When Your Draft Novel Doesn’t Sound Like the Story in Your Head #writers #AmWriting

Ever written the draft of a novel and on reading it through said “this does not sound like the story in my head.”

There are 5 stages to this situation:

  1. Book Idea Euphoria. You enter an initial stage of book idea euphoria after coming up with a sparkling new concept for a book. There is a spring in your step and a twinkle in your eye as you stew this literary beauty over in your mind. It’s such a good story that you find yourself becoming light-headed and a little unsteady at the sheer thought of it. Every time you think about it a little voice in your head says ‘I can see this being turned into a film!’ Gasp! Cue faraway look!
  2. Mind takeover. This new book idea takes over your mind. Gone are your day-to-day thoughts about what you are going to wear tomorrow, how your blog stats are shaping up, the amount of steps you took last week and who on Facebook shares your love of a soft egg with toast soldiers. This new idea consumes you. Every waking hour is spent thinking about your idea and playing it out in your head. The more and more you mentally visualise it the better it gets. It is going to sound great on paper. Cue the Booker prize daydream which you quickly upgrade into the film premiere daydream. Gasp!
  3. Writing Graft. You roll up your literary sleeves and get to work on turning your sparkling new idea into a literary masterpiece. This stage can take weeks, months or even years. You whip up a rough outline, but you tell yourself that you don’t really need a plan as this gem in your head will write itself. Whilst slaving away at the literary coal face you keep replaying the story in your head and this leads to some quiet moments staring into space. My goodness this book is going to be amazing! It was jaw dropping stuff in your head so imagine what it will do on paper?
  4. Changeling. You read back your draft and…..it sounds nothing like the story in your head! Your little voice remains silent. Scream! You come to the quick conclusion that what you are holding in your hands is a literary changeling! Someone has cruelly swapped your earth shattering, jaw dropping, destined to be blockbuster movie, literary masterpiece for something very different. This was not how you imagined it to read. By now you should be feeling exhilarated and doing some victory air punches. Instead you are holding something which has left you feeling confused and numb. In some parts that you read you didn’t even recognise the story that was being played out in your head. Cue tears, onset of a low mood, creative breakdown and the start of long-term creative disappointment.
  5. Acceptance. After a lot of tears, solitary walks in the rain, emails to writing friends, frantic pinning on Pinterest about how cruel life can be, virtual hugs and hours of creative soul-searching you accept the fact that your draft doesn’t sound like the idea in your head. It needs further work. You need to revisit your plan and structure notes. Ask yourself some tough questions – where did it all go wrong? Was it the lack of planning that made it go off course? Did you get carried away again?  Did you make enough notes on what was going on in your head?  It hurts you to say this but your draft needs overhauling.

It’s terrible when this happens. Writing can be crushing sometimes.

Why does everything sound amazing in my head?

Take care out there writers!


photo credit: Upsplash

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Lucy Mitchell lives in South Wales with her husband, her two teenage daughters, a giant labrador and a gang of unruly cats. Lucy is the author of the award winning blog, BlondeWriteMore and was a Featured Romance Author on Wattpad. When she’s not working or writing, Lucy can be found listening to audiobooks in a muddy field with her dog or sat outside her local pub in the sunshine enjoying a glass of wine. Her debut novel Instructions Falling In Love Again is OUT now and already pulling in some fabulous reviews ❤️

36 thoughts on “When Your Draft Novel Doesn’t Sound Like the Story in Your Head #writers #AmWriting

  1. Great post. I have been there when every waking moment is spent thinking about the next chapter in the book and how it all seems to fall apart in the execution. Very frustrating.

  2. Too true. Nothing ever comes out like you imagine it – a fact for non-fiction too, alas! 🙂 I have long resigned myself to the fact that what gets eventually read, by nature, is a pale shadow of what I envisaged. Such is the nature of translating thought to the written word. Sigh…

  3. As I am writing my first draft currently, I will be prepared for all these steps. Though a cold shiver went up my spine as I read this. Thanks for the warning.

  4. Oh! I think we’ve all had this moment. I know I definitely did when I went back to edit one of my novels a few months ago. I was like ‘this’ll just need some quick touch-ups’ and then I stared at it and was like: ‘oh god. This needs a full re-write. *pushes away*’ Haha! That’s okay, though. It’s better that we realize when it needs editing than let it get sent off to people before it’s ready, yes?

  5. Finally got my perpetual WIP out the door. A good friend who provided a lot of feedback on the draft is still chatting me up, asking, “Did you mean to put that description in those words?”
    Thankfully I know I can’t get anywhere without an outline–a flexible outline that allows for some spontaneity and changes in the moment, but an outline with clear boundaries to keep me (relatively) on track.

  6. Well weren’t we nearly on the same page? I just wrote a post about how writing sucks. LOL!

    The first draft of No More Champagne is an absolute embarrassment. It’s basically one very long stream of consciousness. To say that it was poorly constructed is a vast understatement. After I went back and read it through the very first time, I put it down, took a shower, and cried.

  7. Absolutely! I’m thrilled whenever I make a new writer friend. 🙂 There is no way for someone to understand the struggles we put ourselves through if they aren’t writers.

  8. I think the answer is simple since you are talking about fiction. You have to love the characters. You have to feel that they have perhaps changed your life to at least made an effect on it. It is forever the same. Movies, novels, shorts … the strong characters come to life and you are glad they came into your life. Sometimes, even the bad people have strong character and views that you learn from.

    1. Thx [Blonde writer drains glass of virtual wine and places cube of cheese in her mouth] – its so hard having a head like a cinema. If I got stuck on a desert island I could entertain myself for days….

  9. stop beating yourself up – we all have to learn and grow and develop – my first draft is a pile of shite, but I have learnt loads about writing since doing it – so I know the second will be better – SO WILL YOURS ❤

      1. good – its like that quote, I can’t remember it perfectly – but its something like – if you want others to love you then you have to love yourself first – the same thing can be said with writing – if you want others to love it – you need to love it and believe in yourself first.

  10. It’s rather like going to the gym but far more interesting — a case of no pain, no gain. Keep up those literary press ups, build those creative muscles, go for burn, and eventually you’ll whip those words into shape!

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