With apologies to Dante Alighieri…
We have all probably started ill-fated novels that, shall we say, did not go where we wanted them to go. For one reason or another, either our will or our preparation or the idea failed us, and sure enough, they ended up in novel hell.
Based on the Nine Circles of Hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy, here are the nine circles of writing hell.
Save your novel from these sins, my fellow writers! Repent before it is too late!
First Circle: Limbo
Hello shiny idea for a novel! Should I write you? Should I not write you? Maybe I’ll write a few pages and see how you go. Should I… oohhh Farmville.
Second Circle: Lust
Novel, you are so brilliant, you shine like a beautiful bright beacon, nay, like filigree sparkling in the darkest of unlit nights. Everything you do is wonderful, to change but one of your words would be a sin unto mankind. Whatever you want novel, whether it’s second person stream of consciousness or an illogical plot twist or overwrought prose that makes people blush, you can have it, please take it, it’s yours. I LOVE YOU, NOVEL.
Third Circle: Gluttony
No time to eat. No time to work. No time for breaks. No time to attend to essential hygiene. Twenty-six-hours straight. MUST. WRITE. NOVEL. I. WILL. NOT. BURN. OUT.
Okay, I’m starting to get burned out…
Fourth Circle: Greed
Dude, Stephenie Meyer wrote that vampire book in like six weeks or something and now she’s a gagillionaire. How hard can it be?!
Fifth Circle: Anger
I hate agents, I hate query letters, I hate rejection letters, I hate editors, I hate published authors, I hate unpublished authors, I hate periods, I hate exclamation points, I hate semi-colons, I hate paper, I hate words, I hate the space between words, and most of all, I HATE THIS FREAKING NOVEL!!!
Sixth Circle: Heresy
You know what novel I don’t like? The Great Gatsby. I mean, what’s the big deal?! Green lights and drunks and parties and blah blah blah? What a bunch of trash. I threw that book across the room. That Scott person needs to get a clue, I can’t believe anyone published him. And DON’T GET ME STARTED on how much editing he needed.
Seventh Circle: Violence
Oh, you think you’re reeeeallll clever, don’t you, Manuscript. You think you’re smart and witty and amazing and your characters are funny and you’re going to make people cry. Well, how about I introduce you to my friend MR. SHREDDER!!! Mwa ha ha ha ha ha…..
Eighth Circle: Fraud
Oprah won’t REALLY care if I make up this memoir…
Ninth Circle: Treachery
This novel doesn’t need revisions. I don’t need to write a good query letter. Who needs to take the time to research agents? This novel is gold, baby, gold!!
What could possibly go wrong?
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
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Art: El Coloso by Francisco de Goya
Know what? I will continue to have my net novel in my blogspot for some people to copy and print. It's more EXPENSIVE that way. They have to buy INK and bond paper from the store and they will have to learn Math. By the time they printed my stories each "copier" is spending at least $50.00 for the ink and $6.00 for the paper.Then they can copy and print again another novel for their own perusal and eureka they will have to spend more than that for ink and bond paper. Who is gaining here you tell me? The INK store of course. Now where can we dump the snow?
The Red Angel says
Perfect description of what writing a novel is like. Very clever, Nathan! 🙂
Nine circles of writing hell. Might there be a writing purgatory as well? Why not a writing heaven, where epiphanies about writing's many impermeable membranes are ascendent?
I'm looking at my first big story as a training novel; therefore it must be finished no matter how absurd. I'll do anything to finish including burn in hell. I just like to finish stuff and learn whatever lessons must be learned. It's all good even writer's hell. You gotta have skin in the game to relate to other peoples thoughts and struggles.
Janiel Miller says
Hahahaha! Excellent. This explains a lot.
Janiel Miller says
How 'bout the tenth circle being "Making a Typographical Error in your Comment Identity thereby taking people to the wrong and slightly strange blog."?
Ha! Clever, Nathan. 🙂 I'm realizing that changing this from a work blog to a personal blog will give you more opportunities to stretch your writing chops. Yay!
For me, I skip all the rest and start at Hell level number 9, and I do this without having written the novel. I don't mean to be immodest, but I'm very efficient when it comes to descending levels. It's a sort of gift.
Thanks for the post, Nathan.
hahaha so tragic, and so true. XD
You seem to have had this experience! I know I have…
After reading this, I think my first NaNoWriMo pep talk next will be titled, "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here." It might not be the best way to raise morale among the troops, but at least it would be honest.
Other Lisa says
Okay, so where's the Circle of Hell where the novel tries to kill you? Because I've spent a lot of time in that one.
Brilliant . Take a bow , Nathan .
Kerrie T. says
Oh, okay. I get it. There are NINE circles. That's why it's taking me so long…
Debbie Vaughan says
I must be stuck in the fifth circle, except for the hating the manuscript part. It does help explain my free read, Query This Sucker! Memoirs of an Angry Author.
They do say write what you know…
Lillian Grant says
Nathan, have you been spying on me?
I needed to laugh today and this really hit the spot. Not sure what circle I am languishing in at the moment. Nice to know it's not a circle reserved especially for me.
Hah, love this!
Sommer Leigh says
I LOVE YOU NOVEL.
Kristin Laughtin says
Only you can make damnation so hilarious.
So are we going to get versions of the Purgatorio and the Paradiso?
Julie Musil says
Awesome! And some of these levels look strangely familiar.
Laura Pauling says
I hit each of those levels with every ms I write. I don't think it's avoidable. 🙂
Carson Lee says
"I hate the space between the words….Mwa ha ha ha ha" LOL
Kathryn Paterson says
This is awesome. I was just commenting to someone yesterday that I was in the ninth stage of revision hell, so I feel your (our, everyone's?) pain.
How's the new job working out, by the way? Congrats again. 🙂
Nathan Bransford says
Really good so far, thanks! I'm enjoying it a lot.
February Grace says
And if you had any idea how hard it is for me to stand right now, you'd know how much I really loved that post.
so i'm hovering in the most beautiful arc above the 5th and 7th circles, travelling back and forth between the two.
i love this post, nathan, really, but where are our precious pearls? you know, the ones you drop into our cyber laps that tell us what to do to get out of these circles?
(still love ya!)
I laughed! How many of us have been in pretty much every level at one point or another?
It's just the sort of comraderie pick-me-up encouragement that we're not alone laugh we all need 🙂
J.C. Martin says
I agree with Leah: infidelity can be another sin! I'm currently spreading myself between three novels and a short story collection, but shh…don't tell any of them that!
wry wryter says
Opening scene, Romancing The Stone. Author finishes novel…tears, no tissues, no paper towels, no TP with which to wipe her tears, post-it works. Ah…the joy of finally finishing, what…you mean it’s supposed to be published.
Ms trite says:
From the loft of heaven, ideas come, and if into the fires of hell they descend…visit the purgatory of writers, isle one, Staples, multi-purpose, 20 lb, 500 sheets…START OVER.
Will you marry me, Nathan Bransford?
Loved the post. It left me in snitches. Love your blog, though it doesn't always leave me in snitches.
amy goldman koss says
EEEK! You live in my head!
amy g koss
Very funny indeed… and oh-so-painfully true.
But seriously, The Great Gatsby is boring.
8. Become a literary agent.
This will guarantee traffic at your site.
People will read your blog, chiefly because they'll want to leave a sugary sweet comment so that you, the literary agent, will see their name and their face (and hopefully remember it fondly… when you reject their work). What these people fail to take into account, however, is that in all likelihood you'll be moving on to something else within a matter of months anyhow.
Becoming a literary agent is also a great way to get your novel published – so really it's a win win situation: you end up getting published, and you end up with a large following!
Keep it in mind, however, that every now and then some clever personage will see right through your ruse, and leave some class of antagonistic comment behind.
That's alright though because, having modeled your style on that of Sauron's, from The Lord of the Rings, you love any opportunity to act in a dictatorial fashion… and can simply delete that person's comment.
Happy Thanksgiving to Nathan and his family, and to all of my American friends south of the 49'th!
Nathan Bransford says
Haha… wow. If only my life were actually that planned out. So much less stress.
And a Happy Thanksgiving to you too!
All so true!
Happy Thanksgiving, Nathan!
Oh so funny. Oh so true. Would like to post this on my blog and/or link to it. http://www.writer-lee.blogspot.com Is that okay?
That's why I do the marjorie-cartoons. They are quick one shot deals, and all the mistakes serve to make the work funnier.
My blog, marjorie-digest, has a new batch of poems… created from a unique concept. They are pithy and set in stone.
My attention span these days is too short to even attempt thinking about a book.
Nathan, since you are no longer a literary agent, check out my blogs and let me know what you think. I know you will love the marjorie-cartoons.
Jim Bessey says
This is one of the funniest, yet scariest, pieces I've ever seen from you, Nathan.
Loved it, start to finish. Still laughing, two days later.
Very humorous, and yes, I have experienced it all. Great post!
A.M Hudson says
Oh boy, that was funny–because it's so freakin true!!! Even the Stephenie Meyer comment. I'm at the point now where I'm saying…"I hate publishers, and what the hell were they thinking when they published THAT?"
However, I happen to be smart too, so, I know that if they keep on rejecting, it must be me–not them. Hence, I am scrapping my under-appreciated novel, and starting a new one.
Then, when the new one is published, I'll sneak up on them with the first one!!! He he he!!!
Christina Strigas says
That was great! So true, true, true of every writer who has attempted to write a book or has thought about it in his head (or her head).
Great list and all things authors are very much prone to.
Jodi Cox says
You don't say how to get out of the ninth circle and get some where.
Danielle Frost says
This is hilarious! In makes me so chagrin to say it's completely relatable. We all have out own lovely circle of writer hell. Back when I had a blog as a teen it was all for fun. Launching a blog and website from scratch is terrifying! Talk about feeling like a dear in head lights. I appreciate the humorous light you've shed on this though.