Thursday, 23 October 2008

Gone off it

When I was a Relate counsellor, one of the sex problems clients would present with was known in the trade as 'gone off it'. Well, I have gone off my WIP. Three quarters of the way through, on course for my (private) deadline, I've fallen out of love with my novel. What do I do? Finish the damn thing anyway? Bin it? Start a new one? Go for a long walk? Has this happened to anyone else? And if so, what did you do? Help, please!


Tim Stretton said...

Gosh, Frances, I really feel for you!

The ideas which occur to me, in no particular order:

- do nothing. Just forget the book for a couple of weeks.

-write some short stories to pep up your enthusiasm

-jot down some notes for another novel (but don't do anything with them)

And most of all(as if you hadn't thought of it... don't force it, and don't feel guilty).

Keeping my fingers crossed for you...

Brian McGilloway said...

Hi Frances
I'm in the same boat at the moment so I know how you feel. With every book I tend to hit a few saturation points - especially because my actual writing is quite compressed over a few months. I seem to hit thirds at a time, then break for a while. This time the break has been significantly longer because of the new arrival and that. That said, I want to write and am revising the previous two thirds in my head. I guess the trick, as with most things, is to let time pass. Plus of course, I think every book has that pain threshold that you have to break through and keep going to get finished, when you think you can't take or do anymore; marathon runners have something similar I'm told - by people actually capable of running marathons, obviously. I have no doubt that your literary libido will return in force soon. (As I hope will mine!)

Ellie said...

I'd stick it in a drawer and spend a couple of weeks reading absolutely everything that caught my interest. I'd try and inspire myself again, remind myself why I love reading and writing.

Then I'd go back and, if necessary, get the scissors out and cut and paste what I did like into a new file and fill in the missing bits. Or, if it's not THAT bad after time away, I'd plug on to the end and get some helpful readers to give comments.

Doug Worgul said...


What was your advice to your clounseling clients in these situations?

Love is a behavior, not a feeling. Act as if you still feel love for your novel, even though the feeling isn't there at present. Pretend you're in love with it, act lovingly toward it, until the feeling comes back. It will come back. And even if it doesn't, you've done the right thing for the novel.

Grace to you, and peace.


David Isaak said...

Well, I have a love-hate relationship with everything I write. Sometimes things stall.

All I can offer in way of support is some afvice from tow novelists I admire:

I do not so much write a book as sit up with it, as with a dying friend. During visiting hours I enter its room with dread and sympathy for its many disorders. I hold its hand and hope it will get

--Annie Dillard


Always finish the failure—you never know when there’s going to be a mutation.

Kate Braverman

Good luck (and don't I wish that some of it would rub off on me!)

Matt Curran said...

Hi, Frances

Been there before, and will no doubt go there again. Several times throughout the course of my second book I had to leave the room and do something else. And even though The Black Hours is going well, I will have reached saturation point in the next two weeks or so, like Brian.

So I’m planning to take two and a half months off between the 2nd and 3rd drafts. Luckily I have a book launch to keep my mind off things, not to mention preparation for our first baby, and on the writing side of things – to keep my sanity – I’ll write a short story or two, and might go back to tinkering with my children’s novel.

I guess my advice isn’t any different to those already posted: leave the room, do something else for a while and come back new. It might take a day. A week. Or a month or more, but it really restores objectivity, and if it is broken, you’ll have a better idea on what parts are salvageable.

Len Tyler said...

I'm not sure I have much to add to the wise words of my learned colleagues. But I'll rabbit on anyway.

I'd assumed we all felt like this at different stages in the writing process (see Faye's excellent post about a month ago). The answers above pretty much confirm it. Sometimes it's just a vague feeling things are quite right - at other times it's blind panic that it's all a total waste of time. But we're definitely all in the same leaky boat.

I agree with Tim, Matt and "Ellie". The only way forward is to put it away in a draw for a few weeks, write poetry, read books, walk the dog etc. When you finally take the MS out and re-read it, either it will have miraculously turned back into the masterpiece you always knew it was, or, at least, you should be able to see more clearly which bits work and which bits don't. (I tend, myself, to find it's the latter, but I live in hope each time.)

I did once completely abandon a book half way through, by the way. I came back to it years later and I really liked it, but I can no longer remember how it was supposed to end. So, David's advice not to give up makes sense too.

Good luck anyway. I'm sure it will come right.

Frances said...

Thanks so much for all that, everyone, and for the support. I'll take the suggestions on board. I loved David's quotes, and was entertained by your suggestion, Doug. One of the things I got clients to do was have a bath together. With one young couple this was so successful that they woke up all the neighbours. But I don't think it would work with the novel... I'm currently reading Catch 22, which is good and bad. Good, because it's so brilliant and funny, but bad because to read someone as good as that can be deeply discouraging.

David Isaak said...

Well, I can't help with the problem, but I can always add more quotes! Since you mentioned Catch-22:

I don't think of myself as a naturally gifted writer.

--Jospeh Heller

(cf. Leo Tolstoy: "Do I have the talent to compare with our modern Russian writers? Decidedly not.")

At any gven point in time, I don't think an author is a good judge of how well they are doing!