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.

How to Turn Your Book Ideas into Money in the Bank, Step 6: Query Letters and Self-Publishing

Welcome back to our Turning Book Ideas into Money series! So far we have covered:

If you have decided to go the traditional route and get your book published with the big dogs in New York, then you will need to craft a short, compelling query letter.

This is a dreaded step for writers the world over. How can we be expected to compress our 100,000 word manuscript into a 250 word blurb? It’s outrageous, impossible! I won’t do it and that’s it. You can resent it. You can refuse to play by their rules. And you will never get that beauty published. Your idea, outlined, written, edited to a prosy shine, will lie forever in a drawer.

Are you ready to suck it up and write a query like a good little writer?

Check out this post for examples of winning queries. Note how each query differs slightly, depending on the genre of the book it represents, but also note that they all share one common thread: they sell both the book and the author.

A query letter is a letter of introduction, introducing a literary agent to you and your book. BUT, it is also much more than that. It is the last step in your Jedi training. Master the query and you will be crowned a Jedi Knight, powerful in the ways of the Writing Force. Succeed in this and you will have your own literary agent. Of course, there yet remain plenty of hurdles between your dream and sales. But crafting a successful query is a major check in the win column.

Here are 5 quick tips on drafting winning queries:

  1. Research potential agents: genres they like, titles and authors they’ve sold
  2. Drop the old-school gender salutation and just start with: Dear Jennifer Jackson,
  3. The Hook: What is the unique aspect of your novel? Open the letter with that
  4. The Body of the letter should include: Main character (don’t give a run-down of every character) and the person/group/thing that is keeping the MC from attaining her deepest desire. Don’t forget to include What is at Stake. What is exceptional about your created world? Ideally this will be something the agent has not yet seen
  5. The Snatch-N-Grab closing: Compare your book to other successful works, especially if they are books this agent has sold or mentioned as a favorite

Continue reading “How to Turn Your Book Ideas into Money in the Bank, Step 6: Query Letters and Self-Publishing”

How to Turn Your Book Idea into Money in the Bank, Step 4: The Soundtrack to Your Writing

Welcome back to our journey from Book Idea to Money in the Bank! So far we have covered (1) the vital and exciting Step of fantasizing your idea into life inside your mind (2) the importance of outlining your idea and everything you need in that outline (3) and finally we examined the actual act of writing in all its glorious and dirty detail. Today let’s discover the Soundtrack to your Writing.

As I’m sure you know, music can be motivating. The right song can make you feel invincible or full of ambition. Where it concerns writing, music is especially important; tracking down the right tunes and sounds help to place you in the proper motivated mindset. Certain tracks and genres can even enhance a scene if you listen to them while writing.


Some literary artists swear by their Enya or Meditation music; a number claim that only ocean sounds work for them; a few writers praise the focusing power of techno or alternative; still others swear by absolute silence—or by the natural sounds of the world.

J.K. Rowling created the world of Harry Potter inside a busy café (The Elephant House), as British baristas slung java and patrons groaned over their busy schedules. It seems incredible to me that anyone could write anything worthwhile in a crowded place. Probably it will remain a mystery to me. But it sure worked for her. Whatever works for you, go for it.

Here we are interested in extolling the virtues of discovering the right soundtrack for your novel writing experience.

So, onward and upward, my fellow travelers.

Music can drown out distractions from the world around the writer, so that she can focus on the world inside. The right music can enhance a scene as it is being written. According to PSYBLOG, listening to music boosts your verbal IQ—a clear benefit for any writer trying to get her point across. (Astute writers read their work aloud, as they know that verbalizing reveals awkward dialogue and poorly structured phrasing.)


Continue reading “How to Turn Your Book Idea into Money in the Bank, Step 4: The Soundtrack to Your Writing”