“The books I haven’t written are better than the books other people have.” Cyril Connolly
This Twitter post made my jaw drop. Finally someone said what I have thought all these years. I used to get depressed when I read so many books that were so bad. As I turned each page, I hoped it would get better. It didn’t. By the time I ended each book, I always told myself, I can do better than this [fill in the blank with your preferred choice of harsh words].
But I never did.
The bad books continued to pile up, and my good ideas never made it to the page.
I changed my perspective after hearing Suzanne Brockman at a Georgia Romance Writers meeting earlier this year.
Fellow GRW member Pam Asberry describes this part of the meeting in full detail:
First, she asked if any of us have ever read a book that was so badly written that we questioned the sanity not only of the author who wrote it, but also the agent, editor and publisher who accepted it.
All hands went up.
Then, she asked if we have ever read a book that was so beautifully written that the story and characters followed us for years.
Again, all hands went up.
Of course, the challenge isn’t to write a book better than the first book. The challenge is to write a book at least as good as the second one.
Suzanne encouraged us to swear a solemn oath to do just that.
Suzanne encouraged all of us in the room to aspire to be better writers, to do better than the worst thing we had read. The challenge isn’t just to get the damn book done and published. Suzanne Brockman upped the goal, especially for me, the queen of low aim and less-than-desirable expectations. The challenges are to try to be the best, to work to meet the expectations of the readers, and to create a novel that bursts with beauty, creativity, enthusiasm, believable plots, and lively characters.
That’s the challenge. Hop to it!