“Finish What you Start”


Josiah Bancroft is the author of the fantasy series The Books of Babel. Senlin Ascends, the first book, has over 17,000 ratings on Goodreads with an average of 4.17 out of 5 stars.  This book follows Senlin’s harrowing journey through the Tower of Babel after his honeymoon goes awry.

The Tower of Babel is where The Books of Babel take place. “A gap in the awnings above them exposed the sky, and there, like a pillar holding up the heavens, stood the Tower of Babel,” wrote Bancroft.

The Books of Babel take place in a lively setting—the Tower of Babel—which is brought to life with Bancroft’s lyrical prose. He constructs a whimsical story with the perfect mix of action and characterization.

“Having completed the writing of the final entry in The Books of Babel, I find that I already miss the characters and the world that I spent nearly a decade creating and exploring,” said Bancroft.

According to Bancroft, coming up with ideas is a lengthy process.

“In my own experience, the generation of ideas, especially original ones, is less a product of divine inspiration and more a process of dissatisfaction: dissatisfaction with first thoughts, first drafts, first instincts. I seldom get a thing right the first time,” said Bancroft.

Senlin Ascends came a long way from its first draft.

“Every page I publish conceals a dozen pages of cliched, unremarkable, and often incoherent drivel. If I showed you the first draft of Senlin Ascends you would cringe, then laugh, then look at your watch. For me at least, writing a good story requires that I first write a very bad one,” said Bancroft.

“Senlin Ascends is one of the best reads I’ve had in ages,” said prominent fantasy author Mark Lawrence.

Each person develops their writing differently.

“I’m reluctant to be overly prescriptive about how I would have others create their art,” said Bancroft. “The development of one’s style is very personal, I think, and there are many, many paths a writer can take to discover their voice and establish their goals.”

Bancroft used to be a college instructor.

“When I was still teaching, my main bit of advice to aspiring novelists, poets, and storytellers was to read everything except creative writing guides, which tend to be dogmatic, reductive, and smug,” said Bancroft.

He says that reading is important to improving writing.

“Of course, one needs to familiarize oneself with the fundamentals of grammar and spelling, but beyond those mechanical elements, the best manual for writing is reading—reading broadly, diversely, and fearlessly and then ruminating upon what you have read,” said Bancroft.

In fact, reading inspired his own novels.

“After I finished graduate school, it was Moby Dick that revivified my passion for the written word; after a mid-life slump, it was Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino that not only got me out of a year-long funk but directly inspired the writing of Senlin Ascends,” said Bancroft.

A flawed something is superior in every way to astounding potential.

— Josiah Bancroft

The Books of Babel is Bancroft’s debut series.

“Before I wrote Senlin Ascends, I penned a slew of unfinished novels, each abandoned out of the same discontent that had once propelled them,” said Bancroft

He says that “dissatisfaction is an integral part” of his writing process.

“What has been difficult for me to learn is how to come to terms with the defects and merits of my own work, to not let dissatisfaction turn into disenchantment. Almost daily, I have to tell myself, ‘No, this is not perfect, but it is as good as I can make it right now,’” said Bancroft.

Bancroft would give one piece of advice to his younger self.

“Finish what you start. Finish it, even if the result is less than excellent,” said Bancroft. “A flawed something is superior in every way to astounding potential.”