Friday, January 13, 2012

A plethora of writing thoughts and struggles--especially self-doubt.

As I mentioned recently, my next book, Rising Book 1: Resistance is coming out next month. I don't have the cover or the back blurb to show you all yet, as both are in development. I do have artwork for this book that some of you may recognize, because I posted it ages ago on my blog. I'll share that again, as it will give some visual of this book until I have the cover. These are my two narrators, Alphonse and Mairwyn. (Mairwyn is a Welsh name; it's pronounced mire-win.)

Artwork © Holly Robbins

I wanted to use this book to illustrate some thoughts and struggles that I've faced (and am still facing, to some degree). I've found that some books bring different issues and difficulties and insecurities. Rising in particular has given me more trouble than any other book I've ever written.

1. The plot was not only not what was planned, it was the complete opposite. This is fairly common--okay, totally common--in anything I write, but this was to an extreme degree. When I came up with the characters for this book, I planned it to be a super fun, lighthearted story. Instead, it ended up being the darkest, most emotionally exhausting, and intense book I have ever written.

2. It was only supposed to be one book. My co-author and I are writing a twelve book fantasy series. (We have four written. Only eight to go!) I was determined that eleven sequels to a book are enough; I wanted to stick with singular books for a while. 100,000 words in to this book, I realized I still had so much story left to tell, and I had to divide it into two novels.

3. Genre was ridiculously hard to pinpoint. Seriously. I tried to pinpoint the genre for a year. I talked to professionals. I had a friend who talked to professionals on my behalf. In the end, it has been decided that it is simply speculative fiction, as it's sort of in-between a few things. It's not quite sci-fi; it's science based, but not futuristic. It's in a fantasy sort of world, but there's no magic. The closest "feel" is probably steampunk, but there's no steam and no women wearing corsets, which, I hear, might be mandatory in steampunk. ;) (Though there are goggles!)

4. Marketing age was just as tricky to pinpoint at first. I had anticipated writing YA, as I always wrote YA. However, as the book developed, it grew into something that reads as more adult, and all of my main characters are adults. It could possibly have been marketed as YA if not for the development of the second book, which is definitely not YA.

5. The characters and plot gave me trouble unlike any other book. It took ages before I didn't feel like I was pulling teeth to get words out. None of my characters wanted to cooperate. Getting all of the pieces to fit together was a headache and a half. Again, this is normal for a lot of books, but it was to a degree I'd never known before.

6. Self-doubt. This the biggest. Every writer has experienced self-doubt at some point or other, I'm sure, but this was the worst for me. Perhaps because it was so different from anything I'd written before, and perhaps because I was writing it as my first book was approaching publication, and that seemed to raise the stakes for me. I was plagued with nagging self-doubt as I wrote this book. What if it's not good enough? What if the characters are unlikeable? What if everyone hates it? What if the plot doesn't make sense? What if I can't make it make sense? What if it's not publishable? And so on and so forth.

Here's the thing with self-doubt: it lies. It does. Because of course, not everyone is going to like what I write. I don't know about your first drafts, but mine are never going to be publishable--it's going to take a ton of editing and rewriting and critique partners and beta readers ripping it to shreds and helping me find the weak points.

I'll tell you a secret. I'm still tremendously a little nervous about the idea that this book is going to be published soon and available for anyone to read. Part of one of the prizes offered in the Favorite Character Blogfest is an ARC e-copy of this book. I believe in these characters and I'm super excited to share this book with you, but at the same time, I may have felt the need to go breathe into a paper bag. I've never felt quite that way before with my previously published books.  Every book is a new and different learning experience, that's for sure.

I've seen quite a few bloggers talking about the Self-Doubt voice lately. It's a nasty one. For those of you struggling with it, here are a few things it might be whispering, and some of my thoughts in response to those whispers.

This story is never going to be good enough. Nonsense. It's going to get better with everything you write, because practice makes better. You're going to write some crappy things, but don't let that stop you, because the crappy parts are going to get fixed. You're also going to write some amazing things, and only you can write them. You have something to say that only you can say, and I'm sure you've heard this before, but it's true. Maybe there are other books like yours, maybe there are other characters with similar personalities, but this is your story from your mind and your heart, and it is unique. Your story is going to get better with every draft, every rewrite, every bit of polishing.

Everyone is going to hate this. This is very unlikely. Are some people going to hate it? Possibly. Everyone has such wildly different tastes, and what one person loves, another person might loathe. Which means, if some people hate're also going to have some people who love it.

If you're trying to please everyone, you're probably going to have a mediocre story. You need to be happy with your story. You. It is yours. Of course, you need to be open to listening to what your beta readers and critique partners have to say, and work to improve what you have, but if you're unhappy with your story, it's probably going to be evident to reader.

What if the characters are unlikeable/the plot doesn't make sense? This is where beta readers/critique partners are so important. If everyone hates the characters and tells you the plot doesn't make sense, you're going to need to reexamine what you're doing. That's the beauty of drafting stories, though: you can pinpoint what you're doing wrong or what you can do better. And again, there are so many things that are subjective. Some people don't like arrogant characters. Some don't like reluctant heroes, or whiny sidekicks, or damsels in distress. Some people love these. Write the characters as they're meant to be. Your character will grow through your story. Maybe a reader who hated a character in the beginning will love a character in the end. You won't know unless you write it and find out.

That's just it. You won't know what effect your story will have on a person, or lots of people, unless you smack that self-doubt in the face and write your story. And then make it the best you can. And then, when it's ready, open the doors and let people see into the world you created.

In the infamous words of Galaxy Quest (I mentioned the other day how very quotable this movie is), "Never give up, never surrender!"

Are you struggling with anything in your writing process right now?


  1. Self-doubt is certainly a powerful force that can affect anyone at anytime. I don't think you can avoid it, but after a while I think you can recgnise it for what it is, a passing emotion that will pass. And then come back again. And go again...

    Very interesting post, good luck with the next bunch of sequels.

    Moody Writing

  2. My WIP was giving me a hard time, but once I got passed chapter 3 and let my outline go out the window (My MC didn't like what I had planned.) the rest of the book flew by. So 12 days later, here I am, taking a break before I dive into revisions.

  3. self doubt needs a time out!

    way to keep going and working thru it!

  4. Did I miss seeing when it will be released? I would love to get it on my kindle.

  5. Sounds like you were all over the map with this one! The doubts come no matter what, and no matter if it's your first book or tenth. (Although if I ever got that far, I really hope I'd not be so worried.)
    Looking forward to the cover art!

  6. I've heard that it's difficult for many writers when their books goes PUBLIC :) because it no longer belongs to them, it belongs to the reader and the reader will imagine it and interpret it any way they like. I think you've found some great remedies for curing this ailment. :)

    I'm struggling with revisions, as per usual. :)

  7. I'm struggling with finding time! But then again who isn't? Also, I'm feeling a lack of having really good characterization for a few characters.

  8. Nope. It's all been eerily easy since the Great Back-up Disaster. :-D


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!