Recently I’ve been writing a fantasy novel, and for the first few thousand words, it went swimmingly. My hands seemed to dance across the keyboard, pouring out words and crafting a world of magic…until suddenly they stopped. And why did they stop?
Because I stupidly read it back, that’s why! I read back what I had written, convinced it was going to be inspired, and it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I like my characters (although I’ve come to hate their names for some reason!), and a lot of the dialogue, but I started to feel like it was kind of cheesy maybe? Plus after a few chapters there’s a time jump of a few weeks which seems really clumsy, and from that point onwards I pretty much hate everything I wrote.
Now here’s the part where I would usually give up. I’m ashamed to say I’m a serial quitter, and that my desktop is littered with half finished novels that I ‘didn’t like’ (which is why I rarely tell anyone when I start writing a new novel – I never usually finish them!) and so this time I want to stick at it. As I say, I like my central characters and feel like I have a good plot, I just don’t like the execution so much.
So what should I do instead of quitting, is the question? Here’s a few of my ideas for what to do when you feel like what you’ve written is terrible, and hopefully through writing this, I’ll figure how best to tackle my own novel disaster!
- Ask yourself if it’s really that bad.
I am my own worse critic. I’ve written plenty of stuff before that I’ve hated but other people have said was really good, and I know a lot of writers are the same in that way. So maybe we should really look at our work sometimes and ask: is actually that bad? Maybe look at your work critically as though it was a book you were reviewing? Is there some really great sentences in there, or some dialogue you really like? If someone else had written it, would you feel the same?
It’s so hard to look at your own work without that bias, but I think sometimes it can do you good to step back and try and view it from an outside perspective. Maybe take a couple of weeks away from it and then look back at it with fresh eyes (and I think I’m definitely going to try this with my current novel!).
- Get some feedback.
If you still think your writing sucks when you read it back intensively, then maybe its time to let someone else be the judge. Now I’m absolutely terrible at this because I have a morbid fear of other people reading my fiction (which is not good seen as I want to be published one day), and my poor little writer’s heart really doesn’t take criticism well. But the best way to gauge whether your writing is good or bad is to let someone else read it, and preferably not your mum, because she will probably love it either way!
I myself have been considering a few possibilities to getting some impartial opinions, namely either publishing a chapter on here and getting some honest opinions, or starting to post it on Wattpad, which is a community full of people who like reading stories, so would surely have some useful insights.
- Carry on regardless.
As Hemingway said, ‘the first draft of anything is shit’. Most writers don’t produce perfect first drafts, the magic all happens in the editing. In fact there’s a school of thought that says that getting a rough draft down is the most important thing, and it being good or bad is irrelevant.
Unfortunately I’m a chronic ‘edit as you go along’ writer, and so have never been good at writing first drafts. I constantly reread my work and keep tweaking it to the point where I never make any progress, so one thing I think I should seriously consider with my current predicament is simply carrying on, however much I hate my draft, and save the editing for the end.
So writers, have you ever felt like your writing truly sucks? What did you do about it?