You won't believe how many first attempts I have, stored somewhere in a virtual drawer. More than dozens. I can still remember some of these attempts, sitting down with my laptop open, writing the first couple of pages with enthusiasm, then real-life kicks in and the story is lost and forgotten. By the time I get back to it, it looks (and reads) bad, and I drop it.
I kept telling myself that I can do it. After all, I was making up enough plots and stories to fill years of role-playing as a Game Master. I filled notebooks (both virtual and physical) with notes, places, characters and interesting stories. Why can't I write a book?
As it turned out, I can. I signed up for last NANOWRIMO, and I actually got a novel out of it. My own 240+ pages of fantasy literature, as amateurish and unrefined as it is.
It turns out that it can be done, but in order to pull it off, you have to remember a very simple rule that is very hard to follow:
Sounds simple? Well, it's not. You need to keep writing no matter what. No revisions, no looking back. Just keep...on...writing.
I followed that rule to the last minute of my NANOWRIMO effort, and it payed off big time. I let the story take its own course, I freed my characters to do as they please, and after 30 days I had a complete novel. And in my humble opinion, IT'S NOT THAT BAD.
Sure, it's full of typos and bad english (I'm not a native english speaker). Some of the scenes are not very well thought of. Some of the characters are not three-dimensional. But if you look at it as it is, raw and unpolished, it passes muster, even if the writer sucks.
But you know what? I can suck less every year. As Jeff Atwood puts it:
We all write shitty software, but only the best developers realize they're doing it.
Being a software engineer, I understand what he's trying to say. The point is not to write the best book ever in your first, or second attempt. Since I'm not doing this with a skilled editor and the support of a publisher, any attempt at writing a book will be anything BUT professional. So instead of aiming high and hitting nothing, we better write what we can, and try to improve from one chapter to another, and from one book to another.
So write! and keep on writing. Forget about the quality of your efforts, because if you don't, you'll never get anything done. Trust me, I've been there. Just write, get the story out. Get the WORDS out, and once you have that fat pile of (virtual) pages resting on your table, you can lean back and enjoy your achievement, and start thinking about your second book.