The Story I’m Good Enough to Write

This is a hard lesson learned.

I look at the writing in my first book and cringe a little. I’m okay with this – or at least I’ve come to terms with it. The Next Door Boys is published proof of how far my writing has come. Don’t get me wrong, I still love that story, but yeah…the language could for sure be smoothed over and strengthened.

With how many writing books and articles I read – Litreactor, Bird by Bird, Save the Cat, Chuck Palahniuk – my writing gets better, stronger, crisper.

By the time I get copyedits on a book (usually 2 years after I wrote the book), I’m like – Well, DUH JO, you KNOW this… Only I didn’t know that when I wrote the book.

My paperback versions of Knee Deep and Night Sky are much tighter than my ebook versions because I edited those myself.

My AH-mazing friend, Christa Desir, pulled me in on a project she’d been trying to get right for ages, and we wrote about three versions of that book before we stepped back and said – we’re almost, but not quite, good enough writers to write this book.

Last night I pulled up a WWII story that I’d written YEARS ago. I think in 2010?

And while I love the story, the writing is…a MESS. Last year I pulled out that book and smoothed over the story. Made the flow a little cleaner and added some more tension, but I knew something still wasn’t quite right.

I finally figured it out when I looked over it again. The writing is…just okay. This story deserves SO much more than ok. SO MUCH MORE. (I’m still not decided if this book will be a Mia Josephs book – a little racier, or a Jolene Betty Perry book – a little cleaner)

The blurb for any interested…

Charlie’s losing Eva because he’s falling too fast.

Frank’s losing Eva because he’s not falling fast enough.

Eva’s losing herself in a desperate attempt to make her family proud.

After falling into the life Eva’s always wanted, it doesn’t hold the happiness she expected. Now she’s caught between a husband who gives her bruises, and a man fighting somewhere in the Pacific. Both her heart and her loyalties are tearing as she struggles to be the woman her father would have wanted, and the woman she wants to become. 

Set in a small town just outside of Seattle during World War II, With Everything I Have is a novel about love, discovering the power within us, and learning that sometimes letting go of a life that was always imagined, frees us to live the dream we’re afraid to hope for.


The next three YA solo titles I want to write are a bit different for me (but still some of the signature Jolene things). They’re a bit darker, they’re a bit brutal, and they’re for sure suspense novels. I could have written these stories years ago (one of them I did) but I wasn’t a good enough writer to tackle those stories yet. Now… Well… I guess all I can do is jump in and see…

I know people who doggedly work on one book and make it perfect, throwing all their energy there, and I jumped in and wrote a ton of books, hoping to learn something along the way…

I’m not sure if it’s better to spend the time and the years to make one project great and learn what you need to learn, or if it’s better to just write new things until you find stories that stick…

I will say that a benefit to doing it the first way is lack of evidence of your beginner ineptness 😉


~ Jo



7 thoughts on “The Story I’m Good Enough to Write

  1. I really love this post. It’s been hard for me to accept the yawning gap between what I think my book needs and what I’m currently capable of–but this give me hope that eventually I’ll get there. (As long as I keep working).

  2. Every time I think about my YA Steampunk trilogy I want to dive in head first but for some reason I just KNOW I’m not good enough yet. But oh boy when the day comes… I’ve been thinking about these books for over three years now. I’ve outlined them a dozen times and written the first three chapters about four times.

    But I think there is something to be said for taking time, looking objectively, and seeing beyond the first draft. It works for me!

    You’re my hero Jolene! And my adopted big sister… Lol 😉

  3. I guess I’d say write all you can and go back and fix it. I’ve written a ton that yes, I need to go back and fix. But then I keep writing, which makes it hard to go back and fix cause I’m fixated on the new story. Can you fix me? 🙂

    But really. I’d rather have all those badly written stories there waiting, than that one story that keeps me busy for years.

    As long as you’re learning… that’s probably the important thing.

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