What I Hate About My Novel

Another exercise from my undergrad days (last week’s post was also a writing exercise from one of my first writing professors). Back then, I was working on my undergrad thesis piece, also about motherhood, and I found it incredibly frustrating at times, mainly because I felt whatever progress I made was useless and not good enough for a variety of reasons. So my thesis adviser told me to write about the writing. By free-writing everything I hated about the work, even asking questions or brainstorming about the plot as I went, the hopes were that I would get some direction.

I eventually finished my thesis. Maybe I’ll find and post a draft of it some day providing it survived the great motherboard disaster of 2015. Hopefully one day I’ll finish this novel?

Image of yellow crumpled papers in and outside a gray wire wastebasket
Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

I hate how long I’ve been working on it.

I hate that I picked a topic that I can’t relate to and won’t ever relate to, and now I have to actively research and doubt myself at every step of the way for fear that what I write is inaccurate. I hate that I don’t know my character inside and out like I was advised to, like I would want to, which makes writing her incredibly difficult.

I hate that I have to travel back in time to a place I don’t know very well to write about a topic I know nothing about. I hate that I have to get to know my main character, her sister, the relationship she has with her mother and the relationship she has with herself before I can start writing. I hate how this story is keeping me from another one I actually want to write about, one I can actually relate to. 

I hate that I can’t picture my character or the story when I sit down to write, when the blank page is staring at me or when yesterday’s word count fluctuates 100 words out as I type and delete, type and delete, type and delete… I hate how I can’t organize my thoughts around the plot, how every attempt at structure feels wrong.

But mostly, I hate how this story is so hard to write now. Where I once had direction, purpose and drive, now I have a blinking cursor and white space. Besides a woman who wants to carry and love the two babies growing inside her, who is she? Is she a vegetarian? Does she have an aversion to seafood? Does she hate the smell of cinnamon but craves pumpkin spiced lattes when she’s pregnant? Does she love bagels and lox but can’t stand the smell of dairy during her second trimester? I need to know this person as well as I know myself, so that narration comes as easy as writing a diary entry, and description becomes clear, concise and impactful.

The story now feels empty, kind of like my main character. Empty of importance, of reader appeal, of substance. She’s just an empty shell until I get to know her. Writing this story doesn’t feel like a shout into the void necessarily, but mostly like there’s no point in writing the story because it’s not important. I don’t doubt my writing (not on good days, anyway), and I don’t doubt that it won’t be one of the first stories told on the topic, but I have doubts about whether it will turn out successful. I’m so desperate to finish it, that I’m afraid once it’s finally done it won’t even be good. Kind of like when you’re in a crowded bar, desperately waiting for a drink, and when the busy bartender finally makes it to you, your beer is warm, flat and the bartender clocks out.

The story feels empty of not only substance and importance, but of appeal. If for me, the writer, the story doesn’t have that initial attraction, the attraction that made me want and need to write it in the first place, will it have any appeal for the reader? It is my job to create that appeal, but I hate that it’s such a hard story to write now that I don’t know how to keep going.

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