First things first—I have contest winners to announce! The random number generator has spoken. The winner of the hardcopy of Get Well Soon by Julie Halpern is K. Marie Criddle! And the winner of the audio book of Get Well Soon is KT! Congrats, guys, please contact me at natalie (at) nataliewhipple (dot) com and I will get you your prize.
Now, in other business, I need some volunteers (like two or three). These volunteers must be willing to film themselves giving a fake testimonial for a fake infomercial. Yes, you read that right. This fake infomercial may or may not be for fake club funding, just so you know. If you're interested, shoot me an email (I really want it shot to me, no boring "send").
And with that, I'd say it's about time for our weekly pep talk, no?
There's nothing quite like the feeling of a new, brilliant idea invading your mind. It might be my favorite part of the whole writing process. At that point, everything is perfect. You know how amazing this story will be. All the emotions and characters and plot lines are so exciting and fresh. You just know that this book will be incredible.
And then you start writing.
For me, it usually hits between 20-50 pages (aka: the end of Act I)—that dread, that doubt, that oh-my-gosh-I'm-going-to-screw-this-up-BAD.
From there on out, my idea doesn't look so brilliant anymore, but I keep on truckin'. I trust my alphas when they say it's good. By the time I get to edits—and the more I edit—the dumber and dumber the book seems until I start thinking "Why did I ever think this was GOOD? I'm an IDIOT!"
This would be an example of what not to do, or at least a queue to snap yourself out of that kind of thinking.
Our stories, while perfect in our heads, rarely turn out like that on paper. Okay, I'm willing to bet they never turn out like that the first time around. That does not mean the book is worthless or stupid or unsalvageable—it only means it needs more time to grow.
When a child makes mistakes, do we call them stupid or worthless? I hope not. That doesn't help a child improve. It's a rare child who has the drive to overcome those harsh words and prove them wrong. In fact, harsh criticism usually makes the child believe that they are stupid and worthless. It's not the best way to improvement.
We teach that child, don't we? We respect that they are still learning. We show that child how to correct their mistakes. We give them more productive activities. We're patient. We're forgiving. We encourage them to try and try until they get it right. At least we should.
I think we should treat our writing similarly. Sometimes I call my books stupid or worthless. Sometimes I worry they have zero potential before they're even finished. I compare them to polished, published books. To books that are totally different from them. It's not very fair. It's kind of like deciding your child will never graduate high school before they're even done with preschool.
We need to be more forgiving of our work. We need to respect it—whatever stage it's at. It's much easier to improve something when we believe in it, when we see the good in it and seek to bring that out.
If you're at a place where you can't see anything good in your book, I encourage you to sit down and try to remember what made you want to write it in the first place. Write those things down and keep them somewhere you can see. It's extremely helpful—doing just that saved one of my own projects from ridiculously high expectations and criticism.
Because really, if you don't love and respect your work, then who else will? And even if they do, I promise it's no replacement for your own feelings. The bitterness and discontentment will always come back—no matter how much praise you get—if you can't learn to appreciate and respect your stories.