29 November 2012

Confidence and over-confidence

I'm coming close to the end of a major rewrite of my manuscript. The next stage will be the job of selling it to a publisher and that's a whole new chapter.

So how do I feel at this stage? Sometimes I'm happy and proud of myself. Well, it's been a very long journey. The current manuscript is a major rewrite itself of a novel I wrote years ago. It has a similar premise but is actually totally different. This is partly because it was written and then saved on three floppy disks and the computer I wrote it on went west a long time ago and nobody wanted it. When I decided to have another go, because I thought it might work with a rewrite, I came to download the disk, the data had vanished. The same thing happened with the other two back-up copies. Duh. So I started from scratch...

Perhaps I should have let it stay lost.

But, it seemed to work better this time. As the new word-count mounted once more, and the characters and story took a different trajectory, I began to feel confident it was going to be so much better in every way. Maybe this would be published, after all. So I tweaked and polished until I felt it was ready to approach agents...

And, as is the way of these things, the process took some time and plenty of straight rejections until one lovely and plucky agent decided I was worth taking a punt on. And my confidence soared. I can do this, I thought. I may well get a publishing deal and I will be able to hold my head high and have no fear of the gainsayers, the doom-merchants and the downright hostile.

So the rewrites began. And as I ploughed through my manuscript, and despite the encouragement from the agent, my spirits began to dip. First of all, like a slow-incoming tide, the feeling crept up on me, that the resultant novel may not be the fabulous artefact I had envisaged when I began to write it, back when I was brimming with ideas and new characters. I've read the thing so many, many times now in its various shapes and guises  that I can't see any freshness, any surprises, any delight. Had my euphoria been nothing more than over-confidence?

I'm a level-headed sort of person. I know that having a great agent behind one, doesn't guarantee a book-deal - especially in the straitened times we find ourselves in. And it's not as if I'm not prepared to start again. I already have a vague plot and at least two characters to create it and am keen to write more than the 1,000 words I have already.

But as for this one? Will it ever be published? And if so, will it sink without trace, thus scuppering any future chances?

The reason I mention this, is to ask you other writers, whether published or unpublished as yet, do you ever feel like this? Do you read a chapter one day and think, 'Mmm. That's not bad?' Or do you shake your head and mutter, 'Who on earth is going to want to read this crap?'

Confident or over-confident? Which one are you?


  1. I swing between the two states of mind on a daily basis.

    But, oddly, when it's a good day and I think the writing works well, I don't care as much whether it's published in the end or not. I'm just so grateful that I love what I've written.
    On a bad day, I feel more desperate to make someone else love it. And I don't know if it's the writing affecting the mood, or vice versa.

    Very best of luck with your writing.

  2. Confident or over-confident? Or deeply despondant, like when one's brother says 'I only ever read Italian novels', one's son is scathing ('jokingly' so, but still) a friend 'would have read it but for the bad language' and UMPTEEN BLOODY FOLK ignore that I write.
    But yes, I see-saw between buoyant and sunk, and assume it is normal. And have no thought of other than self-publishing. Yet.
    But wholly sincere best of luck to you.

  3. So sorry you lost your backups, but many congratulations on starting afresh and being close to completion of your novel!

    I dug out a novel I started on some years ago when I was doing a Novel Writing course, and have started rewriting it. I thought the novel had great potential when I was doing the novel writing course, but quite honestly, I don’t have any confidence in it now. I no longer have the same excitement about the characters and the plot. And with it being set in the Bahamas, where I live, with so many people writing about romance and intrigue under a tropical sun, I’m finding it difficult to make “my” Bahamas different.

    Some days I think I’ll leave the plot and characters as is and just complete the thing, which would be the easier route. Other days I have this person in the back of my mind who would make a much more interesting protagonist. I have this nagging feeling that I should change my main character to this fascinating intruder, which would mean changing the plot a bit. It would be much more time consuming than just writing it as it was originally intended though.

    I may just take the high road and allow this new protagonist into my life! It may be a long path with many challenges, but I think I’ll have more self-satisfaction in the end and I believe it might just be more marketable.

    Wishing you much success with your new novel,

  4. Oh yes - I swing both ways. Sometimes a wonderful sentence slips onto the page without any apparent effort, and it still looks wonderful six weeks later. And other times it's like pulling teeth - and is rubbish however much I hone and polish.

    So there are days when I think I'll delete everything, and then others when I. swept along with the fantasy that I can do this.

  5. I alternate between thinking - hey, this novel's not bad! and christ, this is a pile of shite. I suspect the truth lies somewhere between the two.

    When I've completed the current WIP my plan is to submit it while I'm on an upwards swing, and not look at it any more until I get the responses (which will no doubt put me straight onto the downward spiral).

    Best of luck with your current novel. Amazing that you rewrote from scratch! Most would give up on finding the disks unreadable.

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  7. Thanks for the honest post - very timely for me - I'm way back down in the dumps again with mine... I hope you have another burst of confidence with yours soon.

  8. Sally, I've absolutely been there, more times than I can count. My current project is giving me a huge buzz and more enthusiasm than I ever expected to feel again after some challenging times. that said though, I've had major ups and downs with it and if I start to think that this too may find great responses from agents/publishers but yet STILL no deal, well .... it's hard. All I can say is that it was a lot harder when I wasn't writing because I didn't even have self-respect. Now I do and I want to see it through. Wishing you good luck, self-belief and a strong following wind, Sally x