Never be satisfied with “It’ll do”



On Monday, at work, it dawned on me what was going wrong in the novel I’m working on.

Work is good for epiphanies like this: there are tasks that are essentially mindless, like restocking a section, where the only thing I’m doing is visually matching up to make sure all the books that should be there are there. It frees the mind to wander just that little bit, and sometimes, like on my Monday, you get an epiphany.


It just has seemed to me that there needed to be an incident or two that ratcheted up the danger for my plucky heroine, but I’d written an attempted murder scene already, and it’s kind of hard to top that without adding unnecessary gore or something.

And that was when it hit me that the attempted murder happened too early, and if I take it out, re-jig that bit to do a smaller thing, and put the attempted murder in later, I would have solved the problem without increasing the word count for no apparent reason (a thing that a lot of authors do and which annoys the crap out of me).

Which brings me to my next point, which is that you cannot, as the writer, get too emotionally tied to what you’ve written or too intellectually lazy to subject your writing to the glare of critical spotlights.

You cannot be satisfied with “barely works”. You cannot ignore that nagging voice that says “something is wrong” and hope that by just adding more, more, more whatever that the reader won’t notice the problem.

It’s also about “pace”. By having something as big as an attempted murder so early, I had disrupted the pace, and after that, the feeling that things should soon come to a head kept intruding – which for this book, is all wrong.

All fiction needs those places where the action seems to die down a bit – where the characters breathe a little, thinking they are maybe in the clear on some level, while the reader (looking at the amount they still have to go) knows this isn’t true – and creates their own sense of anticipation of the next big thing.

And it’s another good reason to take writing a little slower – to not hurtle towards the finish line as if by pounding out three books in six months you are somehow “winning” at writing.

You know what wins at writing? Really great stories..

Quantity over quality – that’s not my goal.


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