Writers, Don’t Hide the Bad Bits

Elaine Kasket
9 min readOct 10, 2023

Writing the book was awful, and that’s okay

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

The book was entirely accidental. I’d had a passing thought, so passing that it wasn’t even yet the sort of thing I would have bothered to scribble on a napkin or the back of an envelope.

But I voiced this embryonic idea out loud, in the presence of my literary agent, while we were idling in an office waiting for someone. That someone arrived, and I forgot what I’d said, but my agent didn’t. We emerged onto a busy London street afterwards, and she clutched my arm and said oh my god!! I looked around for the car crash, or the hot air balloon, or whatever else she might be talking about, but she was talking about my next project.

I didn’t want it to be my next project. I’d already decided to enrol in a six-month-novel programme and realise my childhood dream of being a fiction writer.

Actually, scratch that. As I child I fully claimed the current title of novelist, without considering it to be a ‘when I grow up’ situation. Let’s say instead that I wanted to fulfil my early promise, return to my original purpose, or at the very least get out into the world what I thought was a killer premise for a book and that I might be able to sell to Netflix afterwards.

My agent asked me to do the nonfiction proposal instead or at least also, to consolidate my brand after my previous nonfiction book. I pushed back. She pushed back. I pushed back. She pushed back. I caved.

I didn’t think the proposal would sell, and probably (definitely) secretly (not so secretly) hoped it wouldn’t. I rebelliously started on the six-month novel programme before I knew what would happen with the other thing. When I got the email that there was an offer on the nonfiction proposal, my heart sank.

My idea wasn’t just half baked; it wasn’t even a bowl of dough, didn’t have a list of ingredients. It was like that possibly apocryphal vintage cookbook entry that starts, ‘First, catch your swan.’

I hadn’t even caught the swan.

And it took me a good long time to corral that bird, let me tell you. I finished the first draft of the novel, but then felt too guilty, and too obligated to the nonfiction project, to edit it further. For the next two years the novel would…

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Elaine Kasket

Speaker, coach, cyberpsychologist. Author of REBOOT: Reclaiming Your Life in a Tech-Obsessed World and All the Ghosts in the Machine.