As writers, we often have a love/hate relationship with our stories. One minute they fill us with excitement and give us a reason to get up in the morning. The next, we’re pulling our hair out because they make us so angry. Sometimes, you can jump between these two feelings by the minute. I’ve done that before! And at the worst times, it can feel like there’s no point to your story — like you might as well stop now and get a new hobby.
We’ve all been there, believe me! You’re not alone! In fact, it’s so normal that I’d worry if you didn’t feel that way from time to time. I don’t think you need to spend your whole time writing with a sour look on your face. No! It’s just important to feel like you’re helpless from time to time. After all, writing isn’t an easy task. So hating your story is an important part of the writing process. It gives you a chance to do something about it and make your story even better.
But it’s not healthy to stay in that place. Sure, it’s a good idea to feel those feelings from time to time. However, letting them take over is going to cripple you and stop you from writing anything at all! That’s why it’s so important to strike that right balance. And here are the best tips to getting back on your feet when you hate your story.
Acknowledge What You’re Feeling
When you first look at your story with hatred, it’s important to notice that feeling and sit with it for a little bit. Yes, I know it’s going to be hard. It’s not a nice feeling to sit with! But it’s going to do you a whole world of good if you do. You see, that hatred is trying to tell you something. Your story is probably still as good as it was yesterday, but you’ve noticed that something is off. It might not even be with what you’re writing! It could be with you!
But now isn’t the time to figure out what’s wrong. It’s time to look at yourself and say “ok. I hate my story right now”, and just accept that. If you think about your story like that, it’s going to help you a lot in the long run. I’ve seen a lot of writers spiral before. They start by hating their story. Then they hate the fact that they hate their story. Then they stress about the fact that their hatred is stopping them from writing. Finally, they just throw in the towel and their story turns into another lost case in their long list of “bad ideas”. They go from feeling something completely normal to wasting all that time and effort just because they let anxiety into the mix. It’s not healthy and it’s not necessary.
So just take a moment to notice what you’re feeling and be ok with it. Don’t judge yourself or you’re going to make the problem 100x worse. Just be with it. Sit down and accept the fact that you’re stuck. Zen stuff, I know.
Tell Yourself That It’s Okay
Ok, so you’ve sat with the feeling for a while. You probably feel nasty right now. I don’t blame you! All that negativity! So, now you need to turn it into something else. The first step to doing that is telling yourself the truth: it’s okay to hate your story from time to time. Heck, it’s a lot more normal than never hating your story. In fact, a lot of the best authors feel the same way, too.
It’s time to say to yourself: “it’s okay that I hate my story. I’m not going to feel this way forever.” Why? Well, this is how you’re going to start doing something productive with that hatred. If you ignore it and bottle it up and force yourself to work through it, it’s not going to go away really. It’s probably going to multiply and make you feel like you’ve wasted even more time and effort in the long run. So instead, you need to accept your feelings and turn them into something good.
Take a few deep breaths if you have to. Count to 10. Do something that will help you to come to terms with what you’re feeling. Just make sure that you actually believe it by the end. There’s no use repeating “it’s okay” if
Take a Break
Now that you’ve let yourself know that everything’s okay, you’re due for a break from your story. I mean, you’ve let yourself feel all that hatred instead of bottling it up! That’s going to drain you. Now it’s time to do something fun that has nothing to do with your story at all. Get the story out of your head.
How do you like to unwind? Do you sit in front of the TV and just veg out? Play a game? Speak to friends? Listen to music? Well, whatever suits you, own it. I know you’re tempted to ignore this step and throw yourself back into your writing, but what’s the point? It’s not like you can be productive with all those negative emotions swirling around in your head. If you write a load of useless nonsense, you’re just going to end up hating your story even more.
It’s kinda like when you’ve fallen out with a friend or family member. If they tried to hug you and be friendly straight away, you’d probably feel really icky. It’s healthy and safe to take some time away from them to clear your head and come back when your mental state is better. That way, you can let go of all that resentment and actually
Find the Problem
So now you’ve taken an hour or two out from writing. Do you feel better? When you look at your work, does it still disappoint you? If not, you might have just needed a break. As I said before, it might not be the story that’s bad at all. You might have just spent so much time with it that you lost the enthusiasm.
If you still don’t like what you see, assess what’s wrong. When some writers come to me with this problem, they really can’t seem to put their finger on what they hate about their story. That’s fine in those earlier steps when you’re trying to clear your head, but now it’s time to focus on finding out what’s wrong. I guarantee you that there is always something! Putting this into words it going to get you a lot closer to solving it than saying “I don’t know. I just don’t like it!”
Here are some of the common reasons why you might be feeling like this:
- You needed a break.
- You read/saw something that you think is better than your story.
- There’s something out there that’s too similar to your story.
- You’ve improved your writing so much that the first things you wrote disappoint you.
- You’re struggling to find the words to express what you’re trying to say in the story.
- You’re trying to force yourself to do too much.
- You’ve focussed too much on the end result.
- You’ve given yourself too many goals.
It’s a lot easier to solve an issue like this if you sit down and realise what’s nagging at you. Are any of these things hitting close to home? There might be a few all at once. Don’t judge yourself too much. Focus on how to improve.
Speak to Other People
We’re social animals. Even the biggest introvert needs other people from time to time. This is a perfect example of where it’s important to speak to someone.
It doesn’t matter if you speak to writers or other friends. The most important thing is that you give yourself the chance to use your words to explain what’s wrong and listen to the advice you get back. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to get a little perspective on the issue. Other times, writer friends will tell you that they feel the same way and you can laugh and joke about how hopeless you all are. Joking about this makes you hate the story a lot less than if you sat down and forced yourself to write. Plus, being told that other people feel the same way is going to help you believe that it’s okay to hate your story.
If you don’t have anyone you can speak to face to face, the internet is always on your side. There are lots of forums for writers to meet and talk about their stories. I can bet that every forum has at least one thread about writers hating their stories. You’ll be in good company there. Most of them have some great advice! Plus, it does help when other writers empathise with you.
Find the Good Things
So you’ve spoken about the issue with anyone who’ll give you the time of day. Perfect! Now it’s time to pick out some good points about your story. You should be able to find at least 5 for each chapter! If not, it’s time to take an even bigger break. Clearly, the problem is that you’ve fallen out of love with your story and you need to take some more time apart. After all, you wouldn’t be writing the story at all if you always hated every detail. What changed from yesterday? Just your state of mind.
Get a notebook out and write 5 good points that you like about your chapter. Try to start with the broader things like characterisation, plot, setting or writing style. That’s important because it helps you to come up with the things you like about your story that you can keep doing. Those broad details can be applied to your story later on. You know that you can do them, too! You’ve already done them before! Then, move onto the more specific details once you’ve run out of broad ones. Those are good because you can assess the things you want to leave in when you’re editing your story.
You don’t need to stop at 5 if you’re on a roll! In fact, keep going if you’re starting to feel better about your story. Sometimes you just need the perspective and a chance to shift the way that you look at your writing.
Realise You’ve Grown as a Writer
I would never read a story from a writer who told me they don’t hate their work sometimes. It seems cocky and arrogant, which isn’t the kind of thing I’m looking for in an author! If a writer never doubts their craft, they’re never going to take the time to make themselves better. I mean, they think their work is great already. Where can they go from there?
When you take the chance to follow these steps, you’re going to be forced to be more critical of your work. That’s always going to make you a better writer in the long run. No piece of writing is perfect, after all. We just need to learn to look at it for its good points and the things it can work on. Once you separate these, you’re going to have the tools to make your writing so much better than it was before.
So give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve stuck with your story and come out of the other end as a better writer. Hating your story is just the easy way out. It takes a lot more dedication to stick with it even though you feel the way you do. And if you do, you’re going to be so much better.
If You Abandon…
Don’t feel lost or sad if you choose to ditch the story. Just make sure that you don’t waste your time, either! Never delete your old work, because you’ll kick yourself if you find a way to improve it later on. Keep all of that lovely work and use it to grow. I mean, you loved this story once upon a time. Don’t ignore that. You weren’t crazy.
Just make sure that you check out my post about “bad ideas” to set you right. No idea is terrible. There’s always a little nugget of gold there. You just need to find it.
Give your story the chance it deserves. It’s not awful, and you shouldn’t let your emotions control you like that. You have the chance to take that hatred and turn it into something worthwhile.