Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Writer's Wednesday - When The Doubt Fairy Knocks

The Pink Heart Society is delighted to welcome Amanda Cinelli, the 2014 winner of So You Think You Can Write, as she talks about drafting, doubt, and writer's pride...
It’s late at night and you are twenty thousand words deep. Suddenly, what began as your best idea yet has somehow become a mess of plot holes and wandering dialogue. You know the type:
“Hello, Lucas,” said Emily. 
“Oh Emily, it’s you,” said Lucas, setting his whiskey down on the table.
“What are you doing here?” Emily whispered. 
Lucas froze, a crease furrowing his brow. “I… have no idea.”
This kind of bland pointless speech was littered across my first manuscript. The kind of passages that make you roll your eyes and think- get to the point!

For me, this is when the doubt fairies swoop into my office and attack. “Why are you even bothering?” They scream. “Who on earth is going to read that junk?”

The insults come firing down, exploding on contact. “Delete it! Delete it all!”

The temptation to just give in and erase all of that hard work in a fit of pique is one not easily ignored. My debut novel, Resisting the Sicilian Playboy, almost ended up in my recycle bin.

In fact, I’m lying. It did.
I began that first novel three years ago and I entered the 2012 So You Think You Can Write competition. When my entry resulted in a letter of interest from a Harlequin editor I was over the moon. I sat down and got to work finishing the manuscript to send off.

But then something happened.

I started to question my story, my characters. They weren’t strong enough, they didn’t have enough motivation. Once I began the questioning, I couldn’t stop.

And guess what? The more I questioned myself, the worse that manuscript looked.

You see that’s how doubt works. It starts as one single negative thought, then it festers and grows until it becomes all that you can think about. You forget about all of the wonderful things that you planned to accomplish with your story. Those wonderful vibrant sparks of creativity are stamped on, their light extinguished by the dark icy grip of fear.
Fear and self-doubt are inevitably intertwined. When we fear rejection, we doubt that we are worthy of acceptance. If we fear failure, we doubt the possibility of succeeding.

If we fear judgement, we begin to doubt that our talent as writers could ever withstand it.

I remember sitting at my computer and gradually deleting passage after passage of text. Before I knew it, I had erased half of my manuscript and the words stopped flowing.
The creative heart of that story was killed because I stopped believing in my idea. And therefore I stopped believing in myself. I let those doubt fairies set up a cozy residence in my head and I began believing all of the awful, negative things they said.

I didn’t write a single word for almost two years.

But then last year something changed. I became a mother and I started to believe in myself again. I started to listen to my inner voice and I realized that I still had that story waiting to be told.

I entered the competition again and this time, guess what? I progressed to the finals. The more validation I received for my entry, the more I began to believe it. I talked myself up, I told people about my writing. But most importantly- I told myself that I was talented. And that I was going to get that story published no matter what.

And then I won. And it was so surreal and crazy. Being chosen as the winner was kind of the ultimate confidence boost. Like a little medallion that I hold tight to my chest whenever the doubt sets in.

I think essentially it all comes down to a choice. Listen to those negative thoughts, or focus on the positive.

So maybe next time those doubt fairies swoop into your office, grab a trusty ol’ can of Writer’s Pride and spray them into oblivion!

Have you ever had doubt overcome you?  How do you combat it?

Amanda's competition-winning novel, Resisting the Sicilian Playboy, is out now:

Suave, sensual and utterly scandalous…

Leo Valente is as notorious as the tabloids make him out to be. But feisty wedding planner Dara Devlin isn't deterred; she needs his family estate for her top client, so boldly accepts Leo's outrageous challenge to be his fake girlfriend!

If Dara thinks her sensible suit and unwavering professionalism will discourage him she's mistaken. They only make Leo want to get beneath her buttoned up exterior all the more!

Surrounded by the imposing walls and haunting memories of his opulent Sicilian castello, seducing Dara is the perfect diversion and claiming her will be this playboy's ultimate prize.

Amanda Cinelli was raised in a wonderfully large Irish/ Italian family in the suburbs of Dublin. Now married with a daughter of her own, she splits her time between changing nappies, writing love stories and studying psychology.  For more about Amanda, follow her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. I think I'm heading down this road right now. I had an idea for a romance last year. I read every romance I could get my hands on and reverse engineered the formula, then worked on my novel, which I completed a few months ago. THEN I discovered all these wonderful online classes to help hone your romance-writing skills and now--my manuscript does not look the same as it did when I first sent it to my critique partner, nor after she sent sent it back with her suggestions. I do think I've improved on it based on what I've learned, but I still have so many doubts that I didn't "do it right". For example, I have flashback scenes--short ones that I do think are necessary to the story. But all I kept hearing in one class was how you should NEVER use flashbacks, that agents hate them, editors hate them, etc. etc. I wonder if I have too many secondary characters, haven't fleshed out the motivation, not enough heat or too much heat--the list is endless. So--I hear what you're saying, I completely relate. How do I overcome them? I haven't permanently yet, but I do have my moments. :)

  2. First of all- Well done on finishing the story. Most people tend to underestimate the enormous achievement in simply hitting the end on a manuscript. And secondly, I think the question of flashbacks and secondary characters depends heavily on what genre and line you are writing for. As an example, my line is short at 50k words so secondary characters are kept very minimal in order to focus on the love story between the hero and heroine. I think flashbacks can always be done effectively once they are vital to the story. You can always try to express the same backstory through dialogue or narrative and see if you prefer it. You never know until you try.