Writing Advice: Dealing with Doubt

When I finished my third book, I was proud of it.  It had taken me a while to write it, but in the end it was the book I had wanted to write.  I felt redeemed in my choices when it had the best reception from any of my previous books. Then I started writing my latest novel, and the doubt kicked it.  

For all the success that “Caught in the Web” has had and all the praise, it has actually made me doubt myself and my writing more than I had ever before.  My first draft, I ruined the ending because I pulled back from the direction I had always planned on.  There were/are aspects that I was so unsure of that I wrote some alternative versions of chapters and sections as I just wasn’t sure anymore what was scary, what would scare my readers.  After three books where I have had consistent reviews on my ability to terrify and create nightmares, for the first time I doubted if I could do that again.

So how do we get past that?   How do you as a writer, work through your doubt to keep writing? 

For starters, don’t get rid of the doubt, and continue to write.  Sometimes it is good to doubt and question.  While I doubted my writing, I kept going no matter how much I wasn’t sure of myself.  The key was just that, to keep writing.  Even if I doubted if what I was writing was any good, I still continued on.

The key to continuing to write is to also be patient.  Keep writing because you can still go back and read it later.  Keep writing because your first draft is not the end product.  Keep writing because no matter what you put down on paper, even in the doubt, you might push yourself to write something that you would have before.  Because I was doubting myself, I paid more attention to my writing style and analyzed it.  It is also because of my doubt over the course of writing my latest novel that I decided not to rush as much as I had in my previous novel and because of that, I have come across some new ideas that work great with my original ending.Sometimes doubting ones self is not a path to destruction as long as you do not let doubt rule you.  When you come to a point of complete indecision due to doubt, then you have moved into an unhealthy area. 

So how do we move past completely indecisive doubt?  This can be hard and for everyone it will always be different.  The best advice I can give is to find either someone or a group that you know and trust.  Work in the group to bounce ideas off of.  Find beta readers to get feedback, and not just people who are going to say “it’s great” to everything you write.  If you have an editor that you trust who is will to read your work, get with them, see how they feel. 

But keep writing .  Always keep writing.  If you are having doubt about a particular work, then write a short story or work on another project.  The best thing though is to always keep writing because writing, just like exercising helps build ‘muscle.’  Though in the writers sense it is a mental muscle and should always be stretched and worked.

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