You can polish a turd that exists, but you can’t polish a masterpiece that doesn’t

I’m in the middle of copy-editing and polishing my book “The Bite on the End of the Line” in preparation for publishing it on Amazon next month. As such, I’ve been brought face-to-face with just how rough my writing can be and how good it can become. The book had reached the fifth draft by the time I stopped working on it before Christmas.

I’ve given it four months of writing other things in order to distance myself from the work. Otherwise, there is too much preciousness around something you’ve just written. However, after four months, it’s easy to be critical of the novel and how I left it.

While the structure is sound, the grammar and spelling are atrocious. This is down to my overall writing philosophy, which as I say above: You can polish a turd that exists, but you can’t polish a masterpiece that doesn’t. In other words, the book I’m editing has flaws, but it exists. It’s something I can improve.

For a number of years, I thought that things had to be perfect on the first draft, and it crippled my writing. I could spend endless minutes on one sentence, getting it just right. Then I would come back to it later and see that it was still poorly written. One of the most valuable lessons, I think, for any starting writer should be: your first drafts will suck, your final drafts will be better.

The image we have in our heads when we sit down to write is perfect. It’s funny/scary/thrilling and everyone that reads it will get it at once. That novel doesn’t exist. People love and hate all kinds of books. There isn’t an author in history that has pleased every reader.

Some Amazon stats:

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee = 1832 five star reviews, 88 one star reviews

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams = 739 five star reviews, 44 one star reviews

“Twilight” by Stephanie Meyer = 3,881 five star reviews, 763 one star reviews

Even books that some people adore are hated by other people. Books that some people consider trash are read cover-to-cover umpteen times by fans. All of the books that people love exist, though.

If you don’t sit and write your story, start to finish, until it’s done: ignoring everything you know is wrong, poorly written and stupid; ploughing through it until you’ve finished. Well, if you don’t do that, there will never be a masterpiece for people to love.


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