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I Hate This Book

Can you write an entire book, beginning to end, whole and complete, and hate the result despite all the time you spent on it? Yes, you sure can. I’m going through this particular weird writer hell at the moment.

I wrote the perfect book. By ‘perfect,’ I don’t mean it’s a sweeping, flawless example of high literature. I mean I constructed it to every technical specification. It has a forward-moving plot that comes to a dramatic climax followed by a satisfying ending. The characters are all fleshed out with well-defined and sympathetic motivations, and believable backstories that influence their actions. I hit on every point and marker for the genre and intended audience. There’s no loose ends or anything frivolous. I even managed to construct a somewhat unique and interesting premise, if I do say so myself.

The problem is, when I finished it, I didn’t feel a great glowing sense of accomplishment. I didn’t feel creatively fulfilled. I just sort of felt like I’d finished a homework assignment.

I thought perhaps the passion would come in the revision, as it sometimes does for me; that when I clipped and rearranged and polished, I’d find the glowing gems beneath. It’s happened to me before, after all. I’m almost done revising it now, and I still haven’t found the gleam. Sure, there were a few scenes that gave me a mild feeling of joy like “hey, I wrote that,” but there’s been no overall thrill. I feel like I’ve written a long essay on some subject I have no real interest in and now I’m shoring it up so I can at least get an A on it.

In part, I think it’s because I just don’t like the characters. They’re great characters in their construction, as I said above, but I’m just not into them. It’s kinda like watching a show that everyone else loves but you just can’t get into. You can’t explain why, it’s a fine enough show, it’s just not your bag.

Earlier this year, in contrast, I wrote a story that I absolutely loved. I raced to the page each day to write it, and it all unfolded before me in brilliant clarity. I loved every aspect of creating it, I loved the characters, and when I finished I was breathless with the pounding of my brimming writer’s heart. Not to mention I was actually sad I was done writing it and there was no more. I wrote it in less than a month, revised it in a few weeks, and it was picked up for publication a few scant months later. It was a whirlwind romance of…writing a romance.

I find these two reactions are the extremes, though. Hating what you wrote and being absolutely in love with it are two ends of the spectrum, and most pieces we write fall somewhere in between. You may love parts of something you wrote and hate others, you may have to dig a while to find contentment in the prose, or you may just find that ‘good enough’ feeling eventually. Writing is a game of ups and downs, joy and sorrow.

But what of the hated, finished story? Should I complete the revision and send it off to a publisher? It definitely needs a sequel, and was always written toward having a sequel. I have some ideas for that sequel but I fear by a few chapters in, I would once again feel like I was writing a homework assignment.  Do I scrap it? The sunk cost fallacy involved will haunt me for weeks, I know. Do I repurpose it into something else? Change the characters? Chalk it up as practice and move on?

Isn’t writing just glamorous?

Have you ever written something you hated and couldn’t bring yourself to feel passionate about? How did you handle it? What did you do with the story?

Megan Morgan View All

Urban fantasy and paranormal romance author.

14 thoughts on “I Hate This Book Leave a comment

  1. I rewrote my fantasy trilogy until I killed it. KILLED IT TO DEATH. What worked with that one was to literally take it apart, make a note card of every bit I loved, and rewrite it around those bits. I got excited again, and wrote a living story.

    Maybe you were too workmanlike on this one. Maybe there’s something about the characters or story that wants to hang outside the box. Just thinkin’ out loud.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oooh, that sounds like an interesting idea. Because there’s definitely THINGS about it I like, maybe I just didn’t put them in the right places with the right characters. And I would hate to lose those things I do like.

      Thanks for the advice!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m excited to know if it works for you, too. It sure wasn’t easy, and I had to go on a retreat with a print-out and a notebook for a complete, no-distractions read through to catch all the anachronisms that happened when I moved things around, but it was SO WORTH IT.

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  2. I don’t know a lot about publishing stuff, but maybe your publisher could have a couple people read it and see what the reaction is?

    Juneta has a point about maybe your own feelings about it will be apparent in the writing. I know the last few books that I’ve disliked largely had to do with disliking the main character.

    On the other hand, while meeting all the genre points didn’t fulfill you as a writer, maybe the story itself is still very good?

    The sequel is an issue, but I don’t really have any idea what you could do about that.

    Hope you’re able to figure out a good solution!

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    • It’s not with a publisher yet, I’m considering if I SHOULD send it to a publisher at all, since I don’t even know if I could make myself write the needed sequels. I think the story is good (not tooting my own horn) at least technically and being what it should be in the given genre, I just…don’t connect with it. Gah! it’s really frustrating.

      Thank you for the advice! I need to either figure out if there’s something salvageable, or move on. I have to remember one of my favorite adages: don’t keep clinging to a mistake just because you spent a long time making it.

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  3. I know everyone says it but write what you love. If you love it your readers will probably love it if you hate it so will the readers unless that is the reaction you want. When I hate a story or don’t care for the characters I have trouble finishing it So you go for completing it, maybe you can change something to make yourself love or soften the characters or add situations that make the sympathetic, in the end you gotta do what feels right to you.
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

    Liked by 1 person

    • I definitely agree. You can tell when a writer didn’t really put their heart into a story, no matter how technically sound it is. And I don’t want that to happen! I will either have to find a way to put some of my heart and soul into it, or move on. It’s just hard to give it up after I’ve spent so much time on it.

      Thank you for the advice!

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  4. Oh my gosh, I am so feeling this today. After over a year of working on this story, changing it, upping the stakes, finessing the character arc, last night I realized I just don’t like my main character. She has a great arc, but I hate her until she changes, which makes me not like the story. Ugh. I’m considering scrapping everything except the premise and rewriting the whole thing. But yeah, the sunk cost fallacy will haunt me. Yep, real glamorous. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Can you give your character a huggable moment? Some glimmer that foreshadows her later change? Or a friend who’s loveable and sees your character’s potential? That’s what I had to do in one of my books, with an abrasive MC who later showed herself to be better than she seemed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s a good idea, Marian, but alas then she just becomes too predictable – as in the reader knows she has to change and how. Oh well. I’ve revamped it by making the unlikable MC one of 3 to balance the less likable character with more relatable characters, and the story is working much better. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Oh gosh, it appears we feel each other’s pain! I’m glad I’m not the only one who wrote something they hate though, it’s kind of comforting to know other writers do it too. I guess the silver lining is that we’re, well…good at the craft? We know HOW to write a book and what goes into it, it’s just that we created stories we don’t really like.

      Good luck on figuring things out! Maybe that’s what I need to do, start again with the same premise but different characters? Hmm…

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      • Ha! That’s what I always tell myself too: I run into this problem because I know the craft. And I have revamped and the story is working much better. I didn’t get rid of the unlikable character (her viewpoint is too important) but I decided to tell the story from two other very different character POVs as well. I hope you’ve figured out what to do with your story too!

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