It’s okay to hate your book. Sometimes.

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I posted good news on Facebook last Friday – I finished the first draft of a book that I had been working on for most of this year! Woo-hoo! It’s a stand-alone novel, a YA thing with dragons and elves. I worked on this book off and on most of this year, and last week I typed the last words of the first draft, hit save and set it aside to let it percolate for a while.

I currently hate this book. 

And that’s okay. 

You see, I go through a point in every book I’ve written where I hate the book. Some books I have a couple of points of loathing, doubt and lack of confidence before I beat it into something worth reading. Because first drafts are crap. 

Not everyone’s first drafts are crap. I’m sure somebody out there has first drafts that are all sunbeams and unicorns, but I’m not that guy. My first drafts are crap. And at some point, I’ve hated every single one of them. They aren’t ready for public consumption. They require polish, refinement, and in some cases major surgery to get to a point where they should be shared with the world. 

It’s why I don’t have critique partners. I typically don’t share things I’m working on, not out of some silly fear of having my ideas stolen (steal away, I ripped off somebody smarter than me in the first place!), and certainly not out of some idea that it’s perfect and ready to sell. It’s because my books are very fragile things, and any criticism, no matter how completely valid, can unleash that book-loathing that bubbles beneath the surface and make me stick the book in a drawer for months before coming back to it. 

Some folks can have a work in progress polished and refined and hacked on while they’re working on it. I’m not one of those people. So I don’t do the critique partner thing. I barely do beta readers, honestly. I write in a vacuum, and then work with editors on the books. And when I hate the book, I push through til the end, stick it in a drawer, and work on something else for a month. Over that time I manage to forget how much I hate the book, and I can come back to it and look at it fresh. Then it comes out of the drawer covered in sunbeams and unicorns and I like the book again! 

So what’s the point of this, other than to tell you about my process, why I don’t use critique groups and that sometimes I hate my books? 

To tell you that we all feel this way. Everybody I know has hated their book at some point. We just don’t talk about that. We talk about soldiering on, the importance of consistent output, butt in chair, hands on keyboard, and all that is important. But sometimes it’s hard. And sometimes it sucks. And we’ve all been there. So don’t get discouraged because you think your book is crap. Just push on through, get to the end and stick it in a drawer for a month. 

After that, open the drawer and see if the rainbows and teddy bears fly out. If it’s still crap, maybe you need a little more distance. Or maybe it’s still crap. That’s going to make the next part harder, but you can still mold and polish crap into something awesome given enough time and sweat. And who knows? Maybe once you let it sit for a while and then polish with an objective eye, you just might find that the book you came to hate turned back into the book you love when you weren’t looking. That’s what happened to me with almost everything I’ve ever written. 

Good luck!

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7 comments to It’s okay to hate your book. Sometimes.

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Congratulations on your draft! Crazy timing for me on this post, because last night I *just* finished edits on the 3rd draft of my WIP, and by edits I mean overhaul. This revision took most of this year and added at least 13,000 brand new words to the manuscript. Tomorrow I’m going to actually send it out to beta readers, and at the moment I’m convinced they’re going to think it’s boring drek. Here’s hoping I’m just sitting right in there with you with the book hate and I’ll get at least a couple rainbows back.

  • I tend to work that way too. Well, not the hating the book part, I always like the book I’m working on, even in the stages I know it needs a good fixin’, but I HAVE to run through it at least several times on my own before I show it to anyone else. This is why I will probably never join a writers group. Most want you to share while you’re writing and I can’t do that. It’s a waste of time for me and them to show the absolute rough as I’m going when I know a few passes on my own will find all the obvious bits that need reworked. I far prefer to finish the work, revise it myself several times, and then find some betas who can point out those not-so-obvious bits that I’m too close to the work to see.

  • I hated a book I’m working on now–in fact you read the opening of it. I got to a point where I couldn’t get it to go any further. Finally I just decided “stuff happens in this chapter that sends her on her way…” and skipped the chapter and went on writing. Now I’m happily writing the rest of the book. Back to writing how I used to write: like sit down and write at least a thousand words. I know that is going to be a bitch to fix, but that’s okay. I’ll fix it later. That’s actually become my mantra with the book. Last chapter it was noon. Now it’s midnight, and it’s about 30 minutes later. I’ll fix it in revisions. It needs to be night, anyway. That sort of thing. But that chapter I had the closest thing to writer’s block I’ve ever had. It was horrible. And it was because there was a huge problem. I was trying to do too much. Put too much there. So I cut a bunch of stuff from it, then left it alone.

    But yeah, after I’m done with draft 1, I’ll dump it for a while and then come back to it. I’m hoping to finish draft one by Jan 1. Want to guess why? :)

  • Sunbeams and unicorns. Yeah, I’d like to write a first draft that was sunbeams and unicorns.

    My first drafts are usually Bloody raw hamburger with dose of screwed up and a side of something rotten. Thank all that is holy for editors.

  • sagablessed

    My first drafts are gangrenous pustules wrapped in boils wrapped stank. The task is to excise the infected tissue and nurture the remains.
    I waffle between “I love this work” and “gods, please kill me before someone reads middens heap.”
    Currently I am the love-phase.
    However, thank you for validating me when I am in the other mode. Good to know I am not the only one.

  • @ Faith – Mine too. More like ground unicorn and powdered horn sprinkled haphazardly, with the oppressive glare of scorching, blinding sear upon a blasted landscape of hellish desolation. 😉

  • Razziecat

    Wow, there’s some pretty creative hatin’ going on in these comments…:D I usually just call mine “crapola” when I’m in the hate stage. Thanks for this post, though. Good to know I’m not the only one who looks at what I wrote and feels like hiding under a blanket!