How I Overcame Writer’s Doubt and Saved the World

I am participating in the ‘Writing Contest: Overcoming Writer’s Doubt’ held by Positive Writer.

Show me a writer and I’ll show you doubt. Writers all over the world harbour all kinds of misgivings about their voice, the number of adverbs in their stories, the Flesch-Kincaid level of their writing and many other such seemingly trivial issues.

My writer’s doubt was a little different.

Around this time last year, I’d taken a stab at revamping my first novel. Revamping is a polite word – what I really mean is ‘rewriting’. A contest lurked on the horizon, which required 3 chapters and a synopsis. Of course, I didn’t have time to rewrite the whole manuscript but surely I could slap together the first few chapters and a summary, couldn’t I?

Indeed, I could. I still didn’t have a lot of time, but I kept my nose to the grindstone and churned them out. I grabbed my critique partners by their virtual collars and dashed the partial off to them, demanding snappy reviews be sent back ASAP. They obliged, and minutes before the deadline, I sneaked in my entry.

Of course, I didn’t win. I didn’t even place.

That’s when doubt, in all its might and glory, struck me. Now, my hesitation wasn’t the usual – “is my writing good enough” variety.

It was the mega-jumbo-super-mammoth version. The exact words in my mind were:

Do I even have the ability to tell a story?

At this point, I’d had around 4 published pieces in journals spread out over a few years. So when I asked myself this question, I assumed that the previous ones were flukes, and that now I needed to get down and prove that I can tell a story – coherently, succinctly, and for the reader’s general entertainment.

But how to do it? It’s easier said than done. It had taken me 2-3 years to complete each of my novels, by wresting the few free hours leftover after finishing my day job. If I set out to prove my writing chops via novels, I’d be around 80 by the time I had anything to show for my efforts.

So I had a brainwave, and opted for the shorter route. I decided to try my hand, once again, at polishing and publishing my stories.

This time, I pulled up my sleeves and stepped into the murky waters of plot and characterization and that bane of writers existence – literary writing. I read story collections, I collected them like fridge magnets and pored over stories that online journals were publishing, to get a feel of what works and what can be done better.

Then I did the only other thing left to do – write.

I wrote the stories. Then I polished them. I wrote some more, and polished some more.

Since making my ground-breaking decision, I have had 5 stories published in a span of 6 months.

I’m part of the Short Story Challenge, which means I’m sharpening my knives and polishing more stories. Literary journals online are, at this very moment, snowed down under mountains of submissions with my name on them.

I guess there’s only one conclusion to be drawn – I can tell a story! That, and even if I couldn’t, I’d die trying.

That’s how I overcame writer’s doubt and saved the world (from another frustrated suicidal writer). How about you? Do you have a story to share about overcoming doubt in any form?

The Author Training Manual

I am a huge fan of Alexis Grant since her Travelling Writer days, so when she launched The Write Life I subscribed immediately. 

The other day an article was posted on The Write Life which I found very useful, titled 5 Reasons You’re Not Ready to Self-Publish Your Book. I have been following the talk on self-publishing all over the internet, and this thought kept running through my mind – is it really as simple to self-publish as it was made out to be? And even if one could self-publish, surely achieving success in it would be difficult without some hard work. There must be some downsides to it, I thought. 

My questions were answered in this blog post

The post offered a prize of The Author Training Manual by Nina Amir to one commenter chosen at random. Now usually non-US folks are barred from such contests as the prize is mostly a print book which is mailed. To my pleasant surprise, however, it was mentioned here that an e-book would be sent to non-US winners. 

I dropped a comment anyway because I loved the post. A few days later, I got the great news from Heather at The Write Life that I had won the prize!

I am a quarter of the way through the book and it is chock full of advice that speaks to me. Among the many nuggets of wisdom, Nina Amir states one point that I think I need to work on – the Author Attitude. 

The Author Attitude encompasses a range of attributes that a writer must possess in order to get published – the willingness to learn continuously and put yourself out there, the tenacity to persist despite failures and obstacles, and to top it all, a sunny optimism to weather the storm. 

Read more about this in a detailed post by Nina Amir on Writer Unboxed

I am off to finish reading my prize!

We Submit, and We Submit

A submission party! Never even thought of that – I usually just have a submission party of my own, and definitely not the other kind mentioned in the post!

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

A guest post from Risa Polansky Shiman:

Young woman winkingWe call them Summer Submission Parties. Every two weeks, my MFA friends and I reserve a classroom from the English department. We spread out around the long, conference-style table in front of our respective laptops, armed with bottles of water and Fig Newtons and a community bag of almonds that we agree somehow taste like walnuts (walmonds). Someone writes each of our names on the big, white board at the front of the room, and we get started.

“So-and-so, I think XYZ Review would be a good fit for your stuff – check it out.”

“Guys! Such-and-Such Magazine is calling for experimental nonfiction!”

“Ugh. ANOTHER one that charges three dollars to submit. It’s not the money – it’s the principle.”

“Shoot. I just missed the submission period for Journal That Definitely Would Have Published My Piece Had It Been Accepting Submissions.”

You…

View original post 610 more words

The Interpreter of Stories

I was 19 when I first read the Interpreter of Maladies, shortly after it was published. At the time I did not properly understand, or indeed appreciate, many of the stories. The two that stayed with me, but didn’t receive much attention in reviews and discussions of the book, were ‘The Real Durwan’ and ‘Sexy’.

I remember reading ‘A Temporary Matter,’ the first story in the book, and feeling a touch of gloom, but overall it left me underwhelmed. My family and I were all crammed into a car, on a four-hour road trip. My sister was expecting at the time. The discussion turned to Jhumpa Lahiri and her book. I mentioned that I had started reading it, and had finished the first story. My father had read the book before me. When my sister asked what the story was about, I slipped her the one-line premise. My father, unseen by my sister, and strongly suspecting that I possessed the emotional intelligence of a raccoon, gripped my elbow, to stop me blurting out the underlying subject at the core of the story – a miscarriage. He needn’t have worried. I was 19 but not foolish.

As I prepare to write seven more short stories during the year, I am reading the masters to study what works and what doesn’t. I am especially dissecting the stories that resonated with me, made sense to me, and left me thinking about the characters long after I’d turned the last page.

In short, to become a better short-story writer, I have to become an Interpreter of Stories.

Most of Jhumpa Lahiri’s short stories fall into this category. Somehow her novels never tempted me, though Mira Nair made an amazing film out of her novel The Namesake. An excerpt of her latest novel The Lowland looks promising, but I haven’t got around to reading it yet.

In her second collection, Unaccustomed Earth, I enjoyed the stories of Hema and Kaushik that form the second half of the book, more than the unconnected stories in the first half.

The other story collections I’ve read recently are:

The Red Carpet by Lavanya Sankaran

Revolt of the Fish-eaters by Lopa Ghosh

Have you read any short-story collections lately?