Angela Knight has a great post about what to do when your book goes wrong.

It happens to every writer, no matter how skilled you are: the book from hell. This is a book that absolutely does not go where you want it to go, and which limps like a three-legged dog as it wanders away. When you read over it, you get this sick feeling in your stomach that whispers, “This book sucks.”

Have you ever had that feeling? I know I have. Like Angela, I've known when the book wasn't right, even if I didn't know how to fix it. I've often had to go away from it for a while, spend some time doing something else, and then approach it with a new attitude. I will slice and dice what isn't working pretty ruthlessly. I wasn't always this way. I used to whine and cry about keeping things just because I liked them. Scenes, descriptions, etc.

But they aren't really important in the scheme of things. It's the arc, the overall plot that matters. Took me a long time to learn that. Sometimes, I read work in contests and I know the writer doesn't know that yet. I've known people who keep polishing those same few chapters over and over and over, until the prose is lovely and shines, but the story has no life. The conflict isn't there. I get no hint of character, no idea what's going on in the story.

How do you tell someone that without crushing them? I've been there, I've written pages of beautiful nothing. But I don't know how to tell someone else when they've done it. I'm not sure they'd believe me anyway. Maybe it's something you have to discover for yourself. Reminds me of a quote:

What I had to face, the very bitter lesson that everyone who wants to write has got to learn, was that a thing may in itself be the finest piece of writing one has ever done, and yet have absolutely no place in the manuscript one hopes to publish. — Thomas Wolfe

Oooh, that's a tough one. 🙂 But it's a lesson we all have to learn.