For a few weeks I struggled with trying to overcome doubt in my ability as a writer. The Stars Are Infinite, in a sense, was rejected a few weeks ago. I wouldn’t say rejected, necessarily, but I don’t know any other way to phrase it, because it is going to come out, and it is going to receive a contract once I complete the necessary edits; however, the initial blow had shaken my faith in myself as a writer. It was a misguided blow on my part, of course. Even so, I had a lot of confidence in my writing because of When Stars Die and some feedback from ‘I Am the Bell Jar,’ published in 2013: A Stellar Collection. It’s great to have confidence; however, once you’re published and then you’re rejected, that rejection stings 10x harder than if you had never been published.
When you’re published, you have the expectation that you’re going to be published again. After all, fans of your books are counting on it. So for a bit I struggled with all these questions: Is When Stars Die going to be my only book ever? What if I just got lucky with it? What if every book I write from here on out sucks? What if my writing actually is crap? Why am I doing this? And so on and so forth. Any writer who has EVER struggled with self-doubt knows the exact questions I’m speaking of.
How did I regain my confidence?
I completed the edits of the first fifteen chapters my publisher did, and those edits alone crammed brevity into my mind. They weren’t difficult to do. I also considered that I was perhaps OVERCONFIDENT in those chapters. I wrote them when I was 20, and while I did have professional edits on them, I was still 20 when I wrote them. I wrote When Stars Die when I was 21, and completed it, revisions and all, at 22. So it was 2 years after The Stars Are Infinite that When Stars Die was basically born. When I went back into TSAI, I didn’t touch the first fifteen chapters that much. Just did some edits here and there, added some stuff, and that was it. However, with the remainder of the book, I had to write it all over again, so it can’t even rightly be called a re-write. Even when I did write those chapters, I ended up re-writing much of them. I probably spent more time editing the latter half than the former half, just because I know more now than I did when I was 20. I wrote the first 15 chapters at the age of 20, and the rest of the book at 23. I spent 5 months doing intense edits of the rest of the book–7 if you count January and February. That’s 3 years of improvement since beginning TSAI. Arguably I should have spent equal time with both, but I get discombobulated at times.
A common writing error is for writers to spend more time on the first half than the last half. I did the reverse. I think this happened because I wanted–and still want–TSAI to be a million times better than WSD, and those chapters leading up to the climax, and the chapters that fall thereafter, are crucial.
That was my error.
I regained my confidence when I completed those edits, and the edits my personal assistant did for me–I am SUPER indebted to her. When I stepped away from All Shattered Ones, the book I was hoping to finish before getting TSAI back, I realized that if I were a crap writer, I wouldn’t have any idea where to begin with revisions in regards to ASO. I do. I know exactly what I’m going to do to better ASO, to make it cleaner, more crisp–cleaning up metaphor overkill, for one. And re-structuring a few things in the plot, of course.
I also fully regained my confidence when I was able to proofread for a previous client. I learn a lot by editing other people’s manuscripts, and I learned a lot from proofreading this client’s manuscript. I learn what I can do to better my own manuscripts, pretty much. Proofreading this manuscript also instilled brevity within me. Now I’m going through TSAI and cutting unnecessary, lengthy sentences, or just breaking up those sentences. I’m also going to–and sigh–read my book out loud, or have my Kindle do it for me at least. I didn’t do that with When Stars Die. The book was just that easy.
I have also accepted that it is going to take more than a year for me to create a book I am satisfied with.
Also, as strange as it sounds, my confidence in ballet directly correlates to my confidence in writing. If I can freaking do ballet, I can sure as heck get another novel published. I mean, I’m at grade IV, and I’ve only been dancing ballet for 2 1/2 years (arguably, I should be in grade V, but the Cecchetti method is different from my last school’s). And…drum roll please…my boss pretty much implied I’m going to get hired on at Southern Siding, which means I will receive more commission–I’m going through a temp agency for them currently.
Ultimately, I think good things happening outside of your writing life can actually improve the quality of your writing life. After all, we need lives outside of writing, and we need good ones at that. All this goodness going on for me has shifted my perspective, and has thus put a positive spin on how I feel about my own writing.
Have you ever lost your confidence in your own writing? If so, how did you regain it?