Sarah Potter Writes

Pursued by the Muses of prose, poetry, and music.

Novel Writing Winter (NWW) 2013 — my first week: battling with self-doubt and procrastination

Now what did I say in a earlier post https://sarahpotterwrites.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/novel-writing-winter-nww-2013-survival-basics/about avoiding showing your work in progress to anyone, especially friends or family, and trusting in your own judgement?

A couple of days ago, while participating in the English custom of afternoon tea with my family, my grown-up son, Joshua, gave me a ticking off. Our conversation went something like this:

S : What if I write my novel and everybody hates it?
J : You’ve only been working on it for a week and you’re already doubting yourself.
S: Could you have a look at what I’ve written so far, to see if it works?
J: You said you weren’t going to show it to anyone until you finished it.
S: But it’s such a strange novel. What if people don’t understand it, or find it boring?
J: You know if I look at it and pass my opinion, you’ll want to know all the whys and wherefores.
S: I don’t want an in-depth critique. I just want to know if you find it in the least interesting.
J: Do you find it interesting?
S: Yes, but I’m feeling overwhelmed by how difficult it is to write.
J: Well then, write a bit each day, even if it’s only a few paragraphs, and see where it leads.

Yesterday, I wrote a few paragraphs, the quality of which pleased me, but then I spoiled everything by checking my word count so far. And what did I say in my earlier post about not obsessing over the word count and just getting the bare bones of the story down? To check a word count on a daily basis can prove as unedifying as weighing yourself too often when you’re on a diet. From now on, it’s once a week only.

Today, I dared compare my novel to those of the award-winning novelist Rose Tremain. Yes, and yet again I’m not following my own advice. The result of this comparison was that I temporarily abandoned my latest ambitious project and spent all morning reworking a few pages of my first rather mediocre novel (written twenty years ago), having decided myself incapable of writing a literary masterpiece like Rose Tremain.

At three o’clock this afternoon, I found myself floundering with the old work and  returned to the novel I’m meant to be working on. Casting my eye over it, I decided it really wasn’t that bad — not as brilliant as Rose Tremain’s novels, but not as bad as some others.

Onward, I say…

P.S. By the way, I’ve started a page listing participants’ links so you can find each other. Please check out the page https://sarahpotterwrites.wordpress.com/nww-participants-links/ and let me know if any information needs updating, including adding any further relevant links.


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15 thoughts on “Novel Writing Winter (NWW) 2013 — my first week: battling with self-doubt and procrastination

  1. S : What if I write my novel and everybody hates it?
    Gary: You will always doubt yourself. Writing books is like bringing up children (in so many ways – but with a few more nappies)
    S: Could you have a look at what I’ve written so far, to see if it works?
    Gary: Show it – a book is a team effort.
    S: But it’s such a strange novel. What if people don’t understand it, or find it boring?
    Gary: Strange, sounds a bit like unique and ground-breaking. How many people are bored of formulaic. We need new!
    S: I don’t want an in-depth critique. I just want to know if you find it in the least interesting.
    Gary: I think you just made it interesting – let me read it!
    S: Yes, but I’m feeling overwhelmed by how difficult it is to write.
    Gary: If writing was easy… ah… it’s never going to be easy. Don’t write easy stuff – it’s not worth the lack of effort

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    • That’s great, Gary. You made me smile 🙂 So is that an offer to cast an eye over the rather small amount I’ve written so far? It’s nothing like the one you critiqued for me before — no knights, or castles, or neatly fitting into a genre. It’s bare and speculative and not like anything I’ve read, so it might easily be original.

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  2. Self doubt and procrastination are my faithful companions every time I sit down to write…just keep plodding through and they will eventually quiet down. Good luck to you!

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  3. You’ll get there Sarah!!!
    I’m writing my story, and I doubt it’s any good, but I’ll write another one at a later stage. For now, i need to get this particular one out of my system. And I doubt anybody but me will ever see it.
    All the best!

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    • First drafts are rarely brilliant, unless you’re a literary genius. Just let what you’ve got to say spill out of you, then perhaps have a go pruning and refining it after. Or, as you say, write another one later. It’s all a learning experience.

      Yay, Jaycee, I’m so happy you’re having a go!

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  4. I have been struggling with the same thing lately. It sucks!

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  5. Oh I felt every singly syllable of what you wrote there…every one…..I know what you are going through, very much!

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  6. yep, why do we do this to ourselves? aargh! it did make me laugh though, because misery truly does love company!

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