Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Insecure Writers

Today's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means the first posting from the Insecure Writer's Group! Why insecure writers, you ask? I think we all have those times when we have doubts--doubts in our abilities, in our words, in our stories. That's why it's great to know there are others out there who feel the same.

Hey we gotta stick together, man. It's a cruel world out there.

I remember when I'd just finished my first novel length story... about four years ago. I was so sure the publishers would be fighting over it. Which one would have the pleasure of reading my story first??

Okay, stop ROTFL. I know, I know. Oh, the naivety!

I didn't blog, I didn't network--other than typical Facebook with friends and fam. I had NO CLUE what I was doing, other than telling a story I  thought was pretty darn good.

It was good. If you could weed out all the overused adverbs and adjectives, overlook all the telling instead of showing, poor sentence structure, slow pacing, etc. Oh, and get this... almost every chapter started with my MC getting out of bed and ended with her going to bed. Made sense to me then. That's what peeps do in real life, right??

LOL. No wonder I couldn't get any bites. And my query? *cringe* It was horrible. I didn't understand what I was doing wrong. My story was good, dang it!

So fast forward to present day, four years and six stories later: I can now say I kinda know what I'm doing. I did figure out what I was doing wrong. I wasn't feeling insecure, I was confused why no one wanted my brilliant story. Other than parenting and the day job, I've pretty much done nothing but study craft and write stories for the last four years. Oh, and beta and critique as much as possible.

Has my writing improved? Unbelievably so
Do I still feel insecure? Sometimes

It's hard to tell when a story I've written and love is good or not. Then, I wonder if my beta readers are telling me the honest truth or just being nice. Do you go though that? You know, where you're so close to your story you just can't be objective anymore, but you still can't believe that all that mumbo jumbo that came out of your brain actually makes sense to another human being???

But what else can we do but believe in ourselves? As Dorie would say, "Just keep swimming..."
Eventually, something brilliant will come out of us.

A couple of important things I've learned so far:
* Always move on to the next story
* Critique as many other writer's stories as you can
* Let your story simmer a month before reading it with fresh eyes
* Don't be afraid to fail, it's the only way we grow

So that's how I keep swimming when I'm feeling the ugly beast of self-doubt rear its head.

What do you do?

39 comments:

Claire Dawn said...

I generally believe people are being honest when thye say that things need fixing. But if they say it's good, or don't point out enough flaws, I feel like they're trying not to hurt me.

I'm pretty good at seeing highs and lows of my own work. What I'm bad it is figuring out if the highs are good enough to negate the lows, or even warrant trying to salvage the story from them.

Siv Maria said...

Insecurities seem to be the theme of the day. Thanks for sharing yours :)

welcome to my world of poetry said...

I loved reading about your insecurities we're all not super humans are we.

Yvonne.

kmckendry said...

I love Dorie! Moving on to the next story while you let the others simmer is great advice. I often do this and then come back to see all my wordiness. :)

Jess said...

I always wonder if when people read my first chapter they're just trying to be nice by telling me that it sounds pretty good... But I completely agree! If you don't have too many doubts, and don't have to work very hard to get published, it wouldn't be so awesome when it actually happens!

Cynthia Lee said...

I'm insecure all the time.

I have to continually remind myself that I write because I enjoy the hell out of it (most of the time) and it's a wonderful challenge (all the time).

Otherwise, I'd drive myself crazy. :)

KarenG said...

Each chapter opened with your mc getting out of bed and ended with her getting into bed. LOL, that is so cute, and you're right, it is what we do every day LOL. Live and learn right?

Mary said...

Totally needed this post today! When I am feeling insecure, I IM with my CP's. I know they will get me out of my funk, and sometime in the future when they need me, I will return the favor.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Dorie is my idol! Whoever wrote that character was a genius.

I always wonder if people are being honest when they crit my work, but I don't think that's insecurity. I'm probably just being realistic, or maybe insecure. No, I think...

Just keep swimming.

Liz Fichera said...

I found myself head-nodding throughout this post. So well said, PK. "Always move on to the next story" is one I believe in too. It's so important.

Beth said...

Great post PK

fOIS In The City said...

Well said, PK ... there isn't much more to add. Insecure, anxious, ready to give up?

It's that first one million words that challenges ... the ten thousand hyperbolies ... the twisted plot? I trust my readers and I have finally begun to trust myself :)

Summer Ross said...

When i feel self doubt I make myself laugh- a good feel good something always does the trick.

This is a terrific post so full of insight. Thank you for sharing.

Old Kitty said...

It's good to grieve for a story that never makes it - grieve, mope, sigh then let time heal, feel better, feel happier, move on and aim higher! Yay! Take care
x

Karen Walker said...

I'm going to remember that, always move on to the next story.
Karen

Richard said...

Keep writing, whether it's revising or starting something new. But taking a short break can also be beneficial, too, especially if you are feeling tired of what you're doing.

I think I know what Pk stands for: Pink Kitty. (I'm not trying to get you to tell me; just fooling around.) :)

Stephen Tremp said...

Simmering is always a wise option. I simmer for three to ten days. Just sit back and take a break and do other unrelated things. Then come back with those well rested eyes and its amazing how much you see in a new light. Gaps in the story pop right out at you you too.

Melissa Bradley said...

I love that you quoted Dorie! I love her and her upbeat outlook. Just keep swimming is what I have to do, too, though it is so hard sometimes. I stress and make myself sick, agonizing over my words. I really need to relax and get back to enjoying what I loved about writing in the first place, I think. Thanks for sharing. And I know what you mean about that first submission. I thought mine was perfection. Never mind the little inconsistencies like the MC wearing a red blouse on page 10, a blue one on page 16 and a paisley sweater on page 33 all without ever going home to change clothes. ;)

Hannah Kincade said...

I love getting feedback! So there's that. I'm more constantly doubting my instincts when critiquing my own work. I'm getting a lot better, educating myself and communicating with other writers. It's great fun. I love learning.

Christine Rains said...

Amazing advice! Thank you so much for sharing. Now I have Dorie stuck in my head!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think I can finally say I 'kinda' know what I am doing now as well! I'm still worried my critique partners were just humoring me, but I guess I'll find out the truth next year.

E.R. King said...

I have a friend who says it's takes a lot of hard work to fail. I think this is very true. You've worked hard NOT to fail, which means you won't. You're insecurities are close to my heart. Thanks for sharing.

Laura said...

Just keep swimming...:)
Right now, I'm looking forward to that first rejection... at least it'll mean I've sent the blooming thing off!
Lxxx

Anita said...

I throw a big fit and say I'm done writing. And then I write again.

Alleged Author said...

I definitely have learned to always move onto the next story. Great post!

M.J. Fifield said...

It's great you quoted Dorrie.

Back when I was teaching, I showed my query letter to an interested group of students. One of them read it and then looked at me and said, "You actually sent this out?" Needless to say, I have since retired that particular letter.

Carla White said...

I always find it inspiring to listen to other writer's stories and how they've overcome diversity. Just need to remind myself that even the great authors were once rejected and that I need to be patient and just keep practicing, in any form I can.

Jess said...

Love the Dorrie quote! I agree that you just have to keep on working on the craft, moving on to the next story and trust that you're making progress. The hardest part for me is waiting a month before revising. I'm getting better :)

ali cross said...

I LOVE Dorie! That little reminder brings a total cheery vision to my mind. I totally love your advice of just moving right along! No time to wallow in this business!

McKenzie McCann said...

Insecurity is a real jerkwad. It gets in our way all the time. But it's also our savior, because it makes us strive to improve.

I think the main reason why my first novel got nibbles is because of it's marketability. I'm just praying it wasn't a fluke and my second novel, which is far less marketable, will also get some nibbles.

Oh look, insecurities.

Cally Jackson said...

Another wonderful post, PK. I remember when I finished my first novel and promptly submitted it to our state writing awards. When the results cam out, I was flabbergasted. What do you mean I wasn't even shortlisted. Do you people recognise brilliance when you see it?!

I love the just keep swimming advice. I plan to take it. :-)

L'Aussie said...

Hello again, long time! I mentioned some of the same things in my post. I think we all have so many things in common as we share this common journey, albeit oftentimes a journey with unclear signposts. As many have advised me, just enjoy your writing, don't over think. Easy to say...

Denise

meredithmansfield said...

Terrific post. I remember that point in my writer's journey very well. And, apparently, at almost the same time.

Ignorance truly can be bliss.

Isis Rushdan said...

Knowing when to move on to the next story can be so hard. I completely believe in letting a ms set for a month so you can see it with fresh eyes.

Angela Ackerman said...

This is the third post today about the IWG that's I've come across, and I think it i such a great idea. You're right, we are all in this together. And, I think there's never been a better time to be doing this, because there is just so much support and help in cyberspace. :) Cheers to everyone in the IWG!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

DM said...

Insecure writers group? That's what I need.
Excellent topic. As I edit and proofread my novel, I am surprised at the number of errors I still find. But you are right. Continuing to write and critiquing has improved my writing significantly.
Thanks for this blog.

Norma Beishir said...

PK, the truth is that all writers are insecure--even bestselling authors. Everybody wonders when they'll burn out, when their fans will grow bored and find a new favorite.

cardiacku said...

Come here for first time to support you...

DL Hammons said...

I let my story sit for 6 months + before reading it again and I felt reinvigorated afterwards. Trust your instincts and remember you were a reader first. You know what you like!

All for one...and one for all! :)