Doubt, or How I Slayed That Dragon, and Killed Some of My Darlings Too…

Well, I did it. I killed my darlings. There are still a few left, quite naturally, but the unwieldly beast that was the first draft of my novel, “The Girl in the Storm”, is now finally starting to come together. When it began it was probably close to 130K words, quite a feat no doubt, and after my own fumbling attempt at a self-edit I was able to whittle it down to 109K. But now, with my Developmental Edit nearing completion, I find myself just a little north of 93K words with three chapters left to go. I’m expecting to stay within the 90K range by the time all is said and done, but there’s also a Copy Editing and Proof Reading pass just waiting in the wings, so we’ll see how much is left standing when that phase is finished. I had a lot of dread leading up to this experience, all of it built on a solid foundation of what I’ve heard as, “Imposter Syndrome”.

What is that, you ask? A quick little jaunt over to an article on Psychology Today revealed this, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/imposter-syndrome.

“People who struggle with imposter syndrome believe that they are undeserving of their achievements. They feel that they aren’t as competent or intelligent as others might think—and that soon enough, people will discover the truth about them.”

I don’t know what it’s like for others that experience those feelings, but for me it comes in waves. I can feel fairly confident in myself while writing a story, believing that I’m on the right track and that everything will come together just like I imagine it. But later on, typically once I’ve stepped away from the work and allowed my creative mind to cool, those nagging little doubts start to creep in., “What if I just created a boring character? Or worse, a character people will hate? What if it’s just no good at all? People aren’t going to like this… they’ll realize I’m a hack that can’t write.” The sad thing is that once upon a time I would allow those thoughts to hold me back, giving in to the idea that maybe I’ve been kidding myself all along. Sure, I might like to think that I’m a decent writer, but what if I’ve just been fooling myself all this time? That’s probably one of the reasons why I’ve dreaded coming to this moment: The Editing phase. *cue shuddering reaction*

Surely this will be the moment when my pretense is laid bare.

Strangely enough, I found that my fears weren’t quite justified. It wasn’t, as I long feared it might be, the teeth-pulling fiasco my nagging little mind imagined. It was, dare I say it, a weirdly fun experience and one that has taught me a lot about my own craft as a writer and, hopefully, given me some new tools and insights to carry over into future creative work. That doesn’t mean that I’m free from those “imposter” feelings, though. Looking over my editor’s Developmental Notes, I found that I annoyingly obsessed over her praise, “This is a solid story and would benefit greatly from a good deal of tightening up”. It was that one word, solid, that had the nagging part of my mind falling into the same, tired old doubts.

Solid. But not great? Is solid really that good… or… maybe… maybe it’s faint praise, the kind you offer when you want to be encouraging without giving a false impression? Yes, I hate when my mind meanders down those dark little avenues, but I’ve gotten better about how I handle those moments when they start to creep in. I had to remind myself, repeatedly I must admit, that if her praise really were faint and the book really in dire need of work, she would have recommended serious changes to the structure of the plot. She did not. In fact, there were no major recommendations at all related to the structure of the plot, and what she did suggest was exactly what I have heard before. Tighten it up. Don’t lose yourself in vivid descriptions. I’ve heard that critique before and I wholeheartedly agreed that it was my biggest flaw as a writer. I overwrite. I overdo the prose. And what she offered was exactly what I have heard numerous times before. Maybe I’ve been on the right track all along.

I’m getting better now at ignoring those annoying little bouts of self-doubt, and I’m glad that I am. This book wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t learned how to cope with those troublesome moments.

And now, “The Girl in the Storm” is growing one step closer to being finished. One step closer to being ready for publication. A cover design is even in the works, and in a few weeks it just might be ready to be unveiled. Follow me here, www.facebook.com/stanfieldchristopher1/, and you’ll get a chance to see the reveal when that exciting moment comes.

If you’ve experienced any of those crippling moments of self-doubt, as I have, I hope that you can find a way to overcome them. It’s not easy, that’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, but it’s more than worth it in the end. Your fears can hold you back if you let them. But do whatever you can to make sure that doesn’t happen. The fear may be bad at times, the regret of letting them win will be even worse.

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Published by Christopher Stanfield

Christopher Stanfield is a West Texas native whose love of writing began at the age of fourteen, inspired by a love of mythology, science fiction and fantasy. And though he’s spent the past twenty years in IT for a small bank, writing is the one passion that never quite let go.

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