The Journey to Publication, Writing

Fight the Self-Doubt and Fear

Last night I considered how since becoming a mother, I think I may be becoming a better human being … but a more neurotic writer. And I think I know why.

See, I’ve found the the truth in the notion that you don’t truly understand fear until you become a parent. At this point, if I started worrying thinking about it, I could get sucked into a vortex of mind-shattering “what-if” terrors about the kidlet. The many things I can’t protect her from. The even more perhaps I shouldn’t. What I do right, what I do wrong, etc, etc.

But I can’t go down that path, because that’s the road to crazy town.

And yet, some residue of that fear, of those worries remains, unattached and orphaned energy looking for a home … like, say my writing. And so before, where I prided myself on productivity and rarely found myself ever close to dreaded writers’ block, now it has become a real danger. I worry about how much – or how little – I’m producing. The quality. If I’m improving. If I’m doing the right things to promote my work, to keep growing, if I can ever truly achieve my potential, or if I will be left a dreamer without a dream.

And then you look up and realize, wow! Looks a lot like crazy town anyway, doesn’t it?

Perhaps you are one of those writers or artists who isn’t plagued by self-doubt. If you are, I congratulate you – and seriously urge you to write a “how to” manual for the rest of us out there! Because from what I’ve seen and heard, that self-doubt comes with the job. I suspect it’s because we’re largely self-driven, and the product we produce is so personal that judgment and reception of it is likewise so subjective, how can one ever say for certain what is “good” or “bad”? We’re left to ourselves to create that assessment of our own work. Perhaps too it’s because we’re so used to playing with “what if” that naturally it attacks us when we’re not looking. What if the badguys are just behind the hero … or what if I’ve wasted a year on this manuscript that will never amount to anything?

Good news: I have a couple of solutions for you to rid yourself of those dreaded twins, self-doubt and fear. They’re not perfect, and I assure you, I’m working on these methods myself. Consider it a work in progress.

  1. Ignore the buggers until they wither away. Yes, not easy. Especially when you hear exactly the wrong thing as you’re hip deep in the latest work that “will never sell” because “it’s out.” But the more energy we give fear especially, the stronger it becomes, and potentially, the more paralyzing.
  2. Let fear feed you, instead of eat you. Fear can destroy us because of its internal nature. And not all fear is bad – fearing jumping in front of a semi-truck is a healthy reaction likely to keep me less road-pizza-like. But sometimes, perhaps the solution is to embrace the fear, and attack it. Especially when it comes to our art. Is there something you want to say / create / write? Is it too personal / too hard / too damned scary? Then maybe it’s exactly what you need to say, because if it resonates that deeply with you, isn’t it likely to resonate with someone else?
  3. Improve the positive nature of your self-talk. The clue to self-doubt is in the name: it originates with ourselves, and therein lies the cure, too. Please believe me when I assure you I’m not being facetious, nor do I wish to trivialize what is a serious concern for some people. And yes, sometimes we need help with our self-doubt. But at least part of that needs to come from inside, from editing that nasty little voice in our heads that tells us we’re not good enough. My favorite advice is that we never tell ourselves anything we wouldn’t say to our best friend. So indeed, perhaps we need to improve – but there’s a better and more constructive way to phrase that other than “you suck,” don’t you think? 😉
  4. Hear that worried voice in your head, consider, then dismiss. Sometimes we worry for a reason. But, if you’re a “worrier” like me, than there are lots of times that we just worry cause, well, I’m not sure really. Boredom? A desire to feel miserable? But even I know that worrying never did anyone any good. Instead, get up and make a plan to combat that worry. DO something, since just worrying about isn’t doing anything.

So, that’s my two cents for the week. 😉 What do you do to combat fear and self-doubt?

Thanks for reading, and wishing you a great week free of self-doubt and fear. 🙂

The Journey to Publication, Writing

Rewrites: 5 Reasons it’s Worth Sticking with them

Yes, my post is late. Again. And I plead rewrites.  I’ve probably used that excuse at least once, but there it is. I could go for plague, but then you might be a bit surprised if I ever wrote again.

Anyway, I am FINALLY nearing the end of an epic round of rewrites. I have never spent as long in rewrites – I am now over the 1 year + mark on the same novel, which is unheard of for me. And yes, many times it has felt like I was smashing my head into a rock in hopes of the rock breaking. Believe it or not, I think it has.

Today’s post is about WHY I would continue to with these endless rewrites (other than sheer stubborn pigheadedness and a refusal to quit). Here are my 5 reasons to stick with a massive overhaul kind of rewrite (like the one where the whole book essentially needs to be chucked.)

5. You are a bit of a fanatic when it comes to “making it right,” and perhaps earlier attempts were misguided. This time, you have an actual PLAN! (For more on rewrite plans, see earlier posts Rewrites in 4 easy phases and accompanying pieces.)

4. You deciphered what the problem was, and have confidence you can fix it .

3. You have gotten outside help and suggestions that have given you back energy and excitement for the piece.

2. It’s potentially connected to other books in a series, or is part of a larger series plot.

1. There is something you still LOVE about the story that means it doesn’t deserve to just rot in a drawer somewhere.

For me, reason #1 is perhaps the only reason I was able to stick with rewrites for this long. Because, despite the hardship and the frustration (and  yes, I have tried to throw away this book before), there is something I still find compelling about the characters and their journey. Even when I am so frustrated I want to burn the whole darned thing, that love halts my action. And frankly, if you don’t have that love, it probably is not worth such an arduous journey. Go write something new.

This book will, someday soon, actually be DONE. And these horrifically long rewrites have made it worth it. The book is better. And you know what? I think I’m a better writer, too. This was one of those “learning” books where I think I came up another level, achieved something more in my craft. It doesn’t mean it’s perfect, because as a writer, I’m still learning – I hope I always will be. But darn it, I think I can actually see the light. And I know that no matter what becomes of this book, I’m proud of myself for improving it, for forcing myself to learn and grow to bring it closer to my original vision.

What about you – have you ever had a really long rewrite? Was it worth it? What makes you stick with a rewrite when things get tough?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week. Happy writing out there! 🙂



The Journey to Publication, Writing

Write YOUR True Story

Are you writing YOUR story?March2013 005

Now before you castigate me as an idiot, read a bit further.

I had the opportunity to read the writing of what was obviously a very novice writer. Now, in terms of craft, there was a lot to be desired. But in terms of energy, excitement, and joyful exuberance? The words and plot burst with them – more than I’ve encountered in almost any other writing. I could practically picture this young author pounding away in a frenzy on the keyboard. Nothing held them back, like plot conventions, rules, grammar. And compared to some other writing? I’d actually be more interested in their story because I have no doubt it would take me somewhere unexpected – even if it didn’t do it in the most conventional, or even readable manner.

What about your writing? How does it compare?

Kristin Lamb recently wrote an excellent post about the various stages of writing [view post here: Three Phases of Becoming a Master Author]. And for most of us, it leaves us in Act II, as Apprentices. It’s where we continue to learn, to shape our craft and stories, to come into our own.

And it’s where, if we’re not careful, we can end up chasing our tails writing stories that aren’t our own.

I’ve been writing for some time now, and I’m stubborn, I’m frequently more out-spoken than I should be, and I thought I knew myself pretty well. But I’ve realized, while re-reading a recently completed re-write, and enjoying new (and better) authors, that perhaps my story has become lost along the way. While it’s been a joy, a learning experience, and I’ve grown as a writer by meeting and interacting with other authors, perhaps I have let their voices, their ideas influence me too strongly, to such a point that I’ve somehow internalized outside ideas instead of listening to the stories whispering inside my own head, the stories that have always been there, always will be there.

YOUR story is the one that speaks to you. It’s in the characters that you choose, the plot devices you employ, in every decision about the story you – and only you – would make. That’s why while three-thousand people can write a story about a vampire, YOURS is still different, still unique. Because it’s in your voice, told from your point of view, with your unique, particular twist on it. That makes it precious, because only you can tell that story. And if you don’t tell it, it will vanish in the wind, gone forever.

Always watch that you’re telling your story. Absolutely listen to and learn from others – we can’t grow if we don’t. But also remember to listen to that voice inside, the dream that repeats on you the plot idea that has always been there, the character in your head that just won’t stop talking. And make sure their story is told, too.

As for me, I know what I have to do: I have to take only the characters and basic plot premise from a book I thought was pretty good – a book I thought I was done with – and if I want to save it, I have to throw away all the rest, and start again. To ensure that the story I write this time, is really and truly my own. Wish me luck. 😉 For truthfully, I’m a bit choked about throwing away literally years of work, but in the end, it will be worth it.

Don’t you think?

Thanks for reading, keep telling YOUR stories, and have a great week. Happy writing. 🙂


Break the Rules, Have Some Fun … and maybe get some terrific writing done, too

If you’ve been reading, you may know that I’ve been struggling with the last WIP, and then with the new one I started, and it ended up being largely because I was hemming myself in too much with too many self-imposed rules and requirements. This is probably because I’m a bit of a control-freak, and quite frankly, I like rules: I think that for the most part, they help us organize our lives, our society, and stop things – and people – from running amok.

That said, while I have worked as a freelance editor, I like to break rules grammatically. Sentence fragment, anyone? So long as I know I’m breaking the rule – and doing it intentionally and stylistically – I figure it’s okay. And it’s only recently that I’ve decided that the same can be said for writing altogether. While we may like to keep rules in the back of our minds, it doesn’t mean we always have to follow them.

Case in point: my latest WIP. I’d been trying to force myself to write it third-person, and switch between two POVs. But, all I was ending up with was something stiffer and less friendly than I wanted it – and it certainly wasn’t going to have any of the humor and sarcasm I wanted. So, after my blog post about my rules and expectations, I went back to writing and did it exactly as I wanted … in first person, single narrator, very sarcastic, and certainly a “character” of her own. Yes, this does limit my ability to convey my hero’s perspective on things, which will make me have to work harder showing it through his actions, body language, dialogue, etc, but you know what it did accomplish?

It made writing FUN again.

By just doing exactly what my gut wanted to do from the start, from diving in a bit wildly and just going for it – knowing full well I may have to rewrite it all at some point in the future in a different perspective, heavy editing, etc, etc – I started writing anyway. And it was fabulous. I heard the rules in my head, but I ignored them, speeding ahead with almost 7000 words in one day, which is something I haven’t been able to accomplish in a long time, especially considering my reduced working hours.

Thus, my beloved rules were holding me back instead of helping me. Which made me realize that when it comes to rules – particularly the self-imposed kind – it’s worth remembering and reviewing them every so often, and deciding if they’re still worth keeping, or if maybe they should be tossed out entirely. For writing, I want to continue to improve and grow, and I can’t so that if I stagnate and strangle myself. So, now I’ve found a new way to play.

Thus: remember to break some rules. No, in case there are any kind of legal ramifications, I am not suggesting you do anything illegal, but just break a few rules – the unwritten kind, especially the self-imposed kind that you’ve somehow internalized, but which might be a bit obsolete, or might not be what you need anymore. How do you do it?

  • consider the rule, and its purpose – especially things like grammar. Can you say what you want with the rule? How would breaking it benefit you? If you understand the rule – like using complete sentences rather than fragments – consider using the fragments when it can be helpful to assist with style, characterization, etc.
  • character perspective / POV (point of view) – you should at least know what the conventions are for your chosen genre / specialty, which means you know what to expect when it comes to rewriting. I know my genre generally prefers third person deep POV, which is what I generally write in. BUT, is a story coming to you in first person? Have you ever tried it? What if you’re that writer who is fabulous in first person and you just don’t know it because you’ve never tried? Consider why the convention / rule exists, what you risk by defying it, and what you could possibly gain.
  • experimentation = growth. For me, experimentation is a kind of play, and I like to try something different in every new book, just to keep things interesting and me on my toes. Sometimes it’s what I research, some new branch of science or specific detail which I didn’t know much about, but which becomes central to the WIP. Each time we try to stretch ourselves, it seems to me we can only continue to grow – like a tree up towards the sun.

What about you? How do you feel about rules, and do they help you or hold you back? Have you tried breaking any lately? Come on, break some rules, I dare you – it sure can be a lot of fun. 🙂