Ugh. Times like this I wish I was a hardcore plotter.

I did something today. I looked over my first draft. Now i think I’m on the verge of a full blown panic attack! How will I ever transform this train wreck into a glowing finished piece of work? There are plot holes in it that even I don’t know how to fix. I knew upon entering the revision phase that there would be tears, frustration, hopelessness, excitement…a whole cocktail of emotion that makes you grateful for the people in your life who do ‘get you’ and your unsuspecting moods. But right now, I feel like I might die. I’m not being melodramtic here, I think I just might.

*Deep breaths*

Now I shall go to the gym to run off some of this anxiety and pray that this book will become everything I know it can be without turning into a complete mess.

Has anyone experienced this? Feeling so overwhelmed you can barely breath?

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23 thoughts on “Ugh. Times like this I wish I was a hardcore plotter.

  1. Going to the gym is the right answer. When you feel like that, step away from your novel and do something else. It will all come into perspective. Any one trying to write a novel knows it’s HARD work. Have faith. You can do it.
    For me, I walk the dog, go jogging, yoga, have dinner out. Sometimes I ask someone to read what I’ve written and give suggestions. Read books about writing. This helps me control what I’m doing. I always learns something I can use for writing. Hope this helps.

    • Thanks for the words of advice…being active and outside really gives me perspective! I guess not looking over my first draft in a few months was a bit of a shock because all the ideas I’ve had since then was not in there! I’m ready for the challenge though!

  2. Do you have an editor? An impartial eye with a good grasp of literature will be able to point to specifics and get you brainstorming on the solutions without the agony of panic attacks and second guessing.

    Every time mine points out something I think, “OH! That’s true!” and when I fix it she says, “Brilliant solution!” lol so the ms gets better and better… It’s wonderful when we meet and I can bounce ideas off of her, too, though that doesn’t happen often.

    I also have a book that offers hints for self-editing after the first draft that was recommended to me by an award winning author, but I can’t find it on the shelf and the title eludes me. I’ll post it if/when I figure it out!

  3. I can totally sympathize with you! One time, I almost gave up on my novel becuase of plot holes I thought were irreparable.
    I would recommend the book “Plot and Structure” by James Scott Bell. He is definately a hard core plotter.

    • Well I’m glad you didn’t give up! I’ve heard about that book so I will have a look into it and see if it sings to me. Not many writing related books appeal to me, but I’m always opened to finding one that does 🙂

  4. I am overwhelmed on a regular basis, so yes, I’m right there with you.
    You’ve gotten some great suggestions already, so I’ll just add the one that works for me. When I’m wondering whatever possessed me to think I could write a novel, I challenge myself to sit down with it for just one hour. I decide ahead of time what I’m going to do in that hour-either break down the scenes, analyze my characters, go through a conflict arc-stuff like that.
    Once the hour is finished I’ve usually made some measurable progress. Most of the time I’m so inspired by the progress that I’ve made that I want to do another hour, and maybe even another.
    But if not, an hour is okay, and I try again the next day.
    I think for a big project like writing a novel, marking the little steps along the way as achievements is important.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets overwhelmed! I think just being away from my first draft for so long was a bit of a shock to the system because the story has evolved in my HEAD but not on the pages – but I know we’ll do just fine! Especially with HTRYN as guidance. Are you doing that course as well?

      • I am!
        I’ve been slowly working my way through the lessons in order, and then had to go back to repair some parts that I realized could be better based on what I’ve learned.
        It wasn’t easy for me, but I’ve not regretted a minute of it. I’m learning a lot!
        (I go under ‘Larkk’ in the forums, same avatar, different name.)

  5. I’ve felt so overwhelmed at times that I’ve run away from my work. I’ve put it on hold and gone for a walk, cleaned the house, done anything other than think about it. Exercise is a great antidote to panic 🙂

    My feelings of panic come from what I’m telling myself. These thoughts are not always in full consciousness so it’s been some time before I’ve got them out into the open where I can actually challenge them. They go something like: OMG I’m writing a book! How can I do that? I’m no good so I can’t do it…but I am. That’s pretty panic-inducing because there is a huge tension there.
    Then there is: I’ve been working on this for so long. If I was any good I would have finished ages ago, it would be in print and I’d be writing another. That one leads to despair and panic because I’m so far from the end I can’t see how I’ll ever finish!
    And there’s always the good old: OMG I’m spending so much time on this! Is there any point? Perhaps I should just give up and do something ‘useful’ with my time.

    I’ve told my husband about these and he just deflates all of them. His attitude is; if I enjoy writing then it’s worth doing. If I get a book out of it and it sells, that’s a bonus.

    Sitting down and making a list of what you have learned during this process might reassure you that you are making progress.
    Could you give your work, or part of it, to someone who is a good reader and who you know would give you helpful feedback?
    I’ve found talking things over (with a real person or one of my characters) really useful for sorting out those plotholes which are big enough to take half the universe. I might not get anything out of the chat but it sort of knocks me onto different rails and I get more ideas later. Getting really comfy and giving myself time to chill out and really focus on the conversation is essential for me.

    Another thing I find useful is to sit down and make a list of what are the main problems of the book. Then take one and sit with it, and forget about the rest. My answers don’t come immediately – there’s sometimes a wait of a few days to a week or so.

    Hang on in there. You can do it!

    • First of all, thank you so much Prue for leaving me such a long message! Glad to know that I’m not the only one who feels like this! Just getting away and going to the gym really did wonders and I’m back into the ‘I can do this mode!’ Plus with HTTS and HTRYN I think I’m in good hands. So I’m just going to get organised, write up some weekly, doable goals and set up pin boards…EVERYWHERE so I can see my progress scene wise. Hope your goals are all on track and that your muse is being helpful!

  6. You say you aren’t a plotter…maybe it’s time to start being one. Take your first draft and use it to make an outline. See what you have there and start filling in those plot holes. I find it easier to organize my mind about a novel when its condensed into a few pages rather than several hundred.

    • I’ve already done that 🙂 I guess just taking a break from my first draft gave me sooo much clarity it was a bit overwhelming! Little steps, I just need to remember that! Hope you’re writing is going well!

  7. For ten years (longer!) I’ve carried the plot of a sci fi quintet around in my head – the most complex plotting activity in the world. I survived by making thousands of notes AND by studying an utterly brilliant book called “Teach yourself screenwriting.” Screenwriting?! For a novel??!! Yep – it really worked. The plot for a screenplay has to be flawless and the rules apply just as well to a novel – if not better, because you’ve got more room to move and your page count doesn’t matter. I learnt to plot right down to the last atom of a scene and if this sounds like overkill – it isn’t. I got to know my characters and the story so well that it made writing much easier. It also generates new ideas (always helpful.) I took a half-dead, badly-thought out novel (Commences) and turned it into the most complicated monstrosity every imagined. Everything I’ve written since then has been a doddle! No plotting hassles!

  8. Thank you! I really needed this post and all these great comments today. I’ve just had some of my work critiqued for the first time and I’m so deflated I feel I should abandon my dreams of finishing a novel and go find a proper job. I don’t mind the critique, it was all spot on and entirely justified, it’s the feeling that I lack the skills to make it better that hurts.

    “How will I ever transform this train wreck into a glowing finished piece of work?”

    Your opening paragraph summed up how I feel completely (although for me it’s character rather than plot that I struggle with). I’m sure we will both manage to plod on and reach our goals, I just wanted you to know I completely understand where you are right now!

    • Glad this post helped! I think all writers go through these moments of self doubt so don’t let it defeat you! As long as you’re true to the soul of your story and writing what truly excites you, your story will become what it needs to be. I’ve really had to learn patience during this revision process and really take the time to identify what is broken with my first draft and be honest – rather than slashing away at it without fully understanding what I want the finish book to be! You should definitely look into Holly Lisle’s writing courses and clinics…they really did give me the creative spark, self belief and motivation I needed – most importantly the feeling that I can do this! She has a lot of free articles about writing on her site too, but honestly, all her course work is AMAZING! Maybe it will help you too. There’s a character clinic as well. If you have any questions about them feel free to ask 🙂 In the meantime keep doing what you love! http://howtothinksideways.com/writing-courses/

      • Thank you so much for this reply. I have looked at Holly’s course before and it is definitely what I need. I think when I have the time and money I would very much like to sign up. Right now I will be looking at the free articles you mention (I promised the family I wouldn’t do any more study until the kids are at school – they tend to lose me for big chuncks of time otherwise).
        Doing what I love is writing new novels from scratch – I worry if I keep doing that without finishing one I’ll never know if I can! 🙂

  9. Thanks for stopping by my blog.
    You are not alone! There are times I’m so proud of myself for writing this novel, and other times I wish I’d never told anyone I’m in final revision.
    My biggest problem is creative procrastination. Sister, you can find the most amazing amount of things to do when you’re avoiding planting your butt in the chair.
    Where are you in HTRYN? It’s an amazing course. Trust Holly to guide you.
    So, take a deep breath, a brisk walk and, when you are ready, get back to plotting. Knowing your characters, seeing their world and, as Susanna said, planning your scenes carefully helps give the the big picture you need.
    Hang in there!

    • Thanks! Taking a deep breath during those moments really does help. I’m currently on lesson 12 of HTRYN and beginning to see see a lot of positive progress which is motivating me to really sit down and focus – always a good sign! How about yourself? Are you still going through HTRYN or have you completed it?

      • I’m midway through lesson seventeen. I word counted the other day and was dismayed to find out my novel is too long for a first book. Why didn’t I word count before? I was so intent on what I was doing in the course, it didn’t occur to me. Unbelievable. So, I have a dilemma. I need to cut around 30,000 words. Should I start lesson seventeen over just for cutting, or should I continue through to the end of the lesson and then go back and cut? Yikes! I love the course, I’m constantly learning, but this problem has wracked my nerves in a huge way for the last few days.

      • Will your story still work cutting out those words? I always seem to have the opposite problem, but judging by my current outline I might be a bit over once my rewrite is done – something for me to think about too! I’m like you, I’ve been so involved in the course, word count is the last thing on my mind. Let me know what you end up deciding to do.

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