This word usually hangs around a writer’s neck like an L-plate as they contemplate the world they have created and whether it’s worth pursuing: the evil pop-up we know as doubt.
All writers experience it and mine usually rears its ugly head about halfway through a novel. Is this rubbish? Are the characters well-rounded enough? Why am I overwriting? Am I ever going to the end? And the best one of the lot: Is a reader going to chase me down the street and whack me over the head with my own manuscript?
But doubt isn’t something to be feared because it’s absolutely essential in pushing the boundaries of your story to the absolute limit. This is because you are constantly asking questions of yourself, the narrative, your characters and the landscape of your novel. You are exploring every nook and cranny of every scene to make it the best you possibly can. You are changing lines of dialogue, the furniture in a room, the hero’s hairdo or the colour of a villain’s socks. You have doubt – and that brings clarity. Again and Again.
I would go further and say those writers who are crippled by self-doubt probably have the edge because they are never satisfied with the way things are arranged on the page. They are constantly perched on a twitchy tightrope, thinking deeper and searching wider for that devastating line, passage or scene that will bring their story alive and make that elusive connection with the reader.
Of course, they could go the other way and end up getting rather ill by worrying too much about their work, overwriting and, worse, never actually finishing their novel because they want ‘perfection’. But getting worked up over some words on a page isn’t worth it. There’s much bigger things to worry about in the world.