Writer’s Doubt: The Fine Line Between Useful & Awful

So in the past two years, my writing has grown and changed exponentially. I joined critique groups and found critique partners that have helped push me to write better prose. But the more my writing improves, the more pronounced my self-doubt becomes… makes a whole lotta sense, right?

Writer’s doubt isn’t exactly anything new. Everyone experiences it at some point, but what separates writers from people who want to write is how we deal with that doubt.

Writers take that doubt and turn it into fuel to write better stories. People who want to write let that doubt stop them from doing so.

Here’s the thing. A healthy amount of doubt keeps us humble and challenges us to do better. “Is this dialogue really necessary?” “Does this metaphor actually do what it’s suppose to?” “Am I actually portraying the right sentiment here?”

Those are useful questions when editing your manuscript.

“What the F am I doing with my life?” “No one could possibly love my stories.” “Why am I wasting my time with day dreams?”

Those are NOT helpful.

God’s honest truth: I’ve never asked whether I should stop writing. That doesn’t mean I haven’t had super crippling self-doubt. Had a fit of it last night actually. It was to the point where it felt like a vice on my heart. It sucked.

It was also NOT helpful.

I don’t think I could stop writing even if I wanted to. My characters and their stories would somehow separate one of my ribs and use it as a battering ram to get out (gruesome picture, I know). So the unhelpful self-doubt is nothing more than a painful annoyance that likes to make a fuss when it feels forgotten.

But when that happens, you just have to write through it. I know that’s easier said than done. But take that anxiety and turn it into words.

Rocking out to Florence and the Machine and Sia helps… that may just be me…

Happy Writing

Overcoming the Fear of Rejection

This year, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to attend a couple writers’ workshops and pitch some wonderful people. A couple weeks ago, I attended the Midwest Writers Workshop and, wow, what an event. Along with a brilliant keynote from the incomparable Janet Reid (if you don’t know who she is, shame on you! Jk. Seriously though, check out her blog, jetreidliterary.blogspot.com), there were an array of different panels. In one room, you could listen to agents and editors talk about different parts of the industry. In another, you could learn how to strengthen your descriptions and characters. There were also numerous opportunities to discuss your WIP with agents and editors.

First up, I pitched Brooks Sherman of The Bent Agency. He was incredibly insightful and helpful in the whole five minutes I spent talking with him. I didn’t get through the first sentence of my pitch before he started in with questions. It was a bit intimidating, but afterward, it was clear he was only trying to be helpful (or at least that’s how I’m taking it). In the end, he said my WIP didn’t seem to fit his list, but followed up with other agents who it might suit better. He also gave me something to think about while I’m revising to improve my MS.

Overall, I’d call it a win. Sure, it stung a bit when he said it wasn’t for his list, especially because in that short conversation he helped me analyze an important part of my MS and helped me grow as a writer. Seriously awesome individual and anyone would be lucky to have him as their agent. It speaks to the success and overall awesomeness of his clients Becky Albertalli, Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, and Adam Silvera, More Happy Than Not.

Then I had my query critiqued by Annie Berger, an associate editor at Harper Collins. Talk about encouraging! Sitting down with Ms. Berger felt like sitting down with an old friend. She was so nice and welcoming, really took the pressure off. [Did mention I ramble when I’m nervous!] She had a lot of positive things to say about the query itself, but also gave me input into how to make it stronger. She was also kind enough to say the premise was strong enough to stand on its own without all the extra details I was giving. Also (and I will probably hang onto this for the rest of my existence) said that my main character was a badass. XD It made my day!

When we were done talking about the query, we got to talk about the MS itself. Was I querying? Did I have any agents in mind? I had to tell her that I was in the middle of a rewrite post-beta readers and she made the comment, “This is your debut. You want it to be the best it can be.” Though I’ve read this advice many times, hearing it from an editor was still super encouraging, especially in the trenches of a rewrite.

Moral of this story: Don’t be afraid to pitch you WIP. Go to these conferences and workshops, get input from professionals, hire an editor. The worst thing they can do is say “no,” but even that’s not that bad. Look at each rejection as an opportunity to grow and eventually, you’ll get where you need to be.

Happy Writing!

*Quick Note: From what I’ve read in interviews and have heard from agents, pitch sessions aren’t exactly the best means to acquire an agent. They want to see the writing, so be sure to work hard on your query and perfect that. And in the words of Janet Reid, “Pitching is the spawn of Satan”. 

Anxiety and Resilience: Waiting on the Critique

At the beginning of April, I took the plunge and submitted my WIP to beta readers. The five people reviewing my MS are all incredibly talented writers with works of their own and I am INDEBTED to them for taking the time tear my first book apart.

BUT . . . waiting for their notes has been . . . well . . . a rollercoaster of anxiety.

Now don’t get me wrong, I live for improvement. I am so excited to hear their thoughts and dig through their notes to make my WIP the best it can possibly be before I start querying it to agents. But no matter how excited I am for the draft that will result from their feedback, I can’t help but fear the potential for having my heart ripped out my chest.

For the majority, I like to maintain a rational, objective viewpoint when receiving critiques. No note is a bad note, regardless of its level of usefulness. I thrive off constructive criticism but this is my first time having my book read cover-to-cover. Safe to say, I’m out of my mind.

Below is an example of my mind this past month:

Right Brain: What if they hate it? They could hate it. It’s YA Urban Fantasy. They could definitely hate it.

Left Brain: Even if they did hate it, they wouldn’t say so. They’d give you criticism on what exactly obstructed their enjoyment.

Right Brain: But what if they hated it so much they just don’t have words?

Left Brain: That’s why there’s a rubric, to prompt feedback.

Right Brain: But what if it was so bad, we have to start all over?

Left Brain: Then we’ll start all over with their notes in mind.

On and on, this conversation went, plaguing my mind with stress and anxiety and doubt. These negative feelings are a part of life, especially in such subjective fields as writing and art. What’s important is how you react to it.

Regardless of what brutal notes I get from my beta readers, I know I’m still going to push forward and work hard until I achieve my goals. I’m just stubborn like that. But if there’s anything I’ve learned in my 24 years, it’s that your level of resilience must be equivalent to that of your projected success. Dreams take time and hard work to come to fruition. So when you meet those roadblocks, if success is important to you, you’ll find a way to overcome them.

Here’s to pushing forward!