Build Confidence in Your Writing

Before anyone else will admire your work, you must first believe in your ability to craft engaging prose. You must be fully convinced in your mind that your work is first-rate (even if it is still only second-rate), and that your written worlds are immersive, fully-realized, able to draw readers in through style, character, detail, and bold commentary (which should be embedded and never preachy).

So how do we reach this degree of confidence? How do we write with authority?

We do it by writing. The more you write and the more genres you write in, the more confidence you will have in your writing skills. This confidence will show through your words.

Let’s be real: It is a presumptuous thing to create whole worlds out of words. It is a bold thing to publish your work. It is a brave act to run a writing blog, to presume you have anything to share with new writers. That boldness comes from experience. After your first 500,000 words, you will begin to feel this boldness creep into your spirit, like light in a dark cave. After 1,000,000 words, your confidence will begin to soar. You will have learned what works and what doesn’t, what sounds good and what sounds like common drivel, what your strengths are and which areas to work on.

Learn from the masters

Best-selling author Brandon Sanderson is a great example. He writes with incredible confidence; you can tell this just by the way he conjures up unique magic systems in almost every series he writes.

You’d think his magic systems would come off as absurd or silly, and yet they are engaging and lauded as original. Do you think he would write such bold systems if he didn’t have oceans of confidence in his writing skills? Because of his experience, he believes he can pull off these literary feats. And he does, totally, pull them off. (Allomancy: consuming metals to achieve magical powers. Seriously? And yet boy does it work).

I’ve fed myself on a number of Sanderson novels, and enjoyed all of them. Admittedly, Steelheart was not quite what I expected, but that was my fault, not realizing it was a Young Adult novel. His books in the Stormlight Archive are the sort of monumental reads that I look forward to consuming, months in advance. Most novels (300-350 pages) I can get through in a week, but the 1,000+ page monsters Sanderson writes feed me through the long winter nights . . . or for about a month. Still, I look forward each day to my reading time with a Sanderson volume. His tomes are the kind of fantasy you love to lose yourself in for weeks at a time.

 

Confidence is Keyword

Every chapter of every one of his books oozes confidence. You can tell he gives great forethought to his worlds, that he takes his time crafting each scene and imbuing all his characters—even the minor cobblers—with personality. If you don’t believe me, just check out his series of writing lessons on YouTube. Though the filming is second-rate, the shoddy audio a bit distracting, his lessons are all illuminating. He explores the complexities of world-building, weighs the pros and cons of PoV, and teaches us writers the art of the craft.

Sanderson even teaches on literary agents and what to expect financially if you go the traditional publishing route.

You can learn just by reading the masters. George R.R. Martin’s characters are more realistic than most fantasy characters. I recently read Lord Foul’s Bane, and was bored with the one dimensional characters. It seemed like everyone in ‘The Land’ existed for a single purpose and they would see that purpose fulfilled, without spontaneity, passion,  or personality. I got the sense I would have been more impressed if I hadn’t read the SOIAF series before reading a Thomas Covenant book).

(SIDE NOTE: I’ve noticed that most fantasy shows I try to watch now also seem less impressive since I started watching Game of Thrones; The Shannara Chronicles was alright, but just not quite up to the level of sophisticaiton I’d grown accustomed to in Game of Throne–though the music was interesting.)

Anyway, by reading and learning from the masters, you will pick up the trinkets and bullets that make best-sellers work so well, while building your confidence in your own abilities. And of course: WRITE WRITE WRITE!

Confidence is key, and that key comes from experience in reading and writing. You will only get better, the more you do of both, so keep at it.