My first novel ‘In a Moment’ wasn’t the first book that I had ever started but the difference between it and my other attempts was that it was the first book that I had ever finished. In fact I have lots of unfinished books sitting on my laptop.
When I start off a book, I am full of energy and enthusiasm for the idea. In my mind it is the best idea I’ve ever thought of; it is the idea that will put all other ideas in the shade. I am already imagining who would play the lead roles in the screenplay, how much artistic licence I would be prepared to grant the producers and more importantly, if I’d be able to wrangle a couple of seats at the Oscars for me and my other half. But after the initial excitement starts to wane and I get deeper into the story, I start thinking about how the idea sounded so much better in my head. I cringe at every word I have written and think the whole thing is just plain awful. As Iris Murdoch once said ‘every book is the wreck of a perfect idea’. When the self-doubt takes over and the end still seems so far away, it is very hard to keep the faith needed to sustain a one hundred thousand word novel. Sometimes scrapping the work seems to be an infinitely more attractive option.
So what made me decide to keep going and finish ‘In a Moment’ you may ask? Well when I was about halfway through it and struggling to sustain momentum, I went along to a ‘Getting Published’ workshop. The one thing I took away from the day was that every author on the panel believed their work sucked but they didn’t give up on it. Instead they kept going until they reached the end and then they edited it. It was a light-bulb moment for me and I came home that day and decided that no matter what, I would finish the book I was working on. No matter how many times I wanted to scrap it (and believe me there were many), I kept going until I had completed the first draft. And I really think that persevering with it even when I wanted to delete the whole thing is what made the difference, because once I had completed a first draft I was able to look at it from a helicopter viewpoint and edit it. I was able to see what didn’t work and what needed to go before I submitted it and I was very fortunate to be offered a three-book deal by Poolbeg Press.
I now know from having (almost) five completed books that self-doubt is something that I (and all writers) will have to battle with every time we sit down in front of the computer. You are definitely not alone – join a writing group, attend a workshop, or use social media to connect with other writers. There is an invaluable support network out there of fellow writers who are all going through the same thing. Now if the doubts start to take over I try to ignore the negative voices in my head and keep going with the original idea, remembering why I fell in love with it in the first place. Your first draft will almost always be terrible so don’t get disheartened by it. Just get it down on the page – you can edit what you’ve written, but you can’t edit a blank page.
This post is brought to you by Caroline Finnerty.