Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Curse of a Good Book

Most aspiring, and even published authors are often racked with doubt and self-deprecation, constantly asking the question: is my writing good enough? or even, am I good enough?

I'm one of these writers, constantly worrying over the quality of my sentences and whether or not my story is worth telling, if it would make any sort of impact on a reader's life, if it lives up to the idea of it in my head, and if it's good enough to share shelf space with my favourite novels.

As a reader, I devour books in the genre that I write, to see what kind of stories are being told and sold, which characters are the most beloved, what works and what doesn't. Sometimes I'll read a book that just takes my breath away, that makes me wish I'd written it and that makes my soul ache to know it's not my name on the front cover. This is the sort of book that makes me want to strive harder, to write better, and simultaneously makes me wonder why I even try because I'll never be as good as that.

This is the curse of the good book.

This curse happens in three stages:

1) AMAZING book, I am so in love, I want to read it again right now, I won't live another year waiting for the sequel, I must stalk the author on Twitter, I want to be her best friend, I wish the characters were real, I'm going to write out my favourite quotes and stick them above my bed...

2) I HATE this book! It's so good, so much better than any of my ideas. Why didn't I think of this amazingly awesome stupendous idea? My characters are flat, emotionless, boring Mary Sues and Gary Stues, no one will ever want my hero as a book boyfriend, I'm wasting my time writing, I'll never be good enough, I'll never write a book this awesome...

3) Of course I can write a book this awesome! In fact, I will. I'll stop comparing my first draft to this perfect, polished, published piece of art and get stuck into revisions, whipping my story into shape. My characters are totally swoon-worthy. I can so write a book as good as the one I just read.

There is so much to learn from reading a good book: What makes it so good? What did I love about the characters? How did the author move me? What devices, tip and tricks can I apply in my own stories? And while reading these books can often be a little demoralizing and make me wonder if I'll ever be that good, they definitely inspire me to strive harder, to write better and dream bigger.

Have you ever experienced the curse of the good book?


  1. I am constantly experiencing this. Thank goodness, most of the time it's after I've read "The End" and I'm looking around, wondering how it got to be 3am and my eyes are blurred almost shut. Then the doubt settles in. But I handle it the same way as you do! Keep writing, keep revising, keep reading

  2. Oh how funny. We are a silly lot--we writers.
    Revision is a tonic for the upset story.
    (and good writer friends...)
    ~Just Jill

  3. Indeed we are a silly lot! So glad I'm not alone though :)