Self-doubt and that First Draft

One thing that keeps writers from finishing a story is the self-doubt in their ability to do so. Negativity plays a big factor, such as fear that no one will like it, that reviews will confirm this, that they won’t produce the same quality as their favorite bestseller.

Are you one of those writers?

If you answered yes, let me just say that every writer begins on an even plateau, but those that push past their fears understand fears motivate to perfect the craft and overcome. Perfection the first time around isn’t a simple task, and in my honest opinion, shouldn’t be the focus. With each draft, writing will get tighter, storyline will see changes, characters will breathe their own life…but that first draft…so what if it’s crappy? You need to think of it as only a first draft, period, not the final book you will present to your readers.

Don’t harp over those initial fears I mention above. They’ll only cause you to delay completing your book. Instead, replace doubt/negativity with determination and persistence, vowing that you will perfect your craft, never stop learning the art of how to write a story that brings your world and characters into the hearts of fans as a memorable read.

You are the sculptor, every inch of that piece of work chiseled away in numerous drafts until it’s ready to be released. Don’t lose sight of that, or lose confidence. A first draft is simply that…a first draft. Not a ready-to-publish manuscript. Those last two sentences are important, so I’ll repeat them:

A first draft is simply that…a first draft. Not a ready-to-publish manuscript.

Many who finish NANOWRIMO are so proud of their accomplishments, and rightly so. Bravo to them because I’ve tried such a schedule and, well, never made it all the way. They accomplished something that many don’t. However, their work needs further development, stronger characters, editing, and more. Those that understand this, have moved on and published their novels. For those who believed their first draft was perfect…yes, they may have published it, but at what cost? Once you publish a story, it’s telling the world that you’ve released a novel you believed was ready to be read. Perhaps a small percentage of writers who, over the years, have perfected their storytelling, write tighter, have beta readers to go over their manuscript to pinpoint areas that still need more fine-tuning. But for a lot of first-time writers, multiple drafts should be on their agenda. If not, you risk not only losing one reader, but that one reader will tell family and friends to never pick up one of your novels. That’s the cost you risk.

Your time is valuable. A reader’s time is valuable. He or she seeks to be entertained, not lose focus because of multiple typos, weak/stick characters, dialogue that never moves the story forward, or a storyline that just doesn’t offer any emotional connection to care how it ends.

I began this article talking about self-doubt in some writers but shifted to first draft because they are connected. When you doubt yourself, you allow that manuscript to collect dust in a desk drawer. Once you understand that it’s okay to finish a first draft that reads as though a kid wrote it, knowing it’s simply a first draft, then you fully understand that the next stage is the editing step.

Is that next stage easy? Not at first, but with consistent practice, going over the manuscript several times looking at various areas:

  • typos,
  • strengthening weak sentences,
  • eliminating excess baggage (like nonessential info-dumps) that doesn’t move the story forward,
  • help build characters to have their own unique personalities,
  • make sure you don’t head-hop from one character’s POV to the next,
  • and more,

then your self-doubt will slowly diminish.

We all make mistakes in the beginning.

It’s how determined and persistent we are to perfect our craft and make sure we offer quality over quantity that will help us gain new readers.

Work with me

You will also like How to Use Fairy Tales