Mind passing the peas to my manuscript? We’re in a fight.

Some authors say writing a book is like a love story. Writers, they say, go through the same ups and downs with a manuscript as they would in a romantic relationship.

In that case, I think my manuscript and I just had our first fight.

Last week I was so sick of my book that I didn’t want to write it. Didn’t want to talk to him, didn’t want to look at him. I needed a break from him altogether.

I didn’t expect this, and it gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach. I mean, we’ve been together for six months, and I’ve put so much work into this relationship! Why was I suddenly having these negative feelings? How could I feel annoyed and repulsed by a manuscript I’ve loved so strongly from the beginning? And what did this mean for the future? I’ve still got the rest of the book to write, then the editing and publishing process ahead of me.

It didn’t stem from self-doubt, an obstacle books on writing say I’ll find myself up against sooner or later. I’m perfectly content with what I’ve written so far, and I still think I’ve got an awesome story to tell. I’m just tired of actually writing it.

In retrospect, I should have seen this coming, should have realized that I’d grow tired of working on the same project month after month. But it never occurred to me that I’d get sick of my own book, a story I chose to write. (It’s reminiscent of a bout of fatigue I faced during my travels in Africa, at the two-and-a-half-month mark. Following that dream had its challenges, too.)

So, here I was last week, feeling guilty, ashamed even, about the tiff with my manuscript. But then I mentioned it to a few author friends, and you know what they said? That it’s normal for a writer to feel this way about their book. Entirely normal!

What a relief. Hearing that other writers also go through hate phases with their book and still manage to crank it out inspired me. If they can do it, I can do it, too.

This weekend, I took an important steps toward reconciling with my manuscript: I gave myself some personal space, two days away from writing to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday with friends, with the hopes that this week I’ll see my work with fresh eyes.

Fellow writers, how do YOU do it? How do you overcome this apparently common bump in the road?

UPDATE: I’m happy to report that this downer of a phase IS just a phase! It does pass! How’d I get through it? After my weekend-long break, I forced myself to write, and soon finished a chapter. That feeling of being productive, of knowing I was one chapter closer to completing my manuscript, was enough to make me fall in love with the story again.

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21 Responses

  1. Grit my teeth and go on. As a journalist, you know how deadlines can motivate you to just keep going… even when we hate our WIP at the time.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. True, so true, and it can be alarming. We need to give ourselves permission to be moody about the WIP — when we have that luxury — and go away from it. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Keep the momentum, a topic near and dear to me, in the meantime. Go back to it when you start feeling the love again.

    Jessica Rosen

  3. You might try reading your manuscript from the beginning. Remind yourself of why you fell in love with it and the idea of it in the first place.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

  4. I do just what you did, Alexis. Take a break from it. We all need breaks from our relationships/connections to others and other things. It is totally normal.
    Karen Walker

  5. Totally normal. I take a break, put it away. And pray. Pray a lot.

  6. You did exactly the right thing – step away, take a little break, then back at it. That’s happened to me when I get frustrated with something that I can’t seem to get to flow right. Like Helen suggested, sometimes when you go back and re-read you get back into it, it speaks to you again and you can both move forward.

    Nancy, from Realms of Thought…

  7. I do an on-again, off-again form of collaging throughout the story, so when the words are hacking me off, I have pretty pictures to look at. It doesn’t always work…there are days when the shredder seems to be smiling at me…but I use those times to find one shimmery piece of the story where I might find something new and play with it.

    I also keep a journal for myself along with my WIP. When I’m angry or stuck or apathetic, I use the journal to vent my frustrations. Funny, it never has entries of the good times…LOL

    Good luck…we’ve all been there 🙂

  8. I think writers, like any other occupation, need breaks and vacations.

    JaneKennedySutton

  9. You made me laugh! Not AT you, of course, but because the same thing just happened to me. I just couldn’t articulate it the way you did. I had this great big fight with my story! That’s exactly what happened. I hate to admit it, but she won. 😦 I truly don’t like to lose fights, but I lost this one. I did a major revision of the first 25k words before I could go on. Now we’re in love again. So, I guess I kind of won as well.

  10. When a story I am working on starts getting tedious I take a break from it to write a short story, maybe even flash fiction. I can submit that, feel accomplished, and then go back the longer piece. It can take a couple of hours or it can take a couple of weeks, depending on the story.

  11. I also take a break. This is basically what I did during May and June while immersed in the blogbooktour class and setting up the blog. Now I’m expected to submit a new chapter to my critique group by midnight tomorrow night. I’m actually excited about that now (especially since the chapter is already written and ready for my first pre-critiquing edit).

  12. It depends on the goals I have set for myself so I either:
    1) Keep going. I can always go back.
    2) Set is aside. Take a break. Write something else. Refresh your mind, but don’t spend too much time away from it.
    3) I do research that I need, write notes (even if I don’t use them), or look over an outline I might have. Then, I do one of the above.

    I have learned a lot about my writing process over the past few years, and everyone is different. Just don’t give up! That is the thing I hope to never list.

    Good luck!
    Natasha M. Heck

  13. I take a little bit of a break, just to step back and refresh my perspective

    Elle Parker

  14. I have a love/hate relationship with my manuscripts. Sometimes we don’t speak for days, but in the end, we always make up. Makeup writing. Its awesome!

  15. Thanks, everyone for such wonderful feedback/support/ideas!

  16. Oh, I had a whole bout of this last week in regards to the two new stories I’m working on. I remember getting angry a lot in college too.

    To clear it up, I either go for a run (weather permitting), go for a drive (gas prices permitting) or take a one-day break from writing. One of those usually reignites the spark.

    But don’t let that break go longer than a day or two, otherwise you’ll start making excuses to avoid the work.

  17. The writing relationship is a rocky road indeed. And not the delicious ice cream kind. When I lose interest in my WIP, I either explore ideas for new books, or force myself into reconciliation. If I lose interest in a character, it takes some self-reflecting to find out why, and to figure out how to make the charchater (or entire novel) more interesting. If it’s just a particular passage or chapter, I move on to the next one so I can cycle back to the beast with fresh eyes when I’m in a better mindset.

  18. It must feel like almost a betrayal to have that feeling after being a journalist. In journalism so often we work on stories assigned to us by someone else, under the assumption that if WE only got to pick the subject matter, everything would be perfect. Good for you for pushing past that, and for being so honest about it with the rest of us. Writing is such a solitary activity that anything that enhances the community feeling is welcome!

  19. I’m always working on several different things at a time, so when I get stuck on one (which inevitably happens) I switch to one of the others. It works for me, but I know a lot of people who hate that. In any case, taking a break is a must.

  20. Since everyone else gave great advice and you are back on track, I just wanted to add that I loved your headline! Love the comparison to a relationship fight. 🙂

  21. […] on July 10, 2009 by Alexis Grant Thanks to everyone who offered advice about getting over the fight with my manuscript. After a weekend break, I forced myself to get back at it, and completed drafts of chapters nine, […]

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