The Mental War with Fear and Self-Doubt

As a writer, I have struggled with self-doubt throughout writing my first novel.  When I made the decision to create a book, I wrestled with selecting a story. My imagination had several threads that had been dreamed up over the years. I couldn’t settle on one because I doubted whether anyone would like the characters.

My friend Debbie decided she would push me a bit. She has always been an avid reader of murder mysteries, so she came to me with a cast of characters and insisted I write her story.

I want to thank Debbie for doing that. The psychology of writing someone else’s story erased the fear of starting. After all, this wasn’t my story or my characters. What was there to fear? My brain converted the assignment to the equivalent of classroom homework. The writing began.

By the end of the first chapter, all that was left of Debbie’s story were the main character names. My imagination kicked in. Debbie’s plot was replaced by one of my creation, and I was on my way to writing a book of my own.

Because I didn’t start the story with a preconceived plot, I would run into walls at times, not knowing where the story was going to go next. Sometimes it was days, while other times it was weeks or months between writing bursts. My characters were the ones writing the story, not me. I had to wait for them to tell me what was coming next.

Sometimes real life inspired a segment. A happening would get incorporated into the plot, which then led to the next tangent in the storyline. I was as enthralled as any reader in what was coming next because I didn’t know.

In the end, the story told itself and came together nicely. Looking back, I am amazed at how it got done.

Now what?

It has been roughly six months since I finished the first draft. This week I am wrapping up work on this book. Why has it taken so long? The only truthful explanation is me. My fear. My self-doubt. I am scared to put it out there.

My friend, and prolific author, Lauren Carr has taught me that I am my own worst enemy. In the time between finishing the novel’s first draft to the time it goes to press, Lauren has published TWO novels. She is my inspiration and role model.

She is already broadcasting news about my next novel in order to get me moving. The pressure is on. My new characters are percolating and throwing story parts at me. This time I have a grand storyline in my head already. I know the beginning and the end. The middle is still being created.

At the moment, I am not fearful. I am excited. That will change. The first bad review will crank up the self-doubt inside me. But I have a few defenses against my fears this time around.

First, I know I am still on a learning curve. Like any first, my novel will have beginner errors in it. I know that, and I will learn from my mistakes.

Second, I have written a complete book already. So there is no question about whether or not I can. I’ve already done it.

Third, I have set a goal. By this time next year, book two will be done. I will have cut the time it takes me to tell a story in half. Then I will write book three in six months. That’s my plan. With an end target in sight, I have something to aim for. The finish line is concrete. That is a motivator.

I hope telling my experience has been helpful to you. Maybe you see yourself or maybe light has been shed on the source of your own block. My wish for you is that you get a strangle hold on the neck of your own fear. Choke it, so that you, too, can make a breakthrough in your writing.

8 responses »

  1. Sounds like a solid plan. You’d be surprised though, my second book – more of an extended short story, but at 32k words completes enough pages to publish as a novella – came together faster than I had anticipated. As a matter of fact, it was complete before I had tackled layout on my first. What I’m saying is, that second may go faster than you think.

    Again, let me know when and where I can help.


  2. Publishing a book is both wonderful and scary. When I published Deadly.Com in 2011 I was up all nite on the eve of its release–terrified that everyone would hate it, and yes bad reviews happen–to everyone, but I always keep my focus. As an author of 4 books and two more coming before year’s end (I wrote two at one time–brain numbing!!!) I have to say this: take your time. Don’t allow yourself to get into a hurry and always let the characters take you by the hand and lead you–sounds funny, but after my second book that’s exactly what they started to do–God bless them. You’ve proven to yourself that indeed you can write a book and its sounds like you’ve got a wonderful support community–you’re gonna make it Fay Moore!

  3. I’ve lined up readers that are anxiously awaiting Dead With Envy! You can do anything you put your mind to and, by golly, you have certainly done so.

    Yes, not everyone may like the book but you can NEVER please everyone. What you can do is keep writing for yourself and all the other people who LOVE your work. Look for the good and I can’t wait for the second book!!

    Much love!

  4. Also, have other authors on here had experience with creating audiobooks? If so, how cost prohibitive is it to make? Thank you!

    • It’s actually something I’ve been looking into. I married into a family of musicians who have their own recording studio, so for me, it’s not going to be much of a challenge to find software, voice talent, or a quiet place to do-it-myself. For me, it’s going to be a question of distribution.

      First, you need to set your budget. If you have a firm budget, you’re less likely to get suckered. And if you’re truly strapped for cash, for about $40, you can do it yourself using free/open source software like Audacity (a program I would recommend because I’ve had experience using it for other projects, but I haven’t completed my software research yet) and getting a decent microphone/headset from Plantronics. I recommend Plantronics because they have a pretty decent product for the price, and the higher the price tag, the better the quality. Don’t skimp here if you can afford not to. I cannot stress enough that crappy equipment is going to give you a crappy product, regardless of the caliber of the talent or software you use.

      And reading the book yourself can give your listeners a personal connection to you. It can also put undue pressure on you, so this is something that you’ll need to be comfortable with.

      Next, whoever provides the voice talent needs to have concrete direction. If you use an amateur, like a friend, you need to make sure that their okay with constructive criticism. You’ll want to make sure that HOW they’re reading it is as polished as the words you wrote. You may not want a male voice if your main protagonist is female, for example. It can become distracting for your audience. Your talent will need to enunciate more than the casual speaker, like an actor is trained to do for stage work. Like video adds 5 pounds to the actor, a recording can make words sound mushier.

      Be careful if you use sound effects. Make sure you get them from a reputable place and that you have the appropriate license to use them how you intend. Sound effect companies do copyright their material, so be aware.

      If you don’t already have a decent audio book collection, maybe hit your local library to listen to a few for examples of quality. Especially if you’re DIYing it. What kinds appeal to you? The kind that read the book straight, or the kind with sound effects and multiple voice talents like a radio play?

      If you have any questions or need additional support, I’m only an email or a tweet away and I’m happy to help. Fay can help you get in touch with me if my link doesn’t work.

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