Monday, 25 January 2010

Dodging The Doubt

Self doubt, I think, is one of the hardest things a wannabe writer has to live with. The questions which buzz around my brain a lot are, “Am I any good?” or “Will I ever be any good?”

I suppose the only way we can tell is by getting our work “out there”. Sometimes even that doesn’t help though, especially when the rejections keep flooding back in.

I am yet to find myself at a stage where I have a novel good enough to send out to potential agents. So far I have completed first drafts of two novels. The first will probably never see the light of day and languishes on a bookshelf in a folder. It is, I think, a poor first attempt but maybe one day I’ll dig it out again and see whether it has any glimmer of potential. The second, I was part way through a first edit when I lost my way and was then side-tracked by the thought of writing something completely new during November and the challenge of completing the 50,000 words with NaNoWriMo.

At the moment I am concentrating book 3. Since the end of November I have completed another 15,000 words and am hoping to reach 100,000 by the end of March, that’s if I pull my finger out anyway. Then I will break away from it, try to finish the first edit of book 2 and then return to edit book 3. Well that’s the plan.

Over the years (and I do mean years) I have been trying to test my talent, or lack of it, with short stories. And herein is where rejection lies. In fact so many of my stories have been rejected that whenever an A4 envelope comes bouncing back through my letter box I refuse to take it personally. I simply open it up, look at the standard rejection slip, sigh, re-read the story, edit, print and send it somewhere else. And then after four or five rejections I put it in a folder, alongside novel number one, and chalk it up to experience.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. I have been on several courses and have received some very positive feedback. I know (or at least I think I do) where my strengths and my weaknesses lie and am determined to work on both. And then last year, one story which I had dusted off and sent out for the third time, actually came highly commended in a Writer’s Forum competition and was published in the Weekly News. Proof positive that not making the grade first time round isn’t an indication of whether something is any good. So maybe I do have some talent after all.

I’ve tried a couple of writer’s circles in my area in an effort to get some outside feedback but neither have worked out for me and there I’ve drawn a blank. So I need to find some way of testing the water without publication and without paying out a fortune on critique services.

I was hoping to join the Romantic Novelists Association, New Writers Scheme, and have a novel critiqued that way. Sadly though, I missed the boat for this year and now the scheme is full. Maybe next year I’ll be a bit more on the ball/

In the meantime though I’ve taken the plunge and signed up for a correspondence course with the Writer’s Bureau on Novel and Short Story Writing. Watch this space to see how I get on.


  1. I really think you are going about writing the right way - by sending off short stories alongside editing your novel. I think agents and publishers take a person more seriously as a writer when they can say they have had some fiction published, as at least then there is some track record. I haven't any fiction published, and this worries me quite a bit, as I don't seem to be able to make time to do any writing that isn't the grand redraft. But I do honestly believe that short story writing is the way forward, despite the fact I haven't done any (yet, she says).

    And all your writing plans sound good to me. Keep sending your stories out!

  2. Hi Jayne

    Thanks for your comments. The trouble with me is that I tend to flit from one thing to another and never get focussed on one thing. I admire you for sticking to the redraft of your novel, I seriously need to get back to mine, but I find redrafting so hard and am always finding excuses not to do it. I'll never be published that way!