Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My book is #$%^&*

Does anyone have days when they're just writing away, doing their best to write a decent story and then they stop and just think, oh my goodness. My book sucks.

At the moment i'm plugging away, writing my heart out and just letting the story flow from my fingertips. But then I stop. It's almost like i'm building a wall for myself that I just can't get past. I'm building it on purpose. My story is crap. The dialogue isn't flowing as naturally as it should.... it just doesn't feel natural. It feels too forced.

Then of course I go on a whirlwind of self-doubt and wonder if I'm really cut out for this particular path or not. Could I even manage to get this book finished if I can't get through a chapter without criticising my work? My mum's always said i'm my own biggest critic. I know that, but I also know when I can do better... and this... it's not better.

How do you get past this? Are first drafts usually this awful? Does most of the 'decent' writing come in the editing phase? It's so hard to get past the self-doubt and criticisim.

So many times I just wanna delete it all and start over. But that'd just be a waste of time now, wouldn't it! What are your experiences? 


  1. I would say push on, Samantha. A finished draft, with all its warts, is an accomplishment. You can fix a bad draft; you can't fix an empty page. That doesn't mean you have to ignore the stuff you don't like. At the minimum you can leave a note for yourself in the text (e.g., "This dialog sucks, but something along this line"). You can look at these notes as telling your inner editor/critic "See, I know it's not my best, but we'll fix it later!"

    Remember, we very rarely get to see the first drafts of many books we admire. There were multiple first drafts of the first Potter book, and JKR has shared some early versions of pages from her notes. We may never know how much work between drafts and edits it took for the elegant prose in some of the best literary works to take shape.

    So don't lose heart, Samantha! The purpose of the first draft is to get the idea out of your head and give it tangible form. My advice to you is to concentrate on doing that for now. You write, so you're a writer. So write! :)

    1. Thanks Colin - you're SO right. No improvements can be made if there's no writing on the page. It's just once you get into that mindframe of 'this really sucks' it's hard to move forward and to ignore the fact it sucks.
      The notes are a good idea, and maybe other possible scenarios of how the scene could go.

      That's so true, I'd love to see the first drafts of some of my favourite books, and hear from the authors what they thought while they were writing.

      Great advice - thank you so much :) Tonight i'm going to go home and WRITE!

  2. Ignore the mean, rude person hanging over your shoulder critiquing every keystroke, period, comma, adjective, and adverb. This person can not be trusted. At least, not yet. Turn around an tell he or she to wait. You can't critic a story when it hasn't been written yet.

    Take heart. Artists are their own worst critics and nothing anyone can say remotely compares to what we've already said or done to ourselves. Ask yourself, do you really want to be a writer? I've met plenty of writers and they all shout, YES! Writing is hard, this why it's considered a job. Great books do not come from first, second, or third drafts. I've been told by agents, writers, and publishers the average is 6 to 8. Yes, eight! A rough draft is just that- rough. So write, write, write.

    And as for Jo Rowling, she had constructed notepads of outlines, plots, character details, names, places, and ideas long before she started writing the actual story. She said it lacked emotion until her father passed, in which, then she was able to envelope into her story.

    I hope you feel better, because you are not alone. All writers feel this exact same way at one time or another. =)

    1. Haha yeah I have to learn to push my critiquing side to the back of my mind and to just carry on. You're so right, artists are the worst critics of themselves and I know I'm terrible at that. I criticize everything about what i'm putting down on the page! But I would definitely be one shouting YES if i was asked if I want to be a writer.

      I didn't know that about Rowling. That's really interesting... I hope my story will just build and build through each of the drafts until it really is a decent novel!

      Thanks so much for the comment - I really appreciate it :)

  3. I think what you're going through is a normal part of the writing process. Jaime and I talk about this very thing all the time. I constantly feel like I'm on an emotional roller coaster when it comes to how I feel about my writing. One day I'll be pleased with my story and how it's turned out, and the next day (or even the next minute) I'll feel like the whole thing is junk without a chance of ever getting published. While that's hard, I think in some ways it's also a good thing. Acknowledging that there's always room for improvement helps you to push yourself as a writer. As far as first drafts go, yeah, they're usually bad for everyone. Anne Lamott even has a chapter devoted to "sh*tty first drafts" in Bird by Bird (her words, not mine), and that chapter was all kinds of reassuring to me. I can't speak for everyone, but I know after months of revising, my manuscript is very different than the first draft. I wouldn't worry too much. You'll probably tear that sucker apart and comb through it to make changes many times yet. If the writing isn't flowing for me, I sometimes tinker around with what I've already written in hopes that it will help give me some direction. That doesn't work for everyone, but it does for me. If nothing else, stepping back for a couple days can sometimes give you clarity. Keep plugging away at it, Samantha! It'll be worth it when you're done!

    1. That emotional roller coaster you talk about? I'm right there on it with you. That's exactly how I feel. It's nice to know I'm not alone!
      And you're right, it's quite likely i'll be pulling it to pieces before long so I guess in order to do that I just have to have something down!
      Tinkering around to find the flow and direction again sounds like a great idea, and I know stepping away for a few days certainly helps too.

      Thanks so much Erin, your advice means a lot :)