WARNING: Writing a novel may have these negative side effects

in the throes of writer-itis

in the throes of writer-itis

So, you still want to write a novel after yesterday, when we talked about the good stuff? Writing is a novel is definitely a wonderful, positive, fruitful, and worthwhile experience. Bit it’s not all fun and games. It’s not at all. There are lots of negative aspects you should be prepared to confront, such as:

  1. LONELINESS. Writing is solitary venture. It takes hours and hours of your time, time you could be spending socializing. And what’s worse–you’ll long, with all your heart, to discuss your work-in-progress with those you love, and you, well, can’t. They haven’t read it. They won’t know who your characters are, they won’t know what’s going on in your head where the story’s concerned, and they wont’ be able to give you pin-pointed advice about what has you stuck. You are, in every meaningful sense, on your own. Sure, there are forums and such to discuss these issues and fellow writers can sympathize, but you can’t share your novel with the people there. Your novel, while you’re writing it, is yours and yours alone. Be prepared to confront this, and make sure you don’t get so sucked into art that you forget to live.
  2. YOU MAY FEEL SO OVERWHELMED YOU WANT TO SCREAM OR CRY. PERHAPS BOTH. AT ONCE. (Writing may cause increased anxiety.) A novel is a huge, huge project. It’s ginormous. You have a major plot, subplots, main and minor characters and their backstories, limitations imposed by your narration’s point of view, and more, all screaming at you, “Look at me. Deal with me. Look at me, loser!!!” And they’re all screaming simultaneously. You want to write a scene, but: where’s it heading? How can this all end? Is it opening up another plot tangle you’re just going to have to unravel? Why is this one character–who’s not even in the scene you need to write–being so dang difficult????? It’s exhausting. And it can be enough to make you consider throwing in the towel. DON’T. Read this instead, about narrowing and focusing your vision, taking one issue at a time.
  3. YOUR CONFIDENCE MAY FALL THROUGH THE FLOOR. “Why am I doing this? What was I thinking, trying to write a novel? I can’t write. I don’t have the skills for this. I’m not organized enough. I can’t get my thoughts together. My grammar sucks. My dialogue is terrible, and everything is just…. it’s so overdone! It’s like I took a whole bunch of cliches and stereotypes, threw them in a blender, and this mess came out. It’s droll. Dribble. More of a joke than the worst tv-movie ever made. I’m just wasting my time. I don’t have this in me. I’m a miserable excuse of a failure.” You will think such things. Do whatever you can to ignore them and keep writing. Like Dory the fish in “Finding Nemo,” give it up just keep swimming. Even if you finish a novel and it’s never, ever going to see the light of day, you know what? You will have proven the nagging doubts false. You finished. Regardless of its quality, you wrote a novel. And now you can edit it or write something else, avoiding the mistakes that make the first one problematic. You are on your way. This is the process. This is how it works for everyone. You are neither above nor below it. Accept it and embrace it. Because YOU, my friend, are a writer.

12 responses to “WARNING: Writing a novel may have these negative side effects

  1. You’re third point really resonated with me. After the first novel was finished, and while the second has been at chapter one, that was exactly what I was going through!

  2. Victoria, I love your blog, you are writing about me and my writing experiences! I am writing a mystery and seemed to have gone from playing solitary piano to trying to conduct a whole orchestra of characters!! Overwhelmed and loss of confidence in my writing and ability to tell a good story seem like weekly emotions. But as you say, one foot in front of the other. The other big barrier is when you read something sensational, the whole project seems hopeless. Still, even great writers felt this way at the start. I just have to keep remembering that and focus on writing a good book.

  3. I call this ‘the first draft confidence shaker’. I’ve written a four book series and I feel this way at the start each time.

  4. Pingback: Droll Stories Vol. 1, No. 5 (July 1923) | The Great Pulp Magazine Index

  5. First off I want to say great blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing. I have had trouble clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out. I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints? Cheers!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Demi!!! I kind of find I’m like you–the first few minutes are sometimes a wash as I try to focus. I find just getting social media stuff out of the way before I write helps so that I don’t have that on my mind as I’m trying to write. Also, a few short stretches really helps to relax: relaxing the body can relax the mind as well. If you’re able to write in a room without things that distract you, that might help a bit?

      Hope this is helpful in some way. Maybe some other readers will have better tips!

  6. Forrest Blackbourn

    Demi, when I start writing, I usually write the first sentence at least 5 times. But putting my hands to the keyboard and putting something on the page gets me going. After writing, erasing, writing, and erasing that first sentence, it just flows.

    Victoria, loved this post!

  7. Pingback: Writers aren’t Dreamers: 4 Ways Creative Writing Brings “Real-World” Benefits | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

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