It happens to us all sometimes.
We’re busy writing, then the moment we stop and glance back at the words we’ve just written, that sick feeling starts to creep in.
Because it’s rubbish: that prose we so carefully crafted isn’t as good as we had imagined.
We’ll never be published. We can taste failure.
It’s a horrible feeling to look at the work you’ve produced so painstakingly and doubt its quality. But it’s important to be able to distance yourself and look at your work rationally.
Take a step back
We all suffer from self-doubt or criticism at times. The best thing to do when they strike is to simply stop, walk away. Close your laptop or put down your pen and go and do something else. Allow yourself some space and a little perspective.
Come back to your writing when you’re feeling more positive.
You’ll probably find that it isn’t quite as heinous as you thought.
Learn to distinguish doubt from instinct
Sometimes you’ll hate your work because you’re having a bad day or you feel down in the dumps.
Sometimes you’ll hate your work because there is a genuine problem with it that you don’t know how to fix.
It’s really important to know how to identify the self-criticism that stems from an emotional place, from that arising out of instinct. Most writers know when something isn’t working in their novel, even if they can’t quite pin down what it is.
When you’re a new writer, it can be hard to trust your own instincts but if you can manage it, you’ll be able to deal with issues much faster.
Get someone else’s opinion
If you can’t shake the feeling that your work is no good, then ask a friend for their opinion.
But make sure you find the right person. Don’t ask someone who will blindly tell you that your book is amazing, even if it isn’t. Equally, don’t ask someone who will be brutally honest and crush your feelings, not to mention the desire to ever write again.
Find someone – preferably another writer – who will offer some honest but constructive criticism, including their thoughts on how you can improve.
Look back at old stories
Reading through some of the things you wrote in the past will highlight how far your writing has progressed.
You’ll be able to pick out previous mistakes and identify some of the flaws in your writing style. That can give you a fresh perspective on your current work in progress.
Take steps to improve
No matter how good a writer you are, you can always improve.
If you feel like you need to polish up on your skills, do something about it. Join a writer’s group or sign up for a course. Read books by your favourite authors and study their style. What can you learn from them?
Get hold of a couple of writing guides or search the internet for tips.
And most of all, practice.
Have you ever doubted your own writing skills? How did you get over that feeling?