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I hate agents, I hate query letters, I hate rejection letters, I hate editors, I hate published authors, I hate unpublished authors, I hate periods, I hate exclamation points, I hate semi-colons, I hate paper, I hate words, I hate the space between words, and most of all, I HATE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?
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Art: El Coloso by Francisco de Goya
Deni Krueger says
So…ummm…did Dante happen to offer redemption in the form of:
10.) Stick in it the drawer. Lock. Throw away key.
Terri Tiffany says
LOL Loved this post but sadly I've been to most of those places:(( Trying hard not to with this novel.
how true is that… i'm trapped in circles 1, 6, and 7 (one for each project i'm "working on"). fun times had by all.
Donna G. Cooper says
I'm pretty sure, with the exception of Violence, I've been through every circle of hell….Somehow I can't stand to shred scraped novels or pages. They sit in a box in my spare bedroom…creating a fire hazard no doubt.
You're brilliant, and I love you and I want your babies.
Janalyn Voigt says
Thanks for this post. It's great to start the day with a laugh at myself!
Leah Petersen says
So not a traditional ninth's circle but I'd add infidelity.
Oh, hello shiny new idea. Want to go to the laptop with me tonight? The WIP doesn't have to know. We need a little break from each other. Time alone is healthy for a relationship. I'll just write a little of you, shiny new idea. We both know this isn't serious. Just a little fun.
Holy… that's not really 5k words, is it? But the WIP… But THIS!
LOL..Brilliant. Been through 1,2 and 4. And hoping never to go through some others. The gold, baby line reminded me of Jerry Seinfeld and Kenny Bania, "It's gold, Jerry! Gold!" 😀
You had me at … oh Farmville!
The 8th Circle was just the icing on the cake.
Bryan Russell (Ink) says
I'm etching the current manuscript on plates of solid gold. Just to be sure.
Dana Rose Bailey says
Hysterical… and sadly true.
Um, fabulous. Really.
Porter Anderson says
Don't stop there, Nathan. Let's get right on to Savonarola's INFELIX EGO, or "Alas, wretch that I am," 1498.
What WAS in the water in Florence?
Wow, I remember a variation of these days at age fourteen probably up to eighteen. This is why we plan our writing. Fantastic humor, though.
Kristi Helvig says
You make hell sound fun–these are awesome (and true). 🙂
Nate Wilson says
It appears my circles have formed into a hellish Venn diagram from which my novels can never hope to escape. That's not good, right?
Rachel Morgan says
So. Freakin'. FUNNY!
Roberta Walker says
This could be a pie chart for me! Seriously, a good laugh after a(nother) rejection letter start to the day.
I hang out in the fifth level a LOT…
Mike Koch says
Hmm, circles of hell. I like it, but I'm going to squash them all into tiny squares and use them as foundations for my next book. Thanks.
Daryl Sedore says
A descriptive look at the ego and its various degrees of self-righteousness.
To understand this list and the places the human mind will take us on our internal journey through the written word onward can be as terrifying in its veracity.
Carol Riggs says
Informative as well as painfully obvious why you're a writer, Nathan! Good stuff. ;o) Have you started on a new novel, huh, huh?
See Elle Oh says
Love, love, love this post! Hilarious and so true.
I feel like the Second Circle is really common for novice writers, especially poets. There's a tendency to believe things are perfect just as they pour out of you, and that revision is blasphemy. I know I've been there.
Chuck H. says
Been there, done that . . . and that. . . and that . . . and that . . . and that . . . and that . . . and that . . . and that . . . wait wasn't there supposed to be a frozen lake around here somewhere?
Mister Fweem says
The secret, I hear, is to have as many novels going as there are levels, so if you're stuck on one, you move to another.
Amanda Borenstadt says
Oh, yes, I've visited the seventh many times! Bwa-ha-ha
Elaine AM Smith says
OK I so I laughed out loud – I'm still not descending into the land of initialisation.
Ninth Circle – Treachery
I, the flowery novel, covered in clichés and bejewelled in adverbial everythings, know I need to be nip-tucked crisp and ironed out smooth but neither I (nor you mother) will tell you. HA!HA!HA!
WV: psyndio – HP/Voldemort spell for sending people into psychosis?
Got it! 😉
Sandra Ulbrich Almazan says
What happened to the Circle of Despair?
Well, no wonder you got rejected, no-longer-shiny novel. Your plot stinks, your characters stink, and I couldn't write my way out of a paper bag with a sharp knife. I'll never be a published writer, so I might as well play Farmville all night.
Rebecca Nazar says
I just think you are brilliant. That was great. I think I'm in the "anger" phase where I stopped sending out query letters. They all suck. Time to buy the Sell Your Novel Toolkit, I think!
Joann Buchanan says
This was funny, and yet oh sooo true…he he he
I believe when I wrote the bones to I AM WOLF, I was sitting there thinking wow, it's finished!! Then my editor got ahold of it.. When he was finished, it was a bloody mess. I listened to him though, and it turned out to be a wonderful experience.
A Tale of Many Reviews says
Great post and did illicit some giggles this morning. 😀
Stephanie McGee says
Oh my heavens! I needed this laugh today! Thank you!
My favorite would have to be "Heresy." I just didn't get that book. We read it in 11th grade English and it was my least favorite. (Followed closely by Huck Finn.)
Though I do love "Violence" because I used to shred copies of my manuscript after I'd finished editing those sections.
Matthew Rush says
Geez Nathan! That was depressing. I kept hoping for some kind of happy ending there …
Oh. It was the Nine Circles of Hell you say? Okay, I get it.
Really it was pretty hilarious. Next time you should do the 12 step program for getting published.
So funny, I laughed out loud!
Dante is fantasic and your interpretation… brilliant. "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" pretty much sums up the writing process perfectly.
I think Dante would be pleased to see his words being put to good use. Bravo!
lindsey lane says
Hmmm…I wonder if Winston Churchill was channeling Dante when he wrote the following: "Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public."
Hannah Jenny says
Mine has been stuck somewhere in Limbo for awhile–but my favorite stage is Gluttony. I'm planning to indulge in this over the holidays, oh sweet novel thou awaitest me patiently! (don't worry, my family will pull me away to eat and interact with them)
Another great post. I laughed … I cried … I saw myself running through the stages with my current WIP.
Fifth circle here. Angry and bitter.
Sharideth Smith says
i'll give you an uh huh, a yep and a pretty much for good measure.
Sheila Lamb says
With @Deni – the tenth circle of being shoved in a dark cabinet. It's resting until the tempestuous circles of writing hell have calmed.
Anne R. Allen says
So funny and true. I bask in your brilliance.
Ishta Mercurio says
Awesomeness. This post is pure awesomeness.
Julia Rachel Barrett says
Pretty hilarious! Thank you! I passed through these stages long ago – now I'm much more philosophic, %#@&^%@!
This is priceless, lol. 😀
D.G. Hudson says
There are many kinds of hell. Sometimes we let ourselves fall into one of those 9 levels through lack of passion and commitment. Have confidence in your idea, but listen to the revision angels.
To remove yourself from any of those levels, simply impose discipline and get an enforcer (Ideal reader, crit group,or spouse) to ensure you write, write, and write some more. Then you must revise, shop the book around, etc.
Perhaps Nano is one of those hells? (you write until you drop or else) I'm just saying it could be.
Interesting post, Nathan, with thanks to Dante for stimulating your imagination.
Rebecca Stroud says
There's only nine circles? Uh-oh…
Have a great Thanksgiving, Nathan.
Rane Anderson says
I love this post so much. I was about to go all #7 on my manuscript.
Does this mean all writers are crazy people?
I can't wait to see what you come up with for purgatory. 🙂