Writing · Writing Process

When Self-Doubt Kills Productivity.

Recently, I’d been struck with a wave of self-doubt. As I worked on my re-writes, it began as a trickle; my first six chapters were a complete mess and felt I couldn’t continue until they were fixed. That was my internal editor speaking to me and as they kicked in; the self-doubt began to swirl around me until it stopped me in my tracks. I was doing nothing more than going around in circles. It was then that I stepped away from the keyboard.

It was also around this time that I was reading up on self-publishing. This coincided with reading about the odds of author success. I always knew that going down the road to self-publishing was not going to be easy, but I guess the reality of it all really hit home.

I’d been dealt a blow from the stick of truth (thanks South Park 😉 )!

The reality was that when it came to these re-writes, once again, I was stalling. I was using perfectionism as a crutch; going back over something I had already covered was not moving me forward and getting the work done. Editing prematurely was hampering my efforts. My self-doubt had turned into perfectionism and they fed into each other.

After taking some time away to gather my thoughts, I was reminded that when it comes to writing professionally, it is a marathon, not a sprint. We just have to keep on going, one small step at a time. Those moments when we encounter self-doubt, get rejections, when we’re told we’re not good enough or to get a ‘real job’, if we really want to succeed as writers, we have to keep going. Self-doubt will always hamper our progress and it is at these times that determination and perseverance will be our greatest asset.

The trouble with going over the same ground, I was too busy thinking of the end result, rather than enjoying the journey. I was considering the big picture, and instead needed to concentrate on what I can control (James Scott Bell has a helpful post on what to expect from your first novel). Thinking of my writing as a ‘business’, what I really need to focus on right now is my product; my writing (of-course, the key word there being focus). The best way to do that is to just keep writing my stories and focus on my craft; everything else is secondary.

It’s easy to let disappointments and doubts get the better of us, but by focusing on our goals and being held accountable, either through a writing buddy or a group, we can continue the momentum to keep moving forward.

Do you ever feel the need to edit before you finish a writing project? What things do you do to help you move forward and finish? Do you tend to focus on the end result rather than just enjoying the journey?

Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Authors · Writers

The Power of Words.

Colleen McCulloughLast week, both Australians and the writing community were saddened by the death of Colleen McCullough. Author of the bestselling novel The Thorn Birds as well as many others; she was regarded as Australia’s most successful author. Unfortunately, her passing has been marred by a piece of careless writing.

Within the opening paragraph of an obituary written in one of the country’s most prominent newspapers, The Australian, it stated:

‘Colleen McCullough, Australia’s best-selling author, was a charmer. Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth. In one interview, she said: ‘I’ve never been into clothes or figure and the interesting thing is I never had any trouble attracting men.’

Yes, you read that correctly – plain of feature and overweight. Seriously, what has her appearance got to do with anything? It beggars belief that in 2015 we’re still having such discussions, but sadly, this level of journalism continues here in Australia and around the world. Understandably, there was a public outcry by both the media and social networks.

As a fellow writer and ex-University student, I know the importance of a good opening paragraph. This was an apparent oversight from those at The Australian in order to meet their deadline. An otherwise well written piece (that does go on to mention her many achievements) was in dire need of a good editor.

I’d like to look at that paragraph in a different way. Here was a woman that didn’t care less how she looked or what others thought of her. She was a warm, intelligent woman with a good sense of humour and men were attracted to her because of it. She was a neurophysiologist before taking up writing full-time. Her intensely researched, historical series Masters of Rome is indicative of that intelligence (yes, I struggled and anyone who has read them I applaud you). These books led her to be awarded a Doctor of Letters degree by Macquarie University in 1993. Colleen McCullough knew the power of words – sadly, a lesson those at The Australian have had to learn the hard way.

My dad had a saying: ‘We all come and go in this world the same way.’ It’s what we do in-between that’s important. Colleen McCullough was a strong woman who made a tremendous contribution to Australia and the publishing industry; her looks are therefore entirely irrelevant. May she rest in peace.

Have you ever been judged by your appearance rather than what you could actually do? Have you ever sent out work that you later wished you had more time to work on? Did you read the Master of Rome series or did you struggle like me?

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Writing · Writing Process

Digging out Your Old WIP: A Monster in the Closet?

In 2005, I wrote my first novel from beginning to end.  It was such a wonderful feeling to actually write those precious words ‘The End’.  Some time later I gave it to a writing friend to read to see what she thought of it.  ‘This is great – no brilliant’ was what she had written.  Buoyed by her response and her suggestions, I continued.  Four years later after numerous changes and edits, I took a couple of chapters with me to a workshop with Debra Adelaide, author of The Household Guide to Dying.  According to her, my protagonist was almost there, but not quite there yet.  Once again I continued tweaking the novel.  But after several years of editing and re-writing, I am now beginning to wonder if this one will ever see the light of day.

I’m sure you’ve heard of authors who talk about a particular novel or couple of novels that stay hidden away in some old drawer, never to be published.  They knew when to give up on them and continue with something else.  Some authors decide to go over their old hidden novels, brush them off and consider getting them published.  Perseverance, is after all, a requirement of becoming a writer.  But when do you actually decide that your novel isn’t working; that enough is enough?

My trouble is I continue to go over this particular novel because I need to tell it.  It is personal – after all, there is that old saying that an author’s first novel is usually autobiographical.  I continue with it despite changes in viewpoint, characters, plot development; I can’t let it go.  Perhaps I’ve been working on it for too long that it deserves to be hidden away (either short term or permanently), while I continue re-writing my other novels and begin new projects.

So how do you know when enough is enough with your own work?  Do you have any projects that will perhaps never see the light of day?

*And yes, in case you’re wondering, I am a perfectionist! 🙂

Free image by Victor Habbick courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Writing · Writing Process

Helpful Editing Techniques.

Here are some editing techniques given by Debra Adelaide that I have been using since I attended the Write Around the Murray Festival.  I have been finding them very helpful, and have even been using them on my short stories.  To read more on these editing tips, visit my website.

1st Reading:

  • Don’t make corrections, just mark it and keep reading.

2nd Reading:

  • Concentrate on cutting.

3rd Reading:

  • Concentrate on adding material.

Other tips include:

  • Always work from hard copy.
  • Space it generously to allow for endless scribbling.
  • Print in another font (so it won’t be so familiar).
  • Take it to another place where you normally don’t write.
  • Use a strongly coloured pen to make corrections.

Final and Most Important Tip:

  • Give your work time: ignore it for as long as you can, then return to it with a renewed critical eye.