Dealing with Doubt

Immediately after finishing the last draft of the novel, I started questioning myself. Is there something wrong with the opening? I convinced myself that there was. After all, I was pretty confident in my actual query letter and the only thing other than that that I’ve sent to all five agents is the opening five pages.

I decided immediately that they suck and started replotting the entire first 150 pages of the novel to fix it. This is bullshit, as reflexive as falling in love with the first person you meet after a breakup.

Because in point of fact, even if they do suck, it’s too early to tell from the agent’s reactions. Their lack of response could be due to all sort of things – but three weeks in, is far too early to tell. I should not be assuming anything at all yet. Now that I have fixed all of the trouble spots I earmarked as I was approaching the end of the last draft, I need to wait, and reflect, and judge what's there on its own merits. And it certainly wouldn't hurt to have more feedback before determining my next move.

Deciding immediately that I’ve done it all wrong is a cop-out that allows me to forgive any rejections that come, by telling myself, “Oh I just sent it out too early.”

Well, maybe I did. And maybe I didn’t. I need to wait for evidence one way or the other. It may be painful, and it will almost certainly take way longer than I like. But I owe myself the benefit of the doubt.

And while I wait, I can work on other stuff. Get those short story collections filled up with new material. Apply everything I’ve learned with the novel to my pre-novel prose and see if I can bump my better stories up a few more notches.

Got a story “The Lost Psychonaut” that began as a horror, turned into a humour story and is now morphing a third time - into something in between - hopefully dark, dark comedy that morphs into really scary shit. If I can get the balance right, then it could be a knockout. So that’s what I’m going to do for the next while – work on the short story until I start getting more feedback from other people on the novel. The new ideas I was working on may just turn out to be the perfect place to start a sequel novel. Or might actually work in this one. But I need to let things settle for a while. Give the book a chance to breathe. I made a blackberry wine one time, that was really sour and awful at first taste – and turned into ambrosia after it sat for another month. That could happen.

And even if I’m right about the changes I’m tempted to make, it only makes sense to save it until I’m doing a more holistic revision based on other new feedback – so I can do it all at once.

So I’m forcing myself to push the pause button. Allowing myself to turn all my attention to other projects – just for awhile.

If you've gone through anything like this and feel inspired to share – I’d love to hear from you.

Is it normal; to be filled with self-doubt when you finish a draft? Do you think it means anything? Or it's just a panic reaction as I go to enter the starting gate?


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