Successful Novelists: Willing to Write Bad to Get Good

Important Concept

Please excuse the poor grammar in this title, but I wanted to grab your attention.  For anyone who wants to become a published novelist, this is a very important concept to grasp.

Let me ask you as question.  Do you marvel as you sit in a concert hall and listen to a concert pianist make a Chopin piece spring to life?  Do you sit transfixed in front of the TV as an Olympic gymnast, or perhaps an ice skater ,finishes a flawless performance?  Do you gasp as the NBA star sinks the winning basket just as the buzzer sounds?

basketball game

Now think about this.  Do you really believe the concert pianist never hit a wrong key?  Did the gymnast or the skater never take a bad fall?  Did the NBA star ever miss a few baskets?

Of course you know the answer.

They were all willing to perform less-than-perfectly (over and over and over again) before they became star performers.  Could writing well demand less?

Is Novel Writing any Different?

In the years of my writing career, I’m often asked the question, “How many books have you written?”  My answer is always – “How many books have I written, or how many books have I had published?  Because I have written many more than have ever been published.”

Interpreted, that says, I was willing to write really bad stuff (which languishes in my bulging file cabinets) in order to learn how to write well!

It is amazing to me how beginning writers look at the talent of becoming a novelist differently than other skills.  The idea seems to be that if you have a good novel  in mind, then all that needs to be done is simply transfer it from your head onto the paper. (Oh, I mean the computer – excuse me!)

booksThroughout my writing career, I’ve had many (read that MANY) people ask the question, “How do you get a book published?”

However, I can recall very few who ask, “How do I learn to write a high-quality, professional novel that is worthy of publication?” (Or articles, essays, poetry, nonfiction – you get the idea.)  Sadly, few people think in those terms.

Writing is a talent.  It requires a certain set of skills.  It’s a talent that can be honed and developed.  It is a set of skills that can be learned.  But if you are truly set on becoming a novelist, you must be willing to “write a lot of bad to get good.”

Read, Read, Read; Write, Write, Write

If you have a heart to write, then write.  And write.  And write some more.  The age-old admonition still holds true:  “Read, read, read and write, write, write.”  Steep yourself in the type of literature in which you long to excel.  Also read the classics.  Read the King James Bible (nowhere will you find more beautiful prose than in the KJV).  Love novels?  Read novels. (Preferably quality, well-written novels.)  Read what you love.  But read.  This is how you learn to hear the rhythms and patterns of words in your inner ear.  (Your mind’s ear, if you will.)

Develop a sincere fascination with words.  Learn to love how they are arranged.  How they can be rearranged.  How they can stop and go, and ebb and flow.  How sentences can be short and long.  How tones can be soft and hard.  If this is a joy to you, you are well on your way to becoming a great “novice/intern” novelist!  From this point, your growth and development WILL happen.Be A Novelist

Now make this your writing lifestyle and you will be a novelist!


If you enjoyed this motivational and educational blog, you can learn more at the Be A Novelist website.

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4 thoughts on “Successful Novelists: Willing to Write Bad to Get Good

  1. A.B.Kar

    I could not agree more on the insights provided by you.
    But I have one area of confusion.
    What is your take on a writer like me from India whose ethnicity invariably leaves distinct marks in the writing?
    In that context certain aspects may go beyond your usual comprehension..
    So how do the readers from different ethnic background reconcile and proceed with the book?

  2. Norma Jean Lutz

    First of all, A.B., thanks so much for leaving a comment. I’m afraid if I even attempted to create an answer for your dilemma it would come off sounding trite. I’m certainly not a linguist, and English is my first language. I do, however, think if I were you, I would definitely study successful authors who have roots in your language and culture to see how they do it. Perhaps even contacting them and seek a mentor among them.

  3. Lorraine Grula

    Practice makes perfect. Or maybe I should say practice makes you better! For me personally, it was difficult in the beginning to overcome the fear of being a no-talent. I was so afraid that I would be “bad” that it stopped me from even trying for many years. I had to get over that in order to even sit down and try! I am pleased to say that I indeed got over the monumental fear.

    1. Norma Jean Lutz

      Probably not anyone who does anything at all worthwhile has done it fear-free, Lorraine! Congrats for hanging in there. Facing down one’s fears and winning can be quite exciting!


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