“When writing doesn't work, the writer is assumed to be the guilty party.”
Teresa Nielsen Hayden

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

whining intensifies but so does determination
Mon 2020-08-24 16:57:30 (in context)
  • 50,347 words (if poetry, lines) long

Hi. It's been another week. Almost two. And I'm still having trouble keeping the novel on my radar. This certainly has to do with all the time management problems I strategized about last post, but only in part. There's another problem larger than all of those combined.

The self-appointed gurus of writing with their demoralizing pronunciations that pass for "advice" like to say that no real writer would have trouble finding time to write. If you want to write, they say, you darn well make time, and if you don't, well, you must not want to write that badly, huh? And despite the utter toxicity and privilege behind that so-called advice, I must grudgingly admit that in this very particular case, it's applicable. I don't want to work on the novel. When I think about the novel, I do not get excited. I fill with dread and embarrassment instead. So, no, I don't go out of my way to make time for it, and I often forget even to put it on my daily timesheet.

And for once it's not just the usual miasmic avoidance dread that afflicts almost every project I work on at some point or another. No, this is very specific avoidance dread. It comes into play for a very specific reason. That being, this novel sucks.

No, it really does. I'm not just suffering from revision pessimism when I say this. No. This novel draft is really, really terrible. And it's not just because I spat it out during National Novel Writing Month. I've got plenty of NaNoWriMo drafts from over more than a decade of participation, so I've got some basis for comparison here.

The main problem is, the main character is unlikeable. No, this isn't just widespread social misogyny speaking. She's actually kind of horrible. She does and says and thinks horrible things off-hand, and it's got nothing to do with how I envisioned her character or what I was trying to do with her character arc. There are so many places where my margin notes say "Stop that. That's obnoxious." and "Gah, I hate it when people do this in real life, why is Gwen doing it?" I think mainly I was just trying to log my daily 1,667, and I guess I got a bunch of wordcount out of letting her indulge in whatever behavior enraged me the most about certain people I had the misfortune to encounter repeatedly that month? (Note to self and others: Being a NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison does not oblige you to endure bullying and bigotry at your write-ins in the name of Being a Gracious Host.) So the more I examined the 2006 draft, the more I realized what a jerk my protagonist was, and the less time I wanted to spend in her company. Thus I find myself avoiding the novel now.

So that's the big problem. There are others, none of them particularly daunting on their own. It's set in New York City but the people behave like they live in a stereotypical rural small town. Fine. I can fix that. There are so many ways I can fix that. I have no more idea how the story ends than I did in 2006, but that's fine. That's a story drafting issue, not a revision issue. Story drafting is my favorite part of this writing gig. The motivations driving two of the major side characters are implausible, to say the least. Cool. I'll brainstorm on it. Brainstorming is fun.

These are all fixable things! And they should be fun to fix. But during the read-through, the combination of the plot's aimlessness and the protagonist's horribleness rather dampened my enthusiasm. So I've been avoiding the whole shebang.

I mentioned other drafts. Maybe I just chose the wrong draft to spend time with? Maybe I should pick up one that I'm more excited for, one that's objectively less terrible? Maybe... but revision pessimism is still a thing, even if it isn't the only thing. I'm dreadfully afraid that whatever novel draft I pick up with the intent of Finally Finishing a Novel, time spent examining it will leave me similarly unenthused.

So this is the novel I'm going to work on, despite my misgivings. The Bookwyrm's Hoard. And I'm going to work on it by pretending I'm not revising an existing draft at all. The existing draft is just a 50,000-word outline, a collection of story ideas, a place from which I can start writing a brand new story. A story that happens to share mostly the same characters, setting, and premise, but a new story nonetheless.

And new story ideas are where I'm a superstar!