Friday, 25 June 2010

Crisis of Confidence

Yesterday I did a really dim thing. I was feeling a bit lost with where to go next on my current novel and thought it would be a bright idea to go over what I've written so far. Now I'm feeling utterly depressed and wishing I did another job - in fact, any other job - other than writing novels.

I'm not looking for sympathy. No, really I'm not. Well, just a bit maybe, but the the real reason I posted is that I think people look at someone like me and think it's easy. I got published relatively quickly and easily, I've stayed published, I've done reasonably well on the sales front. To an outsider it must look easy.

I'm not making any claims that writing novels is hard compared with many, many other people's lives because it simply isn't. But nor is it always easy. I read what I'd written and thought - that's rubbish. It's not good enough. It's not interesting, the main character is a whinger, the secondary characters are cardboard, and there isn't enough action.

What would I tell a student?

1) Never look back until you've finished the first draft. (Yeah, right. Too late.)
2) Everything is fixable. (With time, which I don't have.)
3) You've done it before, you can do it again. (But can I?)

I can hear the negative bit of me grumbling away. The piece of advice I think will work in my case is to jump to a bit I will enjoy writing. Today I shall write a random scene with the sole intention of making me enjoy what I'm doing. Cross fingers it works...

Fancy a holiday in France with me? (Obviously, I'm hoping to be over the crisis of confidence by then so should be better company.) I'm teaching a week long course on Writing Mainstream Fiction at a fab chateau in the South of France in September. More details? Contact Chateau Ventenac.


Sean Z P Harris said...

Hello my dear!

I would never think that just because you're published writing must be easy for you.

As an amature I don't feel confident enough to perscribe any advise. However, I can say that I find your blog increadibly interesting, helpful and full of insight.

I can't imagine that the creator of such a blog would be bogged down by self doubt for very long.

Lizzie said...

Hi Sarah,

I think that as well as writing a scene that you'll enjoy, you should take heart from number 3 on your list. Also, you're an actress, so you can act the part of a novelist who knows what to do, and lo it will be so!

If all else fails, it's a lovely day so go for a walk or shopping. Removing yourself from the problem sometimes works.

I'm off to Winchester tomorrow. I have one-to-ones with two editors (for the first time) and Sophie King. I haven't heard anything from the agent you introduced me at the RNA party, but I guess she's busy.


Sarah Duncan said...

Thanks guys, and for everyone who has sent messages to me directly via email or Twitter. So kind of you and it was immensely cheering. Not really slumped in miserable heap, well, not now...

Sean, thanks for your comments. I must be v neurotic cos I'm plagued with self doubt pretty much constantly - it's so much easier to tell other people what to do than it is to do it yourself (sighs - I should have been born the Queen. Or Margaret Thatcher. On the other hand, perhaps not).

Lizzie, you're absolutely right, removing yourself from the problem often works really well. And it is a lovely day, too nice to be cooped up writing. Hope you have a great time at Winchester - when I went 10 years ago I met the then also unpublished Kate Harrison and we've been friends ever since. I wouldn't worry about not having heard back from the agent - but on the other hand, nor would I hold back from sending out some more. Get it out there!