Cara Lockwood is the USA Today bestselling author of nine novels, including I Do (But I Don’t), which was made into a Lifetime Original Movie starring Denise Richards and Dean Cain. Her books have been translated into several languages and are sold all around the world. She’s written in many genres and also created the Bard Academy series for young adults. Recently, she’s begun offering freelance editing through www.edit-my-novel.com, which is an official sponsor of National Novel Writing Month (http://www.nanowrimo.org/). You can also read more about her work at www.caralockwood.com or www.bardacademy.com.
The worst demon a writer will ever face is his or her own critical eye.
Every writer I’ve ever known has at some point or another had a crisis of confidence. Anxiety and insecurity are truly at the heart of nearly all kinds of writer’s block.
In a bout of self-loathing, Stephen King famously threw away Carrie in disgust. His wife saved the bestseller from the garbage by digging it out, reading it, and declaring it worth saving.
So, how do you move past confidence-killing insecurity if you don’t happen to be married to Stephen King’s wife?
I’ve got a few ideas. I’m no stranger to writing anxiety. I’ve published nine novels, and yet, there are times even now, when I look at a rough draft and want to hit “delete.”
For the thousands of you participating in National Novel Writing Month this month, how do you get over the biggest hurdle of all – when you hate what you write?
Here are some suggestions:
Don’t throw your manuscript away. Just put it away for a couple of days.
If you’re at the point where you want to give up, just take a break for a while. We all have good writing days and bad writing days and you don’t want to trash everything on a day that you just happen to be feeling down. Give yourself some room to get perspective.
Get feedback from an experienced editor.
Writing is a solitary pursuit and sometimes you can easily lose perspective on your own work. Enlisting an experienced editor cannot only help you break through writer’s block, but it can also take your novel to the next level. I’ve been really blessed in having great editors in my career, and I really think they have made the difference for me with several novels I had thought couldn’t be saved.
It’s a big reason why I do freelance editing work. I’m hoping to help others as my editors have helped me.
An editor can also help you find a new path forward. Maybe some small changes (adding or subtracting a character or changing a scene) can breathe new life in your novel.
Join a writing group.
Now that we have a thriving online writing community, it’s easier than ever to find other writers like yourself. A writing group is invaluable for getting honest and constructive feedback and bonding with other writers who understand your pain. Sometimes, just having the opportunity to vent your frustration can help you find the confidence you need to get back to writing.
Tell your critical inner-editor to take a break.
Sometimes, you have to tell your inner critic to be quiet in order to push through and finish. Think of that inner voice like a heckler at a play. Tell him to sit down for the second half. Even a truly bad manuscript can be improved with editing, but if you don’t have any words on a page, you can’t edit them and make them better. I’ve finished my share of truly awful first drafts. But, that’s why we call them drafts. They’re not supposed to be perfect. They are drafts and should be refined and edited and improved.
Read a book that will inspire you.
Go back to one of your favorite authors and read or reread a book that might be similar to the novel you’re writing. Sometimes, you can find inspiration in reading. I still learn new things about writing from other authors, and sometimes, when I’m really feeling stuck, I’ll read one of my favorite authors who will inspire me to jump into writing again.
Find a writing cheerleader.
Before I wrote my first novel, I Do (But I Don’t), I started and stopped a half a dozen manuscripts. I would start a novel, then I’d put it down for a while, and later when I picked it up again, I was usually so discouraged by what I’d written that I’d just give up on that project . Finally, when I began writing, I Do (But I Don’t), a romantic comedy about a divorced wedding planner, I enlisted the help of one of my avid reader friends to help me get through my rough patches.
I asked her to be my “writing cheerleader” and help me stay on course. She was a great writing partner. Every week, she’d read the pages I wrote, and then she’d continue to bug me until I got her the next chapter. It was just the inspiration I needed to keep going.
Remember that every writer, no matter how experienced or successful, feels like you do at some point.
Sudden loss of confidence happens to every writer. I’ve never met a single writer who could honestly tell me they didn’t feel at some point that they should give up on a manuscript or on their whole careers. The difference between the published writers I know and some of the unpublished ones is that the professional writers found a way to keep writing. They didn’t give up. If you truly believe writing is your calling, find a way to keep going.
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