Writing Wednesday: Destroying Doubt & Soldiering On with Your Manuscript

The official doubt crow, courtesy of @doubt_crow

The official doubt crow, courtesy of @doubt_crow

With a little more than a month and half a manuscript left to go before my Book to Blurb final is turned in, I’ve found myself in a strange place. I’m getting to my word count goal (though now I think I need to up it a bit to give myself a better cushion) and finding that I have great revision plans for the manuscript that will make it even stronger (I’m not revising much while getting the first draft to take shape). I’ve been really consistent with my writing, getting up when I don’t feel like it and always getting something on the page. Yet, something has been dogging my every step: doubt.

Writers tend to be very familiar with doubt, particularly those who seek publication. There’s always something you can second guess. Second guessing and trying things a different way isn’t bad; it’s when our questioning of our choices renders us unable to move forward, meet deadlines, or even submit our work that it becomes troublesome.

At the moment, I have a myriad of doubts that are difficult to combat:

  • deadline doubt. Sometimes it seems as if the deadline is coming faster and my word count is climbing slower. It seems like I’ll never have the first draft done in time, let alone have time to revise and send in my best quality work. Many other participants have told me about family vacations, births, conferences, and other events standing between them and the deadline that causes them to feel as if they aren’t getting enough done now to compensate for losing that time. No one wants to miss the deadline or feel like they didn’t turn in their best book.
  • balance doubt. Is there enough conflict? Have I shown enough of their budding romance? Is the faith element present enough? Is there enough plot to this story? Did I show enough emotion? Will readers like/relate to/fall in love with my hero & heroine? I always feel as if I haven’t done enough somewhere.
  • word choice doubt. How many times did I say gaze in two paragraphs? Five. Seriously. And I had both my characters think “No, this isn’t happening” ON THE SAME PAGE.If my characters don’t stop looking, staring, gazing, flicking glances, or locking eyes, someone may be arrested for stalking. Finding fresh ways to say things can get stale if you let it, and it will drive you crazy trying to find just the right word all the time.
  • revision doubt. Did I change this enough to address the editor’s concerns? Will changing the hero’s motivation from this to that strengthen or hurt the story? I know I said I was cutting this scene, but maybe I should keep it? Is this scene really advancing the romance like I want it to? Is this subplot adding to things or detracting from them? Should I dial back the faith element here? How do I tie this subplot into the main plot to make it all make sense?
  • doubt scrapping. Maybe I should chuck the whole darn thing and start over.

So what do you do to combat doubt? I keep writing. I skip scenes that aren’t working to work on a scene where the words are coming fast and furious. I type things I know I’m not saying write but also know I can change later if I get the general gist down. I keep myself accountable by posting my word counts each day. I reach out to my critique buddies and writer friends when only a kick in the pants or a good brainstorming session will do. I make revision notes while they are fresh in my mind and plan out how I will address them. And I pray. A LOT.

Your two cents: How do you deal with doubt, in writing or any area of life?

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Sticking the Landing…

I had this amazing idea to use my car accident as the moment that defines the lives of two characters in my Always series. As I chronicled here, playing the what if game got me a basic premise of how they came to be where they are at the start of the story. The hook is an enemies to lovers theme with a much more serious reason to be enemies than usual. They aren’t in competition (but there’s one of those in the series percolating) and there’s no old family feud. No, the largely one-sided animosity is created by an accident, a horrible accident that changes the main character’s lives forever in two very different ways. For one, the accident brings realization, salvation, and hope; for the other, loss, anguish, and bitterness.

As soon as I realized what I was asking my heroine to do during the course of this book–forgive the man she holds responsible for his role in her sister’s death–I knew I would have to adjust things to make it work. I didn’t want to make it easy by revealing a twist like he wasn’t really responsible for her sister’s death (not that I have anything against this when done well–and I’ve read books where it is done well). I couldn’t if I wanted to be the hero told me he WAS responsible in the most basic way. So how can I make it plausible that they can get past this big huge thing separating them?

One of the things that I like to do is to figure out how to keep two characters determined to flee “in the room.” How do I keep them in the same place at the same time long enough for the sparks to fly and the magic to happen? One thing I find works well is when at least one of those characters wants to be in the room and is determined to keep that other character there. In this instance, my hero’s goal is to make amends to the people he directly affected, including the heroine. While there’s no way to give back what she lost in the accident, he has to find a way to make amends and ease some of the guilt he’s been carrying. It takes help from God to keep the heroine “in the room” and interacting with him, which is probably the only thing that will keep them in the room when our heroine is so determined she will NOT grant him the forgiveness he seeks.

The second thing I wanted to do is figure out how much time will have passed since the accident when the story begins. I had to do a bit of research to figure out a timeline for the judicial ramifications of the accident, and then I needed to leave time for healing to begin. I decided to start the story five years after the accident–enough time for the legal matter to run its course and for the food and the parade of sympathetic friends to be a thing of the past. Even then, I knew that this relationship needed to move at a snail’s pace. I’m still tweaking how long it will take for each phase of the story.

The thing that’s hung over my head the most, of course, is figuring out how to get the reader to connect with a hero who admits to the things he did surrounding the accident, which are very unlikeable things, without turning the victim into the bad guy or otherwise shifting the blame. I didn’t want the reader to hate him like the heroine initially does. So I decided to start telling this story from the hero’s point of view, to introduce the reader to who he is now before they know who he used to be five years ago. The hero has a sympathetic back story that he doesn’t use to excuse his behavior and isn’t over the top. I made the hero humble and sincere in his attempts to make amends. And I let God work on both of them, through nature, other characters, and each other, to show them how forgiveness can release both of them and how love can cover the multitude of sins between them.

I hope the reader, and the heroine, can appreciate the changes that God has made in the hero, and can move forward with an open mind. I’m working really hard on this one, drawing up character profiles, creating an outline, researching. I’m taking my time with it because certain details have touched me personally and I want people to understand the underlying message of the work that forgiveness does in us. If I’m being honest, I want to come to terms with my own accident and make sure I truly forgive the person responsible for it. I’m working hard to get this one right.  The gravity-defying flips and twists that make the crowd ooh and ahh are worth nothing if you don’t stick the landing. I want to make sure this one doesn’t have a shaky, unstable end that costs the story a spot in the reader’s heart.

What difficult things are you working on in your current WIP?

XOXO,

Erica