You know it’s a bad sign when…


…the novel you’re working on makes you cringe at the idea of actually showing it to someone.

So what to do. I can toss the whole thing, forget it ever existed, and start something else, hoping it’ll be better.

I can revise, losing large chunks of what I’ve already written and take the story in an entirely different direction.

Turn in my quill and admit defeat. I’m starting to understand why Hemingway drank so much. At least he ended up with something to show for it.

I probably shouldn’t have read this article about “How I Got My Agent” because the whole thing reads like a fairytale:

So, as it turned out, I’d spent six months obsessing and panicking about querying, only to get an offer of representation from my number one agent after two weeks in the pool. Was it stressful? You bet.

Forgive me if I can’t sympathize with her two whole weeks of ‘stress.’

Margaret Atwood was right.

‘Writing is not a job description. A great deal of it is luck. Don’t do it if you are not a gambler because a lot of people devote many years of their lives to it (for little reward). I think people become writers because they are compulsive wordsmiths.’

I either need a drink, or copious amounts of chocolate.

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11 thoughts on “You know it’s a bad sign when…

  1. Oh no you’re NOT tossing that manuscript.

    Just no.

    I won’ t have it, you hear me? Go mix yourself a gallon-sized chocolate martini, and then we are all going to talk about what’s making you cringe: the work itself, the idea of showing it, or the idea of revising it till it’s as good as you’re capable of. None of this means defeat: just maybe a little restructuring. Or a lot of restructuring – but that’s almost something you like doing, no?

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  2. I think my boss might take a dim view of a pitcher of martinis on my desk, chocolate or otherwise.
    Sure, it’s fun to tinker with and play around with the wording, but it’s still just plain BAD. This shit makes Stephenie Meyer look good.

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  3. Only if you don’t share 😉

    I don’t mean to nag your ass, but I once told a student not to call his work shit or it would never be anything else. Seriously, if you want people to like your stuff, it has to start with you. Who was it who said that only really bad writers always think their stuff is great?

    Now, apparently you liked it when you wrote it, or at least you wanted to like it. When did you start thinking it was bad? What do you hate about it: the prose? The pacing? The plot? the characters? If you could wave a wand and make it great, how would that version be different? Do you still want to tell this story? Why or why not? Is there maybe a character you love (I think there is) but you want him or her to live in a different world, or have a different experience?

    Don’t answer and othese questions until you take a break, get drunk, and maybe go on a week-long binge of junky fun novels and Bugs Bunny cartoons. Maybe more than a week – there’s no sin in that; you’re working for yourself. But be a nice boss, OK?

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    1. Right?? Fresh out of college, she goes to one conference, pulls a revision out of her ass, and POOF! She lands an agent. I can only conclude she’s some kind of genius and will win the Pulitzer next year.

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      1. Or maybe she’s practicing writing fiction. People can be full of crap, and most “overnight successes” take decades to gel.

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  4. DD,

    First, pay no heed to how others got an agent or how they got published. Everyone’s path is different. Comparing yourself to others is fruitless. (but you know that!)

    And I’m with Mary J. You are so NOT tossing your manuscript.

    Try to look at revising in the positive sense. This is your chance now to deepen your characters. Turn them from mere sketches to true portraits of three-dimensional people. To expand on your plot. To tinker with your words- giving your sentences cadence and flow.

    Go for it, DD. I know you can!! 🙂

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  5. What Gypsy said. Approach it in small bites. After the weeklong vodka and cartoon binge, sit down with a paragraph, or a page, and swear to yourself you’re going to make it beautiful.

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  6. I join the chorus of MJB and GS ~ do not read anymore of these tales of Stephanie Meyer and the overnight successes created by the publishing publicity machine. I’d also venture to guess that when you are too close to something it is far easier to see the warts, but you fell in love with this story and these characters for a reason and that surely hasn’t changed. Writing is a lonely pursuit and you can feel pretty naked and vulnerable when you put your stuff out there, but I will also wager you are being far harder on yourself than you would be reading someone else’s manuscript. That said, get a little distance either via those chocolate martinis/long bike ride/ or select an alternate personality and take another look. You are no different from the great writers before us who had long moments of dark doubt with intermittent flashes of genius. Your genuis is in there — just waiting for some buffing and polishing.

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  7. “Your genius is in there — just waiting for some buffing and polishing.”

    Dang! I just love that.

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  8. Thank you all for the votes of confidence, and the encouragement. Honestly, I can’t imagine more enthusiastic, and wise, support.

    Rosie, you have been missed here, my dear.

    Oh, and I meant to clarify that my opinion of my writing, and the instant-agent situation are two separate issues in my mind. Comparing my writing to Meyer’s was just to make the point of how bad I think mine is. The other thing just popped up before I finished the post, and it’s really unconnected. I just found it so grating the way she carried on about her miniscule struggle to be published. Frankly I wanted to slap her. Drama queen.

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