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You Never Fail Until You Stop Trying



Back in December, I learned about an unpublished novel contest that assessed the following criteria: characterization, setting, plot, dialogue, voice and writing skill.  In addition to all this, the MS would receive feedback from the judges. Not a bad deal, right?

 Although my draft was far from complete, I decided to enter it anyway, reasoning that the critique would identify areas of weakness in my writing.  Well, needless to say, I finally heard back last week.  The first forty pages of my draft were returned with the following letter attached:

  The judges had mixed reactions to this particular manuscript, with some feeling it was well-    paced and another saying there was not enough plot movement! One questioned whether the dialogue fit the time/ year/culture, while others felt it did. They all agreed on liking the expository details and descriptions, but  wondered where the story was going.  Consider beginning with a scene that hooks the reader with  compelling action and a clear sense of what the protagonist wants.  

It was difficult, but I tried to look at the bright side.  The judges didn't criticize my characters or my writing, and the overall feedback was very constructive.  Since the dialogue had previously been brought to my attention and I'd already corrected the problems, I overlooked that area of the comments and took the rest to heart.Once my third draft is completed (four more chapters to go), I will then make the recommended  changes during the editing phase.

I realize it was a gutsy move to submit an incomplete MS, but in this case it worked out for the best.  I now know where to focus my attention. Yet, despite all the positives that came from my decision, I still have a hard time keeping insecurities at bay. Some small part of me questions whether I'm good enough.
 Intellectually, I know this kind of thinking is counterproductive, but shaking off negativity is easier said than done.

Not to worry, I'm not going to throw in the towel.  That would be crazy after  four long years of toiling over my book. I'll finish the game. After all, you only fail with you stop trying,  I just think it would  be easier to move forward if I didn't have to deal with these moments of insecurity.  Do any of you ever feel this way?  If so, how do you shake it?   Until next time, happy writing.


Comments

  1. I think it was an amazing step in the right direction to submit...and now you have useful feedback to inform your MS!

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    1. Hi Johanna, thanks for stopping in. Although you're right about the feedback, etc, it's still difficult to receive criticism. I'll get over it, but...

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  2. That doesn't sound like a bad response - it sounds as though it certainly got a reaction from all of them! It also demonstrates that not everyone is looking for the same thing from a story. Good on you for using it constructively - now stop worrying and looking for failure and take your own advice! Wishing you every success :-)

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    1. Hi Linda, thanks for stopping in. You're right, gotta take my own advice & move forward. I will after a few more days of whining, then it'll be over. Take care.

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  3. I'd look upon that as a success, and well done for being brave enough to submit it! I've been working on one MS for ages, and I go through phases of loving it, then phases of despising it. It's such a rollercoaster at times. Best of luck with it!

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    1. Lonestarsky, thanks for stopping in. It's always nice to know there are others who deal with some of the same insecurities as me. Sometimes it's easy to feel alone in the novel writing journey.

      I can certainly relate to the roller coaster ride. Yet, we have to endure it if we want to finish our MS. Thanks again for stopping in.

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    1. M.J. you're soooo right, but it's hard to keep self-doubt. Seems I'm fighting a constant battle with it. Thanks for stopping in to comment on my post.

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  5. Only every waking moment of every day....
    The feedback you got sounded pretty good to me, especially for an unfinished MS! One of my biggest frustrations thus far with writing has been how completely subjective it all is. Your letter clearly demonstrates this- how one person thinks something is well done and another disagrees. *shrugs* You can't please anyone- so you might as well just focus on pleasing yourself!
    Kaye Draper at Write Me

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    1. Agreed, Kaye Draper. There's a lot of subjectivity in writing. So much so, it'a a wonder anyone ever gets published.

      As for the review, you're right as well, there were some positive points. It's just that it's always easier for me to hone in on the negative ones.(: I'm working on correcting this. Thanks for stopping in to comment on my blog. Your words were very encouraging.

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  6. Sometimes I just get arrogant. Not 'to' or 'at' anyone - just with myself. Sometimes I'll put on my 'arrogant hat' with my husband. He just smiles while I talk like I know everything and like I'm the best coolest person in the world. I always feel silly afterwards - but not in a bad way, in a laugh-with-my-husband-at-myself way. Of all the "negative" emotions out there anger - of which arrogance is a subset - is a stimulating - motivating emotion. It drives the body forward. So sometimes I play "arrogant me" and then I feel revved up to move forward and prove myself, instead of down and unsure of myself. Maybe arrogance doesn't jive with you, but sometimes that's how I work through it all. Congrats on the review though - there was a lot of compliment in it.

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    1. Hi D.V. Shepard, you made some interesting points. Unfortunately, I"m one of those people who gets away with very little in this life. Seriously, if I judge another person, I soon find myself judged. If I become arrogant, even in a joking way, somehow it bites me in the butt. Life has always kept me in check.

      The one thing I have going for me is, Where I lack in intellect I make up for with tenacity. That need to finish whatever I start is the only thing that's kept me going all these years. Can't imagine where I'd be without it. Sometimes I just have a tendency to feel sorry for myself. Working on that too.

      Thanks for stopping in to comment on my blog. Take care.

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  7. You're probably right on the heels of a big breakthrough . . . don't give up! I thought that feedback wasn't bad at all--I could show you much worse on mine! If I could do it, anybody could :-)

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    1. jamieayres, I have a feeling you're being humble. No doubt you're probably an excellent writer. I do appreciate the kind words though. I'm trying to concentrate on the positives of the review. Kind people like you, inspire me to keep going. Thanks for stopping in to comment on my blog.

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  8. It's never easy to submit our work for critique, but I saw a lot of positives in their response. I think you have the right attitude, and I'm sure their response will be helpful to you in moving forward with your work.

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    1. Absolutely L.G. Keltner. The feedback was constructive and instructive as well. It certainly helped me pinpoint the areas that need work. Thank you for stopping by to comment on my post.

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  9. Personally, I see it as a good sign that the judges liked your writing enough to give you feedback on it. And good for you for entering a contest! There have been a number of contests I've wanted to enter, but I just couldn't send my stuff out for them.

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    1. I feel your pain, Cynthia. I just figured it might be easier to hear the negative stuff on the drafting end rather than after the MS. is polished. I won't lie, putting your work out for others to scrutinize is tough, but it's necessary. As writers it's difficult to be objective about our work. Often times we completely miss obvious mistakes. A second set of eyes can help identify areas of weakness. The key is mentally preparing to receive the feedback. Best of luck on your work-in-progress. Thanks for stopping in to comment on my blog.

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  10. Hi Andrea, nice to meet you. I ONLY feel that way ALL OF THE TIME. I think it goes with the territory, but like you no throwing in the towel, I'll see this thing through or die trying.

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    1. Right on, farawayeyes. We're of similar minds. Sometimes tenacity is the only thing that keeps me going. It was also nice to meet you. Looking forward to future discussions. Thanks for stopping in to comment on my blog. Take care.

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  11. Thanks for stopping by my blog. It was great having you by.

    As you've already ascertained, I definitely feel insecure. It's tough not to sometimes. But as you mention, failure comes when you stop trying, so keep at it :-)

    Glad you got some great feedback on what you submitted.

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    1. Thanks for stopping in, Angela Brown. You're right, it's tough, but it had to happen sometime. Appreciate your comments. Take care.

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  12. That's right. You only fail if you stop trying. Keep writing and keep moving forward.

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    1. Hi M.J., Joachim, at this rate I don't feel like there's another choice. I have to finish. Thanks for the inspiring words. Appreciate that you took the time to comment on my blog. Take care.

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  13. All writers feel this way. Your writing is so personal, so close to your heart, that it is really hard to take criticism on it. Sometimes it helps to step away from the MS for a while, so that you can come back to it and the critique with a little distance.

    Neil Gaiman's latest book is about to be released, and he posted on Tumblr saying how much he was fretting that everyone would hate it. Neil Gaiman. So if you get insecure, you're in good company!

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    1. Hi Angelina Trevena, interesting comparison. Guess that just goes to show that success doesn't breed security. It's a bit disconcerting to know that I'll always feel this way, blast!!!! Thanks for stopping in to comment on my blog. You provided lots of food for thought.

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  14. Hello! Here from IWSG. I don't think you can remove the insecurity. It's part of what makes you strive to be better. If you already fully believed in your brilliance, you'd be a bore and you'd never accept the criticism necessary to make you a better writer.

    Wanting to be MORE is the driving force behind all art and athletics. It's not a bad thing. You just have to learn to differentiate between emotionally abusing yourself by letting the insecurity eat away at you, and using the insecurity as a way to forge on, getting better and better. One of the great disservices "self-help" books have done to us is to convince us that there is a way to live in which we never have negative thoughts, bad days or rotten attitudes. It's good to think positive but to beat yourself up for not being positive all the time is backwards. Accept your negative thoughts as something that you have, and it's okay. The harder you fight them the more heat you give them until they bubble up and over. You shouldn't just lay down and believe them, though. You acknowledge they are there and then you move onto other things.

    BTW isn't it funny how these judges couldn't agree if your pace was too fast or too slow? Goes to show that no matter what you write, someone will have something to say about it and no two people will fully agree.

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    1. Hi Mencara, very insightful comments. I never thought that way about negative thinking, it's so obvious too. Yet, the analogy never crossed my mind. You've really given me a new way of looking at negative thinking. Guess it is one way that forces us to learn and think. Thanks for stopping in to comment on my blog. I really appreciate your advice.

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  15. Mixed messages are always fun, but that was some good feedback. Since you knew it wasn't polished to perfection, that feedback can really help. I'd say it was worth it.

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    1. I agree, Alex. It just took me a couple secs to process it. Hopefully my changes will improve the piece. Thanks for stopping in to comment on my post. Appreciate all you do for us bloggers.

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  16. You wrote: "Some small part of me questions whether I'm good enough." ... we ALL feel this way ... the trick is to tell that voice to shut up, and then you keep pursuing your goals. :) Listen to motivating music, go for a walk, read a great book, read a book on the craft of writing, and then get to work again.

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    1. Sage advice, Margo. Given me lots of food for thought. Thank you for stopping in to comment on my blog.

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  17. My post is on exactly the same issue! I send an early draft of my novel to a literary consulrancy and just like you the feedback wasn't negative but also wasn't "you're a superstar" (which deep down a tiny part of me still hoped for.) I don't have any advice about how to cope but at least we know we're both in it together!

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    1. That's something, Rachael. We'll get there someday. At least we're on the right track. I'd rather identify areas of weakness now than after I submitted to publishers and agents. Thanks for stopping in to comment on my blog.

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  18. Keep on keepin' on, tip on tippin' on, chew on chewin' on...oh well, I think you know what I mean, heh heh.

    You've already shown your spunk. You won't allow those insecurities to get the better of ya - you are one strong gal!

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    1. Thanks for the words of inspiration, I.B. Nosey. I can always use them. Welcome to my blog.

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  19. Gosh, I always feel this way. I try to lead my life with what I want. That helps me do the next thing. I am fierce about my feeling but I don't let them lead.

    Hi! I'm new to IWSG.

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    1. Hi MollyMom103 and welcome to the ISWG. You'll find lots of inspiration and Camaraderie from the members. Also, thanks for stopping in to comment on my blog. Looking forward to getting to know you bett3er.

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  20. I think every writer wonders if he or she is good enough. I think it all the time. I'll watch a writing contest and look at entries and think they are so much better than mine. But my writing also gets better from it.

    When I start to wonder if I am wasting my time, I go back to my very first MS and read it again. When I see just how far I've come I know that one day I will celebrate the success of all my hard work :)

    Meredith
    Meredith’s Musings

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    1. Great attitude, Meredith. I never looked at it that way but you're right. My drafts have improved exponentially from the first one. At least that's something. Thanks for stopping by to comment on my blog.

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  21. You're so right...we only fail if we stop trying. So...we keep trying! Good luck to you, and congratulations on getting constructive feedback.

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    1. Thanks, Julie Musil. I'll keep on going until I can't anymore. Take care and thanks for stopping in to comment on my blog.

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  22. You can't please everyone can you?

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    1. J.M. Filipowicz, it would be nice if I could. Guess life wasn't set up that way. Thanks for stopping in to comment on my blog.

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