I think this often. Other writers think this often. Your story requires a lot of things to come to life: strong writing, a concept, characters, a plot, details. How do you bring these many shifting pieces together and make something coherent. Further, how do you make a single, unified purpose run through the subplots and main plot and character dialogue and action?
I believe in my story in the beginning. I believe in it when I’m sitting on the couch at two in the morning watching one of my favorite movies and dreaming about the perfect coherent plot. I believe in it when I’m daydreaming at work. I believe in it when I’m thinking about my favorite new character as I’m examining a lime in the grocery store.
I believe in it. Then I see my message in another story, and I know it’s better than I can make it. I doubt my story, I doubt myself, I doubt my passion and ability and style. I know deep down I can’t make the next Harry Potter, I can’t create something as epic as The Lord of the Rings, I can’t make something as beloved and timeless as Star Wars. I think to myself that I’d be happy with a story that even made people think a little bit about one thing, even if it only lasted a day or two. But how can I even accomplish that?
And now I’ve already forgotten. What was my message? Did I lose it in the last twenty thousand words? In the last fifty thousand? Why are my characters so stale? Why is the plot so bland? Why is the action so dull?
Do it anyway. Write.
Yeah I know I’ve said this before, it’s more motivation. So what? It bears repeating. Write and write and write. Sleep. Go make some money. Hang with a friend. Watch a movie. Write. Write and write.
But you need intention, discipline, routine. You don’t believe in your story after the first month of writing it. Do you give up? No. Fine, you doubt it, but do you really want to cultivate a habit of failure in yourself? Finish the damn manuscript! You’re the one thinking about it all the time! You’re the one letting it become stale! Keep going!
You need to make yourself proud as a storyteller. You need to feel a sense of accomplishment in your works. Okay, so many you have new ideas and your next project is begging to be started. Add those ideas to your current novel! Stir things up! You can do ANYTHING in your novel! Be creative and add something wild! There are a million dry stories about daily life out there. Make your story something new and different and bizarre. Add character to your routine.
Solidify in your mind that you will finish a manuscript, at least one. Yeah, the writing process doesn’t end when you’ve finished writing. It actually gets more difficult. That’s why you need to persevere now. Artists have to have thick skin, and yes, that sucks. You have to be your biggest cheerleader, and yes, that sucks. You have to be excited about things alone and cry about things alone because no one else is going to understand the story running through your head. Until you finish that fucker and the world loves you for it. Hopefully.
Here’s the other kicker: your story might be brilliant, and you might not find out for a long, long time. How many times have you picked up a new, amazing novel only to discover that it was published before you were born? Before your parents were born? Are you going to find that author and tell them you loved the book? Are you going to make sure the money spent on the novel went to the author? No, you aren’t. Just like people aren’t going to do for you. As an author you have to live with the fact that the majority of people who read your novel will never come into contact with you. If you’ve already finished something, someone could be raving about it right now, and you don’t know. Yeah, it adds another layer to the loneliness, but it’s a part of that whole ‘thicker skin’ thing. Keep writing.
You are building your name and existence into a product, a living portfolio. Keep working. That novel that you did that only got three out of five stars? Someone loved it enough to give it a six and someone hated it enough to give it a one. They are both wrong, they are both right. Keep writing. Work on your next novel. Paint a picture. Write poetry. Make a song. Work on your next short story collection. Make a graphic novel. Write. Write and write.
“I don’t believe in my story.” “I don’t believe in myself.” Well, you’re not alone. And you are. But keep going because someone out there believes in you and to be honest, your story and your work is probably a hell of a lot better than you give it credit.