Hello. I’ve been working on my story for 9 years now, and during these years I have rewritten the story 2 times already. The latest draft is 120k words long and, despite having re-read it 4 times already, I feel like it doesn’t satisfy me. There are weird character arcs and some cringeworthy scenes. I want to work on it again and improve it. Although it kinda makes me feel like I failed. I did a lot in order to write this story and it’s still not okay. I don’t know how to feel.
No no, you haven’t failed at all!
I worked on a story for eight years and never made it past six chapters of a first draft before giving it up last year. I’m not proud of giving up, and I get emotional when I think about it, but sometimes that’s what happens. Meanwhile, you’ve done two drafts, complete. That’s really impressive!
Thing with stories, they can take ages. Markus Suzak, author of The Book Thief, is publishing a new book in October that he has been writing for ten years. I remember listening to a radio interview in the car when I was young with an author of some famous book or other, and she was saying she re-wrote the last three chapters no less than a hundred times, and after that she stopped counting. Those last few chapters alone took something like a year.
You’ll never be 100% overjoyed with your book. You’ve re-read it so many times that you’ll know everything that happens. A lot of enjoyment for a reader is the tension and the suspense. Maybe ask for a couple of critique readers, or beta-readers, and get feedback from a pair of fresh eyes. Bounce some ideas around with them, and listen to what they have to say. When a project is as old as yours, it usually becomes a word-soup that’s confuddling and hard to work through. Let yourself have a break to work on a small side-project, like some short stories or a novella.
It’s okay if it takes another nine years to do two further drafts, because it’s still growing and you haven’t given up. Writing a good book is always going to take more than two drafts.
So you know how you should feel? Proud. You’ve done a really good job to sustain a project for so long.
I hope that writing the story goes well for you; I know how precious those old projects are ^-^