I’d given up on these books so quickly. And I started to wonder about those benevolent onlookers throughout the years. They were merely rejecting each book because it did not contain them as an audience. The problem was not my failure to reach an audience, it was a failure to reach them. They apparently suffered from severe ego issues. To say a book written for you is “better” and shows the author finally has some talent directly implies books written for other audiences are inferior! 😊 That is so self-important it really merits a trip to a therapist.
Since you are following me because you are interested in one of my books, this doesn’t actually apply to you. You must be one of the 19—check it, 19!—types of people who find resonance with my work. (And I intend to address the remaining 3 audiences in future projects.) But I thought you might find this helpful if you’re ever feeling a need, an urge, to chase the unreasonable goal of perfection. Just back off from it and look closely at the work you've achieved. You’ll find that you’re doing just fine. Not perfect. But for a human being, you’re all that you can be.
And there will be more updates.
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Young Adult Fiction Writer
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