Writing Wednesday: Flail

I know I still have a question to answer (your question, Rebecca!), but I’m having a bit of a flail so I thought I’d write about that instead.

I’ve been rewriting an adult book I wrote while I was pregnant with Joe. It was actually the first adult book I managed to finish and I was pleased with it… sort of. I was pleased that I’d finally managed to finish an adult book and I like the characters and the story, but somehow it didn’t feel quite like me.

So I started rewriting it and trying to make it more me and instead I feel rather… meh. I know this could well be a stage – I’m at 20,000 words, which is where a lot of writers apparently decide that the book is crapulous – but I worry about pushing on to 80,000+ and then finding I just don’t like it. It seems like a lot of time to waste.

Plus since I’ve tried and failed to write adult fiction quite a few times, I wonder if I should just give up and stick to YA. I love writing teen fiction and I definitely find it easier and more fun, so why persevere with the adult stuff? Part of me just doesn’t want to give up on it. Between the four or five books I’ve written or half-written, I’ve probably got around a quarter of a million words. Surely some of them are worth salvaging?! (There are definitely quite a few characters I love and would like to meet again.)

I think what I might do is read through all my adult stuff and see what I should keep and what can be scrapped. Maybe I’ll find something that didn’t work in one book works well in another. Maybe I can pick my favourite characters from each half-arsed book and stick them all in a book together… But in the meantime, I’m going back to the YA I wrote for NaNo last year.

What do you do when you’re not “feeling” a book? How do you know when to give up?


16 thoughts on “Writing Wednesday: Flail

  1. I ditched my first attempt at my second adult novel (one I was under contract to write!). I wrote 20,000 words and just wasn’t feeling it. There wasn’t the same kind of enthusiasm or fire in my belly as there was for Heaven Can Wait. Of course, with that novel, there were moments when I paused and struggled and doubted myself but I knew with HCW that I HAD to finish it. I wanted to.

    With my first attempt at novel 2 I just didn’t like the main character and that’s more than a wibble that’s a huge flaw. If you don’t like spending time with your heroine what chance has your reader got? I had the choice of going back to the beginning and rewriting to make her more likeable or ditching the whole thing and starting with a new story. And that’s what I did!

    Can you identify what it is about your novel that doesn’t feel write or is it a strong gut instinct that it’s just not right? If it’s the latter I think it might be better to just let it go… Writing is hard work and takes so much time. I think we could only write things that are fun and that fire us up.

    1. Thanks, Cally, that’s really helpful. I like my main character in my head, but she gets very boring on the page and I can’t work out what’s going wrong. May have had a lightbulb moment this morning though (or I may not – I’ve made that mistake before!) so I’m going to put it away, make some notes and come back to it. You’re so right that it needs to be fun.

  2. It seems so harsh to get rid of all the work you have done, but if it isn’t working I would put it aside and see what I could salvage at a later date.

  3. I know what you mean, Keris, we started the same way I think. I wrote 2 chicklitty things then up to 85 thou on my 3rd, just got bored with the whole crappage that was leaving my fingertips and dumped it. SO near the end, but I didn’t care – about my characters or the story really. And that was when the YA story popped into my head. Just like that – so I left my adult for a younger model. And like you, I’ll definitely dip back in to adult contemp just to see if I can. If I can’t, well…. meh.

  4. I really struggle with this, Keris. Particularly since I flail about so much even on a ‘good’ day. I don’t know if this is normal, or related to the fact that I love the feeling of *having* written, but the actual writing… Meh.
    Anyway, knowing whether it is a ‘normal’ case of the 20,000 word blues or a sign that this isn’t the right project, is so difficult. Could you make a list of all the cool stuff that made you want to write it in the first place? See if that re-inspires you?

    1. That’s exactly what worries me, Sarah, but I do think it’s different this time. For instance, my friend asked if she could read it yesterday and I said, “Nooooo!” when usually I’d be posting it up and saying, “Does anyone else think this is shit?” 😉

  5. You know I’m not an author but for what it’s worth I don’t think anything anyone writes is a waste of time. It’s part of the learning curve, surely? I like your idea about going through all the adult stuff you’ve already written to see if you can blend it in some way. It sounds to me like you really want to do some adult stuff and I think you can do it! Why not? Good luck! 🙂 xx

    1. Thanks, Maz. Oh I agree that it’s good writing practice, but this is my job – what I mean is I can’t afford to spend a year writing a book just for practice.

  6. Give yourself permission to give up on it. Maz is right, this is all good for the curve, but right now your job is writing YA isn’t it? Do you have a publisher for the adult book? If not then I’m not entirely sure why you are being sidetracked by this in the first place.

    I have never had a satisfactory experience with picking something over looking to cut and paste the decent bits. Though that doesn’t stop me from doing it. It’s like looking at the fridge and feeling sure there must be something good in there when really you know you’re just going to end up having to go to the shops.

    1. Thanks, Alison.

      I was sidetracked originally when an editor (you know the one) emailed my agent and asked if I was interested in writing an adult book. So I wrote it and now I feel like I should at least try to do something with it.

      Also I don’t have a publisher for the YA either at the moment.

  7. Ah her, the cover killer. She was ‘let go’, you know.

    I’ll publish you. I think you’re terrific.

  8. I got to a stage at about 20,000 words in my first attempt at a second book where I just didn’t want to write anymore of it – that, for a start, is a sign, because I’d rather write than do just about anything else. But the story was in a ditch, my planning was too vague and well, I just wasn’t feelin’ it. As the kids say. Then my agent – who I trust implicitly – gently agreed it just wasn’t great. She said she just didn’t care enough about the characters. Obviously I immediately hated it with all my heart and couldn’t bear to even look at it. (The moment someone I trust tells me anything negative about my work, I immediately agree with them.) So I put the failed manuscript aside, lay on the floor and wailed for a few days, and then got up and started writing what became my second book A Girl Like You.

    Maybe ask someone you really, really trust, who’ll be brutal but has absolutely impeccable instincts. The only people I trust in that way are my agents – friends and family just can’t be objective… And remember, maybe you’re doubting yourself for no reason and just need encouragement or suggestions that’ll spur you on to breathe more life into it? I constantly doubt myself – but complacency is the enemy of creativity and all that.

    Incidentally, about 60,000 words in I killed two characters in A Girl Like You – ones that seemed quite important when I started them, poor things – and in their place created one quite difficult character that I really didn’t want to create, and it worked out great. Once she was there it was like she’d always been there. Bless her. So I say go for it.

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