Originally Published October 2017
Have you ever read a book and thought, “It was good, but I wish this part had been different”? (This, of course, is not the same as, “How could the author do that?!” as you’re throwing the book across the room.) Maybe the two main characters fall in love with each other, but you feel that the main woman would have been better off with the man’s best friend. Or, the main conflict was resolved with the death of one of the major characters and you feel that there was a less-drastic way to end the story. This happens to me quite a lot. In a recent reading of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility, I thought that the Dashwood sisters’ love interests should have been switched. This idea will probably change the next time I read the book, but it still intrigues me.
Another problem I have is not being able to find the book that I’m in the mood to read. If I want to read a fantasy about two characters taking a journey and find a book with that premise, but the main female character has a personality that rubs me the wrong way, I finish the book feeling dissatisfied. Combine the two problems and the feeling is worse.
As a writer and a problem-solver, I often create solutions to the characters’ problems as I read. If I reach the end of a book and the author’s solution is much better than my own, that is a book that wows me, earns a five-star review, and is recommended to all of my friends—whether they like that particular genre or not. But if the final resolution isn’t as good as mine, it’s disappointing.
These two problems gave birth to a writing concept I came up with a couple of years ago: I want to write the best book I’ve ever read.
As a reader, I can be moody, and that moodiness affects how I read a story. It isn’t really fair to the authors I read, but it’s great for me as a writer. If I can’t find the exact story I want to read, I’m more likely to sit down and try to write it myself. When I write, my goal is to write a story that I would want to read over and over again. I like having complete control over the plot, the characters, and the setting. There’s something very satisfying about seeing the story in my head and being able to put that on paper.
The trouble is that I’m just as human as every other writer. Many times, the things I see in my head just don’t translate into words very well. The sentences are awkward when they come through my fingers, no matter how many times I go over them and revise. With each revision, it seems like I find more and more flaws that I want to fix, more and more ways to make the story better. As a writer, I can be moody, too.
In the right frame of mind, I think this is a good thing. If I a write a masterpiece now, I’ll spend the rest of my life feeling like a failure because I can’t surpass it. But, if there is always some way to improve and grow, I will always be able to do what I love. Maybe in the end I will look back and be able to say that I really did write the best book I ever read.