I do that from time to time. It goes in cycles. Working on “Writing for You: A Novelist’s Guide to the Craft of Fiction” has really got me thinking about the mechanics of creative writing.
As an MA in literature studies who completed doctoral coursework, I know I can pick apart literature. I can describe good writing and good fiction. I was trained for years to do that. That’s how my blog evolved to be what it is. And I wonder:
Am I a case of “Do as I say, not as I do?”
A case of “Those who can’t do, teach?”
I’d like to think I’m not. I have plenty of good reviews that say I’m not, though I do have some bad reviews and mixed reviews thrown in there.
The thing is, everybody gets those bad reviews. And mixed reviews. Every writer doubts his or herself from time to time.We all have an inner editor who loves to kill our confidence flat. (This post is one of my favs: all about how the inner editor attacks.)
Doubting is normal. In its way, it’s a good thing. No author who thought he could “write no wrong” and had no room for improvement would be a person I’d want anything to do with. And that author’s work would probably be swill.
Today’s post, then, is a PSA to announce: it’s normal, and natural, and all right to doubt yourself. Keep that in mind as you search inside yourself and rediscover your inner writer. The you that has to tell a story the way a shark has to swim, or it dies.
It dies! Dies if it doesn’t swim!
Just to show how normal doubting is, I’m going to throw my own doubts out there. I’m going to put them in categories, so my fellow writers can see we are all the same.
- DID I PUBLISH TOO SOON? This one is pretty much omnipresent. Was my novel good enough? Should I have split “The Crimson League” into two novels and worked for more development? Should I have edited it more? Had more beta readers?
- DID I EDIT TOO MUCH? Did I pull a classic “Victoria” and tinker with something so much that I made it worse? Did I effectively break something that was working? Was my “cure” worse than the “disease”?
- ARE MY CHARACTERS DYNAMIC ENOUGH? ARE THEY REAL PEOPLE? The more I write about character, and explore characterization as a “science” on the blog and in my writer’s handbook, the more I don’t want to think about my characters. Because I’m a perfectionist, and I fear they don’t hold up.
- I AM COMMITTING THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN OF BORING MY READER. I sometimes worry about this in regards to book II of my trilogy. Book I and Book III are classic sword and sorcery. Book II is slower. A bit more political. A bit more of a coming of age story. There is action and danger, for sure, but not as much and of a slightly different kind. Many people have liked the book. Others have told me they preferred Book I. (Which is fine. Book II is different from the first installment, so everyone is going to prefer one or the other. That’s how things go.)
- I DON’T HOLD UP TO THE COMPETITION. I think of myself as a little fish swimming among big ones. I worry I won’t be noticed, and to be honest, a part of me is frightened I will be noticed. The more noticed I become, the more people will read my work. The more people who read, the greater the number who haven’t liked the book. I have to remind myself: it’s honestly all right if some people don’t like the book.
I hope I’m not coming across as though I’m in some kind of existential authorial crisis. I’m definitely not. I am actually doing great. I could not be more excited about “Writing for You,” and I have been getting slow but steady streams of positive feedback on my trilogy.
This post is about describing in detail the doubts that flicker here and there in the author part of my brain, really delving into them, in order to make some points.
Like I said before: to point out we all go through these doubts.
To point out most of us will always be the harshest critics of our own work. We will always see the flaws and the minor issues. The key is not to let minor textual issues become major confidence issues. No novel is ever “perfect.”
To point out that none of us is ever satisfied with our own writing. We always, and should always, strive for improvement. At some point that means moving on to a second, third, or fourth novel and writing one that’s better than what we wrote before, rather than continuing to “fix up” an older piece that is good enough to be, or has been, published.
In order to drive those points home, I had to really blow the doubting up so it could be seen and studied, if that makes sense.
How does the doubt get you? What are your coping strategies to restore momentum and keep yourself feeling positive? (I reread a good review, or remind myself my perfectionism is acting up and nothing more. No big deal.)
There’s nothing like a group therapy session, haha! I feel better just having written this post.
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