Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tuesday Talk time: Stoning the Crows of Doubt by Michelle Styles

PHS Editor and Harlequin Historical author Michelle Styles talks about dealing with doubts , writing and how to banish the Crows.

Every writer suffers from the Crows of Doubt. They are the little voice which comes and lands on your shoulder two seconds after you press send on your latest manuscript, squawking that it is a load of rubbish and why  do you bother. Sometimes the Crows will speak in the voice of some long forgotten teacher who ripped an early essay or other piece of writing to shreds. Or perhaps one of your parents from back when you were a teen and you did something very stupid.
 However they speak and whatever they say, the Crows are horrible.   There are reasons why the image of something black and noisy works for these doubts.
At their very worst they drown out all pleasure and sap your confidence. They can be the start of Writer’s Block as you start to second guess your words. And rather than Just Writing, you agonise over each and every word. Your word count plummets and  the deadline which seemed so doable when you signed that contract, becomes a distant memory. Or you put aside that manuscript and start another one until your computer becomes a graveyard for unfinished ideas.
Every writer suffers from the Crows of Doubt. It goes with the territory. Writers are naturally introspective people and they have vivid imaginations.
So how can you prevent the caws from the Crows growing loud and drowning out productivity?
 The Crows of Doubt are little messages of self-hate and should be seen as the imposters they are.
First realise that chocolate doesn’t help. It taste great but it doesn’t actually solve the problem. And ultimately it doesn't make the sound of the Crows decrease.
 I have been there and done it. Exercise on the other hand does help as it releases tension and puts endorphins into your system.  Endorphins inspire creativity. I also find that exercise allows my muse a chance to work. I am focused on other things and my muse can mulll over problem without the Crows butting in.
Second, if you are published author, keep a Scrapbook of Success. In that scrap book put all and any emails, tweets, Facebook messages from people who loved your books. Yes print them out. If you store them on your computer, you will be tempted to delete them. If you get a great review, then print that out as well. If you have a bad review, don’t print out. Actually don’t look at it again. Just tell yourself that you did not write that book for that person. And that review has no business in your Scrapbook of Success. When you get an act of the Crows, get out your Scrapbook of Success and see the lives you touched.
Third, know who you write for – you write for the people who are touched by your books. You don’t write for Internet trolls or reviewers who are frustrated authors. Make this  your mantra. An Internet troll in this instance is anyone who reads your book and posts a negative review. You have to ask what is going on their life that they want that sort of negativity out there. Most reviewers are not paid, and any PR is supposed to help so if someone truly loathed a book, why did they waste their time writing a review? That sort of review reflects more on the person writing the review than on the book or the author. Feedback always tells you more about the person giving the feedback than it does about the recipient.
It is great when a reviewer loves your book. Not everyone will get your writing all the time. Sometimes books really resonate and sometimes they don’t. A reader’s reaction to a book is a very subjective thing. You can only control your writing, you can’t control the state of mind of the reader reading your book. You can however control how you react to the review.
If you find the Crows really descend when you read reviews, then don’t read reviews. Not everyone does. There is no clause in your contract which says you have to. And if it is keeping you from writing – ignore them as you can rarely learn anything from a review -- good or bad.
It is not easy to ignore bad reviews. I have  had some that made me want to curl up and die. Or shout back at the reviewer in public. It is fine to shout in private as no one can hear. In public, you can risk alienating people.   What finally helped me was to look at how other professions, particularly actors dealt with poor reviews. The ability to Rise Above Darling should be cultivated.
Although word of mouth and reviews can drive sales of a book, they do not necessarily. Case in point  50 Shades of Grey which was just about as many awful reviews as it had great ones had tremendous sales.  No one is actually sure what drives the sales of a novel (lots have great guesses but they are often a bit like the pollsters in the recent UK election – sure they have the answer until it proves otherwise).
So know who you write for and keep their pleasure in mind as you write, rather than allowing a Crow to ruin your day.
Final piece of advice is to keep writing. By listening to the Crows of Doubt, you are feeding them. They cannot offer anything constructive. They are not your editor or your agent. They are not your critique partner. They are simply  the Crows which are doing their best to keep you from succeeding and realising your true potential.
 The best form of revenge is to write and finish the next manuscript. Because your writing is worth it!

So take aim and send them scattering.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin Historical when not battling her personal Crows. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on www.michellestyles.co.uk 

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