“Ignore the inner demon that tells you you’ll never be as good as Zadie Smith”

This post by Ted Thompson originally appeared on Salon on 6/6/14.

Acclaimed debut novelist Ted Thompson on revision, writing good sentences vs writing a novel, and just keeping on

On a scale of 1 to 10, how “good” was your submission draft in your own opinion? Did you feel it was exactly the story you were trying to tell, or was it just “good enough” to send out? I feel like I could spend the rest of my life revising my book, and it would never reach an 8. *sigh*

Ah, a question that is near and dear to my heart. Thank you for asking this.

Before I get to me, I think there are a couple of things going on in your question that are helpful to sort out. The first is the question of how “good” my novel was before it went out, on a scale of 1 to 10, which seems to me a different thing from the second part of the question, which was if I felt it was exactly the story I was trying to tell.

For me, I’ve said before that I knew when my novel went out on submission that it wasn’t quite done, but I think that’s maybe a little misleading. In my case it was less an issue of it being good on a scale of 1 to 10 (good to who exactly?) than of feeling as though the book hadn’t yet expressed what deep down, under all of my uncertainties and anxieties and doubts, I knew it could.

 

Click here to read the full post on Salon.

 

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