I see this question fairly often in the twitterverse: I had a great idea for a book. I started writing and got pretty far. But now I can’t continue and I feel like what I’ve written is a piece of crap. Now what do I do?
I can quite honestly say that I’ve never written a piece of crap in my life. And if you believe that I’ve got a bridge for sale that you’d be interested in. What I ask myself these days is: Is this too formulaic? If it doesn’t flow, it’s probably formulaic. However, if I can throw in a few twists, I can usually work my way out of that mess.
There’s a few things that you should be asking yourself. 1) Is it a piece of crap or do I feel like crap? 2) Who said it’s a piece of crap – your hypercritical self or your supportive, I-can-do-better self? 3) Why do I feel like it’s not up to par? What’s wrong with it?
Let’s address #2 first. In college, I took several Spanish Courses. Both of my Spanish Teachers really liked my stories. When I took my English Lit course, that teacher didn’t like my writing. If he had, I could have tested out. I attended his class for a few weeks. He pointed out what I was doing wrong. After those few weeks, I had improved enough that I just needed to turn in my papers.
But did I improve or did I just adapt his techniques? After all, my writing was good enough for my Spanish teachers. I know that my writing improved after I took a course in logic. But when my writing really improved was when I wrote The Dancer. The story just flowed into me and out onto the page. After that, I started listening to the story. Where did it want to go?
I place my work in four stacks: A) Already or almost Done; B) In Progress; C) Ideas; D) Questionable. When my In Progress writing becomes too formulaic or I realize it’s not really something I want to write about, at least not presently, it goes into the Questionable stack. So, the first thing I do is put it aside and work on something else. Perhaps I’ll come back to it later. If you only have one book that you’re working on and it was going to make you an author, we’ll get to that.
A friend of mine writes some books on controversial topics. Those, he publishes under a pseudonym. Others, he’s had to change the title, because people thought they were purchasing something else. Sometimes all it takes is a little tweak. Sometimes you need to approach things from a different angle.
Sometimes you need to take a break. Go do something else, even if you write a different book. Do something else artistic. Go put your feet in the ocean, but not in the Pacific NW, it’s too cold. Treat yourself to something. Practice smiling in the mirror. Look at pictures of Rainbows. Breathe in good, happy thoughts.
When you’re ready you’ll pick up your book again. I may finish it. You may discard it. You may completely rewrite it. Whatever you do, you’ll create a masterpiece.