Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (Part 4)

This entry is part 4 of 27 in the series Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

Stages of Failure

It isn’t pretty when you realize that the thing you’ve been doing, oh, all your life, is wrong. The first thing you do is reject the idea out of hand. If you’re a writer, you go to book X by famous writer Y and open at random to page Z. You read aloud the words on page Z and then you deride them mercilessly. Your lip goes into a bit of a sneer and you do your best to convince everyone (who hasn’t had the good sense to flee the room) that you are as good as author Y and that your masterpiece is better by a thousand fold than book X. Then, with a flourish, you tear out page Z and exclaim,

Perforate it, and put it on a roll!

You look like an idiot, but a mildly dangerous idiot, so no one says anything. You take their silence as a tacit agreement with your analysis. You get smug. However, there isn’t much else you can say after that so you put book X back on the shelf and you sit down. You begin to get a little upset at yourself for tearing page Z out. Author Y deserves better.

Accepting Suckage and Moving On

When you accept the fact that you suck at something, especially something as personal as writing, it might take you several tries before you really get it. I tried to quit two years ago, but I was working again in three weeks. Therefore, I knew quitting wasn’t an option.

I spent the next few weeks trying to diagnose my problem. I’m not talking about tearing apart the stories and the prose, but something a few layers up. I wanted to find out why I couldn’t write the stories I was trying to pull off.

What I came to realize is that I was just too damn happy to be a literary artist. I didn’t feel happy at the moment, but I knew that was my default state and whenever I was writing something deep and literary all that joy drained from me. What started as grand and beautiful turned into pain and drudgery.

It was like a chore to write and that didn’t fit in with the kiddo who loved to tell stories.

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