You know that feeling you get after you write a chapter? I'm talking about the one where you believe you wrote the best thing you've ever written before. That is...until you come back and read it later...and you hate it.
Or how about when nothing you write works? Nothing fits your protagonist's voice, nothing sounds coherent, and nothing should see the light of day. And you've felt that way for weeks...
If you've been writing for a long time, you've probably experienced one of these scenarios at least once (but probably more). It happens to me on a regular basis, and I hear the same things from other writers all the time.
First, know that you are not alone in your disappointment in your writing. It's okay to not love everything you write. In fact, it's a good thing to not like your writing sometimes if you use that as an opportunity to identify what about your writing you don't like. That gives you the opportunity to improve next time.
What you do not want to do is let your inner critic wear you down to the point that you give up on your story or give up on writing altogether. Having a bad writing day (or bad writing weeks) does not mean you should hit the panic button and abort your story.
When you find yourself unable to find anything good about your writing, that's probably a sign that you need to take a step back and consider some of these options.
Take a Writing Break
Now, I know you might be saying, "But, Meagan, you said don't stop writing!" That's true. I don't want you to stop writing completely. I'm just suggesting a short break. If you've been writing hard and fast for a long time, you may just need a break to clear your mind and rest. Taking a break doesn't make you less of a writer. In fact, if done right, it could make you a better writer.
Writing yourself to the point of burnout will drastically reduce your quality of writing. And if you think that everything you're writing is the worst thing ever, it may just be that your mind needs a break. If you can step away from writing completely, try it for a few days. Just be sure to not let days drag into weeks.
I know this can be hard, especially if you don't want to take time away from your story, but there are ways to continue to develop your story or writing craft while not writing.
1. Read a Fiction Book
Find a book in the same genre you're writing in and analyze it. You can learn a lot about how a book is written just from reading similar books. If there is a particular subject that is stumping you, like world building or conflict, pay attention to how that author develops those aspects.
2. Read a Book on Writing
This is a fantastic way to learn more about how to write. You can find some of my favorite books on writing topics on the Resource page, and a quick Google or Amazon search will also turn up a lot of resources. If your current struggle is with character development, search for books on that topic, read them, and take notes. When you come back to writing your novel, apply what you learned.
3. World Build, Create Characters, or Develop Plot
There are many different aspects of creating a story, and many of them require little to no writing. Take a break from your draft and hop on over to Pinterest to find visual inspiration for your characters. If you're artistic (or no someone who is), create a map for your world or do research for your setting. And if you're still developing your plot, you can brainstorm ideas for that without diving into too much writing.
Write for Fun
Sometimes, all you really need is a short break from your work in progress (WIP). A simple writing prompt is usually all it takes to free you from the stresses of a draft. It's easy to get caught up in making our writing perfect, trying to meet self-imposed deadlines, or worrying about getting a publishing deal. With a prompt, or simply writing with no direction in mind, you allow yourself to enjoy writing again. You free yourself to follow your creative muse wherever it takes you, and you give yourself permission to write badly because no one ever has to read it.
I often have the most fun when I do this type of writing. The freedom that it gives you can help you remember the reasons you fell in love with writing in the first place. And who knows? You may write something that turns into your next novel.
Get a Second (or Third or Fourth) Opinion
As writers, we are quick to be hard on ourselves and our own writing. It's just in our nature. We critically analyze everything we do down to the last comma. Like I said before, this can help you grow as a writer, but we usually allow it to drag us down instead.
However, it's very likely that your writing isn't as bad as you believe it is. It's easy for us to see the worst in ourselves, and sometimes we just need someone to remind us that our writing really is good.
Take a sample of your WIP and ask someone else to read it and offer feedback. It's preferable that you ask another writer who can give you specific feedback. Encouragement like "I enjoyed it!" is nice and will make you feel better, but it won't help you in the long run. If you're struggling with a specific scene, tell your reader that, and if you can, ask specific questions to get more feedback beyond "It was good." You may find that your writing is good, or you may find that one tweak that was needed to turn it from good to great.
"A day of bad writing is always better than a day of no writing." - Don Roff
We will all have bad writing days. That just comes with being a writer. The important thing is that you learn from those days and persevere. Take a break, read a book, write something new, or seek out constructive feedback. But most importantly, keep writing.