Keeping the Faith (In Spite of All Contrary Evidence)

Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing. ~E. L. Doctorow

Painting of Thomas Paine writing at his desk by candle light.Writers Write, Right? So I’ve been remiss. For almost three months. Oh, I’ve dabbled, written a few posts and letters, etcetera. But I hadn’t composed any new prose since November—until last week. That’s when it hit me. I’ve been driving myself bonkers by avoiding actually writing. I’m not sure how many times I need to learn this lesson, but this was not the first time. Apparently I’m a slow learner.

As to how I came to renew the realization, suffice to say I found myself rewriting a chapter in book two that had been made redundant by book one revisions. The two days I spent doing the new chapter were amazing. I felt so alive—exhilarated even. I hadn’t had these particular characters in my head and my heart like that in a long while. But they sprang right back to life for me, their voices as clear as ever. I didn’t realize how I had been missing them. Finishing the scene was cathartic. I was quite moved, feeling like I was floating on the ether for hours afterward.

Writers Obsess, Right? Then, as with any great high, I came crashing down. Reviewing book two brought me back to reality. It still needs work. I still have my editor’s notes. A big job awaits me there, which is both exciting and daunting. Like many writers, I both love and hate my own work. I know I will never be singled out as a poetic or masterful wordsmith. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not without confidence. I will always strive to be a better writer. I love my characters and my story. I feel good about my world-building and characterization. I aspire to be an improved wordsmith and a great storyteller. And I’m persistent.

I’ve experienced my share of self-doubt. I’ve even written a post admitting to (okay, whining about) my occasional lack of faith in myself. If you asked me when I last felt insecure about my abilities as a writer, I’d probably ask you what time it was, so I could tell you in hours rather than days or weeks. I’ve lain awake in deep despair, trying to convince myself I should shelve the trilogy and move on. But I can’t do it. I can’t because I still believe in my story (me, not always so much, but the story, oh yes). I know in time the story will find its place in the world. How do I know? That’s what last week’s experience led me to ponder, and why I am writing this post.

The (Abundant) Contrary Evidence: I admire and respect Jane Friedman. I consider her a gift to writers. And she’s been very kind to me over the years. A few months ago, she wrote a wonderful post titled: How Long Should You Keep Trying to Get Published? In the article, she singles out first manuscript attempts as problematic. I’m seeking to publish my first. She also says: “A writer who has been working on the same manuscript for years and years—and has written nothing else—might be tragically stuck.” Um, years and years? Yeah, nine of them. There is a caveat in regards to my work, as I have four complete manuscripts, but they are all set in the same world, and I can even make a case that they’re all essentially part of one large story. As I said, I respect Jane, and suspect her observations here are most often correct.

I’ve also been told that my work is too long, that series books by debut authors are ill-advised, that I should’ve limited the number of POV characters, that historical fantasies set in an alternate Europe are passé, and that fantasy fans want a well-defined system of magic. I’m on the losing side of each of those issues. Clearly I have a lot to overcome when I submit. And yet I still believe, and persevere.

“We who make stories know that we tell lies for a living. But they are good lies that say true things, and we owe it to our readers to build them as best we can. Because somewhere out there is someone who needs that story. Someone who will grow up with a different landscape, who without that story will be a different person. And who with that story may have hope, or wisdom, or kindness, or comfort. And that is why we write.” ~Neil Gaiman

safeIn the Vault: Over the years I’ve carved a niche in my heart for my belief in my story. It’s a lockbox, hidden away from the world and, sometimes, from my own self-doubt. Neil’s quote sits nicely in that niche. I believe there is someone out there who needs my story. And that belief only gets stronger as I forge ahead. I know I must strive to make it the story it’s worthy of being—to make sure it gets through to that someone who needs it.

Writerly Debt: Neil says we owe it to our readers to build our stories the best we can. Two years ago, in the comments of one of her Writer Unboxed posts, I asked the aforementioned Ms. Friedman if there was a way to know if I should shelve the trilogy and move on. She was not only kind in her reply, but wise. She told me to ask myself not how long I’d worked on it, but whether or not I was still growing as a writer. I knew that I was. In the two years since, I’ve have endeavored to strengthen my story, and I know I’ve grown in the process.

It’s through this growth, and with the help and guidance of my mentors and fellow writers, I’ve come to recognize mine as good lies, and to see that they say true things. I know by continuing to persevere I can make them not just more seamless but more powerful, and that my truth will resonate all the clearer.

Hidden In Plain Sight: Only in pondering this post and writing it have I come to realize that my vaulted belief is rooted right there in my story. I have two MCs who must keep the faith. They are striving for something that seems such a distant hope, against seemingly insurmountable odds. My male protagonist fears he hasn’t enough courage to face his destiny, but—step by step, in spite of the ever increasing odds against success—he endures. And in doing so, he finds there is courage just in continuing to strive.

True Lies: My story is about finding courage you didn’t suspect you had, facing your fears, making difficult choices—choices that lead to sacrifices for a belief, and for love. And inPortrait of Vera Malytina, by Sergei Malyutin making those brave choices comes the knowledge that you can live with the consequences of your decisions, because you were true to yourself and to those you love and who love you. These are my good lies, my true things.

Yes, I’ve kept my belief locked away, but by sharing it with you here I take a small step toward finding my own courage. And I’ll need courage to persevere, and to deliver my story to the someone who needs it. Only if I am brave on the page will that someone find hope, or wisdom, or kindness, or comfort there.

Feeling brave? How do you keep the faith? 

Image credit: jgroup / 123RF Stock Photo

47 comments on “Keeping the Faith (In Spite of All Contrary Evidence)

  1. katmagendie says:

    Here’s what thoughts ran through my pea-head as I read your post:

    First, what do you want from your writing goals/life? If you think – and I use that word “think” because what sometimes or often happens is what we think we want changes when we get exactly what we want! – that you will be happy just having your books published and not feel a “failure” or not feel the pressure of PRESSURE to sell and make money, but would be truly — see above “think” thought — happy just knowing someone is reading your books, well, then, all the points you made are moot because you can finish the books with freedom and if you choose, even publish them yourself. Figuring out what you “think” you want can give you direction.

    Second, my first published book was book 1 of three books and long – it was way too long at 141,000 and I fought against that – didn’t want to delete, but delete I did, and still, at publishing time TG was at 107,000, the next book, SG, at 99,000, and the final book, FG, at 90,000. However! I wrote the first book as if it would stand alone, as if the others would never be published, because I didn’t know if they would. I didn’t want to be stuck on a trilogy in the case that’s not what would be published. I queried for what would become Tender Graces only – I did say it had the potential to be three books, but TG stands alone. The problem with trilogies, in the publishers/agent’s minds is “What if the first book doesn’t sell well? And we are then ‘stuck’ with two more books? what then?”

    Third, anything that stops us from writing must be banned from our thoughts so that we can do what we love. If we do not do what we love, then we are not happy, we are not who we most want to be. We have to be true to ourselves first. That said, if we want to sell books, sometimes we have to step outside of ourselves – this is the War – this is the Battle.

    Last, while working on TG, I also wrote Sweetie — having that other work under my belt is something I’m glad I did. I wrote some bad short stories, too, and a few really awful poems. Stepping outside the work and writing something else does help – it does.

    And last-last of all – give yourself a break. A big one.


    • I was hoping this post wouldn’t come across as either me being whiny again or boastful. It was a fine line. Reading your comment, Kat, makes me wonder if I failed. And I absolutely know I need to evaluate my goals, so I have, in this post last month:

      Not that I would ever ask you to read another (long, as usual) post. Let me summarize. I’m not driven by selling books per se, but I know in order to pursue traditional publication, I need to be marketable. As you aptly describe, this is The Battle. And I know you, my friend, are a seasoned vet of that fight. So thanks.

      As to why I continue to strive for a trad deal, it’s the only way I know to make sure I’m not just shouting in the wind. I finished a draft of my trilogy in June of ’09. In the fall of ’10, I almost self-pubbed it. I look back on what would’ve gone out then, and I’m very glad I didn’t. The work has come a long, long way since. So then the question becomes: when is enough enough? When is it ready? I decided to use the trad publishing vetting process as my yardstick. That may change. For now, I am very fortunate in having some great mentors offering me guidance. These things take time, however. Part of my battle has to do with patience, and looking outside of myself.

      Starting another, unrelated project is something I’ve considered. And I think it might be a good idea. And my wife has been kind enough to offer me a few remodeling projects, you know, to keep my pea-brain from fretting away during the process. But as I say here, I do realize I must write to be happy. Pea-brains have to be whacked sometimes to remember lessons learned.

      Thanks for sharing your experience and wisdom, Kat. (BTW, my book one went from 180K to 125K in the last two years–tough love). I really do appreciate you. 🙂 And I will give myself a break. This was supposed to be a positive self-affirmation, hopefully helpful to others who might struggle with keeping the faith. Sorry if it came off differently.


      • katmagendie says:

        You never whine! Now it’s my comment that’s maybe not taken as intended 😀 — I was hoping to be encouraging and sympathetic and empathetic – *laugh*!
        Because I understand – oh boy do I — lawd lawd do I!


      • I think we were both headed toward the same destination so fast that we bumped our pea-heads together in the middle when we met. 🙂 You can never do anyting but encourage and inspire me, Kat! Honestly, you are such a bright light in my writerly world. Thank you, thank you! 🙂


  2. MarinaSofia says:

    Wonderfully brave and deep self-reflection – thank you for sharing. I am sure many of us can relate to this.


  3. Aw, thanks for the mention here, Vaughn. Your post underlines what I think is the biggest truth of the writing life: The battle is mostly psychological.


    • Ah, my zen-guru mentor, I’m honored. 🙂 Obviously your wise reply two years ago stuck with me, and has sustained me through a few tough spells. For the record, your post cited here gave me more positives than the two negatives I mention. Regarding the Ira Glass ‘taste/skill gap,’ I do recognize that mine is closing. Thanks for everything, Jane!


  4. vpchandler says:

    Your post doesn’t seem whiny to me. In fact, it really spoke to me. This is exactly what I’m dealing with too. I need to finish my story I’m working on, but every now and then I get a flash of an idea about something else. It’s so fun to flesh out a background of a new character or briefly write about something else. For me, it makes me feel like I’m using “muscles” that I haven’t used in awhile.

    I also have people asking me about some of my music, “When will the final version be ready? Do you have a copyright on it yet? We would like to perform it.” So I’m going back and forth between the writing and the music.

    Kathryn mentions that we should ban stuff from our lives that keeps us from writing. I’m come to the revelation that I watch too much TV. Yes, I’m slooow to come to the realization, but TV (and Facebook) seem to rule my life. The other day I thought, “Wow, if all those hours I spent watching TV had been spent writing, who knows what I could have accomplished!” I’m addicted.

    So this post really speaks to me today! I’m making changes, and I have faith I’ll get my stories done and I’ll get my music done. It will be a long road, lots of writing and rewriting, but I must do it. I can’t imagine going through my life with all of these things bottled up inside of me.


    • Oh good, I’m glad I’m not sounding whiny again. It must be tough to go back and forth between music and writing fiction, but I know you have abundant talent. Now all you need to do is ramp up your discipline–piece of cake (do they have TV lockouts, like they do for the internet?). I’m sort of relieved I don’t like daytime TV. However, FB is another subject. That’s tough, not just because of our gig at WU, but because it’s where I connect with so many friends.

      Let’s both ramp up our discipline, and flex those flabby writing muscles, okay? I have faith, too! I’m really glad the post spoke to you, Valerie! Thanks for letting me know. 🙂


  5. liz says:

    This is lovely, Vaughn — perfect reading for a cold, rainy, not-quite-spring day.


    • We got a foot of snow yesterday! Not-quite-spring indeed. 😉 But you know what, a dark snowy day was the perfect weather to wrestle my swirling thoughts into this post. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Liz!


  6. sugaropal says:

    Great post as always! I believe it was just last week I was blogging about believing in oneself. The more I hear about your work the more amazing it sounds. I hope to see it out in the world SOON!


    • First the winter post, now this – I gotta quit stealing from you, Rhiann. 😉 Seriously, you started the old creaky wheels a-turnin’. Thanks so much, for the inspiration, and for your kind words. 🙂


  7. deedetarsio says:

    ‘Cause I gotta have faith-a-faith-a-faith . . . (No charge for the earworm!) Sometimes it helps me not to have faith and move on-dot-org to stop obsessing. Remodeling projects and watching loads of TV (especially DIY shows!) help my pea brain recalibrate. (Obviously, I’m still not doing it right!)


    • Well, I guess it would be nice… To not have George in my head, but better than running into him in the men’s room, I suppose. Stripping floors and re-grouting tubs has helped, but getting back to the actual thang was a pretty amazing revelation. (I disagree, whatever you’re doing is sooo right. If lovin’ your work is wrong, I don’t wanna be right. Ear-worm payback!)


  8. ddfalvo says:

    I love that Neil Gaiman quote. He has a gift for plucking the “write” chords that resonate, eh?

    So do you.

    “The vault” is a lovely metaphor. Mine would need strong walls to thwart doubt, and plenty of padding for the bruising knocks. Maybe a glass top because nothing grows in a vacuum and our dreams need to grow. The key must be made in a way that it will never be lost, even if we are. The vault must expand with our hope and shine bright despite the darkness of fear. And the lock must hold fast against even our own plundering that diminishes value.

    I was emailing Lara last night and we were talking about how, as writers, we learn and learn and then go on to make new mistakes. That’s the point, right? The journey is an evolution, not a final destination. We grow with each revision, honing our rough diamonds until the facets sparkle with a dazzling array we can no longer keep hidden.

    We got 9″ of snow! I walked around as it fell. No one was out. The air was so still that my thoughts walked beside me, undisturbed. No distractions. I wish life always felt that clear. The vault is a great place for the times it isn’t. 😀

    Keep it secret; keep it safe.


    • Such a lovely enhancement of the metaphor, D! And that key – damn I’m forgetful. I am constantly losing the thing. I need your ‘never lost’ key. Maybe a ‘faith clapper?’ You know, “Clap on, clap off–have faith.” Something like that.

      I am finding the evolution so amazing. Every time I think I’ve arrived at some level of understanding, new heights sprout up before me. But I’m still up for the climb.

      Your comments are the multi-faceted gems, D! I love the muffled silence of a snow like last night’s. Belle and I were outside, too. We didn’t walk after dark, but clear is a good description. It’s amazing.

      And leaving me with Gandalf – Brilliant! Thanks so much!


  9. “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

    I think Maugham’s sentiment goes doubly and more so when it comes to the *rules* of what people want in fiction, fantasy or otherwise

    “I’ve also been told that my work is too long, that series books by debut authors are ill-advised, that I should’ve limited the number of POV characters, that historical fantasies set in an alternate Europe are passé, and that fantasy fans want a well-defined system of magic. I’m on the losing side of each of those issues. Clearly I have a lot to overcome when I submit. And yet I still believe, and persevere”

    People say a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff they say, contradicts a lot of stuff they said yesterday, and it also contradicts a lot of stuff they’ll say tomorrow. The only valid opinion you should pay attention to in that paragraph quoted above is the last line, the one written by you.


    • I’m so glad I started and wrote most of my first draft not knowing a thing. I see new writers willingly putting themselves in a harness and chomping at someone else’s random bit. There’s no way for me to tell them they should just fly in blind as I did. Especially since it’s taking me so long to bring my wild colt back under reign. But that did give me the freedom to soar at the whim of mind and muse. I’m grateful I was so naive, and unrushed (then). As I’ve said here, I struggle with patience, but so many of the new writers I see on the WU page are in such a damn hurry! They want it done and out there, immediately or sooner. We all want to be read, but what Denise says above is so true–it’s such a beautiful unfolding journey, and an evolution.

      Thanks for Somerset’s wonderful reminder, B! I’ll try to remember (without ongong whacks to my pea-head 😉 ).


      • I love what Denise said about the journey being an evolution, not a destination. And, I agree with you about the flying blind bit. I was like that too with my first novel. I’m now working hard to capture that energy that comes with writing from the heart and not the head in the first draft of my current WIP..It’s funny how a little knowledge can be so dangerous to creativity. If one is limited by the facts with no inkling of how large and diverse the parameters surrounding those facts are…. One of my favorite quotes is Picasso’s “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Keep trailblazing Vaughn. It’s the trailblazers that own tomorrow..


      • Another great quote! Thanks, Bernadette! You are a treasured friend. 🙂


  10. Story Addict says:

    Such an epic post with so many wise words, Vaughn. Thank you for this because I’ve also had my share of doubt and have hung on the edge of “giving up.” Not so much giving up writing as giving in to reality. And, you’re right, in order to keep on writing we actually do have to lie to ourselves. No other way that story’s gonna get written unless we believe it needs to be told and that it will speak to someone other than ourselves.

    The only reason I still have faith is because of how much I have already invested, and as your writer friend so wisely put, how much I have grown from it. And I know I will keep growing because I have many more challenges to face. Unfortunately my challenges are a 5-novel series, lol, which I colossally brought on myself. But I know you write epic fantasy and those books can get pretty thick, so I’m roughly in the same neighborhood as you, my friend.

    Best wishes to us both, Vaughn. I definitely hope for much success.


    • I’m glad the post resonated for you, Margaret. Speaking of hanging on the edge of giving up, Robin LaFevers wrote a great post over on WU last summer, and touched on the subject of being pushed beyond that point. She says it’s not only natural, but an essential step in our evolution as writers. It’s a wonderful post, in so many ways pertinent to this conversation. Here’s a link:

      My wife just spoke your wise words to me recently (on one of my ‘dark days’). She told me I can’t turn back now–that I have so much invested in this (almost ten years), and that not only would it be unfair to me, but to future readers as well. Great minds, you and her. 😉

      Yes, my epic fantasies lean to the thick side–all but the first weigh in at over 150K. But isn’t series writing wonderful? The week I typed the words ‘The End’ on my book three first draft, my mind was formulating the next steps for my world, featuring the progeny of my current characters. I still take notes on that story to come, and I will write it, even if it’s as a ‘retirement hobby.’ 😉 That brewing story is part of my issue with patience.

      Yes, best wishes to us both, Margaret! Much success, indeed! Cheers! 🙂


      • Story Addict says:

        Thanks for the share, Vaughn! I’ll be sure to read it. I’m glad you’ve got someone who encourages you. Sometimes those few golden people are all it takes to keep us going. Series are amazing to write, no matter how much commitment they take. So long as you’re in love with the characters and the story, that’s all that matters 🙂


      • You’re right, it’s the love of my characters and story that give me resolve to forge on. Thanks again, Margaret!


  11. I think many of us . . . artists, writers, photographers etc are plagued by the pendulum of self doubt and confidence. When to perserve and when to take stock call it a day. I’m not a writer but I believe that if you still feel a strong connection to whatever it is your working on then you owe it to yourself to keep going. Sounds as though your writing has grown as you have grown. Best of luck.


  12. How would I have *you* keep the faith? (I know that’s not what you asked, but I’d like to address it first, if that’s okay.) I’d dispute this part of your title: In Spite of All Contrary Evidence. One must be skeptical of the evidence-presenters, for they are only mortal and can get it terribly wrong. NaNoWriMo isn’t supposed to produce good literature? Tell that to Sarah Gruen. First-completed books never sell? Tell that to Erin Morgenstern. And so on.

    My personal way of keeping on? I recognize the chance of being commercially successful is about as good as being struck by lightening, even with publisher support. So I do two things: get a kite and fly it in thunderstorms (or prepare to do so). Tell myself success is binary. Did I do one thing that made me happy about the process today? Write a good sentence, get an insight about a character, write a passage I know will make my daughter laugh? If the answer is yes, then it’s a win regardless of what else happens. If I stop winning altogether for long periods, or find more pleasure in other pursuits, then I suppose I’d quit. But I’m not there yet.


    • I do share your skepticism of the evidence-presenters, and I keep that locked up in the vault, too. I can talk about everything arrayed against me because I know that healthy skepticism is there, cozy in the niche. But thanks for the great examples. They are heartening–just as are Patrick Rothfuss and others in my own genre for the ‘too long’ and ‘no-series for debuts’ hurdles I reference.

      I love your ‘binary success’ concept, Jan! That rewritten chapter really did give me a strong feeling of success. I needed it just then, too. And I am forging ahead with the book two rewrite, in spite of the limbo with book one you and I have discussed. Per your final scenario above, I’m not there yet, either, my friend. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. Onward! 🙂


  13. It seems to me that self-doubt is a writer’s occupational hazard. Having faith in your story is, to me, the most important thing. Not because someone else said it was good or worthy, but because you believe it is. I’ve suspected for a while that the general reader is a lot less wrapped up in a story being a first written work, or being crafted according to the rule-makers (under a certain number of words, etc…) or any of those things that writers use to qualify their story as good or worthy. They like stories. They like good writing. They want to be whisked away. If your story does that, then there’s a good chance people will like it and want to read it. Keep your faith. You will find a reader, or many readers, but only if you continue to be your stories advocate.


    • I totally agree it’s an occupational hazard–good observation, Lara. I have faith, but it’s still so fleeting and precious to me that I keep it close to my heart. I want to share, but I’m still just a bit gunshy. I know it can still be better. It’s a tricky thing, relying on others to know if it’s worthy of setting it out there. I’ve had just enough beta failure, from readers I’d high hopes to whisk away… and they weren’t. I’m more concerned about them than all the so-called experts put together. I really only list the ‘black marks’ against me to raise the point that “even I can have faith’ for the writers out there who will have much less to fret over. I’ve also had a lot of successes with my betas, but I want to raise those odds. And my gut tells me I still can. Does that make sense?

      Having said all that, I SO admire your courage and your decsion to move ahead. You’re braver than I am. I’m very proud of you, and I know you’ve got a long and successful career ahead of you. We’ll both find our right readers. I know you already are. Thanks for sharing and for your encouragement! 🙂


      • Did you see my typo! Ergh.

        I think Denise might have told me the occupational hazard line when I was having self-confidence issues, the more I think about it. Don’t want to take credit where I wasn’t the original source. 🙂

        You make total sense. You are your best judge. I think we (the writers) have to be emotionally ready to turn the story over to the cold world, and to be emotionally ready we have to be convinced the story is good enough. I know – I said the two words editors and agents frown mightily at. But perfection doesn’t exist. Only you can know when it’s as good as you can get it, and have the best chance of hooking as many readers as possible (because we can’t please everybody). If we let go of the story before then, well – that opens up a big can of regret if things don’t turn out as we’d hoped.Then the self-doubt can have a field day! Advocating for your story includes not sending it out or publishing it if you don’t believe it yourself, even if other people tell you they think it’s ready. You have to go with your gut. 🙂

        Thank you for being so kind and saying such nice things. I’ve told Denise I think you and she are both incredible writers (although I’ve never read your fiction). It means a lot to me that you are proud and think I can have a writing career.


      • What? I steal from Denise all the time… Is that not okay? 😉 She’s a wonder, isn’t she?

        Thanks for understanding. And I totally agree and understand about ‘good enough.’ It’s absolutely true that you can’t please everyone. And I’m often very surprised by who I can please and who I can’t. That’s why I just want to tip those scales just a bit further. I do believe my gut will tell me when to say ‘go.’

        Of course I believe in you. How could I not? You. Are. Awesome! 🙂


  14. Hang in there, Vaughn. I know that you know we are simpatico on this subject!


  15. I should post this post on my wall and read it each day. It comforted me greatly to hear someone else express the same fears and self-doubts that I wrestle with most days. You’re to be commended for being brave enough to put yourself out there and to admit what some might call flaws, but I call self-awareness and character building (your own). Bravo! I, too, have long been toiling on a first fantasy novel and the biggest reason for my having to edit (yet again) is that my ability grows with each draft. It’s frustrating, but it’s also rewarding. In the end, I’d rather be a poor writer than successful at anything else. I loved this post. Thank you for sharing.


    • “It’s frustrating, but it’s also rewarding.”–So true!

      “In the end, I’d rather be a poor writer than successful at anything else.” Amen.

      I love your comment right back, Christina! Thank you so much!


  16. Nicole L. Bates says:

    Sorry it took so long to respond, but I made it! I love this post, and so much of it resonates with me. I recently finished a rewrite of Empyrean (I may even have to change the title-eek). Even though I really didn’t want to do it at first, I’m so glad that I did. The story is better, I’m excited about it again, and as you talked about growing as a writer- I have learned so much since I first scratched out my first rough draft that I knew sections of the story didn’t cut it, I was just so tired of editing the same words over and over. The rewrite has breathed new life into the story. So, I’m still plugging away, and I try to write new material as often as possible, to keep practicing and to stay excited about writing because, as you know, the process can be arduous.

    I love the Neil Gaiman quote and I think you are so wise to hold on to the belief that there is someone, most likely many someones, out there who will be forever changed by your story!


    • Absolutely no worries on when you arrive. I’m glad to see you whenever I can, my friend! 🙂

      Oh, titles. I hold my fear that some editor will want to change my titles somewhere inside me, too. It’d be tough, but I know I must stay open to change. Isn’t it amazing. Before this last major rewrite, I knew I was just rearranging the pillows and dusting the table-tops, rather than the heavy-lifting that was needed. I was sick of it, too. When I actually tackled it, the process was so much more rewarding than what I’d been doing. In the last Don Maass book, he says we have to be attack our manuscripts like a potter attacks a lump of clay on the wheel, really getting dirty, really shaping and molding it, bending it to our will. I realize now I may not be done yet. Which is daunting, but now I can see that it’s exciting as well.

      Thank you for your kind words about Neil’s quote. I have the exact same sense about your story! 🙂 Have a great weekend, Nicole!


  17. “Like many writers, I both love and hate my own work.” Ah, once again Vaughn, I feel like we are traveling the same path, rocks and all. I know this is a common sentiment for writers. I definitely go through it, daily! (I love your line about writerly doubt in terms of hours, not days. Yes, yes, yes.)

    I also adore Jane Friedman, and I’ve read her suggestions on when to shelve that first book. And I’ve thought about it — actually, not so much about shelving it as, um, shredding, burning and then drowning it. I like extremes. But I’m not done with this story yet. It’s not done with me. It’s one thing to tinker with a book over the years — add a phrase, change a loop. It’s another thing to radically revision, to be committed to getting that story, those truths, out right. I’ve always felt that you were doing the latter, remaking the story, making it better. Those manuscripts are not the same manuscripts you had nine years ago. They are different books. The story is at the root, the heart, but the books? They changed with you. They aren’t your first books anymore. Does that make sense?

    I’m probably speaking to myself as much as to you! But, anyway, I need your books, that story. Keep writing. I will too.


    • Are you my literary guardian angel, Lisa? Wow, I needed this today. In just the week or so since I wrote this, I’ve already stumbled back into a period of intense doubt. But you’re right, it’s no longer tinkering. I think for about the first year or so after I finished, that was all I was doing. But for the past few years they are undergoing major revision. They *are* different books. Thank you for reminding me.

      I need your book, too! So it’s a deal, we’ll both keep forging ahead. Thank you for being my literary guardian angel today, my friend! 🙂


      • I think we must fill that role for each other because, I swear, when I am closest to burning the whole thing, you write a post that makes me blow out the match! We’ll keep forging on . . . Thanks Vaughn!


  18. arogers907 says:

    Thank you for this post, Vaughn.

    … I have a lot to think about.


    • We all go through it. I think one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned on this journey is patience (and I’m still learning it). Hang in there, Andy. Also, be kind to yourself. Glad the post resonated.


  19. Reblogged this on jmledwellwrites and commented:
    We need to believe not hang it up.

    Liked by 1 person

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