The last time I sat down to work on my novel, the words read pale and lifeless. I’m only on chapter two. This can’t be a good sign.
I wrote a lot last week,on other pieces. My brain was too tired to rework any more stories. I decided I needed a break from writing, a chance to refuel. I dove into a book about writing instead: Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.
I’ve read bits and pieces of her book before, but this time one passage struck me.
“If every time you sat down, you expected something great, writing would always be a great disappointment.”
My writing experience lies in short pieces: blog posts, articles under 1000 words, or short stories no more than five pages. In such a compact writing space, I easily devote time and energy to edit and re-edit a whole piece to the point of satisfaction, sometimes even pride.
Now I look at a novel and its end goal of 80,000 words or 100+ pages. Subconsciously, I expect myself to sit down and write a great second draft. When I couldn’t rework even one good chapter the other day, I did feel disappointed. And, discouraged.
Time is of the essence, I thought, this story is going to get old, and fast.
If I want to rush through a re-write just to get the story out, before it becomes a bore (before I lose my confidence), maybe the story should be shelved for a while. Perhaps even for good.
How do you know when the masterpiece you poured onto paper isn’t such a masterpiece after all? Sure, elements of the story show promise, but the story as a whole reads average, not great. And, how do you know the diffference between a weak premise and a bad writing day?
Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones (Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, Inc, 1986), p. 11.