No, no, this time it really *is* awful…


I’m in the middle–and I do mean middle, as I’m 90K into what I’m beginning to be depressingly certain will be a 165K book–of writing my sixteenth full-length novel.

These are my observations at this point:

– this is the worst thing I’ve ever written

– none of it hangs together

– there is no integral structure

– the end is so far away I will never be finished writing, but I am more than ready to be done

– my editor is going to burst into tears when I finally do turn this horrific lump in to her

– she is then going to have to find a way to break it to me gently that perhaps I should consider a career in shoveling elephant dung, because my writing life is over and cleaning up behind elephants is sure to be a less smelly job than what I’ve just delivered to her

The bitter thing is that I recognize this stage. This happens every time. It means that things are probably going along just fine, even though my inclination is to say, “No, no, I know I’ve said this before, but this time I think I’m right. This really is terrible.”

Recognizing this does not make me feel any better at all.

Almost every writer I know goes through this. This is the one where they’re going to figure out I’m a fraud. This is the point at which I wonder why I do this, because this really really sucks. The joy is gone. The focus is gone. All that’s left is a vast wasteland and a pathetic hope that if I keep throwing drivel at the screen something vaguely readable will come out of it. So on and so forth, etc, etc, etc.

I mention it because it often comes as an enormous relief to writers who are trying to break in: oh, they say, it’s not just me?

It’s not just you. It really isn’t. It’s almost all of us. And the only damned way to get through it is to keep writing, and eventually reach the end, and look back and hopefully say, “…well, okay, maybe it’s not *that* bad after all…”

…which comes as a surprise every time.


6 comments to No, no, this time it really *is* awful…

  • C E said: “I mention it because it often comes as an enormous relief to writers who are trying to break in: oh, they say, it’s not just me?”

    Not just to them. *grin*

  • Yes! Yes! Yes! I do this ALL the time. Every book. And it’s always at about the 55-60% mark. You’re just past the middle and suddenly you realize that you should have pursued that career as an actuary. Been there. Will be there again sometime in mid-August.

    Your book does not suck, Catie. You’re going to be fine. Deep breath. Put down the laptop and step away. Just for a little while. Some nice tea, a piece of chocolate. Maybe a walk outside. You’re going to be fine. The book is going to be fine. I promise.

  • No matter what project is at hand, I’ll go through this same misery about every six or seven weeks.

    Considering how cyclic it is, I begin to suspect my biorhythm is tanking, again [one of my “writer’s superstitions”] — at which point I cut myself some slack and focus on something else for a day or two.

    Sometimes I just *need* a break from the writing.

  • Oh, my, Catie. I agree with David, take a mini-vacation.

    I always make a *very* expensive cup of tea (I like Red Emperor) or open a nice bottle of brandy, and take an hour off. In other words, I treat myself. Then I plow back in, forcing the words, hating every minute, hating every word, hating everything about writing. But in the end, I prove to myself that I do know how to do this. And the book works. And it is better than the elephant dung option.

    When a new fan asks which book is my favorite, I think, “I hate them all at some point.” And my most favorite, is the one I finally just finished. Like birthing a baby, I guess, though I never have done that.

    For those of you writing a book — this is the exact reason why most wannabee writers never finish a novel. They reach this point and the next book looks so much more exciting, so much more easy, and so much more wonderful and this one is just so awful, anyway… And so hard. And I hate it….

    And now they have 5 or 6 half-finished books under the bed or on a computer file and they feel like a failure. And they never realize that this point in writing a book, this exact awful *I-want-to-dump-it* moment is what makes us writers. And they, like us, have to push through. And when / if they do? *Then* they are really writers.

    Then they have reached a moment of success that most wannabee writers never get to. And, they have taught themselves how to write a book.

  • What about when you’ve finished the rough draft and are halfway through rewrites and decide AGAIN this is stupid, and it will take you another lifetime to fix it?

    I did the whole “this is the worst thing I’ve ever written” part, then went through the “well, it just needs a little tweaking” part, and now, 25 chapters into what will ultimately be probably 30+ chapters, I’m thinking, what am I doing? This is going to be TOO long and there’s still more stuff I need to add.

    It really is good to “hear” other writers say the same thing!

  • I have this one for sure. I can’t finish things and it’s really hard completing anything. I know I can, I have completed works of fiction and people, who also do writing, have acknowledged their literary quality, but still I struggle with middles. Grr, damn middles.