What To Do When You Think Your Writing Sucks

10/06/2016 Discussions, Writing 29

What To Do When You Think Your Writing SucksRecently 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?

29 Responses to “What To Do When You Think Your Writing Sucks”

  1. Greg

    I have this problem sometimes. Although you’re probably farther than me on your WIP. 🙂 My problem is sometimes I’ll be reading after I’ve been writing and what I’m reading seems so much better lol. It can be daunting. I think all your solutions are good ones- taking a break definitely gives a different perspective, when you come back later to reread it definitely helps. And carrying on especially- so many authors say you can’t improve or edit anything if it’s not there, so yeah. Good one I think. 🙂

    • Laura

      I definitely get that too, where I’ll have done some of my own writing and then read a book and just feel terrible because it doesn’t compare. But then you just have to try and remember how many rounds of edits and different people that book has had to go through to be that good!
      That’s so true though that you can’t improve something that’s none existent, so I think I’m just going to carry on and hope for the best. Good luck with your own WIP! 🙂

  2. Simone

    I feel like that all the time. And the fact that I’m writing my story for more than two years is not helping. When I think my writing sucks I try to persuade me that it doesn’t matter because it’s first draft. Sometimes I try to name what things I don’t like about it and write it down so I know where is the problem and that the problem can be solved later in the editing process. This helps a lot because I feel like it’s not big of a deal and I can fix it later. 🙂

    • Laura

      That seems like a good approach to take a look and note down stuff that needs fixing later. I may give that a try with my own novel and see if that makes me feel better to know that I have plans to sort out any issues later. Best of luck with your story! 🙂

  3. Haley

    Ah, this is the story of my life. XD I have literally never finished a single story because I get bored or tired of it or just feel blah about the whole thing. Thanks for the good advice!

    • Laura

      I’m exactly the same – I’ve never finished a story (except a few short stories), and I always just start to feel really ‘blah’ and uninterested in them once I get so far. I’m going to try and follow my own advice and not do that this time though! Good luck with your own writing! I hope we both manage to finish a story 🙂

  4. Inge

    You just sort of have to remember that every writer ever feels this way about their writing. Besides, you’re working on a first draft, and first drafts are SUPPOSED to suck. But I do agree it can be discouraging if you’ve been feeling good about a story, and then go back to it and go “oh no why”. Push through!

    If that doesn’t help, I think about really shitty books that got published anyway and I feel a little bit better. I know that’s awful of me, but it works!

    • Laura

      That’s really good advice, because it definitely seems like a lot of writers feel like this just from the comments left here! I’m definitely going to try and push through and get a first draft finished.
      You’re right though, that there is some shockingly bad stuff that gets published, and that does actually make me feel better, so thanks! 🙂

  5. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I’m horrible about this. I’ve only tried to write a book once – NaNoWriMo 2014. I “won” it by writing my 50k words, but I never actually finished the book. And every time I even think about going back to it, I just think, “Eh, it wasn’t very good. I should just write a new one.” NO!!!
    This is so not the right attitude, and I know it. I NEED to buckle down and just finish the darn thing and then try to do a serious edit. Of course I’ll never write anything good if I never even finish!

    So, don’t give up! Keep writing, finish the book, and then get some good critique partners. Preferably more than one. (If you do it, so will I. I might even be convinced to pair up and exchange books with you – even though, like you, the idea of having someone read the book I’m already sure is junk is horrifying!)

    • Laura

      I did NaNoWriMo 2014 as well, but as with your book, mine has just been abandoned since because I thought it wasn’t very good. I could probably rewrite that one too if I dared to look at it again!
      That’s definitely the attitude I need to adopt as well though, as I really do need to just finish a draft, or i’ll never finish anything!
      Finishing it and finding critique partners sound like a good way of moving forwards, and I’d definitely be up for swapping with you, especially as we would both be equally nervous about it! 🙂

  6. Cait @ Paper Fury

    I’ve just learned to accept my writing sucks. XDXD It’s hard when you’re a perfectionist though, omg. But I’ve developed a very very strict routine that I a) never stop halfway through first drafts, just keep going no matter what and write them as fast as I can so I don’t lose interest, and b) except them to suck! I once read this advice that said you should LET yourself write badly, because you can fix it up later. And honestly that advice has become my entire writing motto. My first drafts are MEANT to suck. I write badly and I don’t even care. And then when it comes to editing/rewriting, I take time and care. But the skeleton is already there so all the pressure is off. 😉 That’s how I manage it anyway, hehee.
    I hope you keep going with your novel! AND YAY FOR MAC COMPUTERS. I KNOW IT’S RANDOM I JUST HAD TO SAY IT THOUGH. XD

    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

    • Laura

      Your routine sounds pretty good, and I may have to try and adopt it myself! I just need to get into the mindset that my first drafts are meant to suck, and keep going! I have kind of stopped writing my novel for the last couple of days, which seems kind of dangerous really, but I don’t want to abandon it, so I might just try and write the rest of it as fast as I can before I get really bored! Thanks so much for the advice! 🙂
      And I have read some of your writing (the book you posted on Wattpad) and it definitely doesn’t suck! 🙂
      And YAY FOR MAC COMPUTERS! I saved for ages for mine, but it has been worth every penny. I couldn’t go back to Windows now!

  7. Shane Morgan

    Oh ma gosh! This is so me! Like every writer, we critique our work more harshly than anyone else. It’s hard to turn that off. I often get ideas about stories, start them, make the mistake of stopping midway, and then read the previous chapters only to tell myself that it’s terrible. I have many unfinished stories on my computer too. I’ve made a goal to go back to them and continue writing. Yes, it’s hard to simply carry on and wait to edit once you’re finished, but it’s the only way to get these books done 🙂

    Great post!

    • Laura

      I’m glad it’s not just me who feels like this! It really is hard to turn that ‘my writing sucks’ mentality off, but I’m going to have to do it and just carry on with my novel anyway if I want to finish it.
      I’m glad you liked the post, and good luck with your writing! 🙂

  8. Zoey @ Uncreatively Zoey

    I thought my writing was the bomb dot com when I was 14. I was probably super annoying about it too. I started writing again last year – a fantasy novel – and got like 18k in before I completely lost steam and got frustrated with how undeveloped and unconnected everything was and basically haven’t touched it since. Clearly I don’t want anyone else to follow my example, haha

    • Laura

      That’s pretty much what always happens to me too! I just get so far and lose steam. I have been writing since I was quite young, and I definitely had a lot more confidence in my writing back then, so it’s weird that I’m so convinced it’s terrible now when it surely has to be better than when I was a teenager.

  9. Caroline

    Carry on Regardless is the best bit of advice I’ve been given about writing the first draft.

    Also, a good tip is to keep notes about the things that you don’t like about the writing and then continue on as if you’d made those changes. I know already that I’ll be re-writing the majority of the novel when I finish the first draft but I’m well on the way to having a first draft – which is the main thing.

    • Laura

      That’s such a good tip, and I definitely think I’ll do that. I think I’ll feel better about carrying on despite its flaws if I know I have plans to fix them at the end.

  10. Jess @ POB!

    I’m not exactly a writer, but I do feel this way with some of my blog posts. I usually send it to a friend or two and ask if my words are easy to understand, if it’s too long, etc,. They are all very kind and supportive! In addition, I like to look at other bloggers’ posts and see what they do and compare it to my own writing. Not exactly copying, but definitely being inspired and adjusting.

    Thanks for stopping by Princessica of Books!

    • Laura

      I feel the same about my blog posts too sometimes. I like the idea of getting friends to look over them though, and looking at other bloggers’ posts is definitely a good way of getting inspiration for writing your own.

  11. Perry

    I have found that I have two problems when writing.

    First, I have way too much going on in my head. As I am writing, I find I am constantly thinking to myself “this story idea is way cooler…” So, consequently, I never really get to finish something else.

    Second, I have never used a plot outline before. I always just started to write, so after a few thousand words I would get bored or get stuck on the story. I am in the process of writing a plot outline now. I have found that as I am working on the outline I can work out any stuck points before I write them. It is working better for me already, as I can see each scene taking place in my head…the place, the dialogue, the action; it’s making me far more interested in writing it.

    Once I am complete, I know that I won’t self-edit. I will either be too critical of myself or not critical enough. So I will have someone detached do it.

    Wattpad is a cool idea, I have an account there but have yet to post anything there.

    • Laura

      I have the exact same problems! I always love my idea, start writing, and then come up with one that I think is better and start working on that instead. At least until the next one comes along…
      I have often got stuck with the plot in the past too, as I used to never use outlines either. The last couple of things I’ve written I’ve tried to do this, and it has helped, but seen as neither of them have been finished yet, it hasn’t worked that well! I’m going to try and carry on with both though (particularly this latest one), and hopefully I should make it to the end!
      I am seriously considering Wattpad. I’ve set up an account as well, so I might start posting on it once I’ve got a few more chapters done 🙂

      • Perry

        That’s generally what happens with me as well. This time around, I am trying a couple “new to me” tricks with my outline writing. I have always approached writing with a defined ending to the story in my head. This time, I have a concept for the story I want to tell, a few specific events (especially near the beginning) that I want to happen. I started with my opening scene – in a bullet paragraph style I wrote the basics of that scene, then thought about the possible outcomes of that scene and which one my main character would choose, then wrote that scene.

        After anywhere from 3-5 scenes, I just stop and step away for a couple of days. When I come back to it, I reread the entire outline which tends to start the wheels turning for the next few scenes. Then if I fell I have to, I can move scenes around in the order, or even rewrite a scene.

        It has taken me far longer to get my story written this way, but so far I am happier with the results. My outline stands at just about 4 pages of bullet paragraphs of different word counts…somewhere around 3000 words and I can see it ending up in the neighborhood of 10-15k words.

        Something that might not work for everyone, but it seems to be working for me at the moment.

        • Laura

          I’m so glad that’s working well for you! That does actually sound like a really good way of outlining, so I may have to give that a try 🙂

  12. Melissa @ Quill Pen Writer

    Oh I feel like this all the time! I think it’s a completely normal part of the creative process to hate your work. If we don’t at some point, then we’re probably not being honest with ourselves, because no writing is ever perfect at the beginning. I usually take a break from my writing if I’m in one of the ‘this is horrible, I shouldn’t write,’ moods. It helps, but sometimes you just have to keep writing, and remind yourself every story starts somewhere.
    Good luck with your writing! I’m rooting for you. 😀

    • Laura

      It does seem like most writers feel like this sometimes, so I guess it’s just part of the process. You’re totally right in saying that no writing is perfect in the beginning, so I shouldn’t really expect it to be.
      Thanks, and best of luck with your writing too! 🙂

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