How do you know when to give up… or get going?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the fact that, halfway through writing a book, writers always thinks what they’re writing is complete rubbish. I know this to be true since lots of writers have contacted me to say, “Exactly!”

But what I’m wondering now is – if writers always feel that way, how do you know if what you’re writing actually IS rubbish? Presumably sometimes it must be. How do you tell the difference between the typical ‘this is rubbish’ stage and a book that actually is rubbish?

I’m rewriting a book at the moment. Actually, that’s not true, I’m thinking about rewriting a book, but doing pretty much anything other than actually opening the file. Which brings me to my second point – how do you know when you’ve stopped “percolating” and started procrastinating?

They’re not rhetorical questions, by the way. I don’t have any insights to offer. I’m really hoping someone will help me out. Although now I am wondering if I’ve answered my own question – if I think what I’m writing is rubbish and I’m doing anything to avoid working on it… maybe that’s all I need to know. Unless this is just another stage…

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16 thoughts on “How do you know when to give up… or get going?

  1. I am totally at that stage now! Everything i’m currently writing feels rubbish and since the stuff i was previously pleased with keeps getting rejected i’m now thinking that’s all useless too.

    Sorry, no insights from me either but lots of sympathy!

  2. Maybe you just need a fresh eye to read over what you have already written and give you an honest opinion. I don’t know whether David reads your books (I am sure he does), maybe he can give it a go for you? Who knows.

  3. I felt like that a few weeks ago but I was reminded of a quote I have saved by one of my favourite authors, Philip Pullman.

    ‘Always write for yourself and never write for a Market. If you enjoy reading it then others will too.’

    This probably isn’t what you would probably call ‘publishable’ advice but it certainly is practical advice.

    1. That’s great advice, Daniel. I think that may be part of the problem with this particular book – I did write it with a particular publisher in mind. It doesn’t entirely feel like “me”.

  4. I think writing is very much like dieting in that your head has to be 100% into it for it to go well. Therefore if you feel uncertain about a story/novel I would say put it to bed until you have flashes of inspiration about that particular story again, and work on something else altogether.

    I find myself in a similar situation as I have my book back from a second edit and right now I would rather shred the b***dy thing that read it through again so I have decided to concentrate on other things until I can find the enthusiasm for it again.


    1. I do partly agree, Rebecca, but if I put every project aside until I got a flash of inspiration, I’d never finish anything! Seriously!

      Having written this post, read the comments and spent all day cogitating, I’m starting to feel the difference I was talking about, i.e. whether it’s just a stage in the writing process or if it’s really not right. I’m not 100% sure yet, but I’m on my way. Thanks!

    1. That would work, Suz, if it actually WAS rubbish, but what if it wasn’t? ALL authors go through a stage when they THINK the book they’re writing is rubbish, but all of those books won’t actually BE rubbish.

  5. I think you have hit the nail on the head actually. If I’m having a bad writing day and everything is coming out rubbish, I still keep trying (never helps though, dammit). I don’t think I would do that if I knew something was rubbish. It wouldn’t plague me.

    I think I’d just forget all about it, rather than writing and planning and thinking and thinking and then doing a bit more thinking. That’s often how I sort stuff out, but if I didn’t care about an idea, I don’t.

    1. Ooh, that’s interesting, Siany, thanks! So if I think it’s rubbish but I’m working on it, it’s a stage. If I think it’s rubbish and I’m avoiding working on it, it’s probably rubbish (or at least it’s not right). Thank you!

  6. Hi Keris, you say you are thinking or procrastinating about rewriting a book. If it was rubbish, I don’t think you would have finished writing that particular book. It is like decorating a large room. When you start you think, “oh no, I’ve got to strip all this wallpaper off”. Well you’ve already stripped the wallpaper off. This rewrite might only be one of two or three, “preparing the paintwork”. But it won’t half look good when you’ve finished. Good luck!

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