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How to Kiss Writing Jitters Goodbye

My third book is releasing next fall 2012. My publisher met last week to discuss the title for the book. Surprisingly, they didn’t like my title idea this time. (Since they’d gone with my first choices for The Preacher’s Bride and The Doctor’s Lady, I’d assumed I was getting the knack for picking titles!)

But the title I chose for book 3 apparently didn’t fit my brand and my penchant for action, adventure, and romance. Thankfully, my publisher is wise enough to recognize the disparity between what I’d suggested and what actually lies between the pages of my book.

Anyway, my third book is in the process of getting its title, cover development, and in-house editing. As you may remember, I recently got my rewrites (and had a hard time processing them!). But as it turned out, I ended up making almost every suggested change my editors requested.

When I sent the revised manuscript back to them, I did so with a bit of trepidation. I couldn’t help thinking, “Boy, this is going to need more work. I hope they find additional issues for me to change so that I can improve it even more.”

I realize what’s happening. I’m in the process of falling out of love with my book. With distance and each additional edit, I grow more objective. I see the manuscript more critically. In fact, I even begin to wonder why I ever wrote the story in the first place.

Regardless of how I feel about it, the book is now headed down the publication pipeline and will be on shelves in less than a year. And even though it’s my third book, I’m still nervous! It’s especially hard when I get reports from readers who tell me they really enjoyed The Doctor's Lady and The Preacher's Bride because they’re based on true women from history. I can’t help thinking, “Oh no! My next two books aren’t inspired by real people. What if readers don’t like them as well?”

Twitter friend, Robyn Leatherman, is having her book debut in a few short months, and recently she said this in an email, “I have a feeling I'm getting those nervous butterflies of what-if-nobody-likes-my-work going on here. How do you cope with those jitters?”

No matter where we’re at in the publication process—whether beginner, debut, or seasoned—I’m realizing that we can suffer an attack of jitters any time or place.

So, how do we kiss our jitters good-bye?

Here’s what I’m doing to combat my recent case of nerves: I tell myself that I’m doing the best possible job that I can. I found a story that I wanted to tell. Then I worked incredibly hard to brainstorm and craft it into a book that I hope readers will enjoy. And I labored diligently to implement all of the various writing skills that I’ve been learning.

Now I’m putting the manuscript under the editing chisel. I edited myself, gave it to my critique partner, and currently my in-house editors are helping me shave off and add even more.

In other words, I’ve given the book THE best effort that I can (for where I’m at in my writing career). I haven’t gotten lazy because it’s my third book. And I haven’t started to take my readership for granted.

No, I’ve poured out my very heart into every page. If readers don’t like it as well as my first two books, it won’t be because I haven’t tried.

And that’s all we can do, dear friends—keep on working on our stories as hard as we can, keep on learning and growing in our writing skills, and keep on putting them under objective scrutiny. If we do that, then we can stand tall and proud of what we’ve done no matter the outcome.

Have you faced any jitters lately? How do you kiss your jitters good-bye?

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Here's where I'm at this week in my blog tour!

Monday 10/17: I'm visiting with Jane Steen on her blog and sharing more about my writing journey. (And giving away The Doctor's Lady!)

23 comments:

  1. Hi Jody, I'm new to your blog but it's already inspired me to write a post about 'blogging about writing' so thank you!

    I've recently joined a writing class and I have terrible jitters every week. But what I've found is that the bits I get nervous about (will they get that image? will they like it?) are the bits that get great feedback. I think if you're not nervous it's a bad sign because it means you haven't taken any risks. If you're completely confident about what you've written then it's probably ok but too safe and it's not going to leap off the page at anyone.

    So I'm embracing my jitters! I think the bits you're terrified to show anyone generally represent the direction your writing wants to develop in, and you should follow them wherever they take you rather than going for the safe option.

    Good luck with your novel!
    Emily

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  2. I hate the jitters. One moment I'm writing happily away, or just chilling out, then a stray thought makes me doubt everything I'm doing. Usually I try to clear my head, listen to some good music, and keep on trucking.

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  3. Um....YES! I'm totally suffering from these jitters right now. My debut comes out this spring. And I keep thinking, "I can handle a few bad reviews." But you know what terrifies me? Loads and loads of mediocre ones.

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  4. Good morning, everyone! It's always great to know that I'm not alone in my jitters! :-)

    And Emily, you made a great point--that jitters can be a good thing because it shows we're taking risks. We can't expect to grow if we're not willing to take chances and put ourselves out there!

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  5. Jody, Thank you for these words! I've been out of love with my current manuscript for quite a long time, and as I face more rewrites these jitters have gotten the best of me. It's kinda hard to get the creative juices flowing when I've scared them off. :) Thanks for the reminder that all I can do is my best.

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  6. I'm sorry about the jitters, Jody. I have a hunch most writers experience them. However, I've read your third book (in manuscript form) and feel certain readers are going to enjoy it. Yes, it's different than the other two in that it's not based on a real person, but it's still a Jody Hedlund story, one with compelling characters and an action-packed plot that will keep readers flipping pages into the wee hours. You might be falling out of love with it, but I think it just might be my favorite book so far. =)

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  7. So glad to find others who get jittery! The best way to banish them is always, always leaning on the Lord in prayer...but doing so constantly because they come back, the darn things!

    Question: do you give yourself time between writing and editing? I read On Writing by Stephen King, and he said to put your manuscript away for about a month and not even think about it so that you can come at it with fresh eyes. Do you give yourself time like that or do you just keep chugging? Curious minds want to know :)

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  8. MK Jorgenson asked: Do you give yourself time between writing and editing? Do you give yourself time like that or do you just keep chugging?

    My response: In my editing, I go back through and make initial changes right away. Usually these are the things I've marked as needing extra research or quick-fix changes. Then I send the manuscript to my crit. partner and make her changes. Finally I send the book to my in-house editors. It usually takes them 2-3 months to read the manuscript and get back to me with their feedback. During that time, I get the distance I need so that when I reread the book again, I can come at it with fresh eyes and begin a whole other set of editing. Hope that answers your question! :-)

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  9. Hi Jody! I haven't finished my first novel yet, but I have jitters in the very midst of writing it! (In fact, I wrote a blog post about it last month: http://lindsayharrel.blogspot.com/2011/09/doubt-monster.html)

    I'm glad to know that there are others out there who suffer from the same doubt I do. But you are right--the ultimate thing to remember is that we can only do our best. If we do that, God will bless our efforts.

    I look forward to reading your books.

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  10. It's a good thing to know when you're doing your best. That's something I never know about myself, because it's such a slippery truth. And truth is like that, so slippery at times. So how do you know when you've done your best? I mean, without outside affirmation. How do you know?

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  11. Good question, Jill! (You always ask those tough questions!) :-) I think that you can only do the best for where you're at in your writing career. If I know that I've worked hard, if I've gotten objective feedback, made the changes as best I can, and put as much effort as I can into my manuscript, then I have to let go. Hopefully, I'll continue to grow with each book I write, but beyond that, I think it's an internal feeling of knowing you worked your hardest and gave it all you had. That's really all you can do.

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  12. I have writing jitters all the time. Though I have different reasons for them, the worst come when someone new reads for me. My best technique for combating those shakes is distraction. Either working on something else, or diving into one of the millions of other things I'm supposed to be doing. Always enjoy your blog, Jodi. Thanks for another great post:)

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  13. Woops! So sorry I misspelled your name! Had a friend Jodi with an i and that's stuck on the brain;)

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  14. Oh no problem, Michele! I've always had people write my name various ways and I don't even notice anymore! Thanks for the kind words about my blog! :-)

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  15. With my debut coming up in January, I'm so having those jitters. Like, oh no, what if everyone hates it?!

    But I do love what you said about falling out of love with the book. It does help to get distance from it. By the time I get back edits, I'm usually deep into writing the next book, so I'm much more level headed about the previous book. It's no longer my precious thing that can't be touched, lol.

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  16. Jitters? Um, yeah. Sometimes minute by minute.
    I had a serious case of "They won't like me" the other day--"They" being everyone in the whole wide world.
    And then I had to have a serious talk with myself.
    Here's why: If I make this writing journey about "me" and "them" I will make myself c-r-a-z-y.
    And, believe me, I know how to do crazy. And, really, I am declining that invitation to dance this go-round.
    Here's reality: Some people will like my book. Some won't. I will most likely hear from both parties.
    And the reality is I can't let either decide my self worth.
    Saying all this doesn't mean the jitters won't ever shake my world. It just means this is where I'm focusing. Not on me. Not on "them."
    Neither is a reliable source of worth.

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  17. There's been some really fantastic comments here. It's always such a relief to hear other people's jitter stories because it makes me realise I'm not alone and those stomach churning episodes are totally normal.

    I've given the first 'chunk' of my manuscript to a handful of beta readers, and every time I receive an email from one of them, my heart starts pounding. But I tell myself, 'Of course you feel like this. You care about your work. But whatever they've written will not be the make or break of your writing. You've done this because you want to improve your writing, and they're helping you to do that.'

    Yes, it really is that much of a big deal every time I receive an email!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, Jody. :-)

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  18. It's good to hear that someone else gets to that point of wondering whether a story was worth all the effort put into it. After umpteen revisions I end up putting the story aside.

    I think maybe when we do the best we can at the stage we're at, but then continue to move ahead, learning and improving while we revise and edit, we can look back and recognize the inferiority of our previous writing. No matter how many times I revise, I never feel it's quite good enough. I understand the logistics, but it doesn't help.

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  19. Yep, I'm definitely feeling jittery. *shudder*
    Congrats on the book though! I can't wait to see your cover. If it makes you feel better, I do NOT usually like books/movies based on real things. Knowing the doctor and his lady's child dies, and then they do...I'm just glad I found out AFTER I read and loved the book. lol
    I have a feeling I will adore this next one!

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  20. Hi, Jody. I had the jitters every time my first novel went to and came back from my readers, and now every time I query or submit the ms. to agents. Very tough process.

    But I'm not sure about the falling out of love part. I'm still in love with the book and its characters. In fact, that's why I'm writing a sequel in which some of them play a part. I'm in the process of falling deeply in love with book #2, but can't imagine falling out of love with book #1. I guess we'll see!

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  21. Hi Toby,
    You know, it's amazing to me just how different we all are in our writing. I know some writers who struggle through their first drafts, hate them, and then fall in love during the rewriting phase. I think the key is that we need to get objective about our work at some point and see it more critically.

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  22. Oh man, this is one those posts that apply to life:

    I'm doing the best I can.

    My new mantra for the month.

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  23. My novella debuts in January, and honestly, I'm too busy marketing and promoting it to get jitters, though I'm sure they'll come as the day approaches. I'm more nervous about my current WIP! I'm in the "What have I gotten into stage?" But at least it's not contracted, I can't imagine the pressure of writing under a deadline!

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