I am not entirely sure where I stumbled across this article which is odd since it was just last night.
I think failure is very important for a number of reasons.
First, and perhaps most simply, if you don’t fail sometimes then you’re not taking enough chances. I come at this from a poker perspective. Yes, it sucks when you bluff and get caught at it but if you never bluff you’re going to get walked all over. You have to learn what situations are good bluff candidates and what situations are not.
In writing, I think the simplest way to think of it is writing for the market or writing what you want to write. The best literature of any genre is stuff that does something new. If you aren’t willing to try something new then why the hell are you bothering to try at all? Do you really just want to rewrite stuff that has been done before?
And no, that doesn’t mean that you should ignore the tropes of your chosen genre. You should be aware of them and use them to manipulate the expectations of your readers. Sometimes that means you’re going to meet their expectations (you do, after all, want them to be comfortable in your world) and sometimes you’re going to smack those expectations upside the head with a two by four (but not too comfortable.)
That is one of the reasons why I liked Nathan Lowell’s Ravenwood. It’s a fantasy story where the hero isn’t a young boy destined to save the world but rather an older woman whose quest is to save a town.
Secondly, I think failure is important because it’s just about the greatest learning tool we have.
I was once laid off from a job on the day I returned after my mother in law died. They called it a layoff but there were only three people laid off and they happened to be the three people who worked on a specific project. We made a huge mistake on that project. I wasn’t necessarily in charge but I was the one in a position to communicate to the business area that would ultimately be impacted that the impact would be huge. I didn’t do that effectively. I learned from it that I need to trust my instincts when I am the one most knowledgeable about the situation. I didn’t and as a result some necessary functionality was not provided. It doesn’t really matter that the functionality was applied to a ridiculously tiny percentage of the business, the fight should have been between the business area that wanted the functionality and the technical area that didn’t want to do a whole bunch of work for a tiny benefit.
From a writing perspective I think you can look at this in multiple ways.
You can look at a story and know it doesn’t work. If you don’t figure out why it doesn’t work, you won’t have learned anything from the experience.
If you write something and it works but it doesn’t sell it’s not necessarily a failure. If it’s a good story that conveys what you wanted it to convey, it’s a success regardless of whether it has any commercial success.
But that leads us into the problem. What the linked article doesn’t emphasize enough, in my opinion, is the absolute necessity for brutal honesty. The number one reason your stuff isn’t selling is almost certainly that it is poorly written. Covers, formatting, and line editing can only do so much. If the underlying story isn’t well written, none of that stuff will matter.
I recently read the first couple chapters of a book that I picked up during a free promotion. I won’t be picking up the sequel or finishing the book simply because I have determined that it isn’t worth my time. There’s an info dump right in the middle of the first chapter. Then there’s an info dump in the middle of the second chapter and it’s the same info being dumped both times. This book has a gorgeous cover and as far as I saw, has no formatting, grammatical, or typo issues. It has 23 reviews, more than half of which are 4-5 stars.
You cannot learn from your mistakes unless you are willing to admit to yourself that they are mistakes. You’re probably better off assuming that it’s your mistakes that are preventing your success than anything else.
I haven’t been around all that long but it seems to me that what the self publishing community (read: KindleBoards) is missing is a little discrimination in the sense that we shouldn’t necessarily be promoting people because they write and publish independently, we should be promoting people who write good stuff. A lot of times it seems that we end up cheerleading for the wrong things.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t encourage each other but sometimes–a lot of times–the answer to why your book isn’t selling is because it’s just not that good.