you know what actually pisses me off? when I finally start to feel a smidge of confidence in my writing ability and then some JERK POSTS A SINGLE LINE FROM A TERRY PRATCHETT NOVEL AND IT’S BETTER THAN ANYTHING I WILL EVER WRITE NO MATTER HOW MANY MILLENNIA I SPEND TRYING!
Terry was a professional writer from the age of 17. He worked as a journalist which meant that he had to learn to research, write and edit his own work very quickly or else he’d lose his job.
He was 23 when his first novel was published. After six years of writing professionally every single day. The Carpet People was a lovely novel, from a lovely writer, but almost all of Terry’s iconic truth bomb lines come from Discworld.
The Colour of Magic, the first ever Discworld novel was published in 1983. Terry was 35 years old. He had been writing professionally for 18 years. His career was old enough to vote, get married and drink. We now know that at 35 he was, tragically, over half way through his life. And do you know what us devoted, adoring Discworld fans say about The Colour of Magic? “Don’t start with Colour of Magic.”
It is the only reading order rule we ever give people. Because it’s not that great. Don’t get me wrong, very good book, although I’ll be honest I’ve never been able to finish it, but it’s nowhere near his later stuff. Compare it to Guards Guards, The Fifth Elephant, the utterly iconic Nightwatch and it pales in comparison because even after nearly 20 years of writing, half a lifetime of loving books and storytelling Terry was still learning.
He was a man with a wonderful natural talent, yes. But more importantly he worked and worked and worked to be a better writer. He was writing up until days before he died. He spent 49 years learning and growing as a writer, taking so much joy in storytelling that not even Alzheimer’s could steal it from him. He wouldn’t want that joy stolen from you too.
Terry was a wonderful, kind, compassionate, genius of a writer. And all of this was in spite of many many people telling him he wasn’t good enough. At the age of five his headmaster told him that he would never amount to anything. He died a knight of the realm and one of the most beloved writers ever to have lived in a country with a vast and rich literary tradition. He wouldn’t let anyone tell him that he wasn’t good enough. And he wouldn’t want you to think you aren’t good enough. He especially wouldn’t want to be the reason why you think you aren’t good enough.
You’re not Terry Pratchett.
You are you.
And Terry would love that.
I only ever had a chance to talk to Terry Pratchett once, and that was in an autograph line. I’d bought a copy of The Carpet People, which was his very first book, and he looked at it with a faint air of concern. “You realise that I wrote that when I was very young,” he said, in warning.
“Yes,” I said. “But I like seeing how authors grow.”
He brightened and reached for his pen. “That’s all right then,” he said, and signed.
At some point, a reader will have read all the Terry Pratchet books, and will want another book to read. That’s where you come in.
I am not Terry Pratchett (at all) but can I throw in something I’ve run into as someone who’s being doing fanfic for a while?
I have about 470 fics. I write very very fast. I write a lot of smut. I’ve been called, half-jokingly, the Spiders Georg of smutty fanfic. I’ve been known to say, also half-joking, give me 30 minutes and a prompt and I’ll give you a fic.
I’m me, and this is 5 years of steady writing fanfiction and another twenty years or so of writing before that. This is fifteen years of doing nanowrimo off and on.
You are not me. And that’s a good thing. Write your fic anyway. I’m never going to write that 200k word epic fandom classic, and that’s fine. The world is better for your stories in it, no matter what they are.