Monday, November 25, 2013

How to Break through Writer Self-Doubt

Self-doubt. Yep, that’s where I’m at in my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) journey. Or at least it’s where I was at this morning.

Picture of Escape Key on Keyboard
Escape from Writer Self-Doubt

I’ve smoothed that away for now.

You see, I’ve been writing all month without worrying too much about how it’s coming out; I think my writing is better than the last time I participated in this crazy “competition.” I’ve been devouring writing craft books like an addict.

I understand story structure better now (among other things).

A couple of weeks ago I had my daughter read what I’d written and she approved. Since my book is YA, that made me happy. Last night though, when I tried to explain the story to her and her friend, I couldn’t tell them exactly where it’s going. Yes, even though I made an outline, it’s still coming out pantser-style.

I also haven’t managed to narrow this story down to one line. Yet.

After that moment of clarity, I distracted myself: I looked at vegan fudge recipes; I had a tickle fight with my son and dog; I read one of the many books in my stack, “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell; I read another book on craft, "Story Engineering" by Larry Brooks. Larry's books helped me a lot, by the way. I'm on my second read-through.

        


Still, I went to bed frustrated.

Then this morning during my trip to Trader Joe’s for pumpkin fudge supplies, I came upon a car that had “ELF” on its license plate. This wouldn’t normally stand out except this is the third time in two weeks I’ve seen that word on a license plate (and not on the same car).

Seconds later, I saw “PAP” on another plate, which helped me to understand: The character Elf (from the movie “Elf”) goes to New York City to meet his dad; I felt safe in deciding it was my dad saying hello.

As soon as I’d made that conclusion, I came upon another car that said, “New York Times Best Selling Author” on it. I kid you not. (And yes, I did speed up to see who was driving that car. Ha ha!)

As I was flipping between fantasy that my dad was telling me my book was going to be the next big hit--and self-doubt--another car pulled in front of me with “NYT” on it.

So was all of this craziness a message from dad? I like to think so.

Was he telling me my book is the next New York Times best seller? Not necessarily. (Hey, I'm trying to be positive here!)

I believe it was a message for me to let my frustration drive off into the distance so I can keep pecking away at the keyboard.

Whether it’s a best seller or not isn’t the point. This NaNoWriMo process is teaching me about how to break through my frustrated-writer days and keep on going. It is also teaching me about how I function best as a writer and how I can become better.

So How Can You Break through Self-Doubt?
  • Compare yourself to nobody else.
  • Write without editing.
  • Come up with a general outline and then connect the dots, filling in the spaces between the plot points.
  • Focus on your word count.
  • Find something to help you get “outside your head.” I listen to a radio station I created on Pandora called “Liquid Mind.”
  • Utilize prompts to break through moments of frustration. For the month of November, follow @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter.
  • Write with a buddy.
  • In your non-writing time, read about the craft of writing or read fiction and note what you think works or doesn’t work.

I hope and have faith that with increased knowledge, my days of self-doubt will grow fewer in number. Ultimately, it will be the drive inside myself that will keep me going.

Write on!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? I would love to know how you've been doing all month and if you have any tips for writing through the month. Thank you!

*****





6 comments:

  1. Ah, Linda. What a great post. I can agree with all of it, even though I haven't master the write without editing part. I'm beginning to think I'm an editor in writer's clothing.

    I'm doing NaNo this month, but with a twist. I'm finishing three previous projects. You asked how it's going. Well, I got side-lined early on with a media expert's insistence. I'm recovering from that. I did get one story and one poetry submission sent out yesterday, which was on my NaNo agenda. They were previous projects I finished and sent out. I'm still working on the short story to novella conversion, but I'm not revising yet--merely expanding the story.

    Has it been a success for me? In many ways, it has. I've learned a great deal about how and why I write what I do. It's helped me to focus on small projects first and worry about the big ones later. I still have a couple of the little buggers I'd like to get out by month's end. We'll see if I can manage it.

    Love the article, though. Keep up the inpiriation.

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    1. Wow! That sounds like a big challenge you've taken on. Three at once?! I love hearing about "rebel" versions of NaNoWriMo. Much success to you, Claudsy! Thank you for reading and telling me how of your experience!

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  2. I love the part where you are looking for signs from the universe; license plates, etc. I also look. Lately, I haven't been figuring much out, but I guess that is part of the journey . . . or the self-doubt.

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    1. LOL! Yes, true. Thanks for reading, Gail. :-)

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  3. Enjoyed your post, Linda. You are learning a lot! You remind me of my friend, Dawn. She sees signs everywhere, and she calls them God Winks. I had lunch with her yesterday and heard about many God Winks. It is a wonderful way to look at the world. I didn't do NaNoWriMo (personal life is too hectic), but I relished in reading the post of the WSS writers who were deep into the challenge. Much, much success to you, Linda. It is in your future. Believe!

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  4. Thank you so much for visiting and for the encouragement, Sabra! (It was fun to hear about your friend, Dawn, too.) :-)

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