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