1. Roux
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    Roux Member

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    I'm a Horrible Writer.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Roux, Aug 9, 2011.

    So at the moment, I'm very frustrated with my current work in progress. Its a YA Novel that I've worked hard on developing, drafting, actually writing, editing, and about everything you can name that comes with writing a novel. Its been very challenging, mostly because I'm 15 and don't know the slightest bit about being a YA. (I thought I did, or I could at least watch and learn, but I have just proven myself wrong.)

    After spending 2 whole friggen days writing a draft of a chapter, I read over it and realized something very important...I'm a horrible writer. The chapter had absolutely no life, it was telling more than showing, most of it is filler, and now the characters are beginning to become blocks of wood!

    My point for this thread? I'm wondering what you, the more experienced end of Authorhood, do when you become very frustrated with your work and just want to give up because no matter what you do or how many times you edit you can't produce anything worth showing to anyone.
     
  2. Cain
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    Cain Member

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    I usually step away for a bit, try to shake off that self-doubt (which we all feel at some point. Sometimes even a lot of the time). I'll avoid reviewing recent writing and look at older stuff since I often forgot the pain it took to write it and it can surprise me how it well came out.

    Looking at recent writing I find you get that 'can't see the wood for the trees' effect since all that effort it took to write it is still floating around - if I struggled to portray something then I'll be remembering that struggle too strongly to appreciate whether I succeeded or not. Coming back to it a lot later I'll see just the writing, and will read it as a reader would (and more often than not it doesn't suck as badly as I thought at the time).
     
  3. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think first of all you need to try and take it easy. :)

    Frustration doesn't help. What might help is knowing that no one starts off and produces a wonderful, perfect first draft. Even experienced writers don't. It may get easier over time, but that just takes practice.

    I tried writing a book aged 15 too, and I didn't finish it. But it was a good exercise and I read it over recently, and actually found parts of it were ok. :)

    So I would take a short break if you are feeling in this mood. Then come back to it, hopefully with a bit more positivity.

    Keep working on your story, and worry about editing later.

    How old are your characters? What makes you say you can't relate to them?

    Good luck
     
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  4. Cain
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    Cain Member

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    I had another idea on the way to work - I've never actually tried this, so I'm not saying it's a good idea. There's a concept used in business and engineering called 5 whys (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5_Whys) which is supposed to help you dig out the 'real' reason something isn't working (rather than the superficial reasons). Basically you have to ask yourself why five times, which sounds simple but I'm not so sure.

    So you might start by saying 'my characters are wooden - why?'
    and the answer could be 'because they don't say anything interesting'
    So then it's 'why don't they say anything interesting?'
    'because they don't have to'
    Why don't they have to?
    'because the situation they're in is dictating their actions, they don't really have to decide anything'
    Why don't they have to decide anything?

    etc, all leading up to some plot error where you realise the conflict on the main character isn't caused by any of his shortcomings blah blah.

    Not saying it'll help, but the idea has intrigued me (just never actually tried it). Asking the right whys seems pretty hard to me though. At the very least it'll be a new way of looking at your writing which might wake up some of your creativity :)
     
  5. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    @ Cain: Awesome tip. Gonna try using that next time, myself.

    @ Roux: Well, I for one was surprised to see such a mature and well-pondered post from someone who's only 15. You're definitely not a horrible writer -- inexperienced, perhaps, or your story is still caught in that fragile transition between draft and final where most writing sounds awful. Regardless, you're able to pinpoint what's wrong with the story and that is a big step towards fixing it. Don't be too hard on yourself. Self-criticism is good, self-defeatism is useless.
     
  6. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    If that story's your baby, stop writing it. Stop now. Your amazing pet project you love to bits can wait while you work on your writing skills. Write for fun. Write short stories, a ridiculous fantasy epic, whatever... Just don't get all stressed about doing it right.

    I wrote five drafts of my favourite story idea, getting more and more tangled up in it until I'd practically wrecked it - it dragged, the main character had become unclear, the themes were rubbish, the ending was missing despite having a final chapter and apparently some sort of resolution, and some of the links between adventures were longer than the adventures themselves. I put it aside, wrote silly things, most important some ridiculous things I knew from the start I'd never want to publish, and maybe never even share with close friends, let alone internet forums or something... But it was all writing and practice, and it gave me some time off. THEN I tried again, and in one draft from the "reboot" I had my novel exactly how I wanted it - beginning, middle and end and all the stuff in between that :) I just needed the time to learn.
     
  7. Clumsywordsmith
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    Clumsywordsmith Active Member

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    One of the most important aspects to being a good or even halfway decent writer is recognising when and where your writing fails. Don't feel bad about the fact that you find your latest attempt to be horrible, rather, congratulate yourself on the ability to not only see the horridness, but to pinpoint it down to several specific issues.

    As for how to "fix" such a problem? You're already on the right path, by realising it to begin with, though you should also understand that you're quite young, and writing is a lifelong art that cannot simply be mastered by learning a few tricks and reading a few self-help books. You won't really know what it's like to be a young adult until you're out of the water yourself, or at least close enough to the other shore that you can look back and view most of what you just went through with an objective, rather than subjective, eye.

    In fact, forget the self-help books entirely. Your characters feel wooden? If you haven't already, head down to the library and check out a Dickens novel -- I'd recommend Great Expectations, a personal favourite of mine -- and see an author who knew how to make his characters simply explode into life.

    Too much filler? I don't know how you're writing, precisely, but perhaps you've tried to arrange the story in your mind or on paper beforehand, plan it all out, and now find that it's incredibly difficult to write without using filler just to extend the narrative from one point into the next. Try writing with no definitive direction in mind, see what happens. Let the story write itself, and look at yourself more as a gardener tending a plant than a child building with blocks. Fiction is meant to be organic. Save the blocks for nonfiction and school papers.

    Too much telling? Look through every instance of such in your chapter, and simply ask yourself how you could incorporate this into the story without just dumping it all at once. Or perhaps even ask yourself how much of it is actually necessary information at all.

    If you're truly frustrated, then I'd recommend just taking some time off. Nothing ever looks as good when you've been spending the last few days poring over it and noticing every tiny little flaw. Take some time off, read a few good books, grab a banana and go stand on the picnic table outside, wave at passing cars as you eat... excellent stress relievers. I don't allow myself to become frustrated with writing.

    Don't give up! And, no matter what I say, if you like YA, then stick with it. I spent most of my writing energy at your age composing depressing short stories about life's pointlessness, suicide and death... no wonder I ended up with a rather extended case of existential depression!
     
  8. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    True story: A guy in college was trying to be a writer, and after a long time he finally finished a manuscript. But after he read it, he thought it was so bad he threw it in the trash and forgot about it. His girlfriend picked it up and read it a while later, and she thought it was really good. In fact she thought it was so good she convinced him to send it to a publisher.

    His name was Stephen King. The manuscript was Carrie. ;)
     
  9. Jessica_312
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    Jessica_312 Contributing Member

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    The fact that you recognize your errors means you aren't a horrible writer at all. A horrible writer is someone who, IMO, writes crap, but thinks they write gold, and doesn't do anything to change it. If you recognize there are issues, then you can work on them. It just takes a lot of practice and honing your skills. You're only 15 - you will get there. I look back at the stuff I wrote when I was 15 and I have to say, not impressed with myself LOL. But don't get discouraged! Just keep writing :) Plus, you might be harder on yourself than anyone else would be. Sometimes we're our own worst critics. In fact, I can guarantee that if you had someone else read your work, they might be much more receptive to what you're writing than you are.

    As for me - yes, I read back what I write all the time, and sometimes I'll say, "Damn I'm good", and give myself a pat on the back. Other times I'll look at the paper, think, "was I HIGH when I was writing this?!!", hit the delete key, and start all over. Happens all the time ;)
     
  10. Cerrus
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    Cerrus Senior Member

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    I'm no super experienced author, but when I'm frustrated with my writing I just have to stop and take a break. If I keep writing it's just going to be so terrible that it would actually look nice if I started smearing my own feces on it. While taking a break I start reading a book or do something fun that doesn't take much effort. I find that reading books helps writing because you can study other authors works and see how they write.
     
  11. DoctorBarbie
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    DoctorBarbie New Member

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    From what I know, a good writer realizes today that what he wrote yesterday is baloney. The better you get, the more you'll look at your older works with a trace of doubt.

    There are no horrible writers. If you picked up your pen to write something (or used Word, whatever), that means that you are making an effort and creating something, no matter what it is. And that already makes you a good person and writer. Nobody is pro.
     
  12. frostedfields
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    frostedfields Member

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    Clumsywordsmith, that's some good advice. But I echo what's being tossed around here: take a break from it. I've been in your position. I'm still waiting to write my pet project because I want to improve before I attempt it.

    I also agree about writing other things: when I get frustrated with my longer pieces, I write shorts or something that gets the juices flowing without the pressure. I change up my methods completely. I often times go back and read my favourite scenes from books that inspired my writing and that's always a serious kick in the creative pants.

    Good luck with it and don't give up.
     
  13. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I agree with Melzaar.
    Put the book on hold.

    Writing is like everything else in life,
    To be good at it you have to practice.

    When learning to hit a baseball, who steps up and hits it the first try? (How about the first hundred)
    Learning to ride a bike? Both take practice.

    Writing a full length novel is a huge task, much like trying to step up to the plate in a major league game without ever holding a bat before.

    Start small, write short stories, do some writing challenges or exercises. I did some using characters from a book I had. It created history for the mc, and it helped me show the story better.

    Start smaller, work on small stuff to improve. Just put the bat in front of the ball.
    Don't forget to read the same type of books you are writing. They will inspire and demonstrate how the author did it, said it, showed it in short interesting
    descriptions.
    When frustrated with one work, don't be afraid to set it aside and work on something else. Maybe even a side story or related to the main work.

    Some journal, write descriptively about some incident of your day. Read it a few days later for critique. What sounded good, what was lame, Was the whole piece boring. (Boring does not mean failure, life is sometimes boring.)

    Thats what these forums are for, to inspire, to encourage, and push writers to improve.
     
  14. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're able to identify that your writing "sucks" then you're on the right path. You've managed to tell us why you dislike it which shows that you know what needs to be done to fix it - so while you may not be a fantastic writer (I'm basing this on what you've told us, so don't take it as fact) yet you obviously understand what a book should look like.

    To me, it sounds like rather than editing this story to death what you really need is more practice with writing. No matter how many times you try to rewrite the chapter it is not going to get much better unless you've a good amount of experience - and you're not going to grow as a writer by just re-writing the same scene over and over. Try exploring: maybe try new genres if you feel you don't understand YA well enough. Maybe fantasy, romance or horror? Play around with new characters, settings and themes and just have fun.


    At age fifteen I was writing 50~120k length novels and I thought my writing sucked -- and it genuinely did! -- but it was only through continuing to write that I've gotten to the point where I can now publish my work. Sharing my work has been useful for me: I've been involved with a close-knit group of writers for the past two years, who are scattered across five continents, and no matter what my own opinion of my work is I show it to them and let them tear it to shreds.
     
  15. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    Everybody's a horrible writer in the rough draft.

    In the second draft, your work might become coherent enough to make sense.

    In the third draft, you may have something you could turn in as a college paper.

    In the fourth draft, you have a manuscript that you can have someone proofread.

    In the fifth draft, you just might be ready to send out some queries.


    Be prepared to rewrite again after all that. Keep chiseling away.
     
  16. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    I'll echo what several others have said: if you know that your work has issues you are not as bad off as you think. The first step to enlightenment is realizing that you need to be enlightened. Keep practicing, keep being critical of your own work, and keep having fun.
     
  17. westofthemoon
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    westofthemoon Member

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    I think it's good that you have a healthy sense of self-doubt and uncertainty about your writing...and the way you're relaying your confusion about being a young adult is actually pretty astute and coherent and ironically emblematic of being a young adult. When I was 15, I don't think I could have possibly been that up-front with myself and my abilities; I had no idea who the hell I was. Anyway, I agree with some of the others in this thread: namely that acknowledging your faults will inevitably instill you with a drive to do better, and that looking for inspiration in the writing of others heightens that drive and in a way, hones your style. I always feel a little forlorn after reading a bit of Virginia Woolf or Paul Theroux because they get me thinking along the lines of "WTF? Why the hell don't words arrange themselves that way in my head?" Regardless, I always want to trudge on, the dreamy outline of self-satisfaction barely scoring the horizon. But it's still there :) If the way you wrote your lament is any indication of how you write your fiction, I would say that you'll be just fine :)
     
  18. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    Don't give up. Write every day. Im-semi new to the routine of writing every day, and i feel myself getting better and better. If you feel like you don't have enough time for that make a schedule. Im still currently mapping out my fantasy world and then developing characters for my other novel. Even the best writers have the same problem, Stephen King had his moments. The developers of Bungie had 3 major writers block and stress when they were creating Halo. And see where Halo is today? Never give up! Write every day, and don't stop. Even when your working on a school project, finish it or take a break to write a simple paragraph. Keep doing that and you'll be a much better writer. But i suppose for us to really know if stale or not we could perhaps read it? Just one part of it tho. Not the whole thing.
     
  19. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think one problem you have is that you seem to think that "2 whole friggen days" is a long time to spend on a chapter. Most writers, especially inexperienced ones such as yourself, take a lot longer than that to get it right.

    Have patience. I know it's hard when you're young, but writing does take patience. If you read your chapter over and you don't like it, go back and work on it until you do like it. You'll be proud of it and you won't regard yourself as a horrible writer, you'll see yourself as pretty darn good! And you'll be able to write the next chapter with new confidence and inspiration.
     
  20. flipflop
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    flipflop Senior Member

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    on a constructive note you could post the chapter for review
     
  21. heyitsmary
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    heyitsmary Member

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    The amazing thing about being a young writer is that we have plenty of time to improve. If you keep writing, your work at 17, 21, or 25 is going to be a drastic improvement over your work at 15. Take a break, write something else (or do something else entirely for awhile), then come back to your manuscript or, if you choose, start over with something new. And keep working at it. Have you ever considered taking a class or picking up a writing book? Those could help tremendously.
    Just out of curiosity, how old are the characters you're writing about? A 15-year-old technically fits into the YA demographic if I'm not mistaken. Are you writing about characters your own age or older?
     
  22. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Bless you. I send you hugs. The truth is, hey you're 15 - now young people can be great writers but from your post, maybe you're not - YET. My point is, give yourself the benefit of a doubt and realise that you're young, still fairly inexperienced, so give yourself some time to practice and to develop. It takes years to develop - I'd say most of us would take a lifetime :)

    When I was your age, I wrote absolute trash. I look back now and I actually show my friends so I can laugh at it. And today there's an editor who tells me I'm a good and talented writer with the potential to get published. Ok so I'm young too - only 24 - but that's still a fair number of years since I was 14-16.

    Another thing is, stop expecting perfection the first time round. I'm writing my novel now and I've rewritten the damn thing twice before I'd even finished a first draft. And I already know there's a tonne of character development and several scenes to add and take out that I still need to do in my 2nd draft. You see, these things take time. It's really a lot of hard work - passion alone won't pull you through. And don't become your own worst enemy - that's how us writers get writer's block.

    Don't be too much of a perfectionist. Rather be like children who see possibilities on a white, blank sheet of paper, and not people who are afraid of that same white sheet of paper. Don't expect perfection - it'll never be perfect anyway and it doesn't have to be.

    Just write - it's better to have something to edit rather than nothing. Don't be afraid of showing people your writing either - sometimes an objective eye is very beneficial - including possibly being able to tell you whether your writing is actually any good or not. Because sometimes we're too harsh on ourselves, but other times we're not realistic enough.

    Just keep on writing - write because you love it. Usually I find some of my best writing come when I write because I love what I'm writing. If you don't believe in it, that's gonna show.
     

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