I Wrote a Novel and it Was Terrible
When I was fifteen, I wanted to be a writer.
Actually, I wanted to be more than a writer — I wanted to be the next JK Rowling or Harper Lee. I wanted to write the kind of story that sold a million books and got discussed in English classes. In my fantasies, I would hand a copy to my high school Literature teacher and watch him praise my genius.
Unfortunately, at fifteen, I didn’t have the next Harry Potter or To Kill a Mockingbird brewing in my brain. Even if I had, it most likely would have come out with plenty of spelling and grammar mistakes.
What I did have was access to the website, Wattpad. If you aren’t familiar with it already, Wattpad is a huge platform that allows people to write and publish their work on the site for free. It’s designed to help writers — especially young writers — get their work out there. The website has millions of readers, and more recently, a Harry Styles fanfiction that was originally published on Wattpad went viral and landed its own movie deal.
Harry Styles fanfiction is probably the most accurate way to describe the kind of content you see on Wattpad. Most serious authors steer clear of Wattpad because it’s full of teenage girls writing fanfiction, cheesy supernatural romances, and cliche young adult novels.
And I used to be one of those teenage girls.
Who doesn’t love werewolves?
I was well-aware of Wattpad throughout my teenage years — even before I started writing. At thirteen or fourteen, a couple of my friends raved about the site and got me hooked. I became an avid Wattpad reader.
I should clarify that most of this took place following the success of Stephanie Myers’, Twilight. Vampires and werewolves were the latest craze, and I read all about sultry werewolves with six-pack abs on Wattpad. Most of these stories were written by girls my age, and I can’t remember if any of them were particularly good. From what I can remember, it was mostly glorified Twilight fanfiction.
Once I realized that I wanted to write my own book, I chose to publish it on Wattpad. And, because I knew that it would be seen by thousands of teenage girls across the globe, I tailored my book to fit the Wattpad audience.
At fifteen years old, I started writing my own werewolf novel full of overused cliches and cheesy supernatural romance.
Well, technically, it was a werewolf parody novel— but calling it a lighthearted comedy or satire can’t change how terrible my book actually was. At the end of the day, it was still full of buff dudes who sprout fur and angsty teen romance.
Of course, when I started writing it, I didn’t think it was terrible — I believed it was a masterpiece. I thought so highly of my writing skills that I bragged about my book to family and friends.
My mom actually ended up reading some of my novel, and to this day, I’m not sure how she got through it with a straight face (and still managed to tell me how good she thought it was).
Compared to a lot of other books on Wattpad, my werewolf parody actually did measure up pretty well. Stylistically, it wasn’t bad, and there weren’t a lot of grammatical errors — which is why I think it attracted so much attention.
Within a year, my werewolf parody ended up garnering around 50,000 reads. I had my own little fanbase that continued to read, like and comment on my chapters. It was nice to have my work seen, and many of their comments boosted my ego.
For a long time, all of the positive feedback I got about my book made me think I’d created a work of art. It wasn’t until recently that I actually re-read my novel and noticed something.
Good novels don’t write themselves
After a second glance, I realized two things about my novel: while the writing itself had potential, the actual characters and storyline didn’t work at all. Without making anyone physically cringe, here’s a basic rundown of the plot:
The protagonist, a teenage girl, wakes up a new dimension full of werewolves and supernatural creatures. One of those werewolves happens to be the chosen one and must save the world. Not only does the protagonist get tied up in all that drama, but she ends up hooking up with some angsty, sultry werewolf herself.
So, yeah…I wasn’t the next JK Rowling by any means.
In the hands of a seasoned writer, that plot could’ve been executed well. Unfortunately, as a teenager, I had no idea how to write a novel. I didn’t plan any of it out and made it up as I went along. Things like themes, character development, and subtlety all went over my head.
As a result, my plot ended up like a bad soap opera: plot twists came out nowhere, nothing really connected and everyone kept coming back from the dead.
If my book were to ever get make it to the shelves of a bookstore, it would be one of the tiny paperbacks with a shirtless dude on the cover piled in the back, and on clearance for 99 cents.
What writing a terrible book has taught me
Ironically, my terrible werewolf romance novel taught me a lot about writing. For instance — if you’re going to write a book, you should probably plan it out first. You can’t wing it, and then expect to end up with a masterpiece.
It’s also made me realize that it’s okay to produce terrible work sometimes. Not everything we create will be a masterpiece. Sometimes it will be awful, sometimes it will be mediocre, and sometimes it will be awesome.
Instead of trying to erase your terrible work from existence, you should keep it around. Not only can it be a good laugh, but it’s a reminder that you’ve grown as a writer. If you can recognize your mistakes, you probably won’t make them next time.
I wrote a novel and it was terrible. It didn’t end up being discussed in English classes, and I never got praised by my Literature teacher for it — and that’s okay. Every artist produces terrible work sometimes, and you’ve got to be able to laugh at your cringy stuff.
If you’re lucky, your most embarrassing work won’t be the cheesy werewolf love story you wrote as a teenager.