“with each new book of mine I have, as I say, always that feeling that this time I have picked a lemon in the garden of literature. A good thing really, I suppose. Keeps one up on one’s toes and makes one write every sentence ten times. Or in many cases twenty times…When in due course Charon ferries me across the Styx and everyone is telling everyone else what a rotten writer I was, I hope at least one voice will be heard piping up, ‘But he did take trouble.'” ~P.G.W. “From Over Seventy,” The Best of Wodehouse: An Anthology
Having just started a new writing project, the above quotation hit a note with me. After all, when you sit down to write (at least for me) there’s a little voice in the back of your head that says “THIS is IT.” Your best work. The best the world has ever seen. Starting is a hopeful time.
But there’s another little voice: “What if this is the lemon in the garden of literature?” What if I suck? What if I can’t do what I set out to do? What if I’m not the next Great American Novelist?
You’ve just got to do the best that you can and then do it again. There’s work involved. No doubt. Write each sentence ten times? Twenty? Dudes–do you know how many sentences I’ve written in this blog post alone? Multiply the sentences by twenty? AUGH! Double AUGH!
(Yep, just those two expletives at the end of the previous paragraph could mean forty revisions…do I capitalize just the A: Augh? Or do I delete the whole thing and leave it at: Double AUGH! hoping that the reader inserts the original AUGH/Augh/augh themselves? Double h’s at the end to express extended frustration: AUGHH? Or does that sound too relieved, too much like ahhh?)
Well, the answer is to write your story. Work it to the best of your ability. Then write another story. Your Best will get Better. But you have to take the trouble. You might truly suck at first: “The handicap under which most beginning writers struggle is that they don’t know how to write. I was no exception to this rule. Worse bilge than mine may have been submitted to the editors of London in 1901 and 1902, but I should think it very unlikely.“~P.G.W. “From Over Seventy,” The Best of Wodehouse: An Anthology
But Wodehouse wrote endlessly. He wrote at least a book a year, plus musical lyrics, plus articles, plus poems, etc. So, he learned. He kept at it. Maybe the publishing world was different 100 years ago, but writing hasn’t changed at all. As Wodehouse says in Over Seventy: “But if only a writer keeps on writing, something generally breaks eventually.”
You’ve got to keep on writing. Take the trouble. Revise. Write some more. Revise some more. I’ll see you on the published side. (That’s six sentences = 120 revisions.)
Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.