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The Big Damn Writer Advice Column

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It’s that time of the week when I answer your anonymous questions about writing and all that stuff connected to it. Every Thursday, I’ll be answering two questions from the Big Damn Writer Question Box.

Q: How do I push through my self doubt about my work? I tend to get about 20-30 pages into a story, start to convince myself it’s stupid/bad/etc. and then eventually move on to a Shiny New Idea. I’m very frustrated with myself.

A: You kind of answered your own question there. What you have to do is…push through. There’s no way to get around a feeling of “this sucks” or “this is stupid, I should give up.” Every single writer has faced that feeling on every single project they’ve ever written, no matter what they say. If someone goes, “Oh, I wrote this book and it just flowed from me and I never once second-guessed myself or worried it wouldn’t work,” they’re lying to try to sell you their book, which was perfect from conception. Don’t buy that. You will always reach a point in the project where you believe it sucks and won’t work. For me, that time occurs usually around the 20k mark and the 70k mark. Even though I know they’re coming, I still second guess and I have to force myself to finish.

The good news is, the first time you push through to the end, it’s like breaking a seal or something. After that, it becomes easier to finish despite the self-doubt and second-guessing, because you know you’ve done it before. Just trust me: stick with it, see it through to the end. You won’t forget your shiny, new idea in the meantime.

Q: How do you work out different “voices” for your characters, and how do you keep the voices distinct from each other and distinct from the person Jenny Trout?

A: This is probably the laziest way to do it, but when I design a character, I assign an actor to them. Then I study how that person talks, and I imagine every line of dialogue coming from them as if they’re in the movie in my head. That’s not a real complicated answer, but it does help; if I can’t imagine the actor delivering the line and coming off as authentic, it’s not authentic to my character.

Wanna see your questions get answered (or just wanna air a grievance?) Put it in the box!

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  1. Beth

    I work my characters in the sane way…. picturing an actor!

    September 3, 2017
    • Beth


      September 3, 2017

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