For the Struggling Writer

You have an idea. It excites you because it feels like an idea that can be made into something more: a complete novel. You plot it out (maybe a little, maybe a lot), you feel eager to begin, and then at last you start with Chapter One, crafting that first perfect sentence.

And then you get about 5,000 to 10,000 words in, and realize, to your growing disappointment, that this idea feels boring. You’re not typing with speedy fingers towards the climax. You’re questioning every word placement, every  description. Do you like your characters? Or do they feel two-dimensional? Is this an idea that’s been done the same way, over and over? Are you even good at writing, or are you just good at coming up with basic ideas and should probably just give them away to better writers?

Before the work is even completed, you’re imagining what negative reviews on Goodreads and Amazon might say.

This book wasted my time. 

I couldn’t finish it. This one was horrible.

Cliche and boring and pointless. Don’t pick this book up! Pass it by. Trust me, you’ll be grateful you did.

It all stems from the fact that, before you’ve really even gotten to the meat of the story, you’ve lost interest. And all the reminding in the world that this is only your first draft, that of course it’s not going to be brilliant right off especially if it’s a story that needs some more plotting and building, isn’t really helping your current mood.

If you’re bored with the book, your readers will be bored. That’s what you tell yourself.

And even though I’m writing “you”, I actually mean “I”. Because this is what I’m  currently going through.

But if I’m bored now doesn’t mean I’ll be bored later. And just because I’m not as interested in the moment doesn’t mean readers will feel the same way. I know what happens in this story. It’s kind of like watching the same movie over and over and over again in a short amount of time. Even if you absolutely love the movie, you start to lose interest. You’re not paying attention to it as much. Eventually you just want to shut it off and not view it for a good long while.

What do you do if you’re bored, or feeling increasingly negative about your book?

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I recently watched Meet the Robinsons and love the idea of KEEP MOVING FORWARD. In this situation of mine, the best thing is to keep moving forward. To quit looking back at all the parts of the novel I don’t love so far, to continue until I finish the book. If I think things are slow now, I need to switch something up. Add a character. Twist the plot. Throw a challenge at my main people.

But none of that will happen if I just scrap the idea now because I don’t feel like it’s very interesting or exciting.

It’s okay to get bored with your work sometimes. Keep going. And do something with it even you’re not expecting. It’s a good switch of pace.

And remember: it’s just a first draft. It’s allowed to be as messy and nearly unreadable as it wants to be. You order something for yourself in a big box, turn it over, and all these crazy parts come tumbling out on the ground, leaving you in a mountain of junk that you’re pretty certain you can’t do anything with. This isn’t what you ordered! So you grab the box and read the label: Assembly required. Oh, and it doesn’t come with instructions. You got to figure out how to put it together yourself. And there are extra parts that you aren’t going to use, but you don’t know which ones yet. And there are parts missing that you’ll eventually have to order, but that’s not until you start building and realize that there’s a giant hole or several mini holes in the thing.

It can be the biggest headache, the most frustrating activity in the world. But you also catch yourself smiling every now and then. You might even have fun.

You know, between smacking your head against the ground repeatedly, or holding yourself in the fetal position while telling yourself that your life would be so much better off if you quit building this thing.

But eventually the project is done, the pieces all fit, the junk parts you didn’t need are in the garbage, and you’re staring at this beautiful thing that you did, all you, and it’s worth all the work. And it’s even worth the goose egg protruding from your forehead from the head bashing.

I’m a writer. I’m frustrated, whiny, irritable, and seconds away from quitting. But I’m also determined, imaginative, and when I’m really focused, actually kind of good at what I do. And I kind of love it.

So keep moving forward, teller of stories. It’s the only way anything’s going to get done, and we owe it to ourselves first to finish.

 

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