Write It Anyway

It happens in every story I start. At some point, I realize that what I’m working on isn’t holding me anymore. Frequently I think it’s terrible, and sometimes I just can’t figure out what happens next, and sometimes the voices just aren’t talking to me anymore.

Way, way too often, I let this problem kill the story. Especially when I think what I’m working on is terrible. The weirdest thing about this is that my opinion doesn’t count. Wait a minute–aren’t I the writer?

Yes, I am, but I really need to stop paying attention to my own feelings about the work while I’m working on it. When I do push ahead and write it anyway, readers can’t tell the difference. Blind tests have shown that objective readers can’t find the places where I didn’t like it while I was doing it. And frequently when I finish a piece I really hate (this hasn’t happened often, but it has happened) people rave about it and say that it’s better than stuff I did like.

So whenever you find that you’re not happy with your work, check and see if it’s because something is really wrong, or because you’re just not emotionally engaged with it the way you were. That’s one reason it’s good to have alpha readers (see sidebar). If someone is reading my piece in progress and says they want more, I’m likely to become happier with it again. It only takes one person to keep me going on a piece–but it does take that one person.

I need to learn to overcome my negative feelings about any given piece and write it anyway!

Anyone else have this problem?

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. dianegallant
    Jul 11, 2008 @ 11:06:15

    It’s the same for me. So much so that I’m beginning to wonder if I am not more of a short story writer. I’m so tired of the stop-and-start-again novel that I’m drafting. But short stories give me that creative rush that I crave, and the satisfaction of completing something, that I *usually still like at the end. I also think that as a writer I’m not good at evaluating my own work. Especially work that’s caused me some grief in the writing, and so I imagine the reader can detect some deficiency in my story at those places. But really, I know the reader can’t tell which parts were difficult for the writer. And so, I tell myself to soldier on with the novel, even though I keep setting it aside to write yet another short story.

  2. asherose
    Jul 11, 2008 @ 16:58:06

    Short stories are usually what people start with; it’s considered normal to start with short stories and work up to novels. Perhaps because I primarily have always read novels, I’ve never been able to keep myself down to short stories! I think this is, as it were, a shortcoming. Word for word, I understand short stories (as a generalization) make more money, too… anybody know?

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