Two Ways to Get Over Writing a Terrible Book

So, you’ve spent a significant portion of your life writing a book. You’ve edited it. Proofread it. You’ve built up the courage to send it to publishers. And then you waited. Months went by, and as they did, the rejections piled up. You set the project – and the hope you had for it – aside, and you start writing something new. And then, you see a submission call that might be the perfect opportunity to get that old book published. You go back to it, and as you read it, you realise it’s a terrible book.

You’ve written a terrible book.

If you’re wondering how I’ve captured your experience so well, it’s because it’s my experience, too. And I’m willing to bet it’s the experience of many other authors. It’s difficult to realise the book you’ve written isn’t your best work. But today, I’d like to tell you that that’s okay.

Why? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here’s how I’ve been getting through this realisation:

One: Perspective

In the time you’ve set the book aside and begun working on other projects, you’ve grown. You’ve read more, you’ve written more. Your writing has developed, become better. As a writer, you know more. So the book you think is terrible really isn’t. It’s just an indication of where you were in your writing journey at the time that you wrote it. You shouldn’t look at it as being terrible then. Rather, you should see it as an indication of how much you’ve grown since then.

(This is true for books that have been published, too, by the way. It might not have been your best work, but it’s an indication of where you were at that time. And that’s okay.)

Two: Realising How Rejections Have Tainted The Project

It’s taken me a while to see that the rejections I got for my book have tainted my opinion of it. I was adamant that it hadn’t at first, desperate to pretend that rejections didn’t affect me. But as I worked through my book again, a voice in my head would say, ‘no wonder they didn’t like it’. Or, ‘oh, that’s a terrible way to put it’.

Your version of this might look different. Maybe you haven’t received any rejections. Maybe there were no responses at all. Or maybe you haven’t sent it out, but faced self-criticism anyway. Whatever it is, acknowledge it. Because once you acknowledge it, you can address it. You’ll be able change the ‘no wonder they didn’t like it’ narrative to an ‘I can make this stronger’ one. Or the ‘oh, that’s a terrible way to put it’ to a ‘I can tighten up my writing’.

Remember that a terrible book is always, always subjective. And it’s based on your own view of your writing. Unless someone’s explicitly told you it’s terrible (again, that opinion is subjective), it probably isn’t as bad as you think.  Besides, if you look at it as an indication of your growth, and use it as an opportunity to improve, it can’t be terrible, can it?

Have you written a ‘terrible’ book? How did you get over thinking about it that way? Share in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook!