You've been around the writing block.
You know how it goes. Heck, even if you're fairly new to the world of writing, you know what I'm talking about. The fear. The dread. The prolonged sense of defeat.
Writer's doubt. This sneaky little devil can and will drag you into the depths if (and that's a big if!) you don't actively reinforce your life with loads of positivity, a.k.a. kicking your mind into shape.
Here's the thing: we all, at some point in our writing lives, have majorly doubted our ability to get the job done or to do it well. That doubt can be crippling; it may even convince us to give up on writing altogether if we aren't careful.
But you're a fighter. You won't stand for it. You want to slay your doubt, and write like the lady boss you are.
But you just aren't sure where to start.
Let me tell you, my friend. Slaying your doubts starts with you. In your mind. Within your mindset. You need to banish ill thoughts by finding confidence in yourself, your skills, and your stories.
But how in the world do you even find that confidence? How do you level up in a world that is dragging you down? Here goes, rockstar...
We all have our own unique writing doubts thanks to the fact that we all have unique stories. But some doubts are more prevalent than others. I'm going to break them down for you, revealing the lies and freeing the truth that hides within.
On Twitter this week (you can follow me here), I asked you guys to give me specific writing doubts you wanted me to talk about in this post. Well, you asked and I answered. Bundle them up with six other pervasive doubts and you get the post within the post: The 10 Most Common Writing Doubts and How to Beat Them!
So, let's get to it...
1. I'll never have enough time to write. Writing a novel takes time, no matter how you look at it. Jack Kerouac may have feverishly written the first draft of On the Road in three weeks, but it took him years to revise it.
You don't need a large chunk of time every day to write a novel. You just need a few moments and a heck of a lot of dedication. If you're passionate about your story idea, the latter should come easily. As for those few moments, try finding a writing routine that will leave you feeling free.
2. My writing sucks. All writing sucks...depending on how you look at it, that is.
That's the thing about writing. There is no end goal, no truly attainable gold star for mastering your craft. Writing can always get better, can always be improved. No one is ever truly satisfied with their work; it's the curse of being a writer. Even the noveling greats continue to improve their work with each new book.
But how do you improve? By writing consistently, by reading often and widely, and by revising your own work with a critical eye. You'll also need to accept that there will always be others that are better writers than you. Confidently move forward despite it!
3. I'm not smart enough to write a novel. Oh, pish-posh. Good old Sam Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, dropped out of school at the age of twelve. H.G. Wells at eleven. Jack London at thirteen. Ever heard of Ray Bradbury? Stieg Larsson? Agatha Christie? Herman Melville? None of them went to college.
Your grades and degrees do not define your writing. Even talent doesn't decide whether or not you will write a great novel, though it may help in some respects. What truly makes you smart enough to write a novel is your desire to learn and your motivation to get it done. Refer back to #2 if you're not sure how to accomplish that.
4. My story bores me. On paper, your story idea sounds like a hit. The next great American novel or uber-popular teen romance. You've set yourself up to be loved by the public, and that's great. But you're bored out of your mind.
As Cyril Connolly once said, "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self." If you don't love your story, readers will be able to see that in your work. Set your draft aside, write a novel you adore, and watch your work come to life.
5. My idea is too weird. Weird is so good, my friend. Nearly every market in the literary world is saturated with books that blend one into another. Publishers are desperate to print something that will stand out from the crowd.
Your weird idea may just be hit! Whether you're mixing genres, creating diverse MCs, introducing a crazy story-world, whatever... know that you can never be too unique.
6. I wouldn't know where to start. Have a story idea? Awesome! That's the first step to writing a novel. But it's completely understandable if you're fuzzy on everything else.
Writing a novel is a daunting, and sometimes overwhelming, task. Each draft takes incredible amounts of time and effort, and there isn't truly any assurance that your novel will be published in the end.
That's stressful to think about. I know!
Now forget everything I just told you. Forget your worries. The road ahead will be rocky no matter what you do, so you need to keep your eyes focused solely on what is right in front of you. You don't want to trip before you even get started.
Check out this post to turn your story idea into a full-fledged plot. When you've completed that task, head on over to the content archives to learn, step-by-step, how to write your novel like the lady boss you are.
7. I'll never get out of this writing slump. You've been writing your first draft for months, but now you're stuck halfway through. The plot is waning. You're losing interest. You've found yourself in a slump that you just can't seem to break out of.
I hear you, girl. I was there for a long time, too. The key to keeping yourself from getting into this situation in the first place is to outline your novel before you begin, but it's a little to late for that now, right? Don't freak out.
Access your situation. What has happened in your plot that has kept you from moving forward?
Now ask yourself, "What if?". What if your characters did something crazy? What if you did something different with that last plot point? What if you introduced a new character?
What if your character's plan failed instead of succeeded?
Keep asking yourself these "what if" questions, as many as you can think up, and I promise you that you will work your way out.
8. No one will think this is funny.It's the ultimate frustration. You think you're writing a funny (or sad or heartfelt or maddening) character or situation, but you have no idea if your readers will see it as such.
After all, you're a bit different from everyone else. What if your readers just don't get it? You don't want to sound silly, stupid, or contrived. You want to make people laugh (or cry or think or get angry).
I have good news, writer! You are not alone. Though your style may be unique, I guarantee you that there are other people in this world that share your sense of humor (or...well, you get the point). You don't need every human being on the planet to like your work. You only need that wonderful group of people who speak to your soul!
In return, you will speak to theirs, and they will love you for it!
9. My characters aren't interesting. One of my favorite writing quotes comes from author Dana Bate: "A better way to write complex characters is, ironically, to simplify them."
Many writers believe that in order to write interesting characters, they need to give them complex backstories, personalities, appearances, etc. But that isn't what makes a character interesting!
A character becomes interesting when they have a relatable motivation that pushes them to reach for a specified goal. Simply put, readers like characters that are likable and driven. Likability breeds reader connection while drive breeds a captivating plot.
Boom! You've got yourself an interesting character, with or without all of the fancy add-ons.
Related post: Looking for ways to craft a more interesting MC? Check out 33 Ways to Write Stronger Characters.
10. I'll never be able to sort through my ideas.Do plot bunnies have you dreaming in a thousand different directions? Have no fear!
Many idea-plagued writers believe that they should choose to write the idea that will most interest their readers. That is a major mistake! Even if you wish to publish your novel, meaning you obviously would want it to sell well, you still need to write for yourself before anyone else.
If you aren't in love with the story you're writing, the published novel will seem lackluster and dry. Readers will take note and they'll be disappointed that this novel, which so excited them when they bought it, really didn't shine they way they expected.
If you're unsure which of your story ideas to turn into a novel, consider which one interests you the most, as well as which one you can see yourself spending some serious time. Does one idea in particular stand out? Choose that one!
And then go turn that story idea into a full-fledged plot.
Feeling more confident? Fantastic!
Hopefully that last section soothed some of your worries. Now it's time to learn how to rock your novel style.
Every writer brings a fresh perspective to the craft. As such, each of us has our own unique writing style to share with the world. Now that your doubts are out of the way, it's time to let your style shine. Here's how:
1. Go with your gut. You want to try something different, but it breaks a writing rule or a popular piece of advice. Don't back down! When you do so, you're letting doubt sneak its way back into your work.
Only you truly know what is best for your story. If going with your gut requires you to ignore what others claim as necessary, then do it! Don't let your fear hold you back. In some cases, your idea might not work out so well in the end, but you can always revise it later.
What you will truly regret is never taking the chance.
2. Try new things. Along the same vein, don't be afraid to try out something new just for the fun of it. If your crazy-creative mind came up with a wacky new story idea, technique, plot twist, whatever... go for it!
Being uncommon is a good thing. It helps you stand out, and as I mentioned above, standing out often excites publishers and readers alike.
3. Be unapologetically you. You are unique (one might say "novel"), and that makes you amazing. But it doesn't make you bullet-proof.
There will be people who don't believe in you or in your novel-writing dreams. And some of those people will be your friends and family. You can't let them deter you, but don't expect to change them either. Though some may come to respect your choices, most will not. At the end of the day, you have to keep chasing down your own dreams despite others' wishes and beliefs.
There will also be agents, publishers, and readers who don't like your work. They will hate your story, your style, your skill. They will reject you, make snarky comments, even leave nasty reviews on your website and sales pages.
Now, I'm not trying to depress you after an uplifting post. I promise!
I'm telling you this because it is the unavoidable truth. To ignore it is to set yourself up for disappointment. The human race is highly-opinionated; it's wired into our systems. There will always be people who will not like your work, and they may even take pleasure in putting you down.
By knowing and accepting this now, you are destroying the nay-sayers in the best possible way. You are telling them that you know their opinion exists and that you just don't care. You are confident in your dreams, you are in love with your stories, and you are going to continue to chase them down no matter what anyone says.
Being unapologetically you. That is your confidence, dear writer. That is what you need to do.
Are you ready to tackle the world now? If certain doubts still plague you, comment below or shoot me an email. Let's work them out together!
And know this: I believe in you. I think that you are capable of unique and wonderful things, that the stories that live inside you are just begging to be seen. And I want to see them.
So go write. And don't let anyone, including yourself, hold you back.
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Kristen Kieffer is a writer of fantasy fiction and the creative writing coach behind She's Novel. She's made it her mission to help aspiring authors write sensational novels because obliterating expectations is her jam. Her other passions? Coffee and Tolkien, of course!