Creativity can be so fickle. One minute, you’re inspired to write on a theme you just know is brilliant, then a few chapters into the project you feel overwhelmed and wonder what the penalty is for writing a novel without a license.
Fortunately, you don’t actually need a license to write a novel – or a memoir, a poem, or a song. What you need is confidence – the same confidence you had when you came up with the idea that inspired you to start.
Beginnings are not really that hard. (Endings are hard, but we’ll get to that at another time.) The middle of a writing project is often what derails an author, whether it’s Book One, or Book Thirty-Seven. Since writing is a mostly solitary endeavor, often the only voice that whispers in your ear is the one that feeds your self-doubt.
Supportive spouses and friends may be of help, but they can be frustrating to you if they’re cheerleaders only, and don’t provide the kind of helpful criticism to help you see your work for what it truly is: a work in progress, with lots of possibility, and the opportunity to turn it into something that you are proud of.
Critique Groups may be your answer. Because they are made up of authors, your peers may be able to offer the kind of advice you need to stay focused. Authors understand the unique challenges we face: doubt, procrastination, scheduling time to write – you name it. Just be aware that some critique groups may include members who only want to talk about their project, or find pleasure in bashing the work of others.
Look for a GENTLE CRITIQUE group, with guidelines to help you learn what works (and what does not) in your writing, where there are “holes” in your story, and whether something requires a bit of research. My rule of thumb is: Critique the Writing, Not the Writer. That’s how we build better stories.
A Writing Coach is someone who is likely a writer herself, but who also has experience teaching or leading workshops, and is familiar with the editing process. Your coach does not have to write in the same genre that you do, but she should have some knowledge of the genre or sub-genre. (Sci-fi is not the same as Fantasy; Police Procedural Mystery is not the same as Legal Thriller, etc.).
Your coach should ask questions, read samples of your work, and learn where you want to take the story. After all, it is your story. To quote Neil Gaiman: “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” Your coach is a coach, not a co-writer.
I’ve been a writer for more than 35 years, a workshop facilitator for a decade, and a Critique Host and One-on-One Coach since 2012. If you need help with your in-progress writing project, contact me to see if we might be able to work together.
Email: Beth@BethHermes.com (please print “Writing Coach” in the Subject line).
Don’t let doubt keep you from writing your story.