The Writing Demon – and How to Kill It

I recently received two emails from writer clients plagued with the same problem. One is a new author, writing her first book. The other writer has several books published by commercial publishers, an agent from a top New York firm, and contracts for two series with one of the Big Five publishers.

But, you say, how can a writer with an agent and two signed contracts for book series already in hand have the same problem as a struggling newbie? For the same reason all we writers do: we can’t predict the future! We have…

  • No crystal ball.
  • No tea leaves swirled in predictive patterns at the bottom of a cup.
  • No magic wand to make everything just right.
  • No one who can say, with any certainty, what readers will like—let alone buy.

So it’s only natural that any writer is attacked by the Doubt Demon, no matter their stage of writing.

  • What if I write the wrong word?
  • What if I get rejected?
  • What if my agent doesn’t like this next book?
  • Or the publisher finds sales flailing next time out?

Those Doubt Demons inject the poison of fear into a writer’s brain. The result: uncertainty and, sometimes, a complete shut-down!

For instance, my new writer emailed me that she was having second thoughts about what she called “this whole writing career.” I responded with:

Writing shouldn’t be thought of an a career so much as an experience or journey. It isn’t like we put in 4 years study, take a test and are handed our book in print (versus a diploma). Writing is, well, something really intimate and revealing and explosive all at the same time.

Fast? Seldom.

With changes along the way? Always!

You are not the only one with second thoughts. It is like “What have I gotten myself into?” Well, you’ve gotten yourself into the power of images and ideas and the sparks of emotions that trigger deep connections with readers.

Easy? Gosh, no. Exciting? Hell, yes!

You just have to plug your ears and repeat “La-la-la” as often as necessary to shut those Doubt Demons up as you forge ahead on the path to authorship. It is a matter of recalling your goals and the joys of writing in the midst of a “Huh? I wrote that? But what DID I mean to write!?!” moment.

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I want writers to arm themselves against these Doubt Demons–no matter what stage of writing they are in. Here is part of the letter from that very accomplished and experienced author struggling with the same Demon:

“I find it difficult to balance between character development and moving the mystery forward in each chapter. It’s very difficult to fit in everything: [protagonist’s] business, family relationships, romance, character development and the mystery and [the other elements] which are so important to my editor. …I hope as we progress the plot will start to make more sense. Although, I’m sure there will need to be a lot of fixing in the end.”

She’s right that it IS a struggle to balance so many facets in any book. Gosh, characters and clues and motives and scenes and settings and, well, there seems to be no end to the parts of the book puzzle.

She is also right that stories DO need to be adjusted near the end of every book. (Sign up to see my next article that explains when and how to tackle those revisions at the end.) She’s done that with every book so far, very successfully, and will continue to do so as well. Remember, this is a writer with several books already in print, some already on the New York Times list of top 20 bestsellers, and with writing contracts in hand for more! Yet with each book, mid-point, comes that hissing voice of Doubt. All writers are subject to this stumbling block.

So quit listening to the Doubt Demons. What do they know? No more than you do about the future.

Repeat after me: “La-la-la-la” until that self-doubt hiss is silenced. Then get back to the task at hand—writing the best book you possibly can! Because until your book is written, its future success is still is unwritten as well.


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