What To Do When You Feel Like a Lousy Writer

Sometimes I feel like I’m the worst writer in the world.

Yes, I recently had a mini identity crisis. I’ve realized that I usually have that crisis right about the time I read Galleys (the last set of edits I get to see before a book goes to print). 

And last week I was not only reading my Galleys for Unending Devotion (releasing Sept. 1), but I was also finishing up rewrites on A Noble Groom (releasing next spring). And . . . gearing myself up to start self-editing the first draft of a book I finished writing in May.

My internal editor was out in a BIG way. A VERY BIG way. 

Even though I’d already read and edited Unending Devotion numerous times, I was critical. Of Every. Single. Word. As I scrutinized the manuscript (in hard copy format), a heavy depression began to settle over me and push me down, until I was practically slumped on my desk with the weight of my melancholy.

All I could think was that my writing was mediocre at best, that I’d missed so many adverbs, that I’d over-described too many things, and that the story just wasn’t the way I’d wanted it. 

Most of all, I was thinking of my readers and how I didn’t want to disappoint them. I hear frequently from readers telling me they’re excited for my next release, and that they’re waiting anxiously to read another of my books. 

I did’t want to let them down with my story OR my writing. I didn’t want to give them something subpar. So I’d worked really hard on editing Unending Devotion.

But still . . . even after all the work, the fears crept in and taunted me. My insecurities rose up to whisper in my ear, reminding me of how much I still need to learn and grow.

The truth is I still have a long way to go in becoming a good novelist. I haven’t mastered the craft yet. I haven’t grasped everything there is to know about fiction-writing. And I’m not a perfect story-teller.

Most of us aren’t born with exemplary writing talent that pushes us to fame and fortune. Instead, the majority of us have to do the hard work of learning how to write. We have to study fiction techniques. We have to actively challenge ourselves to practice new things and develop better writing habits. 

I’m finding that even after several published books the need for learning doesn’t stop. I must continually refresh my skills, review basic fiction principles, and push myself to try new things that will make me better. 

In fact, during the past week, I pulled out two of my favorite editing books to re-read: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King and The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman.

So am I really the worst writer in the world? And are my Galleys worthless? 

Probably not. In fact, I’ve been told Unending Devotion is a riveting story. One early reader told me it’s her favorite book of mine yet. My internal editor is likely being a little too hard on me. It can be a discouraging taskmaster at times.

What I’m learning is that as much as I like when things are going well, the good times don’t spur me to the high level of hard work the way discouragement does. In fact, when we’re feeling good about ourselves, we can become complacent and even start thinking we’ve arrived.

But when we’re feeling low, like we won’t amount to anything, we can’t let the discouragement derail us completely. Instead, we should let it humble us and push us toward improving our skills. Let it challenge us to do even better and work even harder.

That’s what I’ll be doing over the next several weeks—I’ll be jumping back into a personal fiction-writing refresher course so that I can continually be striving to write stories that readers will thoroughly enjoy.

What about you? Have you read a fiction-technique book lately that you’ve found helpful? I encourage you to take the challenge with me to read at least one fiction how-to book over the summer! Tell us in the comments which book you’d like to read. (And if you need some further suggestions, check out my Pinterest Board for Writing Books I’ve found especially helpful.)

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