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When Your Writing is Just Absolute Shit

I have been semi-hard at work on the second draft of my fantasy novel for the past many moons. It’s a chonker, clocking at about 200,000 words (which is definitely where you want to be with a debut novel, but that’s a different stress point). This draft has yielded a lot of new material, rearrangements, as well as the realization that a side character is completely unnecessary, and should be excised in the next round of edits.

However, I want to talk about sucking. More specifically about me sucking. I do that, sometimes.

Somewhere around the beginning of the last quarter of the story, I realized that events needed to take a detour, for the purposes of tension building, try/fail cycling, and the like. Whether that detour has been successful, or even necessary, I won’t know until I get to the point where the book feels tight enough to do a speed-read. But the point is — I wrote a whole lot of new material.

Then I came back to the point where the story merged with the already existing chapters, and realized that said point also needed a complete rewrite. Characters were now in different places, their relationships changed, new information had come to light, and so forth. So I rewrote the chapter. I had some cool character beats. I felt great about it, and let it marinate for a day, before coming back to quick-edit it, and add it to the whole.

Boy, was it awful! The beats still felt cool, the story still went the way I felt it needed to. But the writing. Oh my god, the word choices, the sentence structure! It was tres tres garbage. I patched what I could, left the rest for a future re-read.

Stay with me. There is a point to this, I promise.

See, even as I was establishing my incompetence, lack of talent, and utter unworthiness to exist as anything but a cautionary tale of the hubris of thinking you can be creative when you obviously can’t… I knew that I couldn’t trust that feeling. Quarantine is tough. Anxiety. Depression. Getting on your loved ones’ nerves, and them trampling all over yours. For every moment of manic productivity, there has to be one of hopeless self-flagellation. Or rather, there doesn’t have to be one. But in my personal experience there usually is.

The point (as promised) of my sad exhibitionist ramblings is — it doesn’t matter.

I might actually, objectively, suck. I might be brilliant, but depressed. Likely, I’m somewhere in the middle, with most of humanity. But I know what I want, and what I want, is to keep writing. I believe that the only way for me to do this, is to accept that there will be moments where insecurity (or, hey — objectivity!) will get the better of me. Where even my best effort will seem like a vomit sundae. And that those moments don’t truly define what I can accomplish, how far I can go.

Accepting the feeling of suck, and moving past it. Writing even when it really seems like all you write is despicable trash. It’s the only way forward I can conceive of, if I want to come out on the other side of it.

Published inThoughts on the Writer

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