Have you ever read a book you enjoy so much that after you’ve finished it, you briefly want to give up writing forever because you will never reach that level of prose?
You’re not alone. It’s just one of those things we writers have to deal with.
I recently started reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch after it was recommended to me by a friend. While I have yet to finish it, I’m already blown away by the world and descriptions. There’s nothing over-used about Lynch’s prose and his world is so engaging. There’s clever little bits that you might not catch on to during a first reading—like how the city of Camorr is based on Venice (which is obvious), but how the characters send secret messages to each other through hand signals while talking about something else, in a clever usage of the stereotype of Italian hand-talking.
It’s stuff like this that had me pained and thinking of my own prose as barely worthy of children’s books after reading the prologue.
I had a similar reaction after I read Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. After finishing the book, I mournfully told my mom that I would never write anything that awesome.
She told me I was a dork.
I wonder if this is just a beginner thing. Perhaps it’s a lack of confidence in our own prose combined with our admiration for these other authors that makes us feel so inadequate in the face of our favourite books. I’ve been told we can’t judge an author’s skill solely on his finished product. We have to take into account all the work that went into it. An author may have written an amazing book, but it may have taken him six years and twelve drafts to do it.
It’s a matter of remembering that every writer has a different style and a different process.
And if that doesn’t help, you can always read a book that you think is absolute garbage (I won’t name any titles) and remember that if this managed to get published with its plot holes and lack of action and terribly repetitive descriptions, then you at least have a chance.