3 S.R. Johannes: Ways to have confidence in your work

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ways to have confidence in your work

A year ago when I left my agent, I scouted for another one. Desperate. Panicked.

I decided to find a new agent. But I had a manuscript that had already been sent out to a few editors, one that was sent out to 20 (and almost got bought a few times) and a partial of a new shiny manuscript.

At the time, I could not get a new agent. Whether it was due to the fact I had left mine. Or that I had 2 complete manuscripts that had already been seen in NYC (no matter how small the rounds were) or because I only had a partial to sell. It didn't matter, after attempting a couple times, I gave up and decided to experiment with indie pubbing. It was a way to move forward.

Now a year later - I am coming upon my one year as an indie author. Untraceable has sold a lot of copies. Uncontrollable (only out for 6 weeks now) has sold any unbelievable # of copies - way more than Untraceable in the same amount of time.

So editors and agents arent' always right. For so long, I thought those books sucked yet they have been successful selling more than I expected and more than some traditional authors do.

But even though my books have been doing great, I have been doubting my new project. Is it good enough? Am I good enough?

So I decided to take another shot at getting some feedback. Last weekend, after going to the Atlanta Writers Club conference, I submitted my new shiny project to 2 agents for a PITCH and MANUSCRIPT critique. I wanted to get feedback on saleability, writing, and voice. I was doubtful going in but pleasantly surprised. Both agents loved the story and encouraged me to get it to them. In addition, they were very positive about my indie experience. Something that is sometimes hard to come by and you never know what you will get. Whether we like it or not, self pubbing still has a stigma though it is changing slowly.

But what was really amazing about that conference was that I won "Best Pitch" and "Best Manuscript Submission" from both agents as well. (what??!!!!! :) I was shocked and so grateful for the universal sign telling me to keep working on this special project. The one I love. The one I had doubts about. The one I want an agent for.

It got me thinking. Why do we need confirmation on our writing? It's kinda sad that it takes this kind of win to get me believing in my work again. Just when I doubted this project, it got a couple pats on the back. Those few words and certificates are now pushing me forward into finishing it.

So, why do we as authors have a hard time distinguishing what is good and what is not good? How do we keep our confidence up in the face of rejections and criticism?

Here are a few tips to keep the faith when you are feeling down about your writing or project:

  1. Reignite your passion. Find out why you started writing in the first place and get that feeling back
  2. Stick together. Stay connected with writer friends. Sometimes it feels like we are alone - but we are all on this path and experience similar things.
  3. Keep writing. Don't stop if you start doubting yourself. Break away from the project or write in a different environment.
  4. Get outside advice. Use readers or editors to provide feedback when you aren't sure what you have.
  5. Watch the negative talk. I believe we get what we give. Sometimes we beat ourselves up inside and don't even realize it. Those words that make us doubt ourselves. I suck. This is crap. I'll never get published. You know what I'm talking about. Change your mindset.
  6. Stop comparing. Comparing your writing or journey to others just sets you in a tailspin. Focus on your own path and stay offline if you have to while you are writing.
  7. Celebrate your wins no matter how small. Whether it be winning a contest, getting a good rejection letter, or finishing your first draft. Pat yourself on the back along the way. Take it one step at a time.
  8. Set writing goals. This keeps you focused. Achieving even the smallest of goals can keep your chin up and keep you moving even if you don't feel you are or don't want to. 
  9. Focus on craft. Take some classes. Learn new techniques. We gain confidence with skill.
  10. Trust your gut. Believe in your ability and believe in your writing. Go with your gut and you can never go wrong.


K. L. Hallam said...

Very encouraging post. Thank you. If it weren't for the helpful, guiding encouragement, I received from many friends and CP's, My first MS would never have even been finished. We need it so, because writing is solitary. It's difficult to trust every hum from the depths of our creativity. :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Awesome feedback Shelli. That's so great. And thanks for reminding us what to do to stay positive. Finally next year I plan to query and I worry how the "no's" will affect me. We do have to have faith in our work and stay positive, no matter what.

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Cograts on the "best" wins and validation! We all get attacks of the doubts, no matter where we are in the writing journey. In small doses, I think those doubts help keep us honest, but it's all too possible for them to become overwhelming.

Kimberlee Turley said...

Good for you! So glad you were able to stay true to your core.

Angela Brown said...

Three cheers for the encouragement you received and glad to know things are going well with the books you've Indie published.

You tips are helpful and timely, especially given certain feelings I've been having. Getting back to the root of why I write is the best thing to address whatever confidence issues I'm having :-)

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

Congratulations on the GREAT feedback - but even more so on finding your own gumption. You're kicking butt! :) e

Jemi Fraser said...

That is awesome!!! Talk about good feedback :)

I totally get the lack of confidence thing - it's really hard to believe some days.

Renate Seline Zaz said...

It's amazing what a little positive feedback can do for my writing! A short conversation about a current project that leaves me feeling encouraged does wonderful things for my motivation - and word count :)

Sheena-kay Graham said...

I think these are great tips. As someone who has to turn on her computer to find her supporters I know it's essential to have people behind you when you write. Thanks for offering bulstering for all writers and I'm glad you had a better agent experience the second time around. Also congrats on your self publishing success. I borrowed Untraceable for my kindle and it was a really good read.