Want to finish the novel you've been working on, but keep getting discouraged and dragged down by insecurities about your talent or ideas? John Green's writing advice will help any aspiring novelist get over the hump and finish their manuscript draft. The Turtles All the Way Down author did a Reddit AMA on Thursday, during an eight-hour bus ride to Charlotte, NC, and gave some pretty great advice to struggling writers while answering a question about what he felt was "the most challenging part of writing a book." If you have a draft or manuscript idea you want to develop, you're going to want to pay attention to what John Green has to say.
Anyone who has ever tried to win NaNoWriMo — that's National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated — knows that writing a novel is no easy task. There's a certain sense, among non-writers, that writing is an easy career path, because pretty much everyone is literate, and being able to read and write are the only requisite skills for authors, right? But writers of almost every stripe know that Ernest Hemingway was right when he observed, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
There's always a point, usually 20,000 to 30,000 words into a new story, where I realize it's bad. Like, really bad. And often when I get to that point, I have to abandon the story--which is a bummer, because I've spent three or six or twenty months on it, and then I feel like, this was all for nothing! I have wasted all this time!
But then sometimes I will get to that point of realizing the story is terrible, and I'll think, "You know, I think I can plow through to an end here. I think I've at least got some idea about the characters." And then I make it to the end of the draft a few months later. I'll still have to delete most of that draft in revision, and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite before I have a book, but if I make it past that point where I realize it's all bad, I can finish.
And then eventually I will understand that none of the time spent was actually wasted, because I had to puzzle through those stories that couldn't work to get to the one that could.
So for me the hardest part is accepting when something isn't working, and letting it go, and starting again.
So what should you take away from this? If you're at an awful slump-point, allow yourself to step away and work on something else for a while. A little bit of distance may be all you need to decide whether your idea is good enough to finish or not.