When you could do better

As an unpublished writer, it goes without saying that there are times you’ll read a novel and think “That was brilliant. My work will never live up to that kind of standard, and all I can do is stand on the sidelines and bow before the greatness of this author.”

Or something along those lines.

And those moments of self-doubt are tough.

But what about when the opposite happens? When you read something and think “How on God’s green earth did this piece of fecal matter get published? My writing kicks this writing’s ass, yet I’m still not published??”

Or something along those lines.

It’s not a pretty thought, but I’m sure we’ve all had it. So what do you do with it?

Here are the things I tend to do:

1. If it’s a big-name author, console myself with the thought that the book has only been published because they’ve established a brand and a readership. Hope that one day I, too, will get the awesome opportunity to rest on my laurels.

2. If it’s a new author, look at their website and see if they talk about their journey to publication. Try to figure out how they beat the system.

3. Tell myself that it’s even more important for me to polish my ms, because I’d hate to have my name on something like that.

4. Make a list of all the things I didn’t like about their novel, then consult my own to see if I do the same things without noticing.

5. Try to figure out what good things an agent and editor found in early versions of the manuscript.

6. Generously decide that it takes all kinds and feel happy that someone’s dream of getting published has come true, even if it’s not my own. (Okay, this one doesn’t actually happen, but I didn’t want to come across as a complete bitch.)

How about you? Does it bother you when you read something god-awful? Does it encourage you? Does it prompt you to any action? Or am I just a horrible person?

By Kat

Kat Latham writes sexy contemporary romance, including the London Legends rugby series. With degrees in English lit and human rights, she loves stories that reflect the depth, humor and emotion of real life. She's a California girl living in the Netherlands with her baby girl and British husband.


  1. Katrina,
    I agree with you wholeheartedly! No, you’re not a horrible person. I believe even the best of writers just fall short of the mark occasionally. I love to read just as you do and do take note of whether or not an established writer’s current work is up to snuff in comparison to the writing that prompted me to follow him or her in the first place.

    As for your own writing, I’ve seen what you can do in a short time evident by the delightful posts you submit for the prompts on the Avon Romance Blog, and I can only encourage you to keep writing and don’t give up. I have yet to get my finished novel published but am not giving up hope. I keep polishing it and the query I’ll use to try to win over an editor or agent. I have confidence that someone somewhere is going to want to read my book and fall in love with the characters and their story and publish it. I know good reading when I read it and mine is good reading as I’m sure yours is also. So keep the faith and keep going.

    If any writer can’t take the heat of criticism, even an established one, well, then, get out of the way and let those of us who can move forward. Keep telling it like it is, girlfriend, and thanks for the tips about making sure we don’t make the same mistakes in our work. Have a good one. See ya on the blog!

    1. Thanks so much, Amy! I really appreciate the encouragement (and love your attitude! Get outta the way, indeed!).

      You keep up the great work, too. Look forward to reading your book one day!

  2. Reading a bad book is very discouraging. I can’t help thinking, how come their book is published and mine (1) is languishing on some editor’s desk, (2) was rejected, or (3) mine’s better than that but I’m still improving it. Your response of analyzing what’s wrong is much more helpful than being in a snit. You’re learning something valuable even from a bad writer. I’d say that makes you pretty clever.

  3. I agree with you, Caroline, Katrina is clever and as a writer who just got another rejection, I can only say ‘never say die’ and just keep trying. I’m not ready to give up. When you’ve put so much time and effort into a project, you might have to expect a few rejections but sooner or later, the right person will take a chance on it. It is discouraging when you read something less than good when someone won’t even look at your work. I’ve got over 18 months of my life tied up in this book and since I live by the credo of never say never, I’m just going to send it to someone else. Happy reading and writing!

    1. Amy, that’s an absolutely brilliant attitude. Keep at it. I’ve heard stories of people who tried for decades (not that that’s a very encouraging thought!) and it finally happened for them.

      It’s all a learning experience as long as we keep our eyes and our ears open to the lessons.

      (And thanks for calling me clever! I’m blushing here.)

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