Pep Talk #3: Have Faith in Your Writing

Remember the first time you read something you had written and thought, “This is a great piece of writing! And I wrote it!” I hope you savoured that moment and still think of it fondly. Because it didn’t last, did it?

Part of becoming a writer is experiencing doubt in your abilities. There are multiple opportunities for this. The critique partner who shreds your offering for that meeting. The agent or publisher who responds with “Sorry, not for us.” The readers of your published book who post one-star condemnations or two-star lukewarm dismissals. And perhaps worst of all, your own reactions the day after what you thought was a productive writing session–“Did I write this crap?”

If you want to get your writing into the public arena, to be read by people who don’t know you except as the writer of your words, you must have faith in it. Not blind faith, but faith that comes from knowing you’ve done the work to the best of your abilities.

That faith will be tested. You work through your list of agents and publishers, and send out queries that precisely match each one’s requirements, and receive only rejections, or no response at all, So you work over those first ten pages again, trying to figure out how to fix them.

You submit the improved query to a different set of agents/publishers, with the same result. Then you wonder if you might have had better luck with the first set of queries if you had sent the improved version. But you’ll never know, because you can’t submit a work more than once to the same agent/publisher. Each attempt is a fresh crapshoot.

At this point, you conclude you’re a lousy writer who has no business troubling busy agents and overworked acquisitions editors. After all, their inboxes are overflowing with the offerings of better writers than you. Because all writers are better than you.

This is where you need faith in your writing.

After wallowing in self-pity for days or weeks, you read over your manuscript again, and despite everything, you conclude it’s not worthless. Maybe a critique partner or beta reader agrees. So you decide to publish it yourself.

This process can raise another set of doubts. Is that (much-rejected) work really worthy of publication? Now you read it with the eye of an editor, remembering stuff from books on How to Write and blog posts on How Not to Write. Does your plot follow the three-act structure? Are your characters realistic? Is there enough tension and conflict? Is the narrative voice engaging? Have you used the correct point of view? How about those dialogue tags? Are the stakes high enough to keep readers interested? What about all those filter words and that mushy middle? There are a thousand things that can be wrong with your novel, and probably are.

It’s time for another meeting with yourself and your manuscript. Remind yourself of these facts:

  • Many of those “rules” are just guidelines
  • There is no way everyone will like your book
  • There is no way no one will like your book
  • Your book will never be perfect

Nothing worthwhile can be done without some element of risk. If you have done your due diligence as a writer, you arrive at a point where you take the next step or quit, whether it’s sending our more queries, entering that contest, or publishing. Or writing the next book.

1 Comment

  1. kingmidget says:

    Yes. Have faith. But not blind faith as you say. It’s a challenging thing to do. Writing is such a solitary act and given all the ways in which criticism can come your way, it’s difficult to always stay positive and faithful in what you do in those quiet, alone times of creating a world of words.

    Gotta keep the faith. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 2 people

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