Wednesday, March 9, 2011

When You Can't Tell Anymore

You know that great feeling? The feeling when you're in the beginning of your brand new manuscript and you're sure your idea is super cool, super wonderful and super original.

Then you hit that time where you start to have doubts. For me, it's no longer super cool, super wonderful or super original. Or maybe I start to wonder if super original is just super weird? At that point, I start to wonder: Is it any good at all?

Recently, I gave up on a manuscript right after the original burst of enthusiasm because I discovered a MUCH too similar manuscript had already hit the market (it was such a unique idea, I just can't believe there would be room for a second one just like it).

But most of the time, this feeling doesn't mean I need to give up. It just means I'm so bleary eyed from looking at my manuscript, I just can't tell anymore.

It might be good. It might not be. I just can't tell.

So, do you ever hit a point like this? How do you get the enthusiasm to keep going? (I feel like I have too many abandoned manuscripts (especially longer ones) because it is tough to push past these doubts once they start to set in.)


  1. I often feel like I can't tell whether what I'm writing is good enough...thank goodness I have a critique group! Sometimes another person will say something and I see a connection to my novel and it gets me thinking again.

  2. Usually, when I hit that "this manuscript really isn't all that" point (right about that murky middle) I put it aside. I think I'll come back and see. When I do, if I'm reading it and get excited about the characters and the story again, that's enough for me to push through. If I read it again, after that break, and I say "meh. So why did I write this again?" that's when I know. Enthusiasm has to be there and it has to be reviveable (is that a word??) - especially when you spend so much time with that story.

  3. Andrea-- Yes, critique groups are wonderful, aren't they? (I definitely love mine!) I love how a critique session can leave me motivated to revise!

    Nelsa-- Putting it aside is a great technique. "Reviveable" enthusiasm is definitely an excellent test of whether or not a manuscript is worth working on! (I guess the ones I've abandoned haven't been all that reviveable... :o))

  4. Yep. I feel that way too! I just started another book and I was so excited about it, but as I started writing it didn't come out the way I wanted it to. I think just plugging away. Ignoring the awfullness of that first draft.

  5. The "murky middle" is the hardest part. Just look at JK Rowling's HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS. All that wandering around in the woods with absolutely nothing happening! Obviously, it happens to everyone. But you have to push through that dark woods - and cut some trees down along the way. Keep going. Press on through the first draft. You've got a great group of ears to help you figure out what's interesting and what's not.

  6. I think all writers experience this - we're a doubting bunch!

    I don't know how you can get over this hump alone, so that's when (if you're lucky!) you submit to your critique group and hope to get some good advice. If your idea doesn't pass the "so what?" test, you'll not only find that out, but perhaps you'll also get some ideas on how to craft a better story.

  7. TURN OFF YOUR INNER EDITOR!!!!! Make her take a nap and just write.

    I really dislike writing first drafts. Intellectually, I am perfectly okay writing words that will not make it into a final draft. I am okay with writing the proverbial wild goose chase. I am really, really okay with throwing out plot lines, characters, beginnings, endings, you name it. Intellectually okay, that is.

    It's still so freakin' hard to not hate what isn't perfect as you write it. And since nothing is perfect, I hate a lot of my first drafts.

    But, you have to write the first draft to get to revision. And I love revision.

  8. Thanks for all the comments and support, guys!

    Christina-- "Ignoring the awfulness of the first draft" is a great phrase! It's also something I have a lot of trouble with. :o)

    Meg-- I am definitely lucky to have such a great group of ears to help me through the murky middle!

    Gale-- Yes, writers are good doubters, aren't we? And that "so what?" test is definitely the part that gets to me when I just can't tell anymore.

    J.A.-- Yes, I must "TURN OFF MY INNER EDITOR!!!!!". And I do love revision, so that should be a good motivation to speed through a bad first draft. (But oh is it hard!) I so want it to be as good as it can be as I go along!