Monday, June 18, 2012

WSG 15: Trust In Your Work

Writer's Survival Guide 15: Trust In Your Work

I've talked to many fiction writers who have the same affliction I have--we don't always love our work-in-progress. Maybe we adore everything about the first draft. We know it's our best book ever. But then we start revising and something happens. We've read the book three too many times, or we're working through a personal problem. Maybe we're just in a slump. Whatever the reason, the book we gushed over no longer excites us.

Instead of listening to the little voice in our head that's shouting, work on this fabulous new idea, we need to take some time to evaluate.

A few questions to ask:

Related to the book:
1. What did I love about the book when I last loved it?
2. Have I changed something since then, like added a subplot, cut a chapter, or adjusted the main character?
3. Is my lack-luster feeling related to the pacing? Is it reading too slow?
4. Could my main character be too bland? Does he/she need to stand out more?

Related to my life:
5. Am I dejected about more than just my writing?
6. What challenges am I facing? Are they affecting my judgment?
7. Have I recently experienced a setback that could be making me doubt my abilities?
8. Am I getting enough sleep?

Sometimes we get down on our writing when there's nothing wrong with it. It's simply a scapegoat for other issues we're facing. We're tired, sick of life, having trouble paying bills, or feeling blah.

Other times we no longer love our writing because it needs tweaks. Maybe we need to cut or add introspection to affect the pacing or deepen the character. The book isn't bad, but it could be better.

When you're not feeling the love for your book, don't give up on it. Trust in your work!

Have you ever considered tossing a project aside because you no longer loved it?

Have a fantastic Monday!


  1. Yes! But I've always stuck with it. Probably because I put so much work into researching and outlining alone, I'm not willing to give up on it.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with tossing something that isn't working, though.

    Thanks for the reminder to take a look at what's happening outside our writing life too, Jill. Needed that this week! :)

  2. The only time I've tossed my work aside for good is because I don't believe it will sell. Generally I work hard to see a project through. But this might be because I don't jump on an idea as soon as it hits me. I give it time to develop. It becomes a long term commitment for me.

  3. Ooh, seriously good stuff, Jill. I remember so clearly in my last WIP, the moment when--after months of being frustrated by revisions--I finally remembered what I loved about it and why I was writing it. That changed everything.

  4. I back and forth from thinking I've written the best thing in the world to the crappiest. I try and put both opinions to rest before I edit.

  5. I'm still working on my first manuscript and as I'm doing the work I'm learning so much about the craft of writing, which gives me fresh eyes almost every day. Right now I'm reading Kiss and Tell by Susan May Warren and I'm so excited by the new ideas I'm getting to plug into my WIP. With more time I could probably answer this question better - but, for now, I'm still loving my book.

  6. I haven't come across this yet, since I haven't been writing super long, although I do remember thinking about part-way through writing my first ms: "Why would anyone read this? Is there anything unique about it?" That was discouraging, but I fought through it. I do love the fact that with revisions, any story can be better. And the perspective of others is so helpful as well. A good CP or beta readers can help you flesh out the parts of the story you're unsure about, etc.

    I like what you said about life too. It totally CAN interfere. Sometimes I'm feeling depressed and think it's about my writing, but it's really about something else.

  7. Oh, yes. I often DETEST my work in progress. These are great questions - I'm definitely bookmarking this!

  8. I have a lot of moments of hating my books when I'm writing and editing them. Galley proofs (the very last stage of the publishing process) always makes me a nervous wreck because I'm terrified I'm still going to hate the book I wrote. So far, I've been pleasantly surprised with the outcome, but self-doubt is definitely a battle in my writing life.

  9. Such a valuable point about how we're feeling in life impacting what we feel about our manuscripts.
    ~ Wendy

  10. Thanks for all of these great comments! It's really nice to know I'm not alone! And, when I wrote my first books, I really didn't experience this. I remind myself that passion and love of writing trumps all doubts!

    (I do agree, though, that sometimes an idea we're working on just isn't strong enough. It's okay to ditch it!)

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  11. I go back and forth on one my books. One week I love it and the next I think it's total crap. Depends on how I'm feeling.

  12. This is a very important post for writers, Jill.

    I go by the day whether I love it or hate it. I think a lot depends on my mood, or if I'm tired. Deep down, I love it and trust in it, otherwise it wouldn't be the thing I go back to every day.

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  14. Yes! I always feel like cutting a project just as it's coming to completion. It seems like things slow down and the story just can't seem to come together. Thanks for the insight on what could be underlying factors. Maybe I do need to get more sleep :-)

  15. I guess...I've felt like tossing a project aside because I'm not inspired to work on it. Usually it's because there's a lot going on in my person life and it's hard to keep writing. I think that's one of the reasons it helps if I can write, or at least visit, my project each day. It keeps me invested.

  16. It's hard to remember that out outside lives do affect our writing and our attitude towards it. Thanks for the reminder :)

  17. Thank you for this insightful message. I have given up on a story several times mainly because I was unsure where to take it next or it lacked pizzazz. If I thought it was colorless, what would an agent or publisher think? What would a publisher think?

  18. You know, sometimes the problem is you add stuff you think is "good for" your book, but it's antithetical to you and what you are about. Chris Baty (NaNoWriMo founder) called this phenomenon "Bran Flakes." Everyone says it's good for you, but it just makes your WIP taste bland and not like you envisioned at all. I think I'm going through this right now!

    Thanks for the post, Jill, and good luck with your WIP!

  19. Yes, there are times I want to just toss what I'm working on.And I have! But I think it was because I was a forcing a story to fit for someone else. Sometimes you just need to trust your own instincts and write what you want to write.

  20. Sometimes when this happens I stop and write a short story. It's a great diversion and occasionally a profitable one if I work at getting it published. Writing short stories have closure; whereas novels take a long, long time.

  21. Totally been there. I usually find it helpful to be working on 3 different WIPS at the same time. Then, if I suddenly get an attack of the blahs, I can switch to working on a novel that still grabs my interest. So far, I haven't entirely given up on a story, but I have set a couple aside figuring it's just not the story I need to be writing at the moment.

    I appreciate the tips on evaluating why I'm demotivated (is that a word?) about a certain story. It will definitely come in handy with one WIP that I've nearly lost all interest in.

  22. In answer of your question....YES!


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