Writing a novel? Feeling overwhelmed? Get new insight and inspiration with my FREE Novel Revision Checklist.
DOWNLOAD IT NOW.
You’ll also get weekly articles on writing sent to your inbox.
I remember the moment I handed the manuscript of my first book over to my husband for his feedback. I asked him to give me the truth while hoping he’d like it and only say nice things. But that would have been too easy!
I hovered as he read it, watching his face for any expression. My heart leapt when he laughed and plummeted when he frowned. I kept wanting to ask him what he thought of it, but I was scared to because he said nothing – not a single thing as he read through. I knew then that the feedback wouldn’t be good. I was right. The best thing he said was, “Well, I finished it.”
‘OMG,’ I thought, ‘my book is really terrible.”
And I felt really terrible. All that work, hours and hours of it! My disappointment felt pretty crushing, and yet, I’d never really thought that it would be all good feedback. I hadn’t thought it would be quite so bad though, either.
Writing a book isn’t easy, and the first one is the hardest. We are not going to get everything right the first go, and we need the help of others to pinpoint the changes we need to make, so we have to ask for feedback and be prepared hear the worst, and maybe feel pretty bad about it.
Feeling bad is natural when you get feedback that makes you think your book sucks, but your sense of failure isn’t what’s important, what’s important is how you handle it. Do we let the sense that we’ve failed take us down to a place from which we will never return, down to the dark depths of murky forest pool, or do we get ourselves up from the ground and carry on? If you want to be an author, you need to build resiliance, so you can not only rise above your sense of failure but also use it as a springboard to rise to greater heights.
That’s what I did.
As my husband wondered just what he could say about it to be most helpful, I realised that what I really wanted to know was whether or not the book was worth working on further, and even after he told me everything that was wrong with it, he did say it was worth carrying on with. I took that sliver of hope and worked on – for another three years – and eventually I succeeded in creating a quality book which has won two awards and been published by a US publisher.
That first lot of feedback wasn’t the last time I felt terrible about the book either, and I had 3 more books in the series, each with their own issues, but by the time I got to my 4th book, Eternal Destiny, I’d learned a lot and the writing process was a great deal easier. (I still love that book the best out of the series.)
I learned so much from my initial failure that these days I help authors to not make the same mistakes I did, and perhaps the most important piece of advice I can give is: after a fall, bounce back up and keep writing. Practice really does make it perfect.
Watch this video for inspiration.
I love this video, not just because of the man’s skill on the rope but also because of the visual meaning. This is visual theatre (the field I worked in before becoming a teacher, then author, then editor and publisher) where the imagery communicates on a level beyond words. Here, the man falls, but then he turns his falling into something beautiful and joyful before continuing on his path. It’s a wonderful analogy ( I love analogies – my books are full of them) of how we can use our falls to grow, how we can play with them rather than let them overwhelm us and drop us into a murky pool. And the violinist can be seen as the man’s soul, or psyche, or true self, or creativity, whatever you want to call that part of yourself that urges you to develop your full potential, the part that calls to you, encouraging you to drop what obscures it and manifest your greatness.
Clearly we can’t all bounce around on an elastic rope like this guy, but we can bounce back from our defeats, especially if we let the music of our true nature guide us, and that’s the point this video is making.
The trick is to see the fall in a positive light and find a way to turn it around so you can grow from the experience.
The following points relate not just to writing, but to everything in our life.
- learn from the fall – note what went wrong and decide how you will avoid the situation in future. Ask yourself what is the learning for you in the experience;
- see it from a different angle – perhaps it isn’t as bad as you think. Look for something positive and you will find it, even if it is just that you might be able to avoid a similar fall next time;
- remind yourself that you won’t always be feeling down; the down feeling will pass – right now it’s probably overwhelming, and you feel that it will always be that way, but all feelings pass eventually, and you will be able to move on.
- maybe find some way to salvage the situation, to remedy it to some extent.
- not dwell on it – the more we think about something, the more we stir up the feelings and keep them rising again and again. Make an effort not to go back there, to wherever the fall happened. Sure, contemplate on what went wrong as in point one, but then let it go. Tell yourself you’re moving on.
- treat it with a sense of humour – this is our best ally for bouncing back and keeping ourself out of the water of misery. I don’t necessarily mean laughing at something – though that is appropriate sometimes – I mean a light-hearted approach to life where you accept that falling is part of the deal of being human. It’s an ‘oh-look-at-what-life-has-thrown-at-me-now’ attitude, an attitude of curiosity and humour. When everything is going so wrong that you can’t believe it’s all happening to you, see the bizarre nature of it. That all this has come together and fallen on you now is bizarre, so bizarre that you can either cry or laugh. Choose to laugh.
Have you ever felt that maybe a book you write was terrible? How did you move on from that? Do you have any other strategies for bouncing back when you’re feeling down after a fall?
This is part of a series of blog posts on how to write a novel. It doesn’t just cover the technical details, but also the emotional journey we take and the personal challenges we meet on the road from potential author to author. Join the journey now, and don’t miss a post, click here to sign up to get my Novel Revision Checklist and links to the articles sent to your inbox.
If you’re an author check out my editing services.
You’ll also find my book on writing, The Elements of Active Prose: Writing Tips to Make Your Prose Shine, very helpful.
If you like stories with action, romance and a contemplative element, you’ll enjoy my fiction, so take a look in my bookshop before you go.
You can also follow me on all sorts of social media by clicking the buttons at the top of my website.