Setting the Bar

A good friend of mine gave me a copy of Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. I’d resisted buying it because I assumed it was much like the book by the same name (minus the word “Workbook”), only with exercises to practice the principles.

I’ve only read the introduction, and already I am convinced otherwise. This paragraph, in particular, caught my eye:

If you are still early in your career, I hope that the principles in Writing a Breakout Novel and in Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook will inspire you to elevate your craft and not be satisfied with merely being good enough to get published. I hope that your measure of success will be not the gratification of getting an agent or seeing your name on a cover, but putting together a novel of real depth—of having something to say and saying it in a story with lasting power.

I have to admit, the thought of going back to book 1 of my trilogy and reworking it yet again is daunting, but maybe that’s exactly why God has granted me the time.

I got yet another rejection yesterday, but I am so confident in the fact that God’s plan for me and for my writing, since He’s called me to it, is perfect, that I am not devastated nor discouraged.

It may seem pretentious, but I do want to write lasting-power literature, and if that means I have more to learn and more work to do, then so be it.

Therein is the trouble with setting the bar high. I’m constantly wondering if I can do it, if there’s more for me to learn, ways for me to improve. I’m constantly having to work. 😀

Setting the bar high keeps me off balance; it keeps me from growing complacent; it keeps me trusting our omniscient, good God.

Published in: on November 3, 2006 at 12:03 pm  Comments (5)  


  1. Thanks for reminding me about Maass’s books. I bought them both and read as I can–but they’ve been buried lately. This is a reminder to me to crack them open again–good stuff in there. Although my first book’ll be out in February, I want to improve on this craft that I love so much. Self-study, imo, should never stop.


  2. “Books aren’t written
    – they’re rewritten.
    Including your own.
    It is one of the hardest things to accept,
    especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”
    – – -Michael Crichton

    I love that saying–I posted it on one of my writing groups. Happy editing!



  3. I soooo understand about realizing the reason you haven’t been accepted yet is because God is calling you to be BETTER. Frustrating sometimes, but I’m so glad now that my first novel isn’t yet published. 🙂


  4. You’re an inspiration, Becky!


  5. I appreciate all feedback.

    Julie, I am amazed already at the great insights in the Maass workbook. I agree that we should not grow complacent with our level of crafting. Because language is fluid, I don’t think we can ever “arrive,” just improve.

    And Chris, I believe in that quote with all my heart. It is one of the sad truths of today’s writing climate that less and less rewriting is taking place. Still, once I’ve finished the workbook, I’ll have to weigh the benefits of going back over the first two books. One seminar leader (John Olson) stressed not getting stuck in revision purgatory. I think there’s wisdom in that too.

    Shannon, I’ve said the same thing many times. I cringe at the thought of my “first” version seeing print. And it got as far as the Crossway pub board. I was so sure, then, when the rejections started mounting, that it was not my writing but the industry. YIKES! I had, and still have, so much to learn.

    Erin, you’re kind to say this—and give me encouragement by doing so! Thank you. 🙂



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