Every writer loses confidence at some point. It’s not a surprise, nor is it anything to be ashamed about. There are famous novelists who still have a crisis of confidence with every book. In fact, I’m sure that this is true of every artist, musician… most people in fact. We travel a weird wavy journey in which we hit highs and believe our book is the best story we’ve ever written, and we sink into lows wondering why the hell we ever started writing in the first place.
The funny part is that these crashes in confidence can come from anywhere, and it is not always the negatives that send us into a spiral.
I’ve been in one of these spirals for the last week and while I’ve still not clawed my way out of it completely, I think I might be starting to get there.
In October of 2013, I wrote a blog post about bad reviews. I received my first just 19 days after the release of my first book. It was crushing, but I dealt with it and moved on. After all, it was only 6 days until the start of NaNoWriMo, I couldn’t have a crisis when I had 50,000 words to write.
The funny thing is, this time my confidence crash had not come entirely from a bad review. It’s come from two bewildering reviews and a slew of good ones.
Are you all raising your eyebrows now? Yeah, not surprised.
If you follow this blog regularly or you have me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll know that I am currently in the middle of the blog tour for Teeth, my vampire novel. This blog tour consisted of two weeks of guest posts and interviews followed by a week solid of reviews. There were also a few reviews in the blog tour, so I think I’ve gained ten reviews over the two weeks. Out of the reviews posted so far, only one has been 3 stars and the rest have been 4 stars. Looking at Goodreads, I currently have 16 reviews, all but one over 3*. You’d think I’d be over the moon, that I’d be sitting at my computer grinning like a cheshire cat whilst I tap away at the next book.
Now, admittedly, I also received a couple of odd reviews on my Out of Orbit series. There were nice parts and the star rating was decent, but the text ripped into elements of the book that I was quite proud of. Short to say, it was both bewildering and a little bit soul destroying.
Put these two events together, and you have an almighty confidence crash.
The funny part about it all is that the good reviews play as much a part in this crash as the bad reviews. Good reviews build you up, they show you how much people love your story, and whilst most of the time these can be used to push you to carry on writing, that there is a point to it all, there is the odd occasion that it does the opposite.
How can I write another one? It’ll never be as good as that one. I’m a fraud, and if I write the next book, they’ll all see it.
I’m not advocating this as a completely rational reaction, but I think it is a normal one. Pressure to continue to do well after a success can get to us. We raised the bar for ourselves and now we have to continue to jump over it. It’s stressful when we look at our new book and wonder if it’ll be able to sail over the bar we’ve set.
I spent three days staring at the chapter plan for ‘Meat’ fretting that people won’t ever like it as much as they did the first. I’ve talked myself in and out of whether I should use the same characters or move on like I intended. I’ve even now considered writing a two part sequel with two different sets of POV characters. I love what I’ve set up for the second part of the Teeth series, but am I disappointing the readers if they discover the POV characters are not continuing on from book one?
Then I started writing. I gave myself the imaginary slap, shoved all my issues into a little locked box, and started typing. Even writing the first chapter, a relatively short scene, I managed to come up with a dynamic different from the one I’d originally planned which sparked three new ideas.
It’s still difficult. I’m still looking back at it and knowing it isn’t good enough, but it’s somewhere to launch from. You can’t edit what you haven’t written after all.
I guess, in a round about way, this blog post is 800 words of what Pixar and Disney tell us about the way to get past things getting you down… Only, they do it in three words.