Nearly every author I work with asks me a variation of the same question.
“Is this any good?”
“Am I wasting my time?”
“Do I have any chance of getting published?”
I always want to be helpful, but these aren’t questions I can really answer.
Will my book become a bestseller? Probably not, but who knows.
Will it get published? Literally no one can give you a definitive answer to that before it goes through the submission process. There are books I thought were surefire bestsellers that busted and there were books I thought would never see the light of day that became blockbusters. Everyone I know in publishing has similar stories.
Is this going to matter?
Believe me, I understand the impulse behind these questions! I do. I’ve been there. After I pulled the plug on submissions for the first (unpublished) novel I wrote, I felt entirely crazy the whole time I was writing Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow.
I thought I was wasting my time. I thought I wasn’t good enough. I kept the whole thing a secret from my friends and family until I actually had an agent because I was scared of seeming like a failure if it didn’t “work out,” whatever that even means.
I wish I could go back and shake myself. I’d tell myself to snap out of it, write the dang book, and draw upon support from friends and family to help me through it. I was going to write that book no matter what, so why second guess myself the entire time?
The fact is, all these questions about whether a book will get published or whether you’re any good all boil down to this: Is all this time and sweat going to matter?
And the answer to that is: yes. Of course your writing matters.
Why your writing matters
Go back to the moment you decided to write a book. Where did that come from? What was the catalyst?
Sure, maybe you’ve been spending your time daydreaming about becoming a megabestselling author and buying a mansion with your mountain of royalties, but I’m guessing that is not how you actually started out.
No. The way you started out is that you had an idea for a book.
Where did that come from? What was that kernel of inspiration that turned into a burning desire? What kept you in that chair for hundreds of hours as you were writing it?
I don’t know either! Who the heck knows where this stuff comes from??
But it came from somewhere. It was inside of you and it was burning hot enough that you put in the time and effort to get it onto paper.
I’m of the belief that writing and editing transforms the world, not least of which because of the effect it has on the writer.
Your book might find ten readers, it might find millions. You’ll never know until you put it out there. But you will find readers and they will be changed in ways big and small by having read your book.
But maybe most importantly of all, you will grow and change in the process of writing it. You’ll see things you never saw before, learn things you never knew, and process some of the pain and joy that churns within all of us.
There’s something inside of you that wants to get out. So let it out. And let it transform you into the person you’re meant to become.
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
For my best advice, check out my online classes, my guide to writing a novel and my guide to publishing a book.
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Art: Spinning by Firelight by Henry Ossawa Turner
JOHN T. SHEA says
Amen, Nathan! Some people think there are too many books already and that would-be writers shouldn’t be. But I’m with G. K. Chesterton on that one. He insisted writing a book, ANY book, was an achievement in itself.
DIMATO A COOPER says
Lisa Meltzer Penn says
Thank you for these words of inspiration, Nathan, and for all your blogs and fun stuff. I’m prepping for NaNoWriMo, so this is nice timing.
Neil Larkins says
Pure truth, Nathan! And comforting. I write this from a hospital bed this morning, having had surgery yesterday. I’ll be home today and have more time to write for a few days. I’ll have more reason to write: you believe it’s important, for all of us. That is so very, very comforting. Thank you!
Nathan Bransford says
Best wishes for a speedy recovery!
Thank you for posting this. So much of the internet is sad, especially today and possibly especially so for aspiring writers… so, thanks.
Neil Larkins says
Ernie Zelinski says
In the same vein, my favorite marketing guru Seth Godin recently posted this:
“The only one who has heard all of it … is you.
“Jerry Garcia performed thousands of times, and he was the only one
who heard every performance.
“The same is true for the work you’ve created, the writing you’ve done,
the noise in your head – you’re the only person who has heard every
bit of it.
“Tell us what we need to know. Not because you need to hear yourself
repeat it, but because you believe we need to hear it.
“Take your time and lay it out for us, without worrying about whether
or not we’ve heard you say it before. We probably haven’t.”
— Seth Godin
Dawn Quyle Landau says
Ernie, this is beautiful, and so inspiring. Thanks for sharing these wonderful quotes! Especially love the one about Jerry Garcia, but all of these are gems. Thanks!
Dawn Quyle Landau says
Thanks so much for this; apparently, you DO know how much I needed it––today, yesterday, and probably tomorrow. Thanks.
I save all of your posts in a special folder, and re-read the ones I need help with. Thanks. I should say it more often, but never know if your comments get read. But, I really appreciate your dedication to supporting those of us who are still working on our writing… and hoping.
Nathan Bransford says
I read all the comments, and thank you very much for yours!
This post came at exactly the right time. When I left a career in high tech to write, many if not most of the sw engineers I worked with just pasted a polite smile on their face when I tried to explain “There are stories that need to be told.” That’s still what drives me but it’s so easy to get sidetracked. Your post reminded me to just sit down and write that “s$&@@y” first draft of the next chapter. (Thanks Anne LaMott) Thanks so much for the encouragement and gentle kick!
Alianna Jaqua says
Thank you for such a thoughtful and encouraging post! Your words matter to me 🙂
I’m an aspiring writer and recently signed up for your newsletter and read this post just as I’d hit a bit of a wall with my writing projects. It helped jolt me back into gear!
I really appreciate your blog as you cover so much useful – and meaningful – stuff I can learn from. Thanks again!