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This Writing Life: Hating What You Write

8 October, 2010

There comes a time in every novel when I realise that I really dislike, or even hate, what I’m working on. Sitting down at the computer every day becomes a chore to be avoided and I start looking for other things to fill my time. For some reason, I’ve found that struggling with the first draft of a novel affects everything else in my writing life too. Suddenly, my editing work, short stories, blogging and even looking at Twitter all seem horribly hard work. All I want to do instead is curl up with a book or play long hours of World of Warcraft.

There are, I think, two factors at work here. The first is that I’m two-thirds of the way through a novel, at the point where reaching the end still feels like a slog and where wrapping all the plot lines together is becoming increasingly difficult. Not only is the work becoming harder, but the novel in progress looks nothing like what I envisaged when I started planning it. That great vision has become 60k words of incoherent mess – such is the way of first drafts. And even though I know that, it’s still disheartening and certainly enough to make me dislike the whole thing.

The other factor is one of burnt-out. At this point, I’ve been working on this novel for several months, with probably another couple of months needed to finish the first draft. That’s a long time to be working with a single set of characters and locations, which is probably why I’m at the point where every new idea that passes through my head seems so much more shiny and exciting. Going back to the novel that’s going to consume half a year of my life in first draft form is a bit off-putting.

This shouldn’t, in theory, affect my other writing work. Disliking one novel shouldn’t stop me editing another or blogging. The fact that it does comes down to a measure of guilt. Whenever I sit down to work on another project, I’m reminded of the novel. I know that I’ve come too far to abandon it and that I really should finish it before I start something else. Experiencing that guilt over something that I’ve come to hate is enough to make all my other writing unpalatable.

Of course, all of this is temporary. I always find finishing novels so much more difficult than starting them, even when I know what’s going to happen. I always hate what I write by the time I finish the first draft. It’s in revisions that I truly see what I’ve produced, truly come to love the characters and their world to the point where I want other people to read what I’ve written. Still, I’m a long way from revision yet, so the slog continues.

  1. sandrabancila permalink
    8 October, 2010 10:29 am

    It happens to me too…When i start to write something i’m very excited and full of ideas, but by the end of the work(poems in my case) i really have that feeling that i could have written it better.I think this happens because one has high standards regarding his or her writings, when they want the best from their work.

    • 8 October, 2010 4:20 pm

      Hi Sandra,
      I think you’re exactly right about high standards having an effect on your writing. No matter how much time I put into my writing, it never turns out exactly how I planned, and it’s never the standard I want it to be. I suppose that improves with practice – or maybe all writers feel this way, even after many years of writing!

      • sandrabancila permalink
        19 October, 2010 2:14 pm

        Hy! I’m glad you answered to my post.:) I don’t know how the other writers feel about their work, but i guess they feel differently, meaning, they could be more confident in their writings.Anyway, the most important is to write(if you really have something to say), because that is how the experience can be achieved.

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