Creative writers, let me state right away that there’s something wrong with either you or your story if you’re sobbing hysterically over it into the wee hours of the morning.
I don’t mean that sarcastically. You might honestly need help if it’s causing you that much angst.
Really, it’s not supposed to.
The idea that one's story could cause such a prolonged meltdown never even occurred to me until last Saturday, thanks to another creative writer I had an unpleasant interaction with. For whatever masochistic or delusional reasons, I belong to four or five creative writing Facebook groups, where writers share their stories, frustrations, questions and input.
Because writers are typically very opinionated people and because these are online forums where good manners, consideration and common sense don’t always seem to apply, these forums can get pretty ridiculous.
That was definitely true this past Saturday.
Some chicky-poo posted how she had been up until three in the morning crying over a section of her story, and would someone read it for her to let her know how bad it really was?
I believe she said it was 18,000 words.
While I wasn’t about to do that for free, crying until three in the morning over anything is pretty intense. So I figured I’d say something nice to boost her mood a bit. It was along the lines of “Every writer feels that way about their work from time to time. And just for the record, first drafts are supposed to be horrible. Second drafts aren’t always much better. So you’re really not alone.”
Her quick response was:
“This isn’t my first draft.”
“I’ve been working on it since I was in high school, and I’m 22 now.”
Now, to me, those statements came across as snippy. But I’ll admit that I read into other people’s written words often enough, so I gave the chicky poo the benefit of the doubt, replying with:
“It took me 10 years to publish my first book and I-don’t-know-how-many drafts. And I’ve spoken to other writers who have said the same. Sometimes it just takes a bit to figure out.”
She wrote back a single non-word response: “Yean.”
Since I’m not 22, I had no idea what that means and had to look it up on UrbanDictionary.com, which revealed that “Yean” stands for “I couldn't care less about what you’re saying.”
Clearly, my efforts to comfort her were lost. But I hope I can still save you readers from the same fate of sobbing hysterically over your writing.
Take my word for it: It’s never worth that kind of emotional investment. You’re much better off setting it to the side for a while or even for good if it’s causing you that much grief.
Plus, who ever said your first novel attempt has to be publishable?
I know I’ve stated this before, but the first full-length story I ever wrote is so hopeless that I won’t show it to anyone. I barely ever look at it myself when I need my ego deflated or when my curiosity gets the better of me.
“Can it really be as bad as you remember, Jeannette?” I ask myself.
“Yes, it can,” I reply. “Don’t look at it. Don’t look at it. Run!”
Normally, I listen to that much smarter inner voice of mine. But every once in a while, I do take a peek. And I never get further than a paragraph before I start laughing uncontrollably and put it back in its folder, determined never to look at it again.
It’s that bad. Really.
My second story attempt was much better. I don’t use the same clichés or lame writing style or lame plot points or lame dialogue that I used in the first. But it still has enough issues that I’m sure I’ll never publish it.
And you know what? That’s okay. Writing both of them proved to be great learning experiences anyway.
Or, if you are determined to publish your first story attempt, maybe you really do need to just spend 10 years working and reworking what you have. While you do have to be careful about over-editing or letting fear stall your publishing process, you also need to be confident in your manuscript before you try turning it into an official novel.
Whatever you do though, please don’t shed too many tears over your work. A few is fine. You’re an angst-ridden writer, after all. And you don’t want to let the stereotype down.
But if you think that your writing is so bad that you’re up until three a.m. crying over it, I have to believe that writing might not be for you. For your own sake at the very least.