There are a lot of different things you have to screw up to write The Worst Novel In The Entire Universe. You need appallingly dull characters, characters with no interesting qualities whatsoever. Not even slightly interesting qualities. Everything about them has to be as dull as possible. And every single sentence needs to snarl up and make no sense, and also talk entirely about things no reader ever wants to know. And the setting has to be – I don’t know. Somewhere with no chance of any interesting thing ever happening. And the plot – the what? There’s no plot. At all. And god forbid there be any themes. Or any anything. Or maybe there are themes, but they’re all awkward and keep turning up constantly. Every two words.
And sure, there are some characters who accidentally do boring things in every first draft. Mine like to go to sleep and tell me what they’re dreaming about. There are some sentences in every first draft that clunk in one way or another. Mine end up kind of scatterbrained: sentences that try to do too many things at once in the wrong order without any commas when really they should be doing something else entirely. Like that last sentence. There are possibly a few moments when the setting doesn’t make much sense. Or the plot falters. And maybe the themes turn up just to whack you in the head with obvious obviousness. And sometimes, naturally, you look at all this stuff, this stuff that you screw up, and you think that maybe you should go watch some daytime television and never attempt this again.
I read a post on Sarah Dessen’s blog recently, where she talked about writing Just Listen. She almost deleted it and gave up writing in despair. She was that convinced it was terrible. I couldn’t believe that not just any published author, but Sarah Dessen, could feel that way about a book which turned out (in my opinion) to be her best. In short, we don’t know. As she points out, when you’re entangled in a draft, you’re so close to it that it can be impossible to see clearly.
Besides. It’s better to hate your writing sometimes than to never hate your writing at all. Doubt can be good. When you’re working on that next draft, you’ll be objective and able to listen to other people’s advice and edit ruthlessly. If you’re in love with every single thing you write 100% of the time, it’s hard to acknowledge the flaws. Doubt shows that you’re a healthy writer, rather than an inflated egotistical ugly one.
So, sometimes you write and it comes out imperfect. Or even awful. But don’t let that stop you. As the British government liked to tell people during World War II, just keep calm and carry on. Because you never know. That Worst Novel In The Entire Universe? It might just turn out to be amazing.