How to Keep Writing Even When You Hate Your Story

You may have noticed I didn’t blog last week. That’s because I was in Florida…without my computer…barely remembering to eat let alone put smartish words onto a website.

My first thought when I realized I had to skip my blog post was… “2017 IS DOOOOOOOMED!”

I mean, who starts of their brand new, optimism-drenched, year-of-all-things-better-than-last-year with a blog failure?

*raises hand*

And, weirdly, I was totally fine with it. (After the “doom doom doom” panic attack.) And I’m willing to bet you were fine with it, too. I’d be surprised if any of you even noticed. And then those few of you who did notice probably went, “Huh. Well…okay then. Breakfast anyone?”

So here I am, one week late and still optimistic about 2017 (so far it’s been a delightful cyclone). When I mentioned to some friends that I just spoke at a conference on “How to Keep Writing When You Hate Your Story”…they dropped to their knees and said, “TELL USSSSSSSS.” (Or, at least, that’s how I interpreted their polite comments of, “That sounds interesting!”)

Thus, I am obeying their pleas. Let’s jump in, shall we?

Hating your story is inevitable.

If you have never experienced the giant dragon of loathing, or the sweet temptation of throwing your computer out of the 30th story window…that day will come and this post will prepare you. For those of you who have turned into the Hulk while writing, (“I’m always angry…”) this post is for you.

 

Why does this happen to us?

There could be many reasons. And before I go through them and break it down, I want you to know I’ve lived through every single one of these. And you can too. 😛

1) You might just be moody:

Sometimes it’s just a mood. (Are you Gollum or Smeagol?) It’s your job to learn to identify what is causing the mood. Is it because you feel inadequate? Or pressure from others? Are you playing the comparison game?

📚 Solution: CHOCOLATE. This is always the solution. If it can cure you of a dementor attack, it can get you writing again. 😛

I need these chocolates in my life. (Photo borrowed from Pinterest)

Okay, okay, aside from chocolate…maybe you need to take a break, or just push through the hard part. These emotions will pass. Emotions are temporary. Remember that.

I’d also encourage you to remember who you’re writing for. Be grounded in God’s purpose for you. Without fail, when I immerse myself in Him it reminds me how small my road block really is. My thinking gets back on track and I find my hope and purpose in Him.

2) You might be a better editor than a writer:

Editing an writing come from different sections of your brain. Trust me. I’m both an editor and a writer, and I spent 6 years of my life studying the brain for speech therapy and stroke patients. I’m a professional.

Photo credit: Favorite Memes

Signs you’re a better editor than you are a writer is if you are editing as you go like a crazy person. You can’t move forward because the past MUST BE EDITED. AGAIN. AND AGAIN. AND AGAIN.

📚 Solution: You have to push yourself through that first draft, young padowan, so that then you can let the editing beast loose. To make the first draft easier, try plotting it a bit more on the front end. There’s proof that the more you have plotted, the faster you write because you know where you’re taking the story.

3) Your writing might actually be awful:

No, I’m not being mean. I’m being honest. Every author’s writing has been awful at some point, but this doesn’t mean you’re an awful writer. (Tweet this) part of being a writer is always learning and growing in your craft. Perfecting it just like any other artist or musician or creative mind out there.

📚 Solution: Go study the writing craft. Get critiques, hire an editor, attend a conference, read writing craft books. grow in your writing.

4) You might have outgrown your story:

This can happen a lot with new writers. We work on the same story–the first idea–for a looooong time. But sometimes the concept and idea behind that story can only grow so far, meanwhile you’re growing as an author.

Think about a pianist who learns chopsticks. And then she goes through 7 years of piano lessons but only ever plays chopsticks. She can add cool trills to it and make chopsticks sound the coolest it’s ever sounded…but she can only ever take chopsticks so far. It will never be Beethoven.

📚 Solution: Maybe it’s time to move on to a new story. But really pray about this one, because there are times when God wants you to push through. But if there are promptings to move on and you have a new story that’s itching to be written…go to Him in deep prayer and then…move forward. 🙂

5) Maybe you’re a perfectionist:

Settle into your armchairs, people. I’ve got a sermon to give. 😉 Okay, just kidding. I’ll try not to pound the pulpit, but…perfectionism has no place in writing. (Tweet this.) Time to learn that.

If you are striving for a perfect book, you have to ask yourself, whose version of perfect? Perfect to your reader? To your publisher? To your editor? To yourself? Every reader is going to be different. Every editor will have a suggested change. And only God is perfect.

To be perfect means that there can be no improvement. No change. Nothing more learned. And that’s the very opposite of writing. Being a writer means to exist in a constant state of growth.

If you are striving for perfection, you’ll never be pleased with your story and you’ll have a hard time handling criticism. (There will be a whole blog post on this soon. 🙂 )

📚 Solution: You have to move past the “errors” that you can’t see. Accept that no author has a perfect book, and instead let your focus be broader–on the purpose for writing. The thrill behind storytelling. The joy of creating and of your Creator. Be satisfied in Christ not in your writing. He is your reward. A published book is just a bonus. 😉

It all comes down to what is first. God or the product?

Also keep in mind that deadlines will murder your inner perfectionist. They will force you to turn in 2nd drafts because a publisher will most likely want to publish a less-than-perfect book on time, than publish a “slightly-better” book late.

You have to get over this, my friend.

6) Maybe your story has a weakness:

This is a simpler fix. Maybe you hate your story because the plot feels weak. Well then, pick up a book on plotting. Study plot. Or maybe your characters feel flat/fake/lame. Then study characters.

Maybe you’re just bored with your story, or a certain scene. Well, if you’re bored, then your reader will probably be bored. So maybe cut the scene or spruce it up or study storytelling.

Here are my two most frequent “go-to” writing books. They’re not going to be a fix-all for everyone, but these are my cure to Kryptonite poisoning. 🙂

   

7) Maybe it’s not time for you to write this story yet.

Sometimes you get an idea that needs to stew. Sometimes it needs to stew for years. And sometimes it can be very difficult to let it stew.

📚 Solution: Let. It. Stew.

One way to see if you’re ready to write this book yet is to try plotting it out–whether that means literally or in your head. And if it’s feeling half-baked or like a little skeleton (instead of a meaty ogre of a story) then perhaps you should let it sit. I have a story that’s been “sitting” for 13 years. It’s completely different than the original idea I had 13 years ago, but it’s stronger, and better, and I look forward to the day that the stewing ends. 🙂

8) Maybe you can’t pinpoint the problem

One of my college professors once told me that, if you can’t identify the cause of distress or despair, that can be a sign of spiritual attack. Satan loves to work through confusion.

📚 Solution: Pray, pray, pray. List out writing victories. Remind yourself of what God’s done through your writing, or where your writing has taken you. Try writing something new, or reading a favorite book, etc. We serve a God who is at the head of our war. Turn to Him and He will rescue you.

 


 

Did I miss any? (I’m sure I did. But this blog post is long enough already…)

Have you ever hated your story? 

Do any of these resonate with you?

 

 



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About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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27 Comments

  1. These tips are awesome!
    I did NaNo this past year, and it is in such chaos right now. Ive never written a book that is half in order and half in scenes a before, so its something new. My last book was written a long while ago, and by the time I tried to edit it, I had changed as a writer. So I am hoping that this time round I can make it through the whole book, because i really want to see this story finished.
    Happy 2017!

    thoughtsfromadaughterofgod.blogspot.com

    • I’m sure you’ll be able to meet your goal! 🙂 And yes, NaNo is a double-edged sword. I have such a tough time coming out of it with a half-finished novel, too. 🙂 You can do it!

  2. These were AWESOME tips, Nadine! And I totally needed this post right now, so thanks for sharing 😉 *promptly begins hoarding dementor chocolate*

    And OH GRACIOUS, have I ever hated my story. But I find that just giving it a rest and taking a break for awhile can do wonders. Tip #1 is most definitely me, almost every time xD.

  3. This spoke to me in a lot of ways. I DO have stories that I’ve outgrown in some ways, but am holding on to and intending to return to later (I’m not sure yet if I should move on entirely, but I’m patiently waiting for God’s guidance on that) – I’m definitely more editing-oriented – and I’m somewhat of a perfectionist. Triple whammy. 😛 Thank you for writing this!

    • I love the example of patience and joy that you constantly show! You inspire me with your God-centered writing attitude! I’ll be praying for the stories on the back burners as well as the ones you’re working on now! 🙂

  4. I’ve been stuck in my story for a few days, so I really, really needed this. I can relate to this whole post, but I’m really struggling with #5 right now….this has given me a lot to think about. Time to push through and write!

    ….after I finish my homework. 😛

    • #5 is the toughest one, I think. I hope to write an entire blog post on it soon. 🙂 I’m praying for you to be able to turn off your inner critic and get those words down! 🙂 (And, also, that homework will go quickly.)

  5. THIS POST!! Thank you so much for this <3 I've only written one book completely to know what this process looks like. And I'm not sure I ever hated my book but I definitely hated the process!! Why? I'm a HUGE perfectionist. Giving my book to the formatter was the hardest thing I have. ever. done. EVER. *hyperventilates* But I have no choice but to be chill with it! I gotta meet my own deadline! 😛

    I also struggle with the editing thing. Because I'm definitely an editor. And I'm a new writer (as far as writing with a purpose goes). So most of these points resonated with me. I guess the key is discernment!! Thank goodness we're not doing this just for ourselves or I think I'd go crazy XD

    Also. I began A Time to Speak last night *cough* I may have lost 3 hours of sleep reading the first … 13 chapters. And I'm about to do it again in the middle of the day because I have no shame.

    I hope your 2017 is awesome, Nadine!! <3

    • “Thank goodness we’re not doing this just for ourselves or I think I’d go crazy XD” YOU AND ME BOTH! 😀

      Wow. You speed reader! Sorry to deprive you of sleep, but it’s totally Parvin’s fault. 😉 Who needs shame when they have books?

  6. <3 this post! I think I've experienced everyone of them so far. I find if I keep some chocolate on hand, #1 is less frequent. 🙂

  7. *slow clap*

    The memes. The gifs. The pretty feature image.

    Oh, and also THE STUPENDOUS, ENCOURAGING, FANTASTIC, LET-ME-PRINT-THIS-OUT-AND-FRAME-IT POST. Ahem, basically, thanks for this post. 🙂

  8. I’m stuck somewhere between 1, 3, and 5… I know it’s OK for my rough draft to be poorly written, it just needs to be written. I’ve been in a tough mental battle with my writing for a while now. Prayer and tying myself to a chair will probably help me find my footing. And maybe some chocolate.

    • I think one of the hardest things about writing is writing something we know could be better. Ugh, those first drafts. I’ll definitely be praying God’s perseverance (and the flow of words) over you, Josh! And I’ll send chocolate. 😉

  9. Loved this post. I find myself stuck more often than not and have walked away from stories for long periods of time before inspiration struck and I picked it back up. I don’t like doing that. I loved your tips about remembering why and (especially) who you’re writing for, as well as the need to pray about it! I never really thought of my writer’s block moments as a spiritual attack, but seeing as how my novels are all Christian romance, it’s definitely a possibility! Thank you for sharing.

    • Yes, I’m certain Christian romance is a main target for spiritual attack. After all, romance is a representation of what the church’s relationship with Christ should look like.
      You go, girl! And I’ll be praying for you as you write. 🙂 May God shield you and use your words to change lives!

  10. I noticed that you didn’t post!! And I was sad that you didn’t! :’)

    Anyways. This is a great post!! I kinda wished that you had written this exactly one year ago … since that was my first “big and official” project, and it was just really needed.

    But this is definitely a post that I’ll bookmark and constantly check back to. 😉

  11. After Realm Makers last year I knew that the story I’ve been working on for five years, the one with two sequels also written, had to be set aside. It took “that still small voice” to speak to me before I did this.
    I’m taking Thomas Locke’s advice of going through my NaNoWriMo project finishing it as a rough draft with the intent of setting it aside and working on another project before polishing it. I definitely plotted more this go around, but doing word-based goals I’ve written a lot of extra.

    • Wow, that would be so hard! And I think taking Thomas Locke’s advice is the best thing you can do. That session was life-changing for me. <3 Proud of you, friend!

  12. These are some great tips. I’ve never written a novel and have experienced a few of these. Right now I’ve just gotten to the place where I am plotting one of my older stories. I have so many story ideas that, sometimes I don’t know what to do. Great advice. It has helped me.

  13. Thanks for this post, Nadine! It was just what I needed. I’ve been fighting to maintain my purpose and to believe in my writing. These words encouraged me: “Accept that no author has a perfect book, and instead let your focus be broader–on the purpose for writing. The thrill behind storytelling. The joy of creating and of your Creator. Be satisfied in Christ not in your writing. He is your reward. A published book is just a bonus.”
    I love that Christ is my reward, and He’s guaranteed.

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