Second Guessing


As writers we’re used to second guessing ourselves. As we write, everything from what a character is wearing in a particular scene to how and where to end the scene gets wrangled over. Some of us go back over and change details as we write because we’re second guessing a particular element. Usually this is just the result of the creative process and it results in our finding the best elements for our story. It’s a productive second guessing.

Then, there’s the second guessing that comes late in the revision process. This is the kind that’s the result of so much time spent on a manuscript that suddenly we question every aspect  wondering if we’ve gotten it just “right” yet. Or one particular aspect will bother us because we’ve rewritten it so many times trying to get it “right” that we can no longer evaluate clearly.

It seems to me that no matter how long you have been a writer, there is one other second guess scenario. Should I or shouldn’t I (continue to write)? This is not a job for the fainthearted. We face rejection daily – now with email submissions, it can be hourly – and for every one moment of success the failures triple like the national debt.

I’m lucky in that I have a support group in the form of my critique group. When my own internal meter doesn’t feel like it’s doing the job, I can turn to them for back up advice.

What about you? Do you second guess yourself? Where do you turn when you need to know if you should turn off that demon critic?

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Second Guessing

  1. This is so true. I sew. I don’t have a crit group to turn to, or even a fellow writer. I sew, take a writing class, read something. And usually when I come back to what I’ve written, its not that bad. Ha Ha. I’m the only one reading it. Still, I think it’s alright, just needs a tweak, and another, and crap I’m back at not getting further in the manuscript. The day I put The End on this draft will be a day I’m going to be so happy I’ll probably jump on my bed, or sing off key, or have a good stiff drink.

  2. I do a fair amount of second guessing, even when a story seems to be going in the right direction. I have a couple of people who have slid into being informal beta readers for me now and then, but they don’t always have the time, and I’m not always ready to turn my work over to another person. Ultimately, I have to depend on my own sense of whether something is right or wrong. Which means I take full responsibility if it turns out to be wrong.

    • dawnall

      I think we have to rely on our guts. Our readers are helpful but ultimately, it comes down to us.

  3. I always second guess myself, but I’m trying to get better at remembering “Occam’s Razor” – the easiest answer is usually the best. I tend to get a little crazy with my “what ifs” and that’s when I start second-guessing. Once I cut all the extra I feel better and stop second guessing. And if I really have no idea I turn to my huge group of critters and supporters and ask their opinion 🙂

  4. I’m second guessing my second guessing now. ; ) My first few scenes were written so long ago, that my MC has grown so much that she isn’t that person any more. I’m ripping out and tearing up the front. But hard as it is, it’s a much better hook now. We all do it and I just pray it’s for the better not just for the nerves.

  5. I second, third and fourth guess myself all the time. Having writerly friends to talk you down off the ledge helps – a lot.

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