Strategies for pushing through when you hate your novel

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Hello folks! As I’m writing this, it’s about to become November ninth. That means we’re almost a full third of the way through Nanowrimo. And at some point–in either the past few days or the next few days–you’re going to hit what us veterans call the second week slump.  You hate, or are going to hate, your novel.

I am here to help! In my thirteen years of writing books I’ve hated all of them at some point, but I’ve (almost) always pushed through and finished the damn manuscript. I might have metaphorically burned the manuscripts afterwards (actually printing and burning it would be a waste of paper), but the things always got written. Today I’m going to share some of the strategies I used to get to “The End”, even when I hated my novels.

5 Things to do when you hate your novel

When you hate your novel1. Understand that every writer hates everything they write at some point.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at these 10 successful authors who hated their books. Then head over to the aptly named “Nanowrimo ate my soul” forum and check out all the threads of people ranting about their novels.

Writing a book is hard work, and the first draft never comes out quite as awesome as we imagined it. For new writers, the difference between what you’re imagining and what ends up on the page can be massive and soul crushing. The whole damn thing seems futile sometimes. You’re bound to hate it eventually. And you can rest assured that millions–probably billions–of writers around the world are going through the same thing.

2. Know that you probably won’t hate it forever

The successful authors from the list I mentioned before may have hated their work long after it was published, but most of us don’t hate our novels forever. I hated Keeper of the Dawn many times. I spent long periods of time avoiding it. But some part of me always knew the story was worthwhile. Eventually I came to realize how I could fix the things that made me hate it.

There are a handful of stories I’ll hate forever, things I’ve sworn will never see the light of day and gone to great lengths to destroy. That’s bound to happen when you write dozens of stories. But I’ve come to love most of my stories again, and you’ll probably come to love yours again too.

3. Write your words anyway

Now that you know this hatred is a part of the natural process, you can rest assured that if you push through it you’ll probably like the thing when you’re done anyway. Push through the pain and get your 1,667 words out. If you’re really dreading those words, promise yourself an extra reward for getting them done.

Avoiding your novel will only make you fall behind. That in turn makes you dread writing even more, because you have no idea how you’ll catch up. Besides, part of the point of Nanowrimo is to build a daily writing habit. It’s totally okay to delete all of those words when you edit.

4. Try to figure out why you hate your novel

If what I’ve said so far doesn’t ring true, you might have a legitimate reason to hate your novel. Maybe it is complete, utter garbage, and you need to write an entirely different book. Or maybe you’ve written yourself into a corner, and you need to seriously rethink some of your plot.

In this situation, you actually do want to take a day or two off from your novel. Reread the past few chapters of your novel, looking for where you went wrong. Brainstorm different ways to change your story or characters. Be willing to take a completely new direction with your story or even start writing a new one–but make sure you’ve weighed all your other options first. Most problems can be fixed with relatively minor changes.

5. Take some extra time for self care

You might also hate your novel because you’ve been pushing yourself too hard. Nanowrimo is meant to be a challenge, but it’s not supposed to be completely mind and soul draining. A little bit of sleep deprivation is normal, but you shouldn’t be pushing yourself to the brink of collapse every day.

Cut your writing time in half for a few days and schedule extra time for self care and sleep. When you’re fully rested you’ll be able to write faster and get caught up. And even if you can’t, that’s okay. This Nanowrimo thing is supposed to be fun. If you’re not having fun it’s okay to dial back how much you’re writing or even stop altogether. Your health is more important than your productivity.

Final Advice + Housekeeping notes

Writing a novel is a massive challenge, and trying to write one in a month is even bigger. You’re bound to hate the process, the book, and even yourself at some point during this process. Most of the time you can push through it, but if you’re really mired in hatred, take a break. Consider why you’re hating your story so much, and build a strategy to conquer it–or decide that you can’t write a book in a month, and know that it’s totally okay to write slow.

Housekeeping notes: You might notice that this article is going up later in the week than normal, and that there’s a video at the top. I started a YouTube channel this summer and maintaining it separately from this blog has been exhausting. So I’m combining them! Each Thursday I’ll post a short video about a topic related to writing or self care, and post it here with an article about the same topic. Some of these articles will essentially be transcripts. Others will dive deeper into the topic of the video, making it easy for you to learn more. I’d love your thoughts on this change, and suggestions for how I can make The Dabbler even better!

Do you hate your novel? What do you plan to do about it? Let me know in the comments section below – and then get back to writing!

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