Permission to Fail: Granted


This is a red F, in crayon, that I have awarded a gold star. Yay, failure.

A draft of my second book is due in a few days, but it’s not finished.  The reason it’s not finished is that I don’t want to write the end, and the reasons I don’t want to write the end are these:

1. I want to write a satisfying ending, but there can only be a truly satisfying ending when the structure of the plot is sound enough to usher the story to an equally sound conclusion.

1b. Therefore, if I write the ending and it isn’t fully satisfying, I’ll have proof that the plot isn’t fully cooked;

1c. Which means I’ll have to do rewrites.

2. If I write the ending, the draft will be finished.

2b. As soon as the draft is finished, it’s due to my editor.

2c. My editor really likes my first book.  What if I give her the second one, and she thinks it’s a total letdown?  What if, as an author – which is something I’ve worked very hard for a chance to be – I turn out to be a one-book wonder?

There’s only one thing on that list – #1 – that’s actually based in a desire to write well.

All the other reasons are based in fear.  Specifically, the fear of failure.

I’m not unique.  We all fear failure.  And we know that we have to push through that fear if we’re ever going to achieve our goals.  But the human brain has an amazing talent for knowing something and ignoring it at the very same time.  For example, take 1c, above.  I am certain that there will be rewrites.  I have come to expect many rounds of rewrites.  Why am I pretending that I can somehow escape what is inevitable (and important)?

I don’t know.  But I do know that I have to write an ending.  Like, right now.

Today, I gave myself permission to write pure crap.  And by “gave myself permission” what I really mean is that I forced myself to write words even while knowing that they are not my best. I let every hackneyed phrase stay put, I let the gushy mushies take over, I overused adverbs and got spicy with the dialogue tags, I exercised no restraint, and I told rather than showed (gasp and horror, yeah, yeah).  I reminded myself that my editor is a professional who has seen first drafts before and will not damn me for mine.

(I also reminded myself that I still have a couple of days, so if I finish now, I’ll have a tiny window of time to do a little tweaking before I send it in.)

The result of giving myself this permission is that I’m finally closing in on the end of this draft, which is exactly what I need to be doing right now.  What I’m generating does not thrill me yet, but that’s okay. It doesn’t feel okay, but it actually is okay.  It’s even necessary.  If I want to write something good, then I have to write something.

While I’m on a roll, I think I’ll also give myself permission to fail in writing a decent conclusion to this post, because you know what?  I really want to get back to writing my crappy ending.


HiRes_Morrison_6861_cropMegan Morrison is the author of GROUNDED: A TALE OF RAPUNZEL, due out summer 2015 from Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. GROUNDED is the first book in the Tyme Series, co-created with Ruth Virkus. You can follow Megan on her blog at or on Twitter at @megtyme. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.



Filed under Anxiety, Deadlines, Writing

22 responses to “Permission to Fail: Granted

  1. annbedichek

    This is fabulous, Megan — and exactly what I needed today. Exactly!!

    Good luck with your crappy ending! If it’s as crappy as possible, you know you’re doing the whole first draft thing right.


  2. I like your attitude. 🙂


  3. “If I want to write something good, then I have to write something.”
    How many times do I have to tell myself that??? Glad you’re closing in on the end!
    Great post, Megan.


  4. Here’s to your crappy ending! 🙂


  5. Go Megan! And thanks for taking time out from your final lap to remind us that we’re not alone in those moments of fear and doubt.


  6. Lindsey Lane

    Brilliant! How many times have I struggled because it wasn’t coming out perfectly?!?!?! Just get it down.


  7. Megan, I’m right there with you. Perfectionism is the enemy, here’s to falling grossly short of perfection! Or, er, something like that.


  8. Love that closing paragraph, Megan. And this whole post. For whatever reason, as a writer, this is a lesson I need to learn over and over and over again.


  9. *Nods hard enough to rattle my brains* Accepting that drafts will stink is one of the hardest and best lessons. Still, I can never bring myself to write “The End” on a manuscript until the third draft or so.


  10. Oh, Megan, we all understand this. I’m trudging through a crappy first draft right now, too. But, really, what a Humongous accomplish to have those sloppy words, that mish-mashed plot, the wonky structure on paper. I think building this foundation is the absolutely hardest part of writing. So, Brava! Your editor will see through the firstness of it and you’ll emerge from rewrites with another story to be proud of.


  11. Pingback: How to Fail for Real | EMU's Debuts

  12. Nothing wrong with a little procrastination.


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