What do you do when you realise you are a terrible writer

Give up?  Start over?  Get a job stacking shelves in some shitty supermarket?  Turn into the dull, grey, dying-inside person you’re afraid of?

I’ve spent all summer editing.  Both the third and fourth Fleet Quintet novels were already written but needed work.  I deliberately didn’t get a summer contract so that I could concentrate on this, without distraction.  (I also had a health problem to overcome.)  This has meant a very long summer with very little money and quite a dreary time of it in over-baked London.

Only one section of V. Gomenzi really needed work, while Commences needed quite a lot of re-shaping.  Now that it’s officially the fourth Fleet novel and not the first, there could be more revelations and explanations.  This really helped what had always been a difficult and obfuscated story.  Finally I was done editing and formatting (unbelievably tiresome but it has to be done) and could get on with the final step:  proofreading V. Gomenzi.  The best way, I’ve found, to approach a novel freshly is to send it to myself on Kindle and read it there.  The novel looks quite different to a computer screen and errors leap out at you very quickly.

I began proofing today but didn’t get very far as I realised – with horror – that the first chapter is terrible.  It’s heavy and overwritten and slow and dull dull dull.  How could I not have noticed this?  Is the rest of the novel like this?  Years and years of working on this, on countless drafts, countless reworkings.  I thought it was my best work, the most mature, the most complex, the most defined – and it’s SLUDGE?

Worse than perceiving myself to be a failure of a writer is that there are SO MANY bad writers, traditionally published and self-pubbed.  In the latter sector, only porn makes money. There was once honour in being a failed writer – they were always the most interesting, the most tortured characters in murder mysteries.  What is the point of a bad writer now?  Or doesn’t it matter if you think no one is going to read it anyway??


About susannahjbell

I am a writer of science fiction and other strange and surreal works. I mostly write novels and the occasional novelette. My published works include A Doorway into Ultra, the Fleet Quintet and the Exodus Sequence. I live in London in an attic flat but really want to live in a tree. I wanted to be an astrophysicist but would settle for an alien abduction. I write because I don’t know what to read.
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