For me, self-doubt as a writer is most likely to come at the beginnings and ends of projects. I’m a pantser, so even though I plan a few landmarks or key scenes before I start, laying a path of words between these scenes isn’t always easy. I need to spend most of my writing time figuring out what happens before I can even find the right words to type. The final stage of publishing a book, going through it yet again to find typos and missing punctuation, can be even worse. Rereading my stories makes me question everything about them. Do I really need this description? This sentence, paragraph, or scene? Will anyone want to read this? If they do, will they hate it?
I happen to be experiencing both types of insecurity at the same time. I’m finishing a fantasy series I started twenty years ago. It’s exciting, but I worry if it’s really ready for the world. I’ve also started the first book in an urban fantasy series. Although I did write out a rough outline first, the story is heading off in different directions from what I had envisioned.
I’ve written enough books by now to have faith in my process. The first draft may be a sprawling mess of inconsistencies, but I can revise it into something better. The final-stage doubt, when you’ve read the story so much you’re sick of it, is more insidious. After all, no matter how much you review your story or who you get to critique it, it will never be perfect, and it will never please everyone. When you’re still building an audience, you may have no idea if anyone is interested in your story, and it may feel as though that will never change. How do you cope with that?
My solution is to remind myself I’ve done the best I can on this story with the resources I have and my current craft level. While it may be true that the story can be improved, I’ll learn more as a writer if I work on many different projects than if I keep revising the same story constantly.
The steps in writing and publishing may not change much from story to story, but hopefully my confidence will improve with each project. Even if stretching my writing skills into new genres or types of stories makes me feel insecure, that might not be a bad thing. It’s better to be motivated to keep growing as a writer than to feel you know it all and let your stories suffer.