What To Do When You Second Guess Yourself

New Year

Revising is hard work.

I’m going through the polishing process before I send my manuscript to an editor. It’s a bit backwards, right? Shouldn’t an editor do the polishing for me? But I don’t want to send this person utter garbage–which all of my writing inevitably is, when I read it and reread it.

You’ve all been there, I’m sure. The idea is brilliant, but you’ve read your work so many times that each word you’ve written is crap. Crap layered on top of crap. Crap-crappity-crap-crap.

So what do you do when you second-guess yourself?

Everyone approaches this problem differently, depending on what the problem actually is. Personal life choices and professional goals all have their different aims and end results. But writing? What if you find yourself second guessing an entire manuscript, from start to finish? You second guess your narrative voice (raises hand), your novel structure (raises hand), and even *gasp!* your protagonist choice (RAISES HAND).

I’ve been having such crises over the last few weeks that I’ve been revising book one of my five-book series, preparing it for my editor’s eyes, and I feel like I’ve made it through the other side, for the first time, unscathed.

What did I do?

I voiced my concerns with a writing buddy, seeking advice, and then I looked over my story notes.

It’s not going back to the drawing board. It’s not rewriting the novel almost word for word, changing third-person to first-person (which almost happened to me yesterday). It’s not even changing your outline and restructuring the story’s skeleton.

I just talked about it with someone who understood, and then I looked over my notes.

Some of us writers out there cringe at the idea of talking about our WIPs. What if that person steals our ideas? What if that person tells us what we fear–that our ideas are total crap? What if that person tells us it’s total crap so that we abandon the project, allowing them to pick it up and take over, therein giving in to their evil scheme?!?!

Chill. Breathe.

You can talk about your concerns with the manuscript without giving away your secrets. You can talk about your manuscript without divulging too much of the plot.

When you know what advice you need to receive, you will know how to talk about your novel.

So don’t freak out! Find someone you trust, someone who knows about writing and/or is an avid reader, and voice your concerns. Then look over your story notes.

Don’t have a writing buddy? Seek help online with the innumerable writing help websites that exist (Better Novel Project, She’s Novel, Helping Writers Become Authors, etc).

Research your genre. What books from your genre are on the Bestseller list? What ones have great reviews on Goodreads and Amazon? What ones DON’T have great reviews? Who is your target audience? What books are they reading? What movies/tv shows are they watching? RESEARCH. I promise, it will help assuage the panic that’s turning the blood in your veins into ice water.

Why this is a new experience for me:

This is the point in the writing process where I usually put the manuscript on the shelf and start another novel. I’m resolved that such a fate won’t happen to this current project. I’m determined to get the story where I want it. I refuse to give up on it. This is the first time that I haven’t put the project away and started something new with the good intention of picking the story up again “when the time is right.”

THE RIGHT TIME IS RIGHT NOW.

So go forth, writers, and stop second guessing yourselves. You know your story. Tell it.

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