It seems like every time I pick up a new mystery writer these days, I end up in a funk and feel like quitting (currently revising the draft of my first mystery novel). How do you convince yourself that you don't suck, when there are so many talented crime writers around?


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The doubt is healthy. I'd hate to think of the opposite, pride before the fall. To me, the creative process is always imbued with doubt. It's a summation of hopes and constraints in my mind, and that's creativity. So, if you're being creative, you're in a world of doubt that you slowly whittle away until you're confident you have something worth sharing.

Envy is just the flip side of doubt, like admiration having a bad day.

Personally, I enjoy conquering doubt and coming out with something that, at some level, somebody else can envy, if even a little.
"like admiration having a bad day"

I'm going to remember that. Excellent.
Ditto! :)
No work ever lives up to the writer's original vision for it. While I was writing my first mystery, I decided not to read too much in the genre (a difficult decision made easier by the fact that I was writing the book over a college sabbatical and had limited time). That way, I wouldn't constantly compare myself to others - or unwittingly borrow from them.

Like all the others, I've felt serious self-doubt. The only way to overcome it is to keep going. Marathon runners hit a 'wall' too and berate themselves saying 'why did I even start? Whatever made me think I could do this? My legs hurt and I feel like bursting and just stopping.' But they keep running. Writing a book is a marathon.
The moratorium on reading other mystery writers while working makes some sense... I wonder what would be good reading while working? Hm... hm... *ponders*
I used to worry about being unduly influenced by reading other mystery writers when I was writing, but I got over it. First, I'm working on some writing project just about twelve months a year, so I'd never read anyone if I did that. I also not infrequently find ideas for how to fix something while reading. Not like I'm using something someone did so I feel like I'm ripping off Elmore Leonard or Ed McBain, but I'll see how a particular POV works, or doesn't, for something similar to what I have coming up. Or I'll see someone go into more detail than I might have with a description, and I'll think I could give a little more there, so long as I do it right.

I try to stay away from using too much of someone else's voice or style by re-reading the last page or so I wrote to keep me in the voice of what I've been doing. It works pretty well.
This is exactly how I feel every time I read a book. If they did it, why can't I? It made me feel inadequate, like I should give up.

But I knew I shouldn't. I need to keep writing. As of typing this, I haven't sold my debut manuscript. That doesn't mean I'm a failure. That means I haven't sold my debut manuscript.

Here's my piece of advice: F*ck envy. Don't weigh yourself against the accomplishments of others. Exist in your own world, not theirs. Be happy for their accomplishments. They were unknowns at some point. Success comes to the truly passionate because they don't give up.
You mean someone can actually write an original mystery novel and not 'borrow' ideas from other writers?! That's possible?

It's happening again....

Reading 'The Chicago Way' by Michael Harvey and gnashing my teeth. I could write a million years and never be this good.

Damn it.
I agree with Dana - reading crappy books is a great antidote to the fear that you're a terrible writer. Try reading some Danielle Steel - that should boost your confidence. Often there's no connection between success and quality of the writing.

Julie Lomoe's Musings Mysterioso
Great question, Minerva.

Yes, I absolutely swing between the extremes of loving the book and thinking it is the most awful drivel ever written. I sometimes despair of ever writing anything worth reading. Then I pick up the work again, and it's...hey, it's pretty darn good.

I love Dana's advice. Sometimes reading a poorly written published book is what I need to keep myself going, and sometimes a brillinatly written book is what I need to inspire myself to stretch a bit and not rely on the easy words and phrases.


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