This has happened to me at least once during the process of writing every novel I’ve ever worked on. Usually around the three quarters mark. Everything just goes to shit.
And I PUSH THROUGH. Sometimes hating every word I write.
Yet, when I look back over it afterwards, well it’s not so bad.... and soon I get back into the swing of things and stuff starts going well again.
I NEVER let myself put it aside. I NEVER let myself give up.
Always, always I PUSHED THROUGH.
So on my most recent manuscript I’ve been having trouble. A lot of trouble.
So. Much. Trouble.
It had never happened to me before. But I perserevered. I kept pushing and pushing and PUSHING.
And I started fucking HATING this book.
I couldn’t bear it to the point that I actually lay it aside. I didn’t touch it.
Then I took a week off work and spent four hours every day forcing myself to write this story I hated.
Why did I do this?
There are two sides to the issue of not being able to write.
Part of me truly believes you just gotta force yourself. Not every second writing is going to be a wonderful beautiful experience where everything flows and is totally awesome.
Sometimes, the truth is you gotta be tough on yourself. You have got to just sit down and FORCE YOURSELF to push through that slump until it all starts working again.
The flip side of this is, when do you know when you have to let go of a book?
When should you kill your story?
Well everything changed once I got a book contract for my very first debut novel (which, excitingly, I've just found out will be released in March 2019!!)
Instead of following my new favourite idea towards whatever manuscript I was most excited to write next, I instead started thinking of everything like a business. I obviously need to build my novels into something marketable, I need books with the same feel and vibes that will appeal to the same people.
So I chose a subject to write about and I sat down and I freaking WROTE THAT BLOODY THING.
And I ended up hating it with a fiery passion.
I couldn’t even write it anymore. At all.
Which has never happened to me before.
So...... when do you realise you have to let a story go?
Well, I freaking don’t want to let this story go. I like the outline. I like the protagonist and I really really really do want to have a pool of marketable books that will appeal to the same readers.
So how do I get there?
Whenever I have massive blocks in my stories I tell myself one thing.
This story belongs to me. I can change anything I want.
Everything I haven’t written yet is completely blank. A completely blank page. I can do anything I want. I can twist my story and characters in a totally new direction from what I originally planned. This belongs to me and only me and I CAN DO ANYTHING I WANT.
So after I ran into all these problems and didn't want to continue writing, I spent a lot of time talking my story through with my husband. And I realised I do really like a hell of a lot of aspects of it. So the plot has to stay (but have more direction). The protagonist has to stay. I like her personality. But the vibes are all wrong. It’s too flippant, too silly, it needs something deeper and more emotional.
And the romance?
THE ROMANCE SUCKS.
And this here is a YA contemporary romance novel I’m trying to write.
I realised I didn’t even like the romance, I didn’t care about the dynamic between my couple and I didn’t care for the main dude.
And why not? Why didn’t I?
You know what I realised? There were certain plot points and romantic ideas I wanted to use but was too afraid to use, because I was worried that audiences would find them stupid and cheesy.
I was too scared to do what I want.
That realisation was a big one for me.
I realised I was afraid to write my story how I wanted to write my story.
So had written 35,000 words that, while not complete shit, were just not what I wanted to be writing. I wasn’t excited about my story or characters. I hated every moment of it. Maybe if I forced myself to keep writing that version it would still have been a good book, but it wasn’t going to be the kind of book I would ENJOY writing, so what on earth is the point of that?
I do not get paid millions of dollars to write. I get paid a hell of a lot of not much.
So if I’m not doing this for myself, to enjoy something I care about, to write stories I love to write and am passionate about, why am I writing at all?
If I don’t love writing my story, what is it even for?
So yes, this realisation means I will need to start again. Lots of my book can stay, but the vibes and main romance need to be completely re-framed, and you know what? In the face of all that extra hard work I suddenly feel.... excited.
I love to write. I love stories.
And I will work hard to hold onto that feeling, no matter what.