Harnessing Self-Belief

Writing is a primarily solitary pastime. Despite the community feel that the internet provides, at the end of the day it is generally just you and your pen/keyboard. Without putting your bum in the seat and getting that word-count up no story will ever get written. And in order to do that you have to be able to believe in what you are doing: you have to have faith that you can tell the story that wants to clamber out of your head.

Well, I’ve written my story: I’ve even rewritten it once. Now I am working my way through it slowly and making notes on where I can improve it. I had some good feedback from my beta readers – clear and constructive advice on how I can move forward  – and they were all elements I knew probably had to be addressed. So I know where changes have to be implemented and have even identified a brand new opening for the novel that I believe will make it more dynamic and dramatic.

quotes-about-goal-setting2However, the thing that is lacking is my self-belief. I have spent three years building up my writing confidence. I know I can get the story down and I have no qualms about tackling a new novel (and even had one planned for NaNoWriMo). But this part – the editing of the written piece – I am still struggling with.

I don’t seem to be able to edit the page of words that I have. Instead my instinct is to rewrite it. But I can’t rewrite the entire novel again – especially not because I fear I will have the same issues when I come to edit such a hypothetical manuscript. Even though I have some plans (highlighted in last week’s post) that I can follow to help me through the process itself, I am still having trouble tackling the act of editing my words.

When it comes down to it, I think it is less to do with the process or the writing itself (I understand the theory and don’t really think the manuscript warrants a whole rewrite) and more that I am the problem. I don’t believe in my ability to edit. I haven’t done enough of it (not like writing – three years of NaNoWriMo have seen to that) and I have never attempted it on such a scale. I have managed to edit short stories, tinkering with the words, altering paragraphs and sentences where needed, but I have confidence in these because I can see the product as a whole. With my novel I find it more difficult to anticipate the knock on effect of changing something I believe is a minor detail and following that through the entire text.

The difficult part is the knowledge that I have to make mistakes. I know I am afraid of doing this on a novel I have worked so hard on to get to this stage. It’s taken so long to get here that I fear if I spend another year trying to learn the process of editing, getting it wrong and having to retrace my steps, I might never have a finished product. On the other hand, if I keep putting it off and never make those mistakes how will I ever move forward?

So yes, I am at a stage where I recognise my limitations, have acknowledged that I need to make mistakes and yet am still afraid to make them. I don’t have enough self-belief to forge on regardless, therefore I need to find a way to fool myself into thinking this is something I can do. I need to harness some self-belief.

Right now what I really need are suggestions on how to go about this…
how question

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3 responses to “Harnessing Self-Belief

  1. Pingback: Being a NaNoWriMo Rebel… | Cat Lumb: The Struggle to be a Writer

  2. My editing method is actually primarily rewriting what’s written. The key difference is that as each draft happens, how big the rewrite is reduces until I’m adding/deleting single words for grammar consistency. To wit:

    First draft > Is first draft
    Second draft > Complete rewrite of original story
    Third draft > Analyze the story, identify what’s missing (characterization, clear wording, minor plot details), and scene by scene reword it into shape. Sometimes total rewrite of scene, other times heavy rewording.
    Fourth draft > Final minor corrections (typically additions/deletions for flow)

    The key thing is in the third draft. I split it out by scene, and keep in mind what the start and end points of that scene are supposed to be, and keep that aspect constant. Everything else in the scene might change, but as long as the start and end stay the same continuity is preserved.

    If something important happens in the scene, it gets treated the same as the start and end. OR, if I decide to change it, I know that as I continue editing further, that other mentions of it need to change as well.

  3. I’m so with you on this, as you know. I think what you need to do now is accept that enough people have read your finished draft and told you that they think you have a great story for you to be sure that it is. Next, you need to pull up an article (or a blog post by one of your writing friends 😉 ) about the steps they took to edit their books. You may agree with some of these things, not with others and of course, you will make your own list. Then take each step one at a time and go through your whole book just implementing those edits, nothing else. When you’ve done this and it may take you a while, your story will be in tact but even better. If you feel ready at that point, you can either pay for a professional edit or send it to beta readers again and hopefully, after that, it will be ready to go. It seems insurmountable, I know but honestly, it isn’t if you take it one step at a time. And you know, I’m always here if you need a shoulder 🙂

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