I want to brag on my amazing crit group for a minute. Not only are they a constant source of inspiration and help, they are my friends.
Recently I have been struggling with not knowing how to finish my second book. It’s been a frustrating experience not having direction or knowing how or where to end it. I’m a ‘panster’ writer so I fly by the seat of my pants, hoping it will end somewhere perfect. It worked with my first book, but not so with my second.
I also have been struggling with confidence since I got my publishing contract. Like, oh crap, am I ready for this? Is my book ready for this? Having my first real big doubts about my writing journey and if I can really pull all this off. I asked for prayer for these concerns and the responses for my crit partners blew me away. Not only were they going to pray for me, but they covered me in timely, wonderful advice and love. They are my treasured jewels and I couldn’t ask God for a better group of ladies to tread this exciting journey with. I got permission to share their beautiful words below.
“Oh boy, the classic dry spell. It’s always a dark place to be, isn’t it. We can’t always run on creative drive. But hey, sometimes a long break is just what the mind needs to replenish the book building juices. Diverting your attention to something else is often a great refresher, but if you’re also seeking other ways to get back in the game, I can only offer what I occasionally do to get myself in the mode. I watch or read material that inspired or is similar to my work. Returning to the very roots I started from and/or exploring how others have handled similar material helps a lot. I also like to deeply analyze what I have already written and my ultimate plot goals. Or I re-examine my characters – dissecting them, revisiting what makes them tick, and reflecting on what moral, ideal, or virtue they’re supposed to embody. Oftentimes, that includes comparing them to other well-written characters and understanding why they work and how. Or, I pick apart a flawed story, and consider what I would have done to fix it. Sometimes, I find lots of good and bad ideas by simply doing that. Or I just relax, listen to music, and play a video game. Still, this is what I do to incite new ideas. Results may vary. Prayer is likely your best solution, though. Let’s be honest. All us sub-creators get the ultimate mojo from the ultimate Creator. Just don’t let this dry spell get you down. We’ve all been there at least once in our lives.”
– Hannah Colvin
“Let me explain first: my mentor and friend is well known in the CBA world. She sent me a simple email asking if I was ready for the conference. Here are the first two lines of my response: “Does one ever feel like they are ready if they aren’t published? Even if they are?” Then I unloaded about my self-doubt. You see, last year, I had an editor write a horrible, nasty note no one who pays to go to a conference should have to read (I’ve tried to chalk it up to her “bad day,” but there is no excuse). She knows all of this. She is multi-published. She gets invited to ghost write. As a matter of fact, a pretty big celebrity has “her” book coming out this year and my friend wrote it. So, my friend has been there and climbed through the trenches.
She wrote the best response. It was a long email, telling me how she just met with another big name and that when another day passes, she wonders if she is good enough. She ended with this, and it is so appropriate:
“I too completely trust God, so what the heck is wrong with me, I keep asking myself today. I had to stand outside for a while under the stars and just simply praise God to regain a little perspective, be reminded of just how big He is – beyond what I can guess or comprehend. Just wanted you to be encouraged that you’ll always feel this nuts – ha!! I’m such an encouragement tonight, aren’t I?”
“I got stuck writing my book 2 too. Somehow I pushed through it, made it to the end, and started book 3. Then I got stuck again in a similar spot. I thought I was done for. It felt impossible. I wanted to scrap the whole thing and forget about it. But then I had the thought, “I’ve done this before. I figured it out once. I can do it again.” I filled in what was stumping me with a vague, sort of skeleton outline, just to get me to the next scene. I wasn’t worrying about setting, or even writing in complete sentences. Just getting the characters from A to B–where they needed to be to continue the story. It worked! I got over that hurdle, pounded feet to the finish line, and went back later to clean up the part where I had been stuck. Give yourself permission to suck right now. It can always be fixed.
On the confidence issue, I struggle with that a lot. It’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes it helps me see flaws and cheesiness I couldn’t see when my confidence in how great it was blinded me. Talk to God about it. Tell him where your mind is at. Ask him to either put you at ease, or open your eyes to how you can make it better, spur you to make the changes, and restore your confidence in what you’ve created.”
– Robin Scobee
“I’m not sure I have too much new to add, but first of all I would say to make sure you’re getting sleep and taking care of yourself. I feel like my creative juices dry up every time I hit a level of being really tired and stressed. I also agree with Hannah’s suggestion of reading to get inspiration – reading something I’m excited about always makes me eager to get back to writing. I also agree with Robin’s advice to just get something written without worrying how good it is. I feel like once you have something there it’s less intimidating than the empty page.
As far as the confidence in your book – I’ll just echo the others to place your trust in God. Your writing will never be good enough for every single person that reads it, but we all believe in you, as does your publisher, and if you’re trying your hardest (which you obviously are), God will be pleased by your efforts. And I’m sure this is a natural phase for about-to-be-published authors to go through and hopefully something you’ll be able to work through soon.”
– Laurie Lucking
“I will be praying for your inspiration. Robin, I might just tape that fantastic quote of yours to my desk. “Give yourself permission to suck right now.” What a breath of fresh air. We all know how that feels, trying to write the final draft instead of the first one. I’ve heard it said that you can always edit what sucks, but you can’t edit what you haven’t written.
I faced the same total block in January. I decided to take a break from fiction to write another teen Bible study. I sat staring at my blank computer screen…for days. Then I cried…for days. Satan was after my confidence and my identity. Everything I wrote didn’t feel good enough. I didn’t feel qualified, and I had the looming deadline of getting this book self-pubbed before I leave. I had to grab my Bible and read Ephesians 6 out loud a few times to get my moxie back.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph.6:12)
I’m not the kind of person who blames everything on the devil, but I know that he is more than happy to take advantage of our exhaustion, our insecurities, and (Lord help us!) our hormones. In II Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the messenger of Satan sent to “buffet” him. That Greek word for buffet literally means to punch continually in the face. Anyone else had a week like that lately?
You were meant to write this book. It’s not just your job. It’s your calling from God. Don’t let the enemy tell you that you are anything less than a conqueror in Christ. This book coming out is going to touch people. Be confident of this very thing: He who began a good work in you will complete it until the Day of Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
So there’s my spiritual advice. My practical advice: Take a day off. I know that might not be possible, but at least give yourself the freedom to uni-task. Give your brain a break.
I love the suggestion of reading. But sometimes, my brain isn’t even up for that. Sometimes you just need you some Netflix. I’m serious. Take in a movie that’s not even close to what you’re writing, and don’t dissect it looking for plot devices. God commands us to take a Sabbath and rest in Him. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just enjoy it.
It’s going to get done. I promise. Take heart. You’ve got this, girl! I believe in you.”
– Hannah Duggan
“Regarding not knowing how to finish the second book… what works for me might not work for you, since every person has their own unique way of brainstorming that works best for them. But I’ll still explain what I do, in case it helps. I go to bed with a pad of paper next to me. As I’m falling asleep, I let my thoughts drift toward my book. Sometimes I’ll think about the specific problem I’m trying to solve, or other times I’ll just think about the characters and whatever events happen right before the part I’m stuck on. I’m not actively trying to solve the problem as I lay there, which would keep me awake. I’m just picturing my characters’ interactions so that my book is on my mind as I fall asleep. Then, as I fall asleep, my mind starts creating its own story with the characters. The hardest part is waking up enough to write down any good story ideas your mind generates. Every time I’ve been too tired to write down a good idea, I could never later recall what the idea had been. This probably only works for light sleepers, like me. Everyone else had great ideas too… taking time off or watching/reading other material.
Regarding the second item… I think what you’re feeling is probably normal, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with! For myself, I had a serious problem with worrying about everything (even tiny things) to the point that I had trouble sleeping every night, up until a few years ago. I finally kicked that habit. I came to the realization that the reason I worried so much was that I was overly concerned with what other people thought of me. To some extent, we’re supposed to care what other people think. For instance, it’s good to avoid the appearance of wrongdoing, not just wrongdoing itself. We want to be good examples of Christ-like behavior, after all. But I had gone overboard and was focusing too much on what other people thought. In so doing, I had neglected to focus enough on the opinion of the one person who matters… God. Look at the people in the Bible who were completely following God, like John the Baptist. Other people must have thought he was a freak, surviving by eating locusts and wearing animal skins. But he was so focused on God that he didn’t care what other humans thought. Yet God was still able to use him for great good. Likewise, God can use your book for good, whether it’s a bestseller or not, and whether everyone universally loves it or not. Maybe a small number of people who read it will be massively impacted by it, in a way that’s life-changing. Sometimes that’s how God works. As long as you focus on God, it will be okay. And that’s a hard thing to do. Really, really hard, when we have so many distractions around us. But after this life is over, we’re all going to be glad about the times we did properly focus on God, and wish we had been doing that our entire lives.”
I strongly encourage any of you readers to follow these wonderful ladies on their websites, author pages and blogs. They are inspiring, encouraging and have such a great heart for the things of God.
Thank you ladies for letting me share your hearts and words.