I have spent the last few months writing what I thought would be my break-out novel about nymphs who mimic humans – like those bugs in that sci-fi story, “Mimic” – only these are good nymphs who don’t hurt anyone but just want to live in peace amongst us. Well anyway, I read through what I’ve written so far and thought to myself, “This stinks!” I can hardly believe I wrote such rubbish. But I’ve already written about 50,000 words and hate to lose all that time and work. What do I do now? Please help me, Maggie, I’m desperate.
Dear Desperate Nymph,
Chin up, Desperate, all is not lost. Your premise sounds interesting, so I’m assuming your problem is with the actual contents of your writing. Well, you know what? Most, if not all, writers go through a stage like this, where they read back over their work and tell themselves how awful it is.
Even the most famous authors in history have had their moments of self-doubt. But what distinguished them from the madding crowd is that they got over it and persevered in their writing.
First of all, put that story aside for a while and work on something else. Take a few days or weeks or months off before going back to it and reading it through with fresh eyes. It’s all too easy to get so wound up in your labor of love that it turns into a labor of hate. Untangle yourself from it.
Then, number two, examine its weak points and figure out ways to strengthen your story. Design a little (or a large) spreadsheet that shows the detailed weaknesses in one column and how you’re going to deal with each one in another. You’re a writer, aren’t you? Then write! Putting the “stinky” parts on paper – or computer screen as the case may be – makes them easier to understand and grapple with. As you deal with these problem areas, you’ll actually be rescuing your story and improving it. You may even hit upon a new and more exciting direction to take while solving weak point number 1, or 10, or 100, whatever it takes. Let your mind run free through the golden meadows of your fevered imagination.
Then wipe the sweat off your brow, take the bit between your teeth, and bite the bullet. Just be careful it doesn’t blow up your head.
Writers with great ideas and equally fine writing skills are not that common. At least you have half the battle won. Which is a great deal more than I can say about some so-called writers I’ve encountered who were totally clueless but didn’t even have a clue that they were. Now that really stinks!