The Cranky Writer by Catharine Bramkamp

the-cranky-writerLet’s welcome back monthly columnist Catharine Bramkamp as she shares with us “The Cranky Writer! ” Enjoy!


My book is a load of crap. 
It’s terrible.
It’s awkward.
The characters are flat and dead as road kill.
I hate every sentence and I hate myself for writing any of them.

Have you ever felt this way about your novel?

You should, it’s a legitimate developmental stage in novel writing: complete despair.

This stage is analogous with either being or living with a middle school age girl.

Yeah, it’s that bad.

You have two choices:  Abandon the book (oh that we could have given away those 13 year old girls, but the market was saturated).

Finish the book.

Abandoning the book at this stage is tempting, overwhelmingly tempting.  The problem is that unfinished is not a happy place.

It’s disturbing to live with bags of half-knitted socks, half-completed meals, or unfinished canvases. Even if that book is nicely hidden in the depths of a hard drive, you know it’s there. It will nag at you and make you crazy in its unfinished way.  Worse?  Some ungrateful child who still holds a grudge about the weekend you tried to leave her 13 year-old self at Safeway will unearth the thing long after you’ve gone and read it, worse, published it.  Don’t let that happen.

So clearly, tossing the book to the side of the road is not the answer.

You’ll have to finish the damn thing.

I think we owe it to our art to finish. It is important to practice working through the whole of a project. Don’t die with something so important unfinished.

How do you tackle that terrible, horrible no good very bad book?

Turn it over to others.

I sent what I thought was a finished manuscript to six loyal readers who act as my Beta readers.  They are invaluable for both their feedback and what they represent.  In exchange for reading something that I can no longer look at without my eyes crossing, they deserve the finished, edited book.  I owe them.  Even if I don’t owe anything to myself.

That’s the solution.  It’s easier to fix something, or even write something in the first place if you do it for someone else.  Not a new thought, but one that helped propel me to the page and helped me finish.

Once you slogged through the Beta edits of a book, you can now just throw money at it.

That is the good news.

Hire a copy editor.  Just take their suggestions, fix the sentences, or like me on a few occasions, hit, accept all and move on.

At the same time as the last edits, hire a cover designer.

Ask for help in writing up the back blurb of the book, and the notes for the Amazon listing.

You can publish the whole thing through Create Space.

That was the easy final lap.

It’s moving past that stage of despair that is important.

As I’ve said before: Break down the work.  Editing is exhausting, you stare at every sentence working it around and around thinking that all that Hemmingway crap about writing the truest sentence you can was the reason his books were so damn short and couldn’t we just let this mostly true sentence just slide?

Your brain hurts.

You want to dump the whole project and watch five favorite episodes of anything else on Netflix.

When the book edits drag, we (okay, me) start to get sloppy and lazy.  Every sentence is good enough.  A bad attitude for editing.

As soon as I think – good enough, I know it’s time to walk away from the desk and drink water, or dive into water, or just stare at something wet.  Like the dog.  Who jumped into the birdbath again. After a squirrel.

Once I spend time away, maybe even a whole day, I can return.

I will finish the book, and I will send it off to the publishers.  Because it deserves to be out, and published.  That is our art, to make books.

It just takes some time.  And time will overcome all that is horrible, bad and 13.



Catharine Bramkamp, author

Catharine Bramkamp is the co-producer of Newbie Writers Podcast that focuses on newer writers and their concerns. She is a successful writing coach, Chief Storytelling Officer, and author of a dozen books including the Real Estate Diva Mysteries series, and The Future Girls series. She holds two degrees in English, and is an adjunct university professor. After fracturing her wrist, she has figured out there is very little she is able to do with one hand tied behind her back.

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