My Novel Sucks and Other Affirmations

I think we all hit that stage. You know, where your writing is going along swimmingly until one day you realize you’ve used a word like “swimmingly?” Yeah. That’s where I am right now.

I shall brood in a stew of self-pity.

I started my novel about four weeks ago. I had only the vaguest idea of plot, but that was okay. I let myself ramble and write the story into whatever direction the characters wanted to go. And you know what? It was liberating.

But after much meandering, I figured out some major plot elements. That should make me happy, right? No such luck. In fact, it’s just made me realize how much the first part of the novel sucks and will need to be scraped and completely rewritten.

I’ve hit 37k words and I feel like many of my scenes run around in circles or follow a similar pattern. They look like this:

1. Characters fly somewhere.
2. Characters encounter a big beasty.
3. Characters narrowly escape.
4. Repeat.

What’s terrible is I’m aware of the pattern yet it keeps happening. I can’t stop the train from derailing!

Pardon my ramblings, but this just gets so frustrating. I guess it makes sense though. I’m approaching that dreaded “middle of the book” territory. You know, the part where if your book was a physical entity at this point you’d throw it across the room, fetch it, set it on fire and print out another copy just so you can destroy it again?


I guess I better go finish this chapter.


10 thoughts on “My Novel Sucks and Other Affirmations

  1. I know the feeling. *Head Desk.* I find it useful to have a plot before I jump in. In fact, I learned the hard way. Like you I’ve written pages after pages that will never see the light of day. Oh well, it’s the process that counts. You gotta get your dirty water words out there somehow.

    • I would outline the plot beforehand but that just doesn’t work for me. I have to write through it. Otherwise, there’d be no story at all. I find that I discover things as I’m writing about who the characters are, what they want and all of that business. It just sucks though because I *know* so much of what I’ve written will be straight up deleted once I hit revisions. Pardon me while I go grumble some more.

  2. At the risk of giving advice that might be too late to use for this particular novel, consider breaking the thing down into manageable pieces – or, to put it another way, think of your novel as a series of short stories or episodes, ultimately strung together and united in some way, but for now dividable (?) as well.

    That’s essentially how I worked on my novel: I had a big picture idea in mind, but when it came to actually sitting and writing, I would act as if I were working on a short story, with all the limitations that that implies.

    I’m with you on outlining. For some people it works in advance, but for me the only outline that helped was after I already had most of my pieces written and then wanted to make sure everything stuck together.

    Best wishes with the writing.

    • That’s actually a really good idea. I hadn’t thought of that before and might have to try that on my next novel-length project. An outline is only good as an after the fact tool for me, too. Thanks a bunch and good luck to you!

  3. Yeah, I know the feeling. Just a couple weeks ago, I was in the same place, and now that I’m finishing my current WIP, there are so many holes in it that I feel it’s absolutely abominable.

    One thing that helps me, though, is to keep a separate document with notes for the revision. That way, when I realize that the characters needed to have done something way back in the beginning, I make a note of it in the revision notes and move on as if it’s already done. Doesn’t work every time, but it’s helped me at least finish this draft.

    Another excellent resource, if you feel like you’re going around in circles, is Dan Well’s lecture on the 7-point structure from LTUE 2009. You can find it here:

    • I’m with you on keeping notes as you go. I’ve sort of been making an outline of what I’ve written so far as I go to keep track of things. Then I have another outline of what it all SHOULD look like. This is especially helpful in discontinuing things that I used in the beginning that, now that I’ve better figured out the story, will need to be edited out. No use in continuing threads that won’t exist in the end, right?

      And thanks for the suggestion on the lecture. I’ll have to give it a watch. =)

  4. You may have to do some extra writing with your method, but while rambling around with your characters, you may be getting to know them better and letting them interact with one another. All of this could serve a purpose as you go along. Your creativity may come into play at some point in this process leading you to a great plot with memorable characters that you manage with precision. Could be… Thanks for sharing your writing experiences.

  5. I can identify with your post and it made me laugh a little, which is an instant stress reliever, so thanks for that. What I do in my novels to stop myself falling into the trap of old and traditional plot lines is to have my characters do the opposite of what I expect them to do in a given situation. This often twists me up like a corkscrew in my writing and makes my manuscript far more difficult and time consuming to write – currently, I’m trying to dig my way out of a sticky situation my character just got himself into – but I’m far happier with the end result: a much stronger novel. When I’m really stuck, I take a break, watch a little TV, read a book, whatever, and when I go back I often find I have the idea that evaded me earlier. I also talk it out with trusted friends who give me an enormous amount of valuable insight.

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  7. When I get stuck entirely I start writing notes about the characters and what questions they have. “Why did so and so do this? What do they want? Why is so and so involved in such and such?” And so forth. But less vague. Heh.

    I also cannot outline, but at a certain point in the book, when it starts to get away from me (as it always does) I start writing down what’s already happened and make lists of what else needs to happen. Then I try to stick it together like a puzzle.

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