October 22, 2012

phases of being a writer

Well, last week, I finished the plot outline for the Chroniker City novella. This should be good news, but I can’t help but feel a bit hesitant to actually start writing. I’m just not jazzed about the story, or about writing at all. I’m in one of those phases.
I don't know about other writers, but I have several phases (in order of positive to negative):

1.      I’m such a fantastic writer that it’s only a matter of time before I’m the next bestseller

I can’t decide if this is a good stage or not. I tend to overestimate how good of a writer I am, and usually, the words I write during this phase are some of my most mediocre. However, words get written. I have confidence. I love writing. I’m looking to the future and what I can accomplish with my writing. It’s usually short-lived, a week or two at best. This is the phase where I’m dreaming. I see what I could have, and I believe that it’s only a stretch away.

2.      I’m a pretty good writer, but I still have a lot to learn

This is the normal stage. More often than not, this is how I feel. I’m happy with my small successes, with the handful of sales I get each month, but I understand that I have a long way to go before I’ll reach any sort of “real” success—as in, bringing in a second income and being relatively known in the science-fiction and fantasy genres. I know that my road to success is a long one, that it’s going to take me a long time, but that’s okay. I know I’m getting better with every book that I write, and so the words go down on the page.

3.      I suck.

This is where I start to spiral down. I wonder why I’m not selling more books. I wonder if I’m even any good. This happens more often than I like, usually mid-first draft or mid-revisions. I feel as if everything I write is utter crap, that my ideas are clichéd and terrible, that my plots suck, my characters are flat, my dialogue is wordy and wooden, even my actual writing ability is awful. I worry that I’m kidding myself thinking that I could be a mildly successful writer. I just want to stop writing, go curl up on the couch, and marathon Downton Abbey again.

I’m at this last one right now. And it’s not just what I’m working on. It’s everything. I wonder if The Clockwork Giant really isn’t as good as I thought it was, and I wonder if I shouldn’t have published it. I feel like The Wizard’s Heart, the book I just completed, is the worst clichéd fantasy ever written, and now, this novella, I wonder if it’s going to be bad.

And I don’t know how to escape it. I don’t want to write. I feel like I have a thousand things on my plate, but really I don’t. I have the novella to write by the end of November. That’s it. But it feels so heavy, if you know what I mean. It feels like this one tiny book, this 30,000 word novella, that it’s going to be the thing that defines my career, and I’m scared to write it. I’m scared that it’s not going to be any good. And part of me knows that I shouldn’t fret. I’m not a bad writer. I’m decent, at the very least. But I’m so afraid of doing it wrong. I’m afraid that I’m leveling out, that I’m not getting any better as a writer. I’m afraid that no matter what I write, I’m never going to be anything more than a handful-of-sales-a-month writer.

I don’t want to be that writer. I want to get better. I want every book I write to be better than the last. I want to be proud of myself. I don’t want to doubt. I want to be confident. I want to know that I’m good and that I’m getting better. I want to know that I’m not wasting my time. And of course, I want to sell more books. I want to become successful. And I think the reason I doubt myself so much is because I haven’t reached the next level. I’ve been writing for years. I went to school for writing. I’ve finished three novels and published one. Shouldn’t I be at that next level, whatever that really is? When am I going to feel like a real writer? When am I going to stop doubting myself?

I don’t know. And I hate that. I want to know that I’ll get over it, that I really am a good writer, that my stories don’t suck. And yet, no matter how many four- and five-star reviews I get, no matter how many people tell me that they enjoyed The Clockwork Giant, no matter how many people tell me that they can’t wait for my next book, I can’t seem to shake the feeling that I’m a total fraud, that one day, everyone is going to realize how bad of a writer I am. And that scares me, because there’s nothing I want to do more than write, to tell stories.

So yeah, I’m scared that I’m not any good, even though there’s a voice in the back of mind telling me that I shouldn’t worry, that I should just keep writing regardless of how I feel, but it’s not always that easy. I’m not looking for pity or consolation or whatever. I just needed to voice it, to rant. So, if you’ve read this far, thanks for listening. Hopefully this will pass soon.


  1. I think all writers go through the same stages - I certainly do! The self-critical phase is the worst; I usually feel like everything I write is worthless, and that I've already written my best work and there's no way anything else will ever match up to it. But it IS only a phase, and it'll pass! Best of luck! :)

  2. I think that there are two types of writers:
    1) The writers who go through the stages you described; and,
    2) The writers who go through the stages you describe and deny it.
    Don't worry about whether of not the book is good enough, just write it. The Clockwork Giant is a good book, that is why people have told you it's a good book. No one who has read it and said it is good has enough time to join a vast conspiracy to make you think it's good when it's not. Just accept that people like that book and go write another book. Every book you write will have its own challenges and rewards but you will learn something every time you write another book. Someone once told me this great advice: Get off the internet, stop whining, and just write. I have a lot of essays at www.colewriting.com about getting un-stuck and just writing.

    Now, get back to work and write that second Chroniker City novella. I am sure it will be great.

    1. ha! i knew you were all conspiring against me! }:D

      thanks Rocky :)

  3. I literally cringed while reading this because I've been feeling the same way lately, on and off. On a good day, I'm super productive and get a lot of writing and editing done. On a bad day, I'm super productive and get a lot of house chores and TV-watching done. Sigh.

    Let's kick this funk in the butt and power through. <3

    1. agreed. commence funky butt-kicking :)

      it's a sucky feeling, but usually for me, there's a reason behind it, just something i haven't realized yet. this time, it was bad opening plot points for my outline. feeling better now that i know that.

      i hope you get out of yours soon!