6

(Sorry if this isn't the best title.)

I've been writing for about 6 months now. And everything I write I feel as if it isn't good enough, or it was just a bad chapter, sentence, or even choice of word.

I keep going back and changing the words. But then I think that version is terrible.

I've tried to see if this happens with all of my ideas, and it does!

QUESTION: Does anyone know anyway to not change my mind with all of my writings?

Even now I'm thinking this question is worded wrong.

  • Do you have the same doubts and insecurities with ideas and decisions outside the writing? If you do, the problem might be low self-esteem. When I feel down, all of my writing sucks. I do not do any editing when I feel like that because even the best parts of my writing will feel like utter rubbish. Although the answers below are good ideas, no matter what, do try to see what really is behind this "all my ideas are terrible". – SC for reinstatement of Monica Jun 8 '17 at 6:26
  • What I'm doing is forcing myself to treat a given draft as write-only. If I want to change it I'm only allowed to do so by creating a new document and starting from scratch, using the previous draft as a source. That way (I'm hoping) I'll make myself finish a draft before starting on a second one. – GordonM Jun 19 '17 at 7:41
6

Let's start by setting something straight.

Changing your mind is not the problem

What you are after is why you are changing your mind. Looking over your work and rewriting it is a natural part of editing - you don't want to get rid of it. What you want, is to know when to stop.

What you are experiencing is called the inner critic. The inner critic is what makes us praise the work of others, while comparing our own and woefully concluding that it is horrible. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. All the inner critic cares about is making things better, regardless of if they should be made better, or even can be made better.

In short, you need to know where to draw the line with your inner critic.

Practice makes perfect

Practice writing without your inner critic. Ignore it. Just as Aspen Rand said, write it down, regardless of how it sounds. Some people can do this better than others. If you find that, while you aren't redoing everything, you are still bogged down with how bad it is, try this:

Write something that doesn't matter. Delete it the moment you've written it. Knowing that what you write has no lasting result will instantly silence your inner critic. Do this until you have completely banished the urge to change every line.

Move things up. Write a journal. Write fake letters to fake people. Write anything, as long you are the only one seeing it. Don't delete these. Your inner critic will want to fix everything, but ignore it. Get used to writing this way.

Once you're there, take it a step further: bring other people into the picture. Start small, with texts (yes, focus on grammar and English), emails, even the post-it notes on the fridge. Now your inner critic will really kick in, but don't let it. Fix the spelling and grammar, and move on.

Gradually you will get to the point where you are writing for a lot of people. There's a lot on the line. Hopefully by now though, you know how to write without your inner critic. But don't stop there. Your inner critic is there for a reason: editing. When you've written the novel, section, or chapter, unleash it. Let the inner critic run rampant.

The problem at this point is knowing when to stop. Remember this rule: the inner critic is never, ever satisfied. If you're waiting for your writing to turn out perfect, it will never happen, according to your inner critic. There will always be things you can write better. The trick is to know if what you have written does its job. Does this passage convey the information in a clear fashion? Does this bit evoke the right emotions? Is this dialogue natural? If the answers are yes, move on. A beta-reader can help greatly here if you are still having trouble.

Always be aware

Your inner critic will never let up, so neither should you. Eventually you'll be able to write without it, edit with it, and know when to move on. Until you reach that point though, be relentless in learning to control it.

For example, my inner critic is telling me this answer is not good. It rambles. This very example might be going nowhere, or be completely unnecessary. And yet I'm still writing it. When I'm finished with this answer and have tied it up, I'll go back through and re-read it a few times. I'll fix some things, but if I feel it gets the point across and is easily understood, I'll post it.


Outlines

One other thing I would like to mention: outlines. When writing something long, like a novel for instance, you do want to make sure everything is as good as it can be. The above method makes sure everything is okay, but a whole lot of okay doesn't equal something great. It equals something which is just okay.

In my experience, the majority of writers are what I call Discovery Writers. They get a basic idea of what they want, write the first draft, throw away the bad and keep the good, write the next draft, and repeat until they feel reasonably pleased with what they have. You can certainly write that way. Many do. I don't.

I am a Plotter, and I think Plotting might be a good approach for you too. Plotting involves studying writing, and learning what works, and what accomplishes what you want. I've been studying writing for several years, and in that time I've created a process - almost a checklist - which I run through before ever putting hand to keyboard.

The process creates the plot, defines the characters, ensures reader involvement, makes the story interesting, and does everything else a good novel needs to succeed. Only then do I write it.

This takes a lot of the guesswork out of writing. I no longer have to rewrite until the tension in scene A is where I want it. The outline I created included what techniques to use to create that tension. Best of all, the inner critic can't jump in, because I know how those techniques work. I know the tension is there.

Try outlining. You might find it suits you. It takes some study, practice, and trial-and-error to do it right, and your outline needs to be very detailed, but it is worth it. In fact, I spend so much time on the outline, that it takes the place of all the drafts. By the time I'm done, I know exactly what tools I need to tell my story.

I hope this helps. Best of luck in your endeavors!

2

It is absolutely normal and common to doubt yourself, besides, nobody is perfect and there is and always will be something in your work which is not as good as you would wish it to be. You are not alone, trust me.

The trick is not to let your doubts to stop you from finishing your story. No matter how well it is written, or how fresh your idea is, if the story is not finished, it is not a story.

You need to restrain your inner editor and keep going. Everything (and I do mean everything) can be fixed during the revision stage. All you need to do is get there.

There are no recipes for making you like what you see spilling from your mind to the page/screen, but if you are serious about writing, and if you do want to learn the craft, there is no other way than to keep working on it.

Finish your story. Six months from now you will be a better writer, and you will be able to revisit all you have written to date and easily fix whatever needs fixing, drop everything which your story does not need, add the bits which were missing before, polish and hone your word choices; you will become a better writer, but only if you keep writing.

Do not stop. Do not edit yourself. Write. Get to the end. Then revise.

Best of luck.

1

Try publishing something to a public blog every day (even if it's under an alias). It doesn't have to be long, but by intending to publish something you'll be forced to edit, rewrite, and eventually settle on a way of writing something (if you don't settle, you'll never be able to press publish—this is where publishing daily helps). Over time, you'll be able to revisit old posts and see how your writing has changed, and you'll be able to learn from previous writing.

I've published more than 1,700 posts to my personal blog over the past 16 years and I've found that the greatest improvements to my own writing have come when I was blogging regularly (comparing posts from one year to another makes this very obvious). Whenever I've stopped blogging regularly for long periods of time, I've found that my writing stops improving, even if the overall amount of writing that I'm doing on a regular basis hasn't changed that much.

I'm not saying that you cannot improve as a writer when you write privately, just that improvement requires working toward specific goals that you know will challenge you to improve. Write a haiku. Write a short story. Look up from your laptop, find an object, and then try to write 500 words describing that object in as fine detail as possible. Do the same thing with an emotion that you've felt. And if you can, share what you write. Even if others don't give you feedback, the very knowledge that somebody, somewhere, will likely be judging your writing will cause you to subconsciously work a little harder to write better, to rewrite and to edit (which is the work that actually produces good writing).

When writing comments or posts online, push yourself to spend a little extra time editing and rewriting—use every opportunity to practice the craft.

Remember: everyone, no matter how famous, had to learn how to walk. They had to fall down and get back up, fall down and get back up, until they learned how to walk. (And even then, we still slip and fall from time to time.) The same way, every writer, no matter how famous, failed and wrote badly before they learned how to write well.

1

I'm going to go against the grain. I'm going to give you some advice that you probably won't want to hear.

You say you've only been writing for six months and your mention of 'chapter' indicates you are trying to write a novel. It's a bit early to be obsessing over word choices. When it comes to novel writing word choice is not particularly high up the pecking order. In article and speech writing word choices are important but in novels - not so much.

Attempting write a a novel with only six months experience may not be the best way forward.

I wrote ten chapters of my first novel then (wisely) stopped. I'd learned enough from the experience to understand 'how' I write, my natural style, the components that would ultimately determine my 'voice'.

I then proceed to write short stories. Each one designed to challenge one or more aspects of my writing skills. I wrote from the POV of a US teen, a middle-aged English woman, a Pakistani immigrant, a Mexican immigrant etc. This would build the library of characters I could utilize in any novel.

One 3000 word story contains no dialogue and no descriptions of any inanimate objects. The bulk of the story consisted of two people looking at each other on a train. Another story was written from the POV of a blind woman - subsequently the story could not contain any visual descriptions. Another attempt was to write a children's story. I can't write a kiddie litter but the result taught me plenty. The finished story was about a man reading a bedtime story to his children. This taught me how to seamlessly blend from real-time to flashback.

On returning to original 10 chapters I realised there were a boring chronicle - this happened, then that happened, this happened after, and that happened next. I deleted those then chapters and started again.

I uploaded my novel to a peer-review forum - nobody believed it was my first.

Once you've learned your strong suite(s) and expanded your skill-set you'll know the best way to tell a particular story. The example below is really BAD because it's all TELLING and the grammar is atrocious, however, I heard that story did okay.

Now I know somethin bout idiots. Probly the only thing I do know bout, but I done read up on em -- all the way from that Doy-chee-eveskie guy's idiot, to King Lear's fool, an Faulkner's idiot, Benjie, an even ole Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird -- now he was a serious idiot. The one I like best tho is ole Lennie in Of Mice an Men. Mos of them writer fellers got it straight -- cause their idiots always smarter than people give em credit for. Hell, I'd agree with that. Any idiot would. Hee Hee.

When I was born, my mama name me Forrest, cause of General Nathan Bedford Forrest who fought in the Civil War. Mama always said we was kin to General Forrest's fambly someways. An he was a great man, she say, cept'n he started up the Ku Klux Klan after the war was over an even my grandmama say they's a bunch of no-goods. Which I would tend to agree with, cause down here, the Grand Exalted Pishposh, or whatever he calls hissef, he operate a gun store in town an once, when I was maybe twelve year ole, I were walkin by there and lookin in the winder an he got a big hangman's noose strung up inside. When he seen me watchin, he done thowed it around his own neck an jerk it up like he was hanged an let his tongue stick out an all so's to scare me. I done run off and hid in a parkin lot behin some cars til somebody call the police an they come an take me home to my mama. So whatever else ole General Forrest done, startin up that Klan thing was not a good idea -- any idiot could tell you that. Nonetheless, that's how I got my name.

My mama is a real fine person. Everbody says that. My daddy, he got kilt just after I's born, so I never known him. He worked down to the docks as a longshoreman an one day a crane was takin a big net load of bananas off one of them United Fruit Company boats an somethin broke an the bananas fell down on my daddy an squashed him flat as a pancake. One time I heard some men talkin bout the accident -- say it was a helluva mess, half ton of all them bananas an my daddy squished underneath. I don't care for bananas much myself, cept for banana puddin. I like that all right.

My mama got a little pension from the United Fruit people an she took in boarders at our house, so we got by okay. When I was little, she kep me inside a lot, so as the other kids wouldn't bother me. In the summer afternoons, when it was real hot, she used to put me down in the parlor an pull the shades so it was dark an cool an fix me a pitcher of limeade. Then she'd set there an talk to me, jus talk on an on bout nothin in particular, like a person'll talk to a dog or cat, but I got used to it an liked it cause her voice made me feel real safe an nice.

0

Don't worry. You'll tire yourself out eventually and settle with something. There's no way of knowing whether what you write will be great or not. Sometimes people write stories and they go unnoticed their whole lives. Then a hundred years later a director picks it up and makes a movie about it, and all of a sudden you're famous, but you're dead.

0

Write to get it all on paper/screen, and don't worry about going back to fix things just yet. As better ideas/words come to mind, add a note in your draft to investigate the ideas when you're ready for a review/edit.

You'll sabotage yourself if you keep going back to fix things as you're writing, though.

There's a time and place for critique and edit, and that time comes only after the first draft is complete. Also typically a good idea to put some time between writing and editing. Not only will you avoid self-sabotage, but you'll often notice glaring errors in your writing, which you might have glossed over without noticing due to your familiarity with a paragraph or chapter.

The creative process often ends through abandonment, rather than perfection. Most of us will go back to our earlier works and cringe, no matter how proud we were at the time of their creation. Do what you can to make it excellent during your editing phase, but realize there will come a point where you just have to publish - otherwise you'll have diminishing returns on your time and energy invested in editing.

Keep up the writing, and maybe some of those revision ideas will turn into a sequel or new story in the same genre.

-2

Just write all your ideas down, even if they sound dumb to you. If they all come together in the end, then you have nothing to worry about.

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