“I hate my book!” a writer reported on Skype. He wanted to quit writing, and not merely this novel. He wanted to stop writing novels completely.
I assured him that every author feels that way. Even though writing fiction can be huge fun, and mostly is, it’s also a struggle against a bitter enemy. Can you guess who that enemy might be?
Yep. It’s you.
When you’re writing novels, you will hate each and every one of them, at times
You can be your own worst enemy if you allow your emotions to rule you. When you’re writing, you’ll feel one of two major emotions:
- I LOVE this. It’s the best book I’ve ever written… I’m so happy!
- I HATE this. It’s (curse word that rhymes with “hit”.) There’s no way I can finish this junk. I’d better delete it from my computer.
You’ll go from feeling joy to despair, often within minutes.
You need to keep writing away. Let’s look at how you can do that.
1. Realize that emotions are temporary
Whatever you’re feeling, whether it’s joy or despair, it will pass. You don’t have to do anything about any emotion, because all emotions are temporary.
Yes, it hurts when you’re going through an “I hate this” phase. Write anyway. The difference between novelists who sell their novels and aspiring authors is that the selling novelists expect that they’ll hate their novel sometimes.
The novelists who’ve gone through this phase many times know that “I hate this” means that they’re about to make a major breakthrough.
2. Cheer up: it really is darkest before dawn
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That “HATE” feeling may mean that you’re close to a breakthrough with that particular book.
Please don’t give up, and DO NOT delete the file. Stick with it. If you’re prepared to stick with it, even when you’re feeling most uncomfortable, something will happen. You’ll get an insight — you’ll see how to make your novel much better.
I’ve no idea why deepest despair turns into the feeling of yes! I’ve got it… But it does. All you need to do is keep sitting at your computer. Write if you can; if you can’t, read what you have, and then write another scene.
It’s as if your creative self realizes that you won’t give up, so it rolls up its sleeves, mutters curse words to itself because you’re a stubborn so-and-so… and delivers.
3. Shush! Don’t talk to anyone about your misery
You’ll be tempted to whine, and to get advice from someone — anyone.
Sadly, this is often a mistake. In my early years writing fiction, I fell into this trap. I wrote impassioned letters to my editor. Or I called my agent, reporting that I couldn’t finish the book, and I needed to give back the advance.
I was an idiot.
Remember, emotions are temporary. Usually by the time I’d finished writing or talking loudly about my woes, they ended. I got an insight, and the book was fine.
At other times, sharing made things worse. Either way, I would have been much better off accepting that my book wasn’t going well, and living with it, because to repeat… the feeling was temporary.
4. Pay attention: your creative self is trying to tell you something
When the “it’s total crap and I need to nuke it” emotion hits you, pay attention. Chances are good that you’ve missed something.
When I was writing one particular novel I sailed along happily until I hit the Midpoint, and suddenly my emotions shifted. They went from love to hate in an instant.
By that time in my fiction writing career, I knew what to do: stay with it. Keep your head. Finally it hit me — I’d managed to write 40,000 words without setting a real life-or-death goal for my main character. Nothing much was at stake. Oops.
I had to delete a lot of scenes, and write many more scenes, but thank heavens I’d recognized the problem. I didn’t mind all the rewriting, and I completed the novel in record time.
So when you want to nuke your novel, don’t. Stay with it. Keep your butt in your chair, and wait for your creative self to let you know what’s wrong with the book.
How to avoid being your own worst enemy: accept your emotions, because they change rapidly
Keep writing novels. Eventually, you’ll reach the stage where writing is just something that you do. You’ll enjoy the highs, and you’ll be thankful for the lows, because you’ll know that the “hate” feeling means that something is wrong.
Moreover, you’ll know that it’s something you can fix, and usually quickly. The writer on Skype called me the next day to tell me that he loved his novel. He hadn’t had to change anything, his emotions simply shifted.
Keep writing. 🙂
Updated: January 9, 2017
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