Sunday, April 27, 2014

I Suck at Writing: A Confession

I suck at writing. I don't mean my prose, or my descriptions, or my characterizations (though I'm sure to be lacking in a number of those areas).

I mean in my work ethic.

I haven't written a single word of real writing in ~8 weeks.

There are all sorts of excuses I could line up, between my day-job workload, to travelling, to any number of things. None of them are truly valid to the writer in me. I've had all those things going on before and I soldiered through and got the words down.  Hell, some of my most productive times have been when my day-job was demanding 12-16 hours of my life per day.

So what have I done? Well, let's see. I've read a BUNCH of books. I sort of caught up on some of the TV I've recorded. I've seen a few movies in theatres (and really enjoyed them). I've kicked some ass at The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD. And I've spent far too much money on Skylanders.

Writing related? I've cycled out a few more queries on CROW'S BLOOD. Tracked through and kept up with the blogs of all the writers I know and love. And I've re-worked the outline for my historical fantasy about six times.

Six times may seem like I've been keeping busy, but really I haven't. Not busy enough anyway. I could be doing a lot more... you know... writing.

I've been doing some much-unneeded self-examination on what exactly my problem is. Turns out it's pretty simple:

I suck at writing. This time I am talking about the prose, descriptions, and characterizations.

I worked on CROW'S BLOOD for a LONG time. I finished the first draft in November of 2011! Never mind that I completely threw that draft and story away and re-worked the entire novel from the ground up. That's more than 2 years ago!!!

It's been that long since I really dug in and worked on something new. The sense of accomplishment I felt at the end of every draft as the story and prose got tighter is gone, and the distance from that first clunky and painful draft is vast.

When I look at what I've written lately (and by lately I mean before I got into my writing funk), all I can see is the warts and garbage and things that make me want to set it on fire and walk away. It's no wonder I've re-outlined the thing so many times. Outlines are safe. I can write a REALLY cool outline. Point form mind-maps don't have to be pretty.

I've forgotten that it's OK to suck, especially on your first draft. No one has everything worked out. No one has the perfect words for every sentence. No one really knows where the commas are supposed to go!

I suck at writing. But I desperately need to remember and keep reminding myself that it's OK to suck. I'm going to keep doing it, updating my word-counts here on my blog so you can all keep score (and I can keep myself accountable).

I need to push on and get through the first draft. That first, clunky, broken, full of holes draft. I need to finish the story. I need to tie up all the loose ends. And I really need to achieve that awesome sense of finishing something.

You know why?

I'm really good at revision.

- Alex

P.S. Have any of you ever hit that wall? Let me know how you got past it in the comments.


  1. YES. I've been here before. I was recently here, actually. I forget during the revising stage how much I hate first drafts (actually, I don't, I remember, I just convince myself I don't remember) and when I end up opening up a new blank page for either a whole new scene or story, I panic. First drafts are dreadful. Really, really bad. And I forget how much work goes into revising that really, really bad mess into something good.

    No one's first draft is good. It's my mantra. Also, every first draft is perfect: because it's complete.

    I love to revise. I hate to write from scratch. Good luck!

  2. I learned from NaNoWriMo to just gag your inner editor and write. I can whip out a 50K novel in my sleep thanks to NaNo.Does it suck? Yeah. Is it a hot mess? Yeah. Does it have time travel, aliens and witches in it? Yeah, probably and also dragons because, well, just because. Will I use all those things in the revision? Nope. Recently I wrote seven chapters of a novel, showed them to a writer's group and they hated them. I went home and swore to put it away and NEVER look at it again.One group member even told me "it wasn't up to my usual caliber" that's because they've only seen stuff I've edited at least three times. This was a FIRST draft. It hurt. But, you know what? It's supposed to be sucky. IT'S A FIRST DRAFT, PEOPLE. So, I went back to it and have started rewriting it from the beginning. Now it's chugging along. I also have two new books I just made notes on (I don't outline) once this current one is done. Keep writing and leave the inner editor in the corner, with the gag on until the revision stage. That works for me. Good luck!

    1. Thanks Kathleen. I buckled down and just wrote tonight. I didn't go back and re-read the last thing I'd written. I skimmed my outline, found the place I needed to be, and wrote a scene.

      924 words later I'm calling it a day. Not epic wordcount by any means, but they're new words, and they're certainly good enough for a first draft.

  3. Read this. You are ahead of the game. Any words you write are more than you wrote yesterday, true?

    1. Nice read! I must have subscribed to Chuck's blog after this post. Thank you.

  4. I am in that first draft limbo right now--on 3 separate books! For me, first drafts are the untamed forest, and I am a wandering, weaponless fool. I just have to remember to keep plugging away; that at the end of the dark wood, there will be light. There will be an end. And in finishing, I always--always--look back and see each right step I took: why the blue shirt, and not red; why MC did this and not that. It really is true: we just need to write, to get it down and come back. Sometimes the story stinks, it's true. I've abandoned many babes in the wood for deformities I could not fix. But then comes the gem you polish and the damn heavens open up and you're like, ahhh! :) So yeah, I've been there. I'm there right now x3. Good luck, fellow pitchwars mentee. We'll get there.

    1. I don't know how you can actively write 3 stories at once! I think I'd go mad.