Writing a novel is a long, slow process. Although the story might start out as a brilliant spark, one that you’re willing to dedicate hours upon hours to, the magic may not last.
If it withers quickly, say, after twenty pages, or half an outline, perhaps that story wasn’t ready to be written yet. Let it go. It may come back stronger later. However, at least for me, the “I’m in love with this story” feeling lasts for months. Then, one day, BAM. It’ s gone. Perhaps it was a plothole I couldn’t fix, or a bit of a feedback that hit too raw a place for me. Perhaps I just get sick of revising and start dreaming about the good old days of first drafting. No matter what caused it, I’m suddenly in a pit of despair where I can no longer find words or energy to edit.
I’ve committed to the story, I don’t want to give up. So, what do I do?
I don’t recommend whining to your friends, although I’m certainly guilty of this. If they’re not creative, they won’t get the need burning inside you to finish the story. If they are creative they may not be sympathetic to your own struggles, because they’re fighting their own doubt-monsters of writing.
A healthy thing to do is to get fresh air. Go for a run. A walk. Dance all night at a concert. Lose yourself in the real world, not the fictional one for a little bit. Or. Just be a cat. Cats know where it’s at.
Some people recommend reading published books, but when I’m in my pit of despair, that usually makes me roll around like a dying fish full of self-loathing. “I will never write such wonderful words as these” etc.
Likewise, be cautious around social media. All it might take is is one tweet about another writer’s success for you to feel more like a failure. Likewise, openly proclaiming aaaall your struggles with your draft might make you sort of annoying.
My favorite tip for falling back in love with your work is to return to your creative works. Maybe you don’t want to write in your manuscript, but you want to write short side stories (oh hey! mine are here. Exclusive Short Stories) or create pretty photo sets of your characters on Tumblr (like these! Gif post! With kissing! Non-gif but all the adorable )
If you’re artistic, try drawing scenes from your book. Or if you’re not, maybe consider commissioning an artist (easily found on Tumblr or Deviantart) for a drawing of your characters! This one is a huge one for me. Having an actual picture of the characters that previously were only words on a page re-energized me to tell the story. My sketches are by the brillant Giles, found here.)
But if nothing else works, and it’s been weeks, and the feeling still isn’t going away, it is okay to shelve the story for a little bit. Let it rest. Begin a new story. You’ll come back to the old one with fresh eyes soon, and re-write it into a beautiful masterpiece.
Either way, soon, you’ll emerge on the other side of the pit of despair. You’ll go back to writing, the words flying fast and furious. Plus, you’ll be a stronger writer for having preserved through this hard time. Now, the next time the doubt-monsters kick in, you’ll know you’ve vanquished them once before. Have you ever felt like giving up on a story? How did you work through it?