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. Jim says:

    Thanks for another great Boot Camp, Ellen. I learned a lot. And, yes, I would appreciate the opportunity to connect for more peer critiques–that’d be great too.

    You’re awesome–all of the thought and work you put into structuring and running this event. THANK YOU!

  2. sam forsyth says:

    Ellen! Thanks very much! This is such a generous and helpful event and we really appreciate all of the hard work you put into it.

    After discovering your YouTube Channel earlier this year, I watched, and rewatched, then re-rewatched every one of your videos. After absorbing it all, I went to my computer, made a copy of my manuscript and tacked on a new Suffix “_AEB” (after ellen brock) your advice is very good and very clear and it has trasformed my first draft completely, making it much more read-able and engaging. It’s still slow-going as ever, but at least now it’s much better than before.

    To the bootcampers! Your excerpts were a lot of fun to read, and your comments and critiques were thoughtful and constructive and I’m sure we all learned a lot about our writing from one another.

    i’ll be here next year… hopefully in the middle of my next manuscript.

  3. Lady of Lore says:

    I would love additional critique sessions. Thanks to those who critiqued my work and a huge thanks to Ellen Brock for sacrificing your time and effort into such a wonderful project! It has been an immense help and I’ll continue to follow your work and advice. 🙂

  4. Jennifer Eller-Kirkham says:

    Thank you Ellen!! I have learned a ton, and your generosity in sharing your considerable skill and knowledge is incredible. Thanks all fellow boot-campers for your critiques – they have given me much to think about. Good luck to all with you ongoing projects.

  5. Julie Griffith says:

    This last lecture sums up my current situation perfectly. Your words helped me see things in a different light and gave me the encouragement to power on through it. It was another great Novel Boot Camp, and I learned a lot. Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this every year. 🙂

  6. S. A. Smith, Author says:

    Time flies when you’re having fun. I know, it’s an old cliche but it’s so appropriate. I’ve had a blast interacting with my fellow authors and I thank you, Ellen Brock, for your time and patience in putting together another excellent event.

  7. chickinwhite says:

    Dear Ellen, and dear fellow boot campers!
    It´s been the first time for me to participate, and even to be part of critique sessions at all. And I have to admit: it´s been a tough place to be! But a beautiful and so very helpful tough place!
    Thank you all for your advices, and for being honest and respectful. And for submitting your own pieces, which have given me some really awesome insights on how things can be done!!
    And a huge and grateful THANK YOU! Ellen! It´s incredible how much heart you´ve poured into the boot camp. All of your thoughts, and your advices have taught me so much! Stay awesome as you are!!!
    I´m looking forward to new critique sessions, whenever they will be offered.
    And of course I can´t wait for next year, when yor new boot camp will get started… 😀

  8. English Tim says:

    Thank you Ellen for another amazing Boot Camp, for your hard work, generosity and excellent teaching. The Workshops were great and the Lectures even better. Some of them were nothing less than astounding. What a privilege to take part.

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