The Love-Hate Relationship We Have With Our Books

A couple of weeks ago my publisher sent me a hard copy of The Preacher’s Bride—all 390 plus pages printed on 8 ½ by 11 paper. Each sheet was an exact replication of how the page would appear in the book once it’s published. This copy of the book is typically called Galleys.

My publisher wanted me to check for smaller scale mistakes. It would be my last time to see the book and make any changes before it went to print. With a colored pen, I could mark things within the text and also indicate the change in the margin.

Reading through the Galleys wasn’t optional. I had to sign a sheet saying I’d read the book and then needed to return everything within about a week’s time in a prepaid UPS 2-Day delivery envelope they’d provided.

Here I was, holding my book—a book I’d spent months laboring over. I was on the brink of publication, watching my dreams come true, knowing what a privilege it was to work with a large, strong publisher. I was getting to have a writing career and doing something I absolutely loved. I was indeed blessed.

And yet, as I started reading the Galleys, I couldn’t stop myself from feeling utterly discouraged. My family had to listen to me say things like, “This stinks!” and “I don’t want anyone else to read this” and lots of other moaning.

In fact, my complaining got so bad, one of my daughters finally said, “Mom, if you hate the book that much, why did you write it?”

I got to thinking we often have a love-hate relationship with our books. There are times, usually after we just finish writing a book, when we think it’s the best thing ever written in the history of the world. We’ve just spent months of our lives immersed in the setting and the plot. We’re in love with the story and the characters.

I wrote The Preacher’s Bride almost three years ago and I was definitely in love with it after I wrote it, excited to query it, secretly thinking, this is a wonderful story, how could any agent not like it? (Hah!) Since then I’ve completed two more novels, and I admired each of those, certain they were destined to wow my readers as much as they had me.

That's just the way it is. We fall in love with each book as we write it. But then when we’re having a love affair with a new story, that old book doesn’t look quite as appealing anymore. (One more reason never to stop with writing just one book!)

So what can we do to keep a balance in the love-hate relationship we have with our books? Here are just a few things I’m telling myself:

We’ll always find things we want to change.

Time and distance give us objective perspective (as I mentioned in: Can a Writer Salvage Early Manuscripts), but that also means we’ll continue to look at our stories with critical eyes, always finding words to fix. At some point, we have to know we gave it our best effort and then cut the ties. Let the discouragement be the impetus to work harder.

With each book we write, we should challenge ourselves to grow.

Yes, when you read The Preacher’s Bride, you may find some amateur writing. But I can have confidence that my next books will be even better. I’ve challenged myself to grow, pushed myself to try new things, made an effort to practice what I learn. So hopefully each book will appeal to readers even more. As my critique partner, Keli Gwyn told me, “If your second book is stronger than the first that's a good place to be. Some authors give the first everything, then disappoint readers with the next book.” If we’re not challenging ourselves to implement new writing skills with each book, then we might remain stagnant.

We need to surround ourselves with people who believe in us and can tell us the truth.

A few days after I sent the Galleys back, I got an email from a book buyer who’d read an ARC of my book. She told me she “really enjoyed the story” and that she was going to highlight my book as a “must-read Buyer’s Choice” in their Fall Fiction Catalog. Boy, did that email come at the right time! It served to remind me we’re often our harshest critics. We NEED others to join our writing journeys, those who aren’t afraid to be honest with us with the good and the bad.

Have you ever had a love-hate relationship with one of your books? Do you have times when you adore your book and then times when you can't stand it? What do you tell yourself to get through the discouraging times?


  1. I definitely know how that feels. You haven't worked hard enough on it if you don't have a love-hate relationship with the story. When I feel this way, I just put it down for a bit (perhaps watch a movie or go for a walk), and I'm sure it'll look better when I return.

  2. I am glad to hear I am not the only one who thinks my last books sucks and the new book is heaven sent. I am sure we are always going to look back on earlier works and feel this way. If we keep growing as writers then the book we are working on is always our best. I am sure your book will be fantastic :)

  3. Oh yes. I can certainly see the love/hate relationship. I love it and now I'm not so much in love with it. Sigh...I guess that's why we keep writing, huh?

    Love your new background. Sorry the first one broke. Was it hard picking one?

  4. Oh yes, this definitely happens to me!
    I'm SO excited for you!!! You mentioned amateur writing, but really, that can be subjective. Maybe it feels amateur according to what you've been taught, but rules change and who knows what kind of writing will be popular twenty years from now. Enjoy your success girl, and be proud of that work which represents SO many wonderful things about you. :-)
    Can't wait to read it!!!

  5. I do! I have those moments more often than I'd like. But it helps to know others do, too, especially ones with books soon-to-be published!

    And thanks for this thought-out and realistic look. Your suggestions always help.

    Jody, what a special thing, to hold that copy in front of you. So thrilled for you!

  6. I love the tips about focusing on your growth and surrounding yourself with people who not only support you but tell you the truth. I'm sure The Preacher's Wife will be wonderful, but you're right. Hopefully we are growing all the time, so it would be odd to read something you had written at the beginning of your journey and still love it completely!

  7. Yes, yes, yes! I have such a love-hate relationship with my books. Every book I write, I like better than the last. I go through phases where I think my story is the best thing to happen to the literary world to thinking it's the worst piece of literary composition ever written and should be burned into ash. Right now, I just read through my rough draft of my latest novel. Oh boy. Hubby keeps reminding me, "Katie, you hated your last novel when you reread it too and you fixed it up. You can do the same thing with this one." I hope he's right!

  8. I think I have a love-hate relationship with every book I write. When I'm away from it for a while, I start to think about all these awful parts, and I don't even want to go back to it. But later, I take a quick peek and spot a scene I liked, and suddenly, it's not so bad. Acutally, it's pretty darn good. Then I start editing and yikes, did I really write this trash? It's like constant yo-yo. Love, hate, love, hate.

    Great post.

  9. I bet it was exciting to hold your book!!!
    I thank you for saying all of this. I feel the same away about the one I have just finished revising. For the zillioneth time. I too wrote it two years ago but wanted to revamp it and send it out. I worry that some days I hate it more than I love it! LOL

  10. must be thrilled to see the galleys. WOW! I can understand, I was thrilled to see mine.
    As for the love-hate relationship I have it all the time. Everytime I revisit an old book or story I undergo that feeling. Its a writer's curse.
    I just tell myself that I must have loved the book at one point, been passionate about it to write it.

  11. Every time I look at something I wrote, I always want to change something. I don't think you can get away from the feeling.

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  13. Exciting and congratulations!

    I think we are so hard on ourselves. If we don't see perfection, we want to scrap it. Sure writing is a business, but writing is also personal a reflection of our intellect and soul. This makes our acceptance of it, sketchy at best. :)


  14. Yes! Yes! Yes!

    There have been times during the edit process where I think 'this is doo-doo' (okay, I used another word, but I'm trying not to use 'that' word so often). Then, in another phase I'm like "I love, love, love this". I think it's all part of the creative process. We are, often, our own worst critics. That's why there are Beta Readers and other bluntly honest people that tell us like it is. Luckily, my friend Suzy is a no holds barred kind of person. She doesn't hold back, as in her comment "You look like doo-doo" (okay, she didn't use that word either, but . . .). I thought I looked pretty dang good that day - I'd lost some weight, just had a haircut, and yet dear Suzi told me the harsh, brutal truth.

    Okay, I'm rambling. It's Friday, I'm allowed. I just try to remember that whether I think my novle is the best or worst thing ever, my opinion is always going to be biased. I have to get the opinion of others to truly know whether my writing is good or bad, and then, it's all subjective on the reader.

    Your book is obviously good because you have an agent and a publishing deal. : )


  15. Yes! My editor wanted me to reformat my manuscript before she began her edits, and I couldn't resist going through it and making changes. I've learned so much since I wrote it.

  16. I think the hate part of the relationship is not really hate for the book - it's fear that people won't like it. Jody, you've written a book that a wonderful agent loved. Now a very successful publisher is bringing it to the world. If you can, what we must do is let go of our attachment to what happens once the book flies into the universe. And I have no doubt that you will be extremely successful, in every definition of that word. You already are!

  17. I think every other read thought is the love or the hate. I see things different at different times. My mind is in a different place. Hopefully all the conflict will help end up with a good read.

    How did you tackle your galley? I would be paranoid with the "This is it" mentality.

  18. I go through the same process and find myself wondering why anyone would even request anything I've written when I review books for submissions. It is hard, but the more time we spend away from our "babies" equals a greater ability to see their flaws. I think that's a sign that we're growing as writers and that we are developing the ability to fix what we've written with greater ease.

    Congratulations! I can't wait for the book to come out in October!!

  19. This post is good timing for me. I'm doing some final edits on the last chapter of a book that will be on submission soon and some of the sentences which I've read a thousand times seem so flat or dull. I just have to remember that most people who read books just read them once,lol. Thanks, Jody!!

  20. I can't think of a better description Jody! I love my story and cahracters, they are larger than life in my eyes. But then I feel sick in the pit of my stomach to think they are depending on little ole me to muster the words to tell their story. Yikes!

  21. That picture of your Galleys sent chills up my spine. How exciting for you! Whenever you hate your book, just remember you're holding the Galleys in your hands- the Galleys! That means the next time you hold your book, it'll be the final copy, the copy everyone is reading and loving!

    I added The Preacher's Bride to my Goodreads, and I can't wait to read it when it's released!!! Good luck, Jody!

  22. I completely have a love hate relationship with my current WIP. I can't pick up the thing without changing something. I saw Kate DiCamillo speak once, and a child asked her if she ever went back and read any of her stories. At the time I was surprised that she said no. She explained that if she did that, she'd find things that she wanted to change and now it's too late. Now I know just what she meant.

  23. Being hard on yourself forces you to improve. I'm anxious to read your first book...and look forward to seeing how you grow on your second and third too!

  24. Holly Ruggiero asked: How did you tackle your galley? I would be paranoid with the "This is it" mentality.

    My answer: Holly, I had the same feeling!! I was very critical of each and every word! Of course, it wasn't the time to make BIG changes. I would have thrown off the page layout. But there were some bigger things that I wished I could have changes. As it was I stuck to the small things and marked it up pretty good!

  25. Being hard on yourself forces you to improve. I'm anxious to read your first book...and look forward to seeing how you grow on your second and third too!

  26. And Melissa Gill, I can totally relate to what Kate DiCamillo said. As I put my Galleys in the mail, I told my kids, "That's the last time I will ever read that book." I guess time will tell. But right now, I don't think I could!

  27. Oh, to hold the Galleys! *sigh*

    I've definitely struggled with the Love/Hate Relationship with my stories, and it's nice to know that I'm not the only one. I think that it's our nature as writers to agonize, always wanting to fix and tweak and improve. I think that's something we shouldn't lose, but should try keep in check (and hopefully we'll have precious people around us like your sweet daughter to keep us in check as well!)

    Thank you, as always, for your transparency!

  28. Even now, I look at my comment and want to change things...punctuations and missing words. See? ALWAYS! ;P

  29. I think we're definitely our own worst critics. I can only imagine what a feeling it was to go through your work again, especially under that time constraint. I'd expect to feel very vulnerable if I were doing that, as though I'm almost letting the entire world read the most intimate diary entry. Phew! You have a wise daughter and I'm feelin' the love!

  30. Jody, did you jump in my head? Cause seriously... your timing! I'm working on making this my last edit of my current novel before I submit it to agents. I'm not hating it, but I do feel like I have to make a choice to put it out there sometime and just let go.
    Thanks for your encouragement!

  31. When I was writing my last book, I was at that place where I was convinced it was the best thing that had ever been written! Then, circumstances caused me to pull away from it and put it on hold for awhile. Now, when I think of it, I think how totally ridiculous, cheesy and unrealistic it is. Yet I still love it! Does that make any sense? I'm glad to know I'm not the only one with such wishy-washy feelings.

  32. I've experienced this with in depth edits that seem to never end. It takes the magic out of the novel to read it SO many times. But don't worry Jody, your readers are going feel the magic and love your work. I'm thinking happy thoughts for you!

  33. Jody, I think we can become overly critical of our own work. We've seen those pages so many times we're almost sick of them. When we look at the story in the midst of our weariness, we tend to notice the few weaknesses and overlook the many strengths.

    The Preacher's Bride is sure to be a wonderful story. How do I know? Well, because big name publishers like Bethany House don't buy anything but the best stories available. Because book buyers don't pick anything but wonderful, sure-to-please reads to promote as their top picks. And because I've been privileged to read your next story and know how well you write.

    You wait. In the upcoming weeks, when the glowing reviews begin to appear, you'll find out how much readers love your story. =)

  34. It's exciting to see your galley and have your book one step closer to being released. I'm anxious to read it!

    I rewrote an older story in first person POV, and making the language transition to how my MC would speak has been challenging. With every read-through I find things to change and I'm increasingly less enthused by the story. I hope it means I'm tired of it, not that it truly is garbage as it sometimes seems, but I've reached the point where I have to depend on outside opinions.

    I have other stories in the works and want to get back to them so it's tempting to abandon the previous ones. I argue with myself to give each book its' chance so I'll be querying this one despite my feelings about it.

  35. We are our own worst critics. I was having a love/hate relationship with my current WIP. Loved the characters, but the storyline wasn't working. Now I love all of it.

  36. I'm sick of my books right now. I do think the second is better than the first. But I'm tired of them both. I read them, work on them a while, and think they're great. And then, after a few weeks, I might look at it and say, "This is garbage."

    I can't wait to read your book. Bet I'll love it.

    ~Britt Mitchell

  37. Jody, I know the feeling! I can't remember why I opened the file of my first contracted novel the other day (the one coming out in April next year), but as soon as I did, I saw stuff that surprised me.

    The thing is, we're style hounds. We pay close attention to every word and clause because we've learned how to construct sentences. But readers encounter a novel more in the way we did when we first wrote it. They are struck by the characters, and they have their own love affair with the freshness of the story. They will be more forgiving than we are of the occasional clumsiness that has slipped through. I'm glad you reminded me of this point today, because for the last week I've been having that "I don't want to write because it's not good enough" feeling about my WIP. But even though it's not perfect, it IS good enough, and I know yours will be too. :-)

  38. Yes, I have those times!

    I'll look back and think, okay, what in the world was I thinking?!

    Then someone else will read it and just LOVE the section I was so critical on.

    And as I wrote the same section, I'd have cried...who know?
    We writers are fickle things.


  39. I don't think I've had a love-hate relationship with my stories. I wouldn't set out to write them if I wasn't in love.

    Beautiful post. You must be so proud of your book. Congrats!

  40. I thought my writing was terrible and I stopped. I went back years later and read through some of the stuff I'd written and realised it wasn't so bad. In fact, much of it was good. I regretted stopping. So now, I remind myself of that, and I don't let anything stop me now.

    PS i like your new blog background.

  41. Hi Jody -

    I think I'm on the hate end of the spectrum right now. It usually occurs when I learn something new that I need to work into my book.

    Several years ago, I met two successful authors. They spent part of the class telling us about the workshops they were taking. Learning never stops - not if we want to excel.

    Susan :)

  42. I still have a deep love for every story I've ever written (though editing the same ms over and over again can be taxing), but that doesn't mean I don't want to do better next time. I intend to be a forever student of the craft.

  43. You've grown as a writer, so you were nitpicky with yourself. Your readers will not do this! They'll love it as much or more than you first did.

    This reminds me of my husband, who built our home. I love it, we're blessed to live in this home, yet he's critical of his work. "I should have done this or that." It's human nature!

  44. Oh my word. This makes so much sense.

    Reminds me so much of this (which I think you'll geta kick from):

  45. nothing like this to make a relevant comment,
    but I still wanted to let you know that I think this is just so incredibly exciting.

    as you said, you are a work in progress,

    we all are.

    congratulations on this final stage, and on the insight to keep on .

  46. Hi Jody! I felt the EXACT same way when I got the final round of edits from my publisher last week. My editor told me it was my last chance to make changes and as I read through it, I freaked out... there were so many parts that felt choppy to me and the jokes suddenly felt flat and I told my hubby that I wasn't sure I wanted to even send it back. Ugh.

  47. This was actually a very reassuring post, Jody. As a rule I don't like anything I wrote more than 3 months ago. I think it's just that I'm still learning and practice makes me better, and that's good. I've wondered how I would feel if my book that's been on sub for 9 months finally sold. I think I'd be a little excited, but I'm pretty sure I'd also kind of cringe at the thought of people reading it, since I know I can do better now. It's good to know that a lot of us feel like that.

  48. This was so helpful to read, to know that someone with your level of success still struggles with these issues. I really appreciate your honesty and your optimism.

  49. Yes, a love/hate relationship I understand. How exciting to be at this place though in your writing career:)

  50. As I read this I got goose bumps. Thinking about when it is my turn. And goose bumps for my pal Jody. I can't wait to buy the book. Hubby all ready knows it is #1. on my fall MUST HAVE items outside of school books.

    I've gone through the love-hate thing with my book these last few months. Jody, I took out entire chapters. But it is really ready now. I thank God that he showed me it wasn't ready before I made a horrible mistake and queried it too early.

    In my book Anna's diabetes plays a crucial roll. They are lost in the wilderness and she has no insulin. But do you remember the contest I entered? SCBWICarolinas. They told me that was a big mistake. They used horrible words to tell me I shouldn't have that part in. It really discouraged me, Jody. I almost didn't make it out of the hole it put me in. I'm just thankful God said, "Robyn, get up, finish that book. It's going to be widely read." I think I'll mail them a free copy when it is published. *grin*

    Hugs and congrads Jody. I can't wait to read your book. ^_^


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