When you feel like everything you're writing is s**t


Jul 19, 2022
I'm at the first 20% of my first novel and it seems that I've hit a point where the emotional buoy has hit a bad patch of doldrums. I'm steadily working my way towards the end of the first arc.

As an amateur writer, I have no dearth of things I want to and plan to write but I get mired in the writing of it LOL I tend to lean into poetry to make the writing process more gratifying so I'm not just plot-pushing but even that feels like putting lipstick on turd. Maybe I'm just unsure of what I'm writing about right now. I don't know. What do you guys do when you're mindlessly drifting through your writing?
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Well, you are in the right place, and there are many accomplished authors here on chon who can help give you better advice. I am not one of them...yet.
But it sounds like writer block to me. It happens to the best. :) Do you have notes outlining your story? If you do, it could be the flow. If you don't have notes, try writing some so you can get a feel for the flow and logic of your story. (That's what I do for myself)

Look at other post here in the Writing Discussions and you'll see what advice other gave to writers with similar feelings as you.
Even go and just look/read through the Critique section too (there are rules for posting your work there for review, so read those first!)

I am in the same boat as you, a 1st time novel writer. One thing I have noticed is that the way I see the story in my head is not the how it ends up on paper. Sometimes with frustration, but most of the time for the best. (when I get stumped, I try to let the charters tell the story)

Writing is a mental exercise, and like any exercise if you push yourself too much or don't think you're getting anywhere, you'll burnout.

So, take a break for a day or two, even a week and let your subconscious work it through.
Checkout some of the many posts here on chron's just for fun.
There are few days left for the current 75 word and 300 word challenges, give them a try maybe, or just look around at them. Makes you think and write in a different way.

Also, get out and go for a walk or something active to get your mind off of it for a while.
Then go back and try again. Even look at your story notes and see if it is going in the correct direction or maybe if you need to move things around?

That's what happened to me, my 1st chapter ended up being all cattywampus! I rethought it's arrangement and moved parts to other chapters that where more fitting. Now I have all this description, thoughts and emotions for the MC and other characters to write about, that before I just assumed the reader would know if they were in my head! :rolleyes:
The fact is that for many of us writing has already become an almost so automatic habit as breathing. Then we are no longer looking for a style or our own voice since we have a long time we have it. Therefore we can already dedicate ourselves to the typical writing crafts that can be considered a routine that we also carry out automatically, and in many ways it is quite liberating to worry about many things less than before, because at that time we were starting and everything was questions about what I do and how I do it. But how do we get to this quieter stage, so to speak, of the process? Well, with work, with a lot of reading work and writing. And by reading I mean reading a sidereal amount of books of all kinds of authors, at least one book every two days. In addition, many of us have really been writing for decades, so there is not much that can surprise us. But, as I tell you, to get to this part of the river you have to get wet, there are no two. It is also a very slow river to cross, so the first advice and my golden rule is that you must have a lot of patience, because there are no shortcuts.

But let's see the good point of the matter. The fact is that it is very lucky that you have reached this forum, because it is the first combat line and at the same time it is the most faithful and determined, so we will never leave you. Of course, the first thing you should do is relax and enjoy the process, as well as eliminate all negative attitudes that can stop your creativity. Now, in terms of tips, relax, as I said, because we will just start tomorrow. If you are still here, naturally. And if you ask me why, well, I will tell you cause yes.
Welcome. :ninja:
Writing well is a process.

I gave some thought about the OP's question/dilemma and reflected back to when I joined this forum. I already had two books under my belt--published in what some call vanity press[however it was more like an expensive way to self-publish].
Of course:
My own problem with writing started a long time ago--when I realized that I had little if any imagination and I really thought writing wasn't for me. However, when in[USA]Middle school or junior high school as it was called then, I was taking typing classes. To help improve my typing I spent a huge number of hours copying a favorite Edgar Rice Burroughs Novel. That might well be where I acquired the illusion that I could write. Moving on--from there I started reading extensively in the fantasy and science fiction genre. I really think that reading is a key to good writing.
So the first question to ask yourself:
What and how much are you reading?

But back to this forum:
Having published I couldn't put samples from those into the critique section because the basic rules exclude published works.
What I did do is I went back into the forum posts for critique and read what other people here were writing--moreso though I was reading and reflecting on what the critiques looked like. This both gave me ideas about writing and some idea about how critiquing was being done.

Eventually I started critiquing the newer offered work[after realizing that critiquing older work was pointless since most everyone has moved on after some point]. I found that both examining what other people had to say and actually digging in and analyzing other peoples work was a great way to calibrate my own mind toward how I saw my own work.

I think that that is the best way for a person to go in trying to guage whether you are writing as poorly as you think.

Eventually[after you have thirty posts under your belt and possibly you have helped a few other writers] you can begin to post some of your own writing to see what other people have to say--or offer in respect to how to improve.

However a big key is to keep writing, because the greater part of all this is that writing is a process and that involves continually exercising the author muscle as much as possible.

Back when there were only typewriters, I had a trashcan that was always fuller than the pile of finished pages.
I still generated a good four hundred pages of crap that I often look back at and try to decide if I should try to polish those original ideas some day.
I can commiserate with those feelings. I have gone through them and I guess that it is part of the normal emotional process. There is probably not a universal response, in some ways you will need to find the best approach for yourself. I can only urge you not to abandon your novel. You will learn so much, and get quite a bit of satisfaction, by finishing a novel.

For me, I've found that it helps to give myself some time off when those feelings hit. I let myself take a couple of days off from writing entirely. I will enter one of the Chrons writing contests and let my mind focus on some other story for a while. I will write 1,500-2,000 word backstories for my characters and environments. I will do something other than concentrate on the next line to the story. But then, I get back to the novel. I may not have eliminated my negative feelings, but I will have blunted them enough that I find writing it to be enjoyable or at least pleasant.

If possible, find other people to review your work. I find that I am my own worst critic. What I think is bad, others will like. What I think is wonderful, others may find to be a confused mess. Getting someone else's perspective can help in moving forward.

You will need to find your own, personal way forward, but it is possible. Keep writing, though. Too many people simple abandon it when doubts hit.
I'm not used to writing things where I don't allow them to be crap. :) I'm still in a sticky bit, almost asked for advice, but a youtube video told me to just skip the boring bits. There's also writing out things that either happened but they're not going to be in the published version, or they're going to get edited out because they didn't happen. If all else fails, let the antagonist and protagonist stop and go out for fancy coffee or something else wild.
I look at my writing as 10% brilliant, 10% utter garbage and the rest somewhere in between.

When I’m writing garbage I just keep going, if for nothing else than to get it out of my system and clear the pipes, so to speak. Maybe later I read it and it’s not so bad that an editing pass or two can’t make it usable, or maybe it is so bad it just gets tossed into the scrap pile. Can’t tell either way if the words aren’t on paper.
I'm steadily working my way towards the end of the first arc.
This line suggests to me that you are taking a formulaic approach to writing.
You may not be a rule based writer.
Try free flowing from your imagination rather than constructing to a 'framework'.
The nature of storytelling is that the structure will arrive automatically regardless. Too many youtubes and books take an approach that can box you in. That can be stultifying to the imagination.
THX could be right. It does sound a lot like writers block. But it could also be your subconscious mind telling you that you shouldn't keep moving on because you might need to go back and find something (or some things) you did wrong much earlier, something that is throwing everything else out of whack, and you need to rethink it and fix it.

One of my personal rules is: if you can't go forward, go back. It doesn't always work but very often it does.
This line suggests to me that you are taking a formulaic approach to writing.
You may not be a rule based writer.
Try free flowing from your imagination rather than constructing to a 'framework'.
The nature of storytelling is that the structure will arrive automatically regardless. Too many youtubes and books take an approach that can box you in. That can be stultifying to the imagination.
Interesting. This is very true. I'm a rather sporadic writer and my most favorite parts are writing emotionally intense scenes so its so hard for me to get through the minutiae that goes into the setup. I do tend to bounce around and Frankenstein it up but I suppose I've been pushing myself towards wrapping up the 'first arc' which idk... might be affecting me adversely.
I keep creating when I hit a rough patch.

Sometimes I go back and review what I've written. Sometimes I spend time working on my maps, sometimes I sculpt or draw concept art for the project. But I always keep creating and keep my mind somewhat in that world, even if I'm not dwelling on the stalled forward progress, I usually end up working out my issue.

People are different though.

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