When Authors Hate Their Own Books

Over at Sandra Scoppetone’s blogsite (http://sandrascoppettone.blogspot.com/), she has this entry from a few days ago:

“I hate it. I don’t want to write it anymore. It stinks.”

That gave me such a laugh because I know exactly why she said it.

You see, while writing my books, I’ve hated every single one of them. Felt they were doomed, that they’d reveal I was a no-talent fraud. That there was no way I’d be able to save the sucker from certain disaster.

That my career was over.

So when I went through that with my current project, I knew it was a perfectly normal part of the creative process, even though it didn’t make the crisis any easier for me (or my husband) to deal with. I know that with every book, I’ll spend nights lying awake, unable to sleep, consumed by self doubt. Thinking: “I’ll never save this one. Never.”

While my husband, darn him, sleeps blissfully through the night.

Those of you who think we writers just crank out these novels haven’t seen me stumble out of bed in the morning with bloodshot eyes and a churning stomach, dreading the work day ahead. Knowing that it will involve sitting at my desk consumed by anxiety. Even after — oh, eighteen published novels (dear god, has it really been that many?), with every new manuscript, I still feel as if this whole writing thing is new to me, and I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.

I suspect that this is actually a problem that experienced novelists have. First-time novelists don’t have these worries. They attack their first book with the confidence of the uninitiated, never questioning their talent, thinking that of COURSE they can do it.

But when you’re onto your second or tenth or twentieth published novel, you have other worries. You wonder if you’ll be able to please your editor, your readers, and the critics. You question every word you write. You actually become LESS confident, because you grow more exacting and more critical of your own work.

So yes, Sandra, I know exactly what you’re going through.

Books are like children. There are days when you are frustrated with them, tired of them, maybe even hate them a little. Then they give you a little smile, or reach for your hand, and suddenly you love them with all your being.

I’m just waiting for my book to start smiling.

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