Losing confidence in my novel

So what do you do when you start to lose confidence in your novel?
I got some good feedback when I went to my local writer’s group but as well as pointing out a few things that I hadn’t thought of it put some doubt in my mind about the whole direction the novel was taking. The more I think about it, the more I’m not sure how this novel should pan out and it’s not the way I planned it.

So I’m now left with a stranded novel and no idea if I can finish it. If the plan isn’t working anymore should I write a new plan? Or should I dump the whole thing? This is worse than writer’s block, it’s paralysing my thoughts rather than my writing.

I’ve got a small plan for something I want to write for NaNoWriMo and part of me just wants to plough on with that and forget the troublesome novel for a while. But that feels like defeatism and not the way a proper writer behaves. A proper writer would beat that darn novel into shape and make it submit to my powerful will. But I’m struggling to feel like a proper writer over this. I feel out of my depth, confused and troubled.

So I face a weekend of worrying about what to do and probably doing nothing but worry. I can’t even bear to look at what I’ve written or the plan. That’s how much I feel disconnected with this whole novel at the moment. Here’s hoping some distance and deep thought will give me much needed perspective … and maybe a bolt of lightening will strike and the solution will present itself.


8 thoughts on “Losing confidence in my novel”

  1. I have no useful advice but around this time last year I was in the same position. I put the troublesome novel away and wrote another during NaNoWriMo. I was planning on coming back to it, and had a great idea for redoing it this NaNoWriMo… Although now I suspect that that idea is rubbish, so do I give it a go or put it away for another year?

  2. It is good to have some time away from it. I've had the same thing happen to me and I'm still not sure what to do, but I did find Larry Brooks' book on story structure and his website the story fixer (I think), extremely useful.

  3. How much have you written Jo? I'd be tempted to salvage anything into the tens of thousands of words…anything less and it might be best to write it off. Sorry probably not very helpful my dear!

  4. There are 18,000 words so far which is why I'm reluctant to dump it completely. I think I just need to leave it for a while and see if I can jiggle it around until it starts to flow again.

  5. Hi Jo. It's so easy to lose faith in an idea, especially when you share it with a group and get negative feedback. Sometimes I think it's better not to show anything to anyone til the end of a complete draft for this very reason (not that I'm always very good at taking my own advice). Only you will know what to do, but I think it's worth trying to work out whether a) the idea really doesn't work – in which case you might have to throw it out and start on something new b) the idea has legs but there are major structural problems with the plot – which might seem insurmountable but probably isn't, as long as you are prepared to put the work in, or c) you're just having a massive crisis of confidence. The problem is with any project as grueling as a novel you'll have periods when you think the whole thing is rubbish and you should jack it in. For the record I go through this with every single project and if I listened to the voice on my shoulder telling me 'it's hopeless, give up and follow that other, better idea' I would never have finished anything. I also know other writers who have got into a pattern of starting something then abandoning it for a new idea when the going gets tough, only to do this over and over again on a series of different projects. I'm not saying you have to follow everything through to the bitter end – some ideas simply don't work. And it's not always a good idea to plough on with the actual writing if you really are going in the wrong direction. But there must have been something that drew you to this idea in the first place, and made you think it could work? Perhaps you need to take a step back and examine the premise and why you want to tell this story? I agree with Nicola that looking at the global story structure can help. Most of all, I'd say don't let someone else's opinion dent your confidence – they could be wrong after all!

  6. Thank you so much for your feedback Becky! I think you've hit the nail on the head, there is a good idea there but it's not structured properly. I also think that the ending needs changing, which will mean some of the build up needs to change too. So there is work to do but I'm struggling to care enough to do it at the moment. I also agree that sharing the novel before it was ready may have spoiled it for me. So I'm leaving it for a while and doing some other things – hopefully I'll go back with fresh eyes and finish at least a first draft.

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