I was going to write about doing character sketches this week but… I’ll be honest, I haven’t been well. I’ve been feeling really shitty about writing in general — really disheartened — so I’m going to use that frustration as fuel to talk about it, and discuss what I do to make things better.
Today, I’ll be focusing specifically on what happens to writers who have spent a long time on a manuscript, and are close to the end of a final, or near final, draft. This feeling is a little bit different than the feeling a writer gets starting a new manuscript (Everything Sucks Ass Syndrome — or, ESAS) — We aren’t talking about ESAS today. We’ll save that for another time.
What I’m going to discuss today is Itsalmostoveritis. Which I am suffering from this week in a major way.
Itsalmostoveritis Symptoms, Causes, and Risk Factors
Am I at risk?
Are you on a third, fourth, or maybe final draft of a manuscript? If so, you are greatly at risk for this problem. Depending on the speed you write, you’ve spent anywhere between 5 months and 10 years on your project, which means that your book has consequently become a part of your life.
Those most at risk are writers who plan to be finished with their manuscript, and looking for agents or publishers for their manuscript, by year’s end. Being a previously published author lightens your risk for suffering itsalmostoveritis, but not by much.
This problem generally starts occurring after a major goal is reached, a halfway point is met, or, you may even be a few chapters away from finishing.
If you are currently on a first or second draft, you are probably not suffering from itsalmostoveritis. You are probably suffering from ESAS. This article may not be for you, but may be wise to read anyway, so you can be prepared.
Being at risk for itsalmostoveritis doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to contract this problem, but you should watch for the symptoms, and keep yourself prepared to fight them off if they arise.
Below are common symptoms of itsalmostoveritis. If you experience these symptoms, take a step back and assess your situation before things get worse. Know that you can get better, and remember that you are not alone.
- You suddenly feel like an idea you once loved is now very stupid, very childish, or very unoriginal/tropey.
- You cry a lot about financial problems outside of your control because you’ve been working on one book for too long.
- You feel as if you have wasted all your time, and should have been working on something else.
- Although you have accomplished a lot, you feel as if you have accomplished nothing.
- Excessive impatience
- Your book isn’t good enough, no matter what you do.
- Not even published books are interesting.
- You believe your friends and beta readers are blowing smoke up your ass when they say ‘I like it.’
- Obsessive, unnecessary editing
- Obsessively reading your own work over and over again, even though you know exactly what it says.
- Consistently going to your friends for reassurance that your book doesn’t ‘suck’.
- Consistently ignoring those friends when they swear up and down that it doesn’t.
The below symptoms are signs that your condition has evolved into a more serious form of itsalmostoveritis, and it is best you talk to close friends, look for writing groups to keep up your spirits, or take a SHORT break and work on something else until you can clear your mind. Vacations also work.
- Total or partial disownment of said manuscript.
- Decision to be finished editing and call the manuscript done even when you believe it is not. Then, do nothing with it.
- Convince yourself that, even after many drafts, the book isn’t worth your time, and abandon it completely (Not to be confused with ESAS, where you abandon ideas in early development)
- You vow to never write again
Treatment and Prevention
Working through itsalmostoveritis can be difficult and prove to be nearly impossible at times. After all, if your manuscript is horrible, what better option than to forget about it altogether? Believe it or not, if you’ve made it to the later drafts of your novel, it’s probably not horrible. If it was, you would have suffered from ESAS instead, and you’d be working on a different book by now.
You have to remember that human beings have a huge capacity for passion, and sometimes this passion can get so intense that it gets in the way, and suffocates the reason we fell in love with a thing in the first place. Being too passionate about something can lead to critical judgement of that thing. Good writers become as involved with their books as they do their personal relationships — even marriage.
In good relationships, you suffer the same way you suffer with the book you’re writing. You become too attached, too controlling. You have to keep everything pretty, make sure it’s safe, make sure it’s working — and in the middle of all that, you end up taking it too far, and your relationship with that thing threatens to end very abruptly if correct decisions aren’t made. But you’ve put a lot of time into your relationships and your book, and you should do what you can to smooth out the bumps.
You’d be surprised to find that itsalmostoveritis tends not to last more than a week or two if you nip it in the bud and take care of these feelings.
Here are some steps you can take to treat and prevent your symptoms:
- Slow down. Spice up your writing time with different things. Maybe every other day, work on something else. Write a short story. Write a new storyline. Rekindle the spark that made you want to write in the first place.
- Continue to write, and don’t blame ‘Writer’s Block.’ It’s important to keep in practice, despite the problems, even if it’s 500 words a day. You need to keep your mind in the game. I write everyday, even when I’m at my worst. I find my crappy phases pass after about a week, even when I’m consistently writing.
- FINISH THE DRAFT. I can’t stress this enough. Nothing feels shittier than a draft you’ve put tons of time into that never gets finished. Work through the edits, despite your shitty self-esteem. No one cares about how sad you are — they care that you can gain the courage to finish. You don’t have to be in a good mood to write. Be a robot for a while if you have to, but get through it. Reaching the end will make you feel accomplished, and accomplishment yields incredible mental rewards. Oftentimes, the reason we suffer from itsalmostoveritis in the first place is because we need to feel that sense of accomplishment. Writing is FAR from providing instant gratification. Guaranteed, you will feel better if you push through it, and finish editing the damnuscript.
- Read some good ass books. Unfortunately, this means putting down beta-reading for a while. You need to focus on professionally edited material that you know is good shit, and is proved to be good shit. You need to focus on reading something you don’t have to edit, or help edit. Fill yourself with professional words so that you can yield the same. You are what you eat, unfortunately. You can’t run a marathon eating nothing but cupcakes and Denny’s Dulce De Leche pancakes (although, they are delicious.) And you can’t write a book fueled only by crit-partner, beta-reading work, and fan-fiction. People are going to throw tomatoes at me for saying that, but I believe it’s 100% true. My writing gets worse when I don’t intake good material.
- HOWEVER, if you ARE a fan-fiction writer, read ALL THE FAN-FICTION. FF writers are writers too, and suffer the same way. The important thing to remember is, read what you want to output. FF is different than other forms of writing, and has a market of its own.
Most of all…
Remember why you started to write your beloved manuscript in the first place, and remember that even if you DO have mistakes in your MS, you can go back and fix them in the next draft. Eventually, there will be little left to fix.
While it is true your MS will never be perfect, there will come a time when you can say to yourself, “Yes, it’s good enough.” This feeling isn’t as mythical as people make it sound. You will know when it’s time. You will get there. But you might have some drafts to go.
If you’re anything like me, you love your characters more than life itself. You want what’s best for them, and (even if you don’t feel positive right now), there was once a time when you were convinced their story was amazing enough you had to write it down.
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