Friday, October 11, 2013

The Suck

I recently started a book and thought I had the greatest idea ever. Fancy schmancy plot twists, cool, relatable setting, even a pair of identical twins, for Jeebus sake. The problem was, it sucked. I sucked. But I tried to keep pushing on. Because the last book I put out, which ended up being my most popular publication yet, had many false starts. I almost threw it out the window several times, but was prompted to keep going by a friend who liked the idea, so I did. And paid off.

And so, I pushed on with this last one, thinking it was just another case of the blockies. It was not. It just damn SUCKED. I eventually ditched it an started something new, and the world opened up again, the words began to flow, and I'm nearly finished with a book that makes me happy. So the problem is, how do you know if you're blocked, or if you just suck? How do you know if you should play through the pain, or toss that manuscript in the garbage disposal before it stinks the whole house up? I don't have a magical answer to this. I can only take hints from my recent experience in extreme suckage.

While attempting to write the story that I eventually trashed, I literally cringed at myself. My own story made me roll my eyes. There's a hint. The first chapter, though I thought it was genius for a short time, didn't fit into the genre I was trying to write in, so instead of realizing this wasn't going to work, I considered writing a prologue. A prologue that added nothing to the story aside from establishing the genre. SUCK. Then, I began to hate everyone, every character I came up with. Who were these dull, whiny people? Why couldn't they step it up? And that's when I realized. It's not them. It's me. Because they ARE me.

This wasn't one of those cases where I needed to merely push on, and the story would figure itself. That does happen a lot. That's why you so often hear other writers urging you to push on. But no. In this case, I genuinely sucked. I was writing a piece of toilet trash, and it was stinking the joint up.

The only good part was the validation I got when I began to write something new, something that worked so well I couldn't believe I ever thought writing was so hard. This new book worked, because it was right. I felt it down to my toes, and I didn't need any identical twins to spice it up. So how do you know? Are you just blocked, or do you have a case of the suckies? Only you can figure this out. Give it some serious thought before pushing on and playing through the pain. Be objective. But note this truth: If your work is making YOU cringe and roll your eyes, then it will damn well do the same to the reader. So monitor yourself, and if you find you're truly sucking, toss that bitch in the trash. You're a writer. There are always other stories in that noggin of yours.

Happy writing.


  1. Great advice! Sometimes it is better to just leave it and move on. Sometimes if you let it compost in your subconscious, your brain will make sense of that sucky story and turn it to awesomeness. But that takes time and lots of micro-organisms. Wait, that's fertilizer and compost. *shrugs* Same general concept.

  2. I had that issue earlier in the year--I'm still not convinced the story sucks (and I might go back to it soon), but it wasn't going anywhere. It took MONTHS to write just 30K and the deadline kept slipping and slipping. Finally I set it aside and whipped out a new 73K word book in six weeks. Best decision I made was putting that first one aside.


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