On Believing in Yourself

In today’s Journal

* Prelude to a Co-Authored Post
* On Believing in Yourself
* Of Interest (nothing)
* The Numbers

Prelude to a Co-Authored Post

I admit, I’ve been WITD so long (and it makes so much sense to me) that I honestly don’t understand when other writers don’t get it.

Or why some are so strongly opposed to even the notion that it might work despite their—hmm, reluctance? No. Reluctance isn’t a strong-enough word. Refusal. No, staunch refusal. That’s it—

Despite their outright, adamant, arms-crossed, feet firmly planted, frowning, Staunch Refusal to even try it.

And despite the fact they’re breaking out in a trembling cold sweat even as they boast that their resistance has absolutely nothing to do with unreasoning fear.

Of course, I’m joking. Maybe.

But this morning I don’t have to put up with any of that.

This morning I’m dealing with a young writer who has tried WITD and knows it works but is bravely engaged in battle with her bullying critical mind and requested my help to bolster her defenses. I am happy to oblige.

She also very graciously agreed to help me take another stab at explaining some things. Via email, we talked about WITD, believing in yourself, and the fact that individual stories and novels simply are not important (and how that’s a GOOD thing).

That brave writer, Erin Donoho, is the co-author of this post. (Erin originally wanted to remain anonymous, but at the last moment she chose to share her name with you. I admire her for that.)

On Believing in Yourself

Comment and Question: “I’m prepping a manuscript for publication. But I find myself really afraid to publish, because it hasn’t gone through the process my one published novel did.

“That one was read by many readers, critiqued, and edited over and over. And people (readers) seem to really like the book. So I’m afraid my next novel—being written entirely into the dark and only proofread—is going to be awful. That readers will not like it. Of course as you say, some might.

“I am really tired of this crap though. I don’t want to revise the book 50 times (or 2, or 1); I think it’s good. So I should just publish it.

“Just curious if you have any words of encouragement to drown out the voices saying, ‘Your first novel is only good because so many folks critiqued it and you revised it.'”

My Response: As you wrote, “I think it’s good. So I should just publish it.”

Yes, do that. Plus I recommend you become detached from the end result. Remember, that one individual story is nothing more than a few hours’ entertainment. Period. Publish it and get started on the next one.

Chances are, readers will like this one even more because it contains your original, unique voice, not watered down by critiquers. Which is why I can also turn your quote around: “I think it sucks. So I should just publish it.”

The writer wrote back, and this time I answered her concerns in-line.

Concern: “It’s hard for me to think of each book as ‘just’ entertainment—to me they’re a part of my soul! They’re all special! Ha ha. But I’m serious. Mostly.

Response: Believe me, we’ve ALL been there. But that’s something you have to overcome. TO  THE  READER, your book really is only a few hours’ entertainment. Nothing more.

And if you tell an authentic story (which requires you to simply report the story as it unfolds instead of trying to make it “special”) a lot more readers will enjoy it because that will be your authentic, unique authorial voice.

Until you put that “special” stuff behind you, your advancement as a writer will be stalled.

Concern: “The ‘I think it sucks, so I should just publish it’ thought really made me pause. That would be terrible, in my mind—but then, maybe the book doesn’t suck. And art is subjective.”

Response: Screw “art.” Thinking of writing a short story or novel as “committing art” leads directly to the silly need to “suffer for my art,” which leads directly rewriting, seeking critiques, and editing, and then all of a sudden everything, even the writing, becomes drudgery.

You’re just a storyteller. So tell stories. That should be fun for you and make you happy. Let the readers worry about whether the story or novel is “good” or not.

My point is, even if YOU think it sucks, yours is only ONE opinion. Don’t pre-judge your work for the reader by not letting him see it.

Concern: “One thing I do wonder about—since I’m still relatively new to cycling (or, coming back to it after years of not doing it)—how do I know I’ve done it enough?”

Response: “Know” is like “think”: Both are functions of the critical voice, and neither is valuable in the slightest to the creative subconscious or the writing process.

In fact, they’re HARMFUL to the creative subconscious.

Every time you second-guess your characters by “wondering” whether you’ve done enough, you’re telling them you don’t trust them. And if they feel they aren’t trusted, eventually, just like real people, they’ll stop talking to you.

Concern: “E.g., I can read through a mss and feel like I/the character want to put more detail in there, but other times I just want to get the story out there. But then I wonder, ‘Maybe I was rushing; maybe I need to go back and add more detail.’ Your advice to slow down is so good (I have a hard time with that), to input sensory details, etc.”

Response: NO. NOT  SO  YOU (the writer) can input sensory details. Take your time so you’re sure to record what you’re seeing in your mind as the story unfolds. If you omit something, the readers can’t see it.

Concern: “I have a feeling there is no standard for ‘enough’.”

Response: Sure there is. When you’ve written everything the POV character gives you (dialogue, setting, scene, and the POV character’s opinions of those things), that’s enough. Anything less is not enough. Anything added by the writer because s/he thinks it should be added is too much.

Concern: “It’s so silly what little things my critical voice/brain will fixate on to keep me from publishing. Now, it’s ‘This book is only 55K words. It’s not long enough. It’s historical fiction, so it needs to be longer!” Good grief.

Response: Yup. That’s a remnant of the profit-driven traditional publishers “length equals price points” thinking that started in the 1950s. But at least you recognized it, which means you can tell it to shut up and leave you alone.

You’re a storyteller, a writer. So just write. Let the readers sort it out on the other end. And ignore reviews or appreciate the good ones and then move on. What readers and critics think of your work is none of your business.

Your business is to write the best story you can at your current skill level, publish it so readers can read it, then move on to the next story.

Talk with you again then.

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1190

Writing of Blackwell Ops 25: Rafe Andersen

Day 1…… 3243 words. To date…… 3243
Day 2…… 1354 words. To date…… 4597
Day 3…… 2899 words. To date…… 7496

Fiction for June…………………….….… 20660
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 361257
Fiction since October 1………………… 664314
Nonfiction for June……………………… 12760
Nonfiction for 2024…………………… 196390
2024 consumable words……………… 557647

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 9
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)……………… 91
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……… 239
Short story collections…………………… 29

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing are lies, and they will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

Please see StoneThreadPublishing.com  for all your fiction and nonfiction needs. Buy Direct!


3 thoughts on “On Believing in Yourself”

  1. Beautiful and thank you, both of you. That struggle to tame that inner critic is possibly the fight of our lifetimes. I ran away and hid for years under technical writing. Who can criticize evidenced truth, right? Nah, it followed me there, too. Come to think of it, it followed me everywhere… time to give that witch her eviction notice. It’s core is our wonderful brain’s early warning system (amygdala). It’s supposed to let us know if we’re about to get mugged or hit by a train, not harp on me endlessly about how tight me jeans have gotten. Yeah, re-train that witch, put her back on traffic and watching for sketchy salespeople. The rest of that, your creativity, YOU’VE got that, you don’t need her anymore.

    Huge, slightly uncomfortable but exuberantly given hugs to both of you.

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