Thanks to Therese's suggestion, I ordered Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel. It arrived in my mailbox last night and I spent a fair chunk of the evening reading the first few pages.
Maass is quite candid, something I appreciate at this point in my career. His advice isn't for the faint-hearted. Take into consideration this paragraph:
"To write a breakout novel is to run free of the pack. It is to delve deeper, think harder, revise more, and commit to creating characters and plot that surpass one's previous accomplishments. It is to say "no" to merely being good enough to be published.
It is a commitment to quality." - Maass, pg. 12.
After I read that, I felt the fire inside me flame. Yes, I thought. I can do this. I want to do this. I want to stretch myself and write something that is not just "good", but great.
I've written two novels now and several half-finished ones. My ability to discern what works and what doesn't is growing with each novel or story I write. I feel that I am ready to stretch myself, dive into the craft, and be a better writer.
The trick to all of this is to keep that fire burning, to not let the discouragement demons drag me down, to stay focused on my goals.
Another quote I just love from this book is from the foreword by Anne Perry, and I think it's quite inspiring:
"There's room for us all. They'll just build bigger bookshops!" (p. 4)
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