A Peek Inside My Crazy Writing Head

Last week I sent in the page proofs for Absence of Alice the ninth Sarah Winston Garage Sale mystery and I’m writing the second Chole Jackson Sea Glass Saloon mystery—A Time to Swill. I get a little crazy when I’m writing — ask my family.

Every writer goes through a number of stages when writing – joy, despair, despair, despair, joy. Did I mention despair?

It starts with an idea. It’s a great idea. A fabulous idea. I am so freaking smart. Starting a new book is exciting. There are blank pages to fill–the idea to expand until it’s fully formed.

About a third of the way through I start to wonder why I thought the idea was a great one. It now just seems okay.

Halfway through I hate the idea. What was I thinking? It wasn’t a big enough idea. It’s not enough to carry a book. Worse, I think everyone has used this same idea.

Three quarters of the way through–I’m a fraud. Everyone is going to realize it when they read this book. I’m a terrible writer. The reviews will be scathing. They’ll say she had a good run, but this was bound to happen.

Near the end. Ooohh, that’s a good twist. No one will see it coming. I didn’t see it coming. Nope, that’s wrong. It’s too obvious. I have that big shiny clue in the middle of the book. I might as well have a neon sign pointing at it. All the reviews will mention how easy it was to figure out who was the killer.

I go through revisions and send it off to my editor. What if he hates it? What if he says I have to rewrite the whole thing. He doesn’t!

The copy edits arrive. I hate it. I love it. That line was brilliant. How did I write that awful paragraph? But I can fix it.

Page proofs arrive. It’s my very last chance to find errors. What if I miss something? I still have a love/hate relationship with the manuscript.

Advance reader copies go out. People like it. They laughed out loud. It made someone cry. Whew. Now on to the next book.

Readers: Do you doubt yourself when you are doing something creative?

39 Thoughts

  1. I think all writers go through this. Funny how the same manuscript can seem brilliant one day and terrible the next. You would think this process would get easier, but nope. Don’t listen to those voices in your head. I’m sure your latest is wonderful!

  2. Sherry, I’m at that 1/3 point right now and am having the same serious doubts. What was I thinking? I should ditch it and start all over. Yep. Every time.

    And I agree with Edith. It’ll be fine.

  3. Every time. I’m at the 1/3 mark with the current book and thinking, “I have no idea what I’m doing, this is awful.” Then I remember what Hallie Ephron said, “Just hold your nose and write.” It will all turn out fine.

  4. this sounds like what quilters go through. i know i do. especially when giving it away

  5. Most definitely! I think it’s human nature. However, I do think I’m the #1 doubter in myself or my abilities at times. Then I think about it and realize that by being so critical of myself that I make myself and what I do the best me there is. Nothing wrong with that!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  6. This all sounds familiar, Sherry! It happens with every form of growth, I think. As miserable as it can be sometimes I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  7. The perfect description of the writer’s life. There’s a point in every book where I turn to my husband and say, “Remind me again why I think I can do this. It stinks.” Liz, I’m going to have Hallie’s words embroidered on a sampler. I’d have them tattooed, but I’m chicken.

    1. I’m so happy that I’m not alone in all the crazy thoughts. Did that come out wrong? I’m sorry everyone else is going through this too?!

  8. I’m smiling big-time as I read this. It happens to me, even with short fiction.

    In your case, whatever your process, the result is always excellent, always! We, the fans, LUV your work. 🙂

  9. I doubt myself about accounting. Never mind anything creative. And I definitely doubt myself about anything athletic. Basically, I’m a fraud.

    So we can be frauds together. 🙂

      1. One of the things I’m a fraud at is ultimate Frisbee. I’m not that good at it, and I’m a slow runner.

  10. All I can say is, it must be worth it or you wouldn’t do it. And we readers are so glad that you do.

  11. Sherry, this is so true! I’m just at the stage of thinking about my next novel and I love that I don’t have to commit to writing anything yet 🙂

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