I just got the notes on my second manuscript back from Maz, my favorite test reader (she’s my fave cause she says nice things without asking for a bribe). I’m 40,000 words into my third book, so I’d forgotten all about that last one. It was amazing, flicking through 300 pages that I barely remembered writing (it’s not because I was Hemingway-intoxicated the whole time, I simply tend to focus on the present and forget the past until it makes an appearance).

Maz said, we (can’t forget to mention my co-writer husband) had “gained much more confidence as writers…. The writing felt freer and flowed a bit more naturally. I also got the sense you were having more fun with the whole process.” A reader can see all that in a book? Yikes! It feels like my soul really is laid bare, and I’m beginning to understand J.D. Salinger’s desire to hide his manuscripts in a cupboard somewhere.

That last manuscript was tons of fun to write, with a sassy heroine uncovering a mystery in a fantasy setting of my own devising. It makes me worry a bit about my current WIP, though. I’ve tried to push myself further, and sometimes I’m nervous about being able to meet my own expectations. I hope that won’t translate into writing that makes it seem I’m trying too hard? I don’t want the prose to feel forced, but I want to do the best I can to achieve that gleaming vision of the perfect book I see in my head.

When someone gets published (I don’t like to say ‘if’), they’ve often written five or six books before that. Or so I’ve read. Of course, there are some lucky people that make it their first time out. I’m beginning to think it’s all about confidence and finding your voice as a writer. Some do that quicker than others.

How about you? How many manuscripts do you have stashed away? How many did it take you to get published? If you’re unpublished, like me, have you found your voice yet? Do you feel confident and does that come out in your prose?

Thanks for reading! More posts on books, film, and writing can be found on my website at Lorel Clayton Author.

16 thoughts on “Confidence

  1. I wrote 3 or 4 manuscripts before landing on the one I’m currently trying to get published. I think it takes a lot of writing before you really learn how to write, you know?

  2. ” Maz, my favorite test reader (she’s my fave cause she says nice things without asking for a bribe)”

    I know you were just joking here, or at least I hope so, but as someone who works in the publishing industry, I must tell you that the main problem with 99% of all the writers is the lack of good test readers. Test readers must trash you and your book, they have to be objective, even harsh, straightforward, smart and opinionated. Otherwise you’ll just get what you want to hear and not what you need to hear :))

  3. The ms I’m currently working on is the first one I’ve written while thinking about publishing in the future. I’ve got a couple of “for me” stories that will never see the light of day 🙂

  4. Elizabeth–Glad to hear I can edit in that confidence later! Any of those half-completed manuscripts going to make it out of the graveyard someday?

    Alan–Five is what I’m aiming for (not that I wouldn’t mind selling one sooner), but I hope by then I will have learned enough to sound like a professional.

    Anne–I hope this book is the one that makes you a star 🙂 Good luck! I agree that you have to write to learn. I’ve tried to stretch myself with each book, and I’ve noticed improvements in different areas each time. Here’s hoping I get everything right soon.

    Dezmond–It is so true that you need a good, honest critique. I chose my test readers on certain criteria: 1) they’re not my friends, just acquaintances, so they’re not tempted to be overly nice; 2) they read alot of fiction; and 3)they have some grasp of grammar. I’ve been happy so far in the honesty of their comments. They point out the parts they like but aren’t afraid to go into what was weak or disappointed them, and they’re specific, which is a big help. Still, they’re not writers (aside from Maz, who writes freelance, local movie reviews, etc). I’m planning on joining a writer’s group or getting a professional critique of my current wip so I see what my readers overlooked.

    Jemi–I’ve got a few “for me” stories around too. Good luck with your current ms!

  5. Tabitha–I always cringe at my first drafts. It’s nice to see things improve in re-writing. So, you’ve revised dozens of times? Are you ready to send it out into the harsh world yet?

  6. Lorel- First, let me apologize for being absent for so long. I have been a bit absent from everyone’s blogs, so please don’t take offense. But I missed yours especially b/c I love your posts!

    Enough of that…I am not published and I am not afraid to say I have not found my voice. So far I have files and files of WIPs written in several different voices. First person funny, third person literary, first person tortured…You get the picture. I don’t know if confidence is what I lack so much as time and discipline. Time and discipline. Time and discipline.

    But I cannot imagine writing with my husband! Then again, my husband is not an artist, so you have that going for you. I hope to hear more about this current MS soon! Will we get to read snippets?


  7. Michele! Thanks so much for stopping by. Don’t worry, I haven’t taken offense. I find many wonderful links on your site, so I assume you’re out there exploring the blogosphere for the benefit of us all.

    I know what you mean about voice. I’ve done exactly the same thing, trying dark and serious or dark and funny…maybe dark is my voice? Every POV you write has to have its own voice that fits that character, but supposedly there is an author’s voice behind it all that only becomes apparent the more you do. You can’t control it; it’s just there. My fear is that I’m smothering it by trying too hard. I want to learn, though, so I’m hoping by book five, like Alan, I’ll have everything smoothed out. Fingers crossed.

    Post snippets from the new book? *Bashful look at the ground* This is where I need confidence! Ok. Next time I post, I’ll put up a few paragraphs. Oh no, I’ve said it and now I’ll have to do it!

    And I hope you find all the time and discipline you need, Michele. I know you have a lot to deal with. Good luck.

  8. I had to chuckle at your question: “A reader can see all that in a book?”

    Yes, editors and readers see a lot in others’ work. The flow of the story, syntax, an apparent ease of writing, or a struggle the writer might be having with a particular scene.

    That “second set of eyes” is of import for the obvious finding of errors, etc. But they also critique and look for the between the lines facets of a ms.

  9. Crystal–Glad I made you chuckle 🙂 I’m aware of flow, etc when I’m reading someone else’s work, but most of my life (not counting technical writing) I’ve written for myself, so I haven’t had outside readers until the last two manuscripts. I felt exposed, reminded of my shy elementary school days. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, just as I grew comfortable with public speaking, but it’s a shock at first.

    Michele–Looking forward to the post!

  10. I have one manuscript on the shelf and I’m working on my second. The difference between the two is light and day. I feel as if I found my voice, but now the question is do I have the story?

  11. DL– It’s amazing how much you learn from one manuscript to the next, isn’t it? Glad you feel good about your voice.
    It is hard to gauge whether or not you have “the” story. I try to write the story (out of all those ideas I’ve stockpiled in my notes) that moves me at the moment and which I think has enough substance to be stretched out into a novel.

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