We, writers, are a nervous bunch, always fidgeting whenever we give away proof copies to our beta readers, anxiously awaiting the inevitable 'I like it but'. It's a bit like performing in front of a huge audience after only ever singing in the shower. I do admit that heavy feeling in the pit of one's stomach gets easier to bear with each book one writes, but I wonder whether it'll ever go away completely.
Confidence is learned and comes with both experience and success. But, let's face it, writing a book isn't exactly like a regular job where you do what you're supposed to do and get your paycheque at the end of the month. It takes years to build a name for oneself, and the regular rejection from agents/publishers/family who think they can do better in half the time isn't helping either.
So, how can writers increase their confidence level (particularly prior/during/after the daunting process of querying or promoting existing work)? I've put together this list of five things that keep me sane:
1. Write the best book you can at this point in your life
Read as much as you can, research the topic you want to write about or the genre of your choice, and study writing techniques and grammar. If you don't like a scene, it's quite likely your readers won't either. Hence, don't be afraid to cut and then go back and cut some more, rephrase, and add. Even if you think it's perfect, an editor will find something to fault. It might still not be the best book, but least you tried, and probably learned a lot along the way.
2. Don't let past failures bother you
Never ever think back to all the books you've written and never got published. Instead, allow yourself a fresh start whenever you write a new book because you've learned and improved so much since that last attempt, and it wouldn't be fair on you to conjure a self-fulfilling prophecy.
3. Keep an open mind
Might sound simple enough, but many new writers take any sort of criticism personally and go into blocking mode whenever they encounter comments other than 'I love it' and 'this will be a bestseller'. Listen to other people's comments and try to see their point of view. The chance is you might be a tad partial. If you're not and the comment's not helpful, then no harm done, right? But at least you've shown you're professional enough to listen.
4. Keep your goals realistic
Let's face it, we all want to be the next Stephen King or Stephanie Meyer, but dreaming of it and then realising that's not going to happen (at least with this particular book) won't exactly boost one's confidence. Keep your goals simple and realistic by focusing on what you'll most likely achieve such as finishing writing, or finding an agent/publisher. Once you've done that, you can focus your energies on marketing and taking it from there.
5. Don't give up
Everyone's discouraged after the first failed attempt at publishing a book, but everyone's first attempt is likely to bomb unless you've already invested months and years into developing a style and learning all about editing. If you haven't, then keep on writing because the more you write the better you'll get at it.