I can’t believe that we are already nearing the end of our Week of Writers’ Block! Partially because this week is going by so quickly and partially because by the end of this week, I’ve got very little left in my writing tank. Gotta do some recharging, I think.
Today’s block might be stretching the term “block,” but screw it! I’m just proud I got this far. Anyways, today we are talking about when you hate where you are.
Day 6: This Forest Sucks
Today you’ve been writing for a while. The path behind you is pretty long, long enough that you feel invested in the journey. The problem is that this forest is the worst. The trees are stupid, the path is bumpy, the birds have been replaced by strange winged squirrels that are not nearly as cute as they sound. Sometimes they fly straight at your head so you drop your snacks. There is nothing redeeming about where you are and you’re wondering if maybe you should go back to your car and start again. The only thing keeping you from turning around and pretending this never happened is that you’ve come a long way. Wouldn’t it be a waste to turn back?
Ah, yes, we’ve all been there. We hate our story. It’s stupid. The characters are unlikable and the premise is dumb and in what universe would anyone read this crap (well, probably this one since there is an apparently huge market for garbage like 50 Shades of Grey). What do you do if you’ve put lots of time into drivel?
1. Go Home
Yeah, I know I said that I don’t condone trashing your work and I really don’t. Sometimes, though, we write trash. No one’s perfect. And if you really feel like what you’ve written isn’t worth your time and effort, it’s okay to start something new. Don’t delete or burn what you’ve done. Maybe you can come back to it later. Maybe there is an ember of an idea here that can later be used to create a masterpiece. Maybe you’ve started this story too early in your life and you need to be five years older to write it. I don’t know. But it really does seem like a waste of time to, not just abandon the journey, but erase all memory of it.
It’s okay to start again. And every word you wrote that you hated taught you what you want to write. It’s not a waste to practice and learn, I promise.
2. Press On
Sometimes we hate where we are because of outside influences. Maybe you just read something one of your really talented friends wrote (ugh, happens to me all the time. I need to find more mediocre people to follow on social media) and when you compare it to what you’ve written, you feel abysmal. Maybe your characters are acting in a way that irritates you (but it’s good for the story). Whatever it is that is making you hate the story, identify it. Take a break from writing and think on it.
After you identify what you hate, you can press on in one of two ways: fix it as you go or realize that it leads to a better story and let it happen. For example, I have this character in my novel and right now, I can’t stand her. She’s so whiny, which I’m especially sensitive to with a 1 year old on my hands. Going forward, I can simply make her less whiny or I can identify why she’s whiny and use it to develop her character. Maybe she’s whiny now, but she learns to toughen up. Or maybe she’s whiny because her world has been turned upside down and she’s still a child so this is her way of dealing with it. Either way, I can realize that this hatred of where my story is right now is temporary.
Think of the books you like to read. Is there a part in it that you can’t stand to read? Why? Does it help the story? Sometimes where we are in our story sucks, but prepares us and our readers for a better place later.
3. Retrace Your Steps
You’ve been writing for a while and it can’t have been all bad, right? A compromise between method 1 and 2 above is to only go back as far as you feel it’s necessary. Then blaze a new trail! In this scenario, make sure that you’re honest with yourself about what you don’t like. If it’s a decision one of your characters made, go back and try something different. If it’s because someone else is just magically talented and you feel like crap, see what you can learn from them and use that knowledge to good use.
Like with method 1, I wouldn’t delete what you wrote. Save it under a new file (every time I make major changes or deletions, I save it under Book Title – Draft # and put whatever number of draft it is. Right now, I’m on draft 3). This way, if you like the new direction even less or you get a great idea for your first direction, it’s still there. It’s like putting a pushpin in a map. You’ll always have it to go back to if you desire.
Do you struggle with hating where you’ve ended up? What makes you feel that way? What do you do to overcome it? Let me know below and come back tomorrow for the final day in our week of writers’ block!