Sometimes I think the hardest part about being a writer is the amount of time we – meaning “me” since I can’t speak for anyone else in this capricious industry – spend second-guessing our work. We’re essentially an insecure group. Yeah, yeah, that’s “me” again!
Those who know me are probably laughing out loud at this admission. I am an insecure introvert. Really! Having confidence in my ability to write doesn’t mean I’m not insecure about sitting in front of this empty computer screen every day trying to create a memorable story someone wants to read. Even N.Y. Times best-selling authors have these insecurities so I know I’m in good company.
That knowledge doesn’t mean squat though when I find myself revisiting a chapter, a paragraph, even a word over and over again. I know something’s bothering me but identifying it can be so frustrating. I’ve learned to depend on my wonderful critique partners to point things out. They’re not as close to my story and can offer great suggestions. Many times, one of them will say something to shoot me in a different direction that pulls me out of the bog I’ve unintentionally created.
On the flip side, second-guessing can get me into trouble. Recently, I questioned whether I was introducing my hero and heroine quickly enough in my current project. My critique partners suggested I throw out the first chapter so the heroine meets the hero that much sooner. Their points were valid. Ripping the scene out was the right decision if I wanted to introduce the heroine to the hero earlier.
At the time, it was easy to just hit “delete” – well, no, it’s easier to throw the words into a “Bits & Pieces” file just in case – and say I can filter the deleted information into later chapters. The deletion did accomplish what I wanted. The hero and heroine met one chapter earlier. The problem is I forgot I no longer write short contemporaries where this quick introduction is necessary, a habit that’s been difficult to break since I’ve thrown myself into the single title suspense arena.
Now, even though there is a romance in my story, my suspense demands the biggest development. When I ripped out the first chapter, I deleted four major threads I needed to launch critical suspense elements. I couldn’t move on and still build the story I’d envisioned, which made me start second-guessing my story and my abilities…again.
So I put the chapter back in last week. My creative side read it through and pronounced it “good.” No question. No qualms. And I found myself wondering why I’d put myself through the wringer the past few weeks fiddling with this one chapter. I know that’s second-guessing my second-guessing. Type-A personality, remember?! 🙂
I’m the first to admit there’s an editor with twelve-inch talons embedded in my shoulder. Yeah, she can be a tartar. Nope, can’t shake the demanding creature off. Guess I spent too much of my adult life in business and management so logic and organization are ingrained in my mindset, despite my creative side. I do plot my essential story elements so I know where I’m going. And I depend on my wonderful critique partners to help me step away from the story long enough to spot what is and is not working. We’ve worked together well for years and I value their suggestions.
This experience has reminded me, though, that I can question my work until the cows come home. Do I go back for the millionth time to see if I can’t actually fix whatever’s bothering me? Do I leave it the way I wrote it, or do I cull it and move on? Fish or cut bait?
Personally, I’d rather throw my line into the water and fish…I mean write! I’ve accumulated some excellent writing skills — there’s that confidence! — and I have a number of stories I want to share. I just need to get out of my own way, make a decision, and move on. I have to trust my instincts.
Now, if I could only stop second-guessing whether this last blog line finishes my thought, so I can finally get it uploaded! What do you think?