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Do you second guess your writing skills?

Got a question/comment about the creative process of writing? Post it here!
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Divia
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Do you second guess your writing skills?

Post by Divia » Mon December 8th, 2008, 4:30 am

So here I am working on my manuscript. Ok, this has been an on again off again relationship for about oh hmm 5years. I can knock out a chapter and think it rocks, but recently I just think my writing is so simplistic and dull. I think I'm missing something. I wonder how I'll ever be a writer if I suck so bad. And why can't I get through this stupid manuscript. I thought I could have something cool to show(not finished but touched up) at the HF conference but the rate I'm going this thing wont even be done until I'm 80, if at all.

I thought I was ready to write this book, but maybe as a writer I"m not mature enough yet. Or is my doubting getting in my way.

Does anyone else have these issues. How do I overcome them?
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Leo62
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Post by Leo62 » Mon December 8th, 2008, 12:02 pm

Yes I have them. :)

I would guess that all (or most) writers do. I think getting over this stuff is one of the main keys to being - how would you describe it? - a functionally successful writer.

We all have to find our own solutions, but here's a couple of things that have worked for me.

1. Give yourself permission to write badly. It's often not as bad as you think when you read it back.
2. DON'T read it back! When writing a first draft, just KEEP GOING no matter what. Don't do any revision or editing until you've got to the end. Otherwise you'll get stuck in a loop and never finish.
3. In order for 2. to work, write a synopsis of the whole thing before you start. I know this is about as much fun as eating nails, but it's worth it, I promise you. You don't have to stick to it, but at least you have a road map to follow that will help you keep going.
4. Keep Going!!

Did I mention that you should KEEP GOING? :D

Good luck :)

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Rowan
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Post by Rowan » Mon December 8th, 2008, 1:52 pm

Divia, questioning my writing skills is something I do on a daily basis, hence the reason I'm not even as far along as you are. I know I am equally scared of both success as I am failure, yet I've done nothing to date to even come close to attempting to overcome either fear. But maybe that will change in 2009. I've decided that I want to attempt NaNoWriMo in November 2009, but I don't want to wait another year to begin. I was recently looking over the site for NNWM and found that the guy who began this writing "contest" has written a book about writing. I bought it mostly because the title - No Plot? No Problem! - caught my eye. That's what's prevented me from getting very far with the tentative plot that's been floating around the primordial ooze that is in my skull for more than a year. Yet this guy says that's not a problem. When I finish the book I'm currently reading, I'm going to go through that book. I'll gladly let you know if there might be any useful tips for you.

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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Mon December 8th, 2008, 8:43 pm

Tell your inner critic to keep its mouth shut until you've completed a final draft of the novel you're currently working on. All first drafts are badly written: they're first drafts. And while you're working on a first, second or final draft, you are too close to your manuscript to accurately judge the overall quality of your writing. All you can do is say this adjective is one adjective too much in this context, this sentence isn't quite right yet and this scene isn't yet doing precisely what I want it to be doing. Your ability to recognize where a first draft falls short is really just evidence of your skill as a writer.

If you want to write, write.

Whether or not one will be able to make a living from one's writing is, I think, at the bottom of many writers' soul-searching over the quality of their writing (I know it is is with mine). But there are many writers considered to be hacks by the critics who make a good living, and other writers now considered to be literary giants who could not make a decent living from their work when they were alive. I think that whether one can make a living from, or even sell, one's writing is a completely different question from whether one's writing is "good" or "valuable." If the process of writing is valuable to you, then your writing is valuable. After you've completed a work, it will be judged by a different standard - in fact, by many different standards, because readers vary enormously in the type of writing that moves them. But those judgments can only be made on writing that is completed - trying to judge an unfinished work by this standard is an exercise in futility.

Thanks for asking this question - you've helped me work it out for myself, too.
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donroc
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Post by donroc » Mon December 8th, 2008, 9:28 pm

We all suffer though moments of self-doubt but manage to continue writing, editing, writing new drafts until the project is finished to our satisfaction. Then more self-doubting occurs.
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Leo62
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Post by Leo62 » Tue December 9th, 2008, 7:58 pm

[quote=""Margaret""]Tell your inner critic to keep its mouth shut until you've completed a final draft of the novel you're currently working on. All first drafts are badly written: they're first drafts. And while you're working on a first, second or final draft, you are too close to your manuscript to accurately judge the overall quality of your writing. All you can do is say this adjective is one adjective too much in this context, this sentence isn't quite right yet and this scene isn't yet doing precisely what I want it to be doing. Your ability to recognize where a first draft falls short is really just evidence of your skill as a writer.

If you want to write, write.
[/quote]
This is sage advice.

Margaret - you should, er, write a book :D

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Margaret
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Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
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Post by Margaret » Tue December 9th, 2008, 8:16 pm

Glad you think so, Leo! I've got several unpublished books on various shelves in my house - and am working on mustering up the spirit to get started on another one, hopefully not destined to remain unpublished this time.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Mon January 5th, 2009, 9:39 pm

[quote=""donroc""]We all suffer though moments of self-doubt but manage to continue writing, editing, writing new drafts until the project is finished to our satisfaction. Then more self-doubting occurs.[/quote]


Ditto.

For me there's very little hope of knowing for sure, because I can't bring myself to ask strangers to read my work for the most part. And my family and friends don't want to hurt my feelings. I know I made some mistakes on my first novel (got in a hurry, published too soon). But I also know I'm one of those people who would always change at least one thing. No matter how finished it is, I'll always think I could have done better.

The trick is to find your balance. If I ever figure out how to do that, I'll be sure to write a bestseller about it. ;)

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xiaotien
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Post by xiaotien » Tue January 6th, 2009, 6:49 am

divia, with my debut, i vacillated between
thinking was a prose genius to wondering why
i had written a big pile of steaming dog poo.

i think every writer feels this way?

love your story and believe!
write write write read read read
(you have that one down) and keep
going!
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Christine Blevins
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Post by Christine Blevins » Wed January 7th, 2009, 2:36 am

Except for worrying about not being mature enough (I happen to worry about being too mature!) I could have written the original post. I can get quite pathetic with worry and self-doubt.

I'm getting better at riding the highs and lows. When I was writing MIDWIFE I belonged to a writing group, and that weekly meeting of like minds and sharing of work often helped me to roll up out of the depths of despair and carry on. When I was writing TORY, having the support of a good agent and a great editor along the way was extremely helpful. I am also lucky that I have a wonderful husband who does not hesitate to give me the kick in the ass I sometimes need to refocus on the story.
But in the end, it's really the story that keeps me going.

Don't fret about time passing, or not meeting some arbitrary deadlines - don't over-analyze - focus on telling the story. Consider finding a trusted someone you can share your work with on a regular basis - someone who will give you a proverbial kick in the ass when you need one.

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