I wrote about one of the most important writing tips of all a little while ago: the importance of reading in the genre you’re writing in.
But I forgot one big caveat of this.
I’m currently on a YA fantasy book kick, because I’m currently writing the first draft of my first-ever YA fantasy. And it’s been pretty great; I’m now on this amazing book and enjoying every minute of it.
But I found myself doing something not-so-great yesterday.
In the throes of drafting, I was despairing that my current first draft will never be good enough. I have either too much description or not enough, there’s not enough tension, there’s not enough character development, the protagonist isn’t strong enough, etc.
And all throughout my despairing, I was thinking about the best-selling YA fantasy I’m currently reading. Why won’t I ever be that good?!?!
And then I realized: I was comparing my very first draft with someone else’s finished product.
Comparison of any kind when it comes to your work generally isn’t a good thing. Chances are, someone out there will be able to do something better than you, whether it’s writing beautiful sentences, setting a scene, weaving a brilliant theme throughout the brilliant dialogue, etc.
I get it. It’s hard not to make those comparisons. But comparing your first draft to a published novel? Not only is that not a productive use of your time, it doesn’t make any sense. Because that published novel has likely been revised and rewritten dozens of times. And you’re on pass #1.
Feeling like you’re not good enough can be discouraging verging on crippling. When you feel crippled, instead of writing, you’re spending your time despairing over your lack of talent. Don’t do that. If you think you’re not good enough, sit back down and write until you are.
So. Read in your genre, learn from the great writers–but never, never compare your work-in-progress to a published author’s finished work.
Here endeth the lesson.