Working Writer Tip: The Worst Book You Ever Read

It’s been the week from hell. Two ER visits complete with follow-up doctor visits, medication, etc, the car needed semi-major repairs, we purchased a dehumidifier because the air conditioners aren’t keeping up, and the list goes on… and on.

Which got me to thinking about other less than wonderful situations. One that must be included in any such list is putting out a hefty sum for a book with a great blurb and cover art and finding out that it’s the worst book ever published and is good only for throwing against the wall in a fit of pique or propping up a table leg.

Except maybe that book shouldn’t be included after all. Because there is one very special use for the worst book ever published. It can become a morale booster for all of us writers who struggle to be published in what can be a difficult world.

Because if that book got published, then by golly ours can too!

Let me illustrate. I have two daughters. They were still living at home when I first started writing and they became my best and most brutal critics. Then they grew up and moved away.

A few years later, as a veteran fiction writer, I was asked by an aspiring author to critique a story she’d written. I agreed. I read the story and it was pretty bad. Not as bad as the worst book I’d ever purchased, but bad. My youngest daughter happened to be visiting at the time and, since she was an experienced critic, I asked her opinion. She read the story and agreed with me. It was bad.

I didn’t want to hurt the writer’s feelings but I had to tell her something. So I asked my daughter if she had any advice. She looked me up and down in that way she has. “Tell her whatever you want. What’s the big deal? You wrote a lot of really bad stuff and it got published. Maybe hers will too.”

I’ll remember those words for the rest of my life.

The moral of this story is: put that worst book ever published near your writing space where you can see it easily. Look at it occasionally and smile. It’ll inspire you because you’ll know you’re a better writer than the author of that horrific book. Then write what you want. Maybe it’ll be great literature, maybe not. Either way, it just might end up being published.

2 responses to “Working Writer Tip: The Worst Book You Ever Read”

  1. Love your post. Recently I picked up a couple of books from a favorite author. I love her historical stories, but her contemporaries are all tell and almost no show. I felt like someone was sitting next to me saying “and then this happened. and then this…” Awful. Of course it got me thinking, maybe it could happen for me. Maybe…. 🙂

    1. Writing can be tough, even after you’re published. Maybe especially then. When I ran across this tip years ago, I immediately knew what book I wanted to put in my writing space as encouragement and its been there ever since! And it’s true, maybe it will happen for you. I hope so.

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