The title of this post is pretty much a cliche. It's what every agent and every editor says when a writer asks, "What's the best way to get published?" But seriously, is it that easy to write the best book you can? Do you even know if you have?
When I first started writing I had an opportunity to send questions in for an interview of a big name author. This big name author had been writing for years before breaking out--before hitting the series that made her into a big name. My question was, "Did you know this was going to be it?" In other words did you know this book was good?
Her answer? "No."
At the time, I wasn't completely sure I understood this. How could she not know? I mean she came charging out of the box with this book--out of nowhere it seemed. Wasn't it OBVIOUS this was THE book/series?
But now I understand. See, books are not science (rocket or any other kind). What makes a book work for one person will not make it work for another. The books of mine that I liked the most were not (to date) the ones that got the best reviews or garnered the most fan mail. And one book that did particularly well I was terrified of having hit the street. I vividly remember getting the copy edits for it and wanting to hide under my couch. I KNEW it was bad. Then it went on to get me more positive vibes than any of my previous books.
I have friends who tell me over and over, "My book sucks. This is the end of my career." Then I read the book and love it--and so do others. Some of these books have received accolades from NY Times authors and placement on lists we'd all like to be mentioned on.
Are my friends liars? Do they know their books are great, but playing some game to feed their egos?
No, they honestly have no clue and at that time they do hate their book, and they are sure it is the worst thing they have ever written.
So, the next time you hear "write the best book you can" nod, smile and just go write the damn thing. If you sweat too much over it being the "best you can" you will never get it done and it may be worse for your tweaking.
Go forth and write--and don't worry too much if you think it is crap. We writers are really not fit to judge our own work. ;-) Actually, now I start to worry if I DO like my book too much...