to view your own work - not objectively, I realize that's not gonna happen - but with any sort of shades of gray?

In my head my work is alternately the best fiction ever or the worst ..... imaginable. Some times I can pinball between the two extremes, really believing each in turn then the other, in just a few seconds.

Do you ever get past that?

And...uh, should I maybe seek professional help?

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I use readers for feedback. But ultimately I'm the one who gets really tough with the ms. Not much you can do about the mood swings, but as a rule, if something works, you'll know it.
While you're working on it? Nah. You're going to have swings. I keep myself moving forward by having someone read what I've written when I start doubting it.

The only way I've ever gotten any real perspective on my own stuff is when I've left it alone for a couple of years and then come back and read it again, after I've forgotten the words I've used and how it's all supposed to go.
I can't remember who said it (Robert Crais?), but some famous author said, "I'm the worst writer in the world, but one of the best rewriters."

First drafts are almost always crap. For everyone.

Finish the second, third, tenth, wherever it is where you feel it's the best it can be, and then shelve it for six weeks or so. When you come back to it, you'll know if it's still crap or not. If it still needs work, you rewrite some more. If it sounds pretty good, send it out.

If you think it's brilliant, seek professional help. :)
I think you have good help posted here, Michael. Find people who give you good feedback, and put the manuscript down for a while between drafts. I think it also helps to critique others' work. Over time, finding holes, flaws, and cliches in other manuscripts builds a skill that slops over to your own, IMHO.

One story: The protag of my novel is a stockbroker, and since I 'd been out of the stock and bond business seven years when I wrote it, I asked a friend/working broker to check my novel for factual problems. What I got back was the best read I've ever had. He's a big reader, but not a writer. Instead of telling me how to write it, he marked every place on the manuscript that jarred him. "I couldn't picture this scene...this seemed far-fetched...why would he do this, when he could do that?"

I use this broker now as my number two critiquer, number one being my agent. Since this happened, I've heard many other authors say they use reader groups to judge their work.

I think we all need professional counseling. :-)
in my head my work is alternately the best fiction ever or the worst ..... imaginable. Some times I can pinball between the two extremes, really believing each in turn then the other, in just a few seconds.


oh, man. i've been going through the exact same thing. it's horrible.
I don't have that problem - I always think mine is the biggest pile of steaming shite imaginable :o) I think you're normal...but don't take MY word for it!
I'm going through that schizo thing now, too. My first book is coming out in February and I'm very proud of that. I'll read one book, and think "mine's way better", then I'll pick up another and think "omigod, mine's total crap!" Like most things, I guess it's somewhere in between.
I do the same thing, but I've learned that what I think is crap may not necessarily be so and what I think is gold may, in fact, be crap. I think this is where is helps to have someone else read your work for you. The first draft is always the worst. The most important thing is to get the ideas down and you can always go back later to change it.

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