Confessions of a Bad Novelist from TheBlissfulPoet.com / writing tips, author tips, how to write, writing inspiration

Confessions of a Bad Novelist

Can I confess something?

This novel I’m writing, my very first? It’s bad. I mean really, really bad.

I was sitting at Panera this morning working on chapter eight (after an hour of procrastinating chatting and coffee with a friend), and as I’m writing it I can tell I’m going to need a rewrite. Like, I’ll need to print the dang thing and go red pen on its arse. I may even need to take scissors to it so I can rearrange entire paragraphs and chapters. Or just make paper cranes. It’s going to be a novel-turned-third grade art project.

I’m almost laughing about how bad it is.

But you know what? The story itself is good. It’s there. I’m really confident in the characters and who they can be, especially my protagonist. I have faith in her growth and in the lessons she’ll learn (and me, too) along the way.

The writing, though. Yeesh.

It’s moments like this that I wish I’d actually taken a fiction-writing class in graduate school. Then maybe I’d know what I’m doing.

Here’s the thing though: this is my dream. I already know that, so I don’t really have a choice in whether or not I keep writing. I have to. If I don’t, I’m letting myself down and intentionally stepping off the path that I want to take. Why would I do that?

Why would anyone do that?

Enjoy the process of writing something great, even if it means starting with something terrible. #writingquotes #writinginspiration #theblissfulpoet

I think a major part of writing, a part you don’t learn in school, is that sometimes writing has very little to do with talent or skill or descriptive techniques or anything like that. That’s part of it, but mostly it’s just persistence. When you’re in college getting a creative writing degree, they may teach you how to effortlessly personify a table, but they probably won’t teach you how to cope with your fiftieth rejection letter without repeatedly banging your head against the wall. (And if you’re going to be a “professional” writer, you will receive at least that many.) They probably won’t teach you that making a living as a writer means sitting down at the keyboard when you’re exhausted, unmotivated, indifferent, uninspired, or just plain sick of writing. Yeah, I’d rather binge-watch Gotham, too, but that’s not how my novel’s getting written.

I believe it was Terry Pratchett who said that the first draft is just you telling yourself the story. Does that bring you as much comfort as it brings me? At least for now, I can rest in the process of creating something great, even if it means starting with something terrible. After all, isn’t that art? Creating something worthwhile out of nothing?

An author I really admire lined the walls of her office with all of the rejection letters she received over nine years of trying to get her book published—a book that eventually became a Pulitzer Prize winner.

See? There’s so much hope. There are people who have done this already, who have been walking the path of a writer’s life for years now, and we can learn from them. The two things they always have in common? Desire and persistence.

So yeah, my novel sucks right now. But I’m writing it anyway.

I’m writing it because I have to start somewhere, and even if I start at the very bottom of the slush pile, it gives me a lot of room to grow.

Are you starting at the bottom of the pile today? How do you motivate yourself to keep going? I’d love to hear from you!

 

17 comments

  1. hintofjam

    Meghan, I can definitely identify with starting at the bottom of the pile. Although my current WIP’s outset burst with power, the halfway point is beginning to fizzle. I’ve even thought about scrapping it and working on a different novel altogether on a few occasions.

    However, I continue to remind myself that the first try at anything is going to be imperfect. Also, similar to your story, the ideas and characters have so much potential. They just need a little refinement, which will come with time and revisions. To seeing our novels through, no matter how terrible they are at present!

  2. Meghan Post author

    I couldn’t agree more. I really believe every successful writer struggles, so we’re in good company. Let’s keep at it!

  3. bgeiger

    I had not heard that Terry Pratchett quote before, and it may be the most helpful one about writing I’ve ever seen! It really takes the pressure off – no need to be good right out of the gate. Keep going, Meghan!

  4. Meghan Post author

    Isn’t it such a relief!? I try to keep it in mind with every first draft. Thanks so much for the encouragement!

  5. Elisa

    Finished a really disappointing day of writing, and I’m really glad I saw your post on Pinterest. Even though I tell myself I can rewrite it later, it’s so frustrating to sometimes feel so out of control while writing. Right now, I’m not entirely sure what this story is going to turn into, but I’m going to keep writing because I trust this story God is giving me. Thank you for your encouragement!

  6. thoughtseeds

    I know exactly what you’re going through! After I finished my first book, I was disappointed to find it was more character development than anything else. I rewrote at least three times, and now I’m ready to change the beginning (again). I have learned so much along the way. I am sure I am a much better writer than when I began. A quote by Janet Hulstrand (www.writerswrite.co.za) helped me gain a better perspective. She said, “Bad writing precedes good writing. This is an infallible rule . . .” Confident that most of my “bad writing” is out of the way, I write more eagerly! Now if I could only get the procrastination under control. 🙂

  7. Meghan Post author

    Elisa, I totally know what you mean. After an underwhelming yesterday, I wondered if I should just completely start over (for the second time!). But we have to keep writing, even on the bad days, because the ones who don’t give up are the ones who end up with stories to share. Thank you so much for reading! Keep writing…and trusting. 🙂

  8. Meghan Post author

    Whew! Thanks for saying that…I’m so glad I’m not the only one. It really helps to know that the rough days are just part of the process. Although yeah, you’re right — procrastination is a different matter completely. Let me know if you ever find the cure for that one! 🙂

  9. Linda Lee

    Every time I finish another book, I’m momentarily thrilled and subsequently deflated. I know that the real work lies ahead of me–draft after draft after draft. I keep a new project in the creative compartment of my brain; something to get my mind off the tedium of revising. Even when I think I’ve done my best, I’m never satisfied. There comes a point, though, when I have to let go and move on. If anyone knows of an easier way, please tell me!

  10. Meghan Post author

    Linda, I’m starting to wonder if that’s every writer’s dilemma. We are typically our own worst critics, after all. I wish I knew of an easier way to just be satisfied and move on, but I’m hoping that comes with lots of practice and experience! Thanks so much for reading. 🙂

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  12. Anonymous

    At my university, they have a class called the practical Issues of the working writer where they do talk about rejection and writers block. It has really helped me for sure

  13. Anonymous

    There is a cure for procrastination….I’ll tell you tomorrow! HAHA! Seriously, we procrastinate because we can. It’s a different excuse for each person(my favorite is that I have to be in the Writer’s Zone, whatever that is). There may not be a cure, but maybe we need Mom’s Voice in our heads to spur us along. Anyone remember Mom’s Voice? (When are you going to clean your room, take out the trash, write that bestseller? Can’t you do it now? Why not? Don’t use that tone with me!) This might give us the motivation get more writing done, or it may lead to a major psychosis. Talk to your doctor before using Mom’s Voice. I hope this helps!

  14. Meghan Post author

    That sounds like a great idea. I think colleges and universities need more classes like that, or at leas workshops.

  15. Meghan Post author

    Haha, that would definitely help! I know we might all procrastinate for different reasons, but I’m just glad I’m not the only one. 🙂

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