When Your Own Bad Writing Makes You Sick

Ever look back and read work you’ve done in the past to realize it sucks so bad you almost feel physically ill?

Yep, that happened to me in a big way Sunday. The previous week my son started school on Wednesday, so I started working on my new novel with gusto (I’d been waiting all summer to start!), but realized I had some background information and research that needed to be done first. Then I got the bright idea to read the half completed first draft of my second novel (Dark Territories) over the weekend. God, what a horrible, awful, terrible disappointment that turned out to be.

I couldn’t even get all the way through two chapters before I decided I’d had enough, because I was real close to vomiting. Yeah, it was that bad. And I can’t even pinpoint one specific thing that was terrible. There was a well balanced amount of terribleness from stiff and completely out of character dialogue to plot leaps that would make a mountain goat proud. There were tie-ins from one story arc to another that left me wondering exactly how much I had to drink that day. And please don’t even get me started on my long windedness. I could probably make a schooner set sail with all that blustering air moving about in each scene.

Sure, I guess in all that mess there are a few salvageable nuggets I might be able to pull out and reuse (which I probably will), but if I want to keep a forward motion on the project, I need to just trash it all and start fresh.

Okay, so I do plan on keeping some of the main events, the things that make the story I want it to be, but how I get to those points will need a full reexamination and probable facelift. I will even reevaluate which characters to keep and which to toss. While Dark Territories will feature most of the main characters from Blood Feud, there are some new characters and a few character expansions as well. And in my crappy first draft, some of them even have a spotlight in their own points of view (which I’m starting to think was a bad idea).

It’s disheartening, I won’t lie. And it’s the biggest reason I’m writing this post. To get the bad feelings out of me so I can move forward with the gusto I’d lost in reading my-waiting-in-the wings draft (which I wrote about 2 years ago, by the way). In fact, I’d hesitated in even reading the draft in the first place, but I found it difficult to move forward without getting a refreshment on my horrible memory.

Now I know. Time to move on. Let the past stay in the past, while I let my fresh (and much better) ideas take a front seat.

There has been an upside in reviewing my past work. It’s yet another reminder of how far I’ve come as a writer in just a short period of time. There are times when I am not quite sure where my determination and discipline comes concerning writing. It amazing even me that I’ve been able to make it this far. But one thing I know for certain is I have come this far, so I’ll be damn if I am going to throw in the towel now.

Yeah, this is a hiccup. But it’s only one hiccup in a whole sea of them. One thing I’ve learned about writing is that it’s damn hard. Sure, there are fun parts about it, but most of the time it’s about doing the work, even when you’d rather be doing something else. It’s being a hard-ass about your writing time and letting no one interrupt it. It’s about being able to keep going even when no else understands what you’re doing or why. It’s about not giving up, even when you read a crappy draft of 75,000 words and realize it all needs to be thrown out so you can start all over again.

So I may have moments of illness when I read my bad writing (how can I not after putting so much time and effort into something), but it’s all a journey to something greater. I have become a better person because of my writing, so even if I end up rewriting every word I ever write (which let’s face it, that’s what writing is all about), I see it as me just building character — my character.



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