Novel Boot Camp #16: Doubt, Disappointment, and Pressure

6752478849_992be96c95_oNovel Boot Camp 2015 is over! It went faster than I ever imagined, but it was also a huge success! I am so thankful for everyone who participated, critiqued, commented, and made Boot Camp so awesome this year!

As Novel Boot Camp draws to a close, I want to talk about some of the harder non-technical aspects of being a writer: doubt, disappointment, and pressure.


Doubt can take many shapes and forms. Maybe you doubt your ability to execute your idea. Maybe you doubt that your idea is worth reading. Maybe you doubt that you will be able to stick to your idea long enough to finish it. Whatever form your doubt takes, it’s a normal part of the writing process.

I find what can help with doubt is to look at the novel as incomplete. Just because you’ve written a scene doesn’t mean that scene is finished. It doesn’t even mean that scene will end up in your novel.

If you view your novel as constantly in flux, it’s easier to dismiss self-doubt. Just because your execution isn’t sparkling right now doesn’t mean it won’t be sparkling later. If you find a section or an idea that’s a little clunky, try to shrug it off and say “So what? It’s not finished yet.”

Unless you get to the finish line and know for certain there is nothing else you can do to improve your novel, self-doubt just slows you down and prevents you from focusing on what’s really important: finishing the novel!


Disappointment usually comes after self-doubt but it can also feel like a confirmation that your doubt is correct. Whenever a writer gets negative feedback from an editor or beta reader, and whenever a writer gets a rejection, it’s normal to feel some disappointment.

We all want our novels to be great. We all want to be successful. It can be helpful to separate yourself from your writing skills and your writing skills from your novel. Because novels tend to feel like babies that embody so much of the writer, it’s easy to wrap up your self-worth or your identity in the novel.

Remember that just because this novel isn’t working, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. Some writers write fabulously in one genre and terribly in another. Maybe you just haven’t found your voice yet. Maybe this genre isn’t for you. Or maybe you didn’t connect with the characters. It doesn’t mean you can’t write.

Also remember that your novel is not you. When your novel is criticized or rejected, it’s not you that’s being criticized or rejected, it’s the piece of art itself. Sometimes thinking about it this way can help writers keep plugging away. “It’s not me they don’t like, it’s the novel in its current state. I can keep learning and do better!”

The key to taking criticism well and taking rejection in stride is separating the novel from you and your writing skills.


14581254038_8a626bc54a_oPressure can come from a lot of places. Sometimes family members or friends put pressure on writers to finish their work faster or to get published. But often the pressure comes from within the writer.

If writing is your dream, it’s easy to want it to come true as soon as possible. Sometimes this can result in manic attempts to finish a novel or to start querying before enough work has been done. I think this is exacerbated by seeing other writers who are successful, especially young writers who already have multiple books or writers who aren’t very talented yet are successful.

It’s important to remember that writing takes time. It takes a long time to come up with a beautifully cohesive novel, and no matter how much you want to be published, that novel needs to be given the time and space to grow up. You can’t push a kindergartner out the door and expect the little guy to survive on his own. It’s okay to take time, even years, perfecting your novel.

Doubt, disappointment, and pressure are part of the writer’s life, but they can be managed in a way that is motivating and productive rather than in a way that is discouraging and demoralizing.

You can do it. You can write your book. It might not be today or this year or next year or the year after. But you can do it. You just have to stick with it!

Bye Bye Boot Camp

I can’t believe Novel Boot Camp is over already! I don’t feel entirely ready to let go! You guys have all been so awesome and so much fun to work with.

I would love to meet back here for additional critique sessions. Maybe a few weeks from now. What do you think? I would love to see how things are improving and how we can continue to help each other grow.

I have gotten several emails from participants asking about donations. I run Novel Boot Camp for free because I want to give all writers a chance at improving, not just the ones with funds to seek private help.

If you would like to donate, I very greatly appreciate it, but it’s entirely up to you. Please do not feel any pressure if you can’t afford it. If you can afford it and if Novel Boot Camp was a help to you, you can donate by clicking the button below. Thank you!

donate-buttonI hope to see all of you back for Novel Boot Camp 2016! Hopefully we can also get together for a few critique sessions in the meantime.

Bye Bye Boot Campers! Thanks for an awesome Novel Boot Camp!

16 thoughts on “Novel Boot Camp #16: Doubt, Disappointment, and Pressure

  1. Stephanie K. says:

    I wish I could have participated more. Like a couple of other participants here, I am a teacher, so when school began, I was out of time. Maybe next year we can start mid-July? Just a wishful suggestion.
    Thank you to everyone and especially to Ellen for making this possible.

  2. Pirate says:

    I missed boot camp, the phone Co. stopped land line service in May. Just got internet back and all was waiting for me in my in box.
    My novel does not fit in the modern style. It lacks the existential conflict it seems everyone wants. it is Sci-Fi action adventure with everything I believe it needs, nearly unkillable monster, exploding galaxies, four billion years of history, and a philosophical viewpoint that does not need a bad guy.
    In my search for editing services you appeared to be the only one the would consider something without a base conflict. I have submitted to first page critique. By the by I found the boot camp very helpful. Thank you.

  3. Ky says:

    I guess doubt has plagued every writer and would-be writer at some stage, but how is a would-be writer to know whether or not it is worth continuing with either a particular story or writing at all?
    I’ve always enjoyed writing although I haven’t actually done much at all, and I could easily see myself dedicating a year or more to writing a novel. I would like to attend some classes to improve my writing, but I’m doubting that even with that I could actually write anything that others would enjoy reading. Although there are many ways to improve, I don’t believe that just anyone can learn to write a good story, like not everyone can learn to paint well. Do you disagree?
    I find while I’m creating & writing the story & scenes, I think it’s terrific (while acknowledging some parts need better wording), but when I separate myself from it & read it back, the story sounds contrived and the wording makes me cringe. If I take your advice, I could admit it’s only the first draft and unfinished, but what if I just wasting huge amounts of time (& neglecting family) on complete trash?

  4. publishtoday13 says:

    Doubt is a thing where you decide. Disappointment is a thing where you can learn a thing and do it better next time. And Pressure is a natural feeling in every moment. Just stay focused and everything will be okay!

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