Is this story worth telling? Or is it junk? Would someone want to read it? Is the concept fresh? Is the plot compelling? Will readers identify with/like/care about these characters? Do I?
I wrestle with those questions and at least a dozen more every day. Does this scene work? Is the dialogue authentic? Would my main character actually respond that way?
Granted, those are important questions every author should ask. But sometimes my inner critic doesn't want to shut up. And that can be paralyzing.
Take the manuscript I’ve been working on for the past year or so. It’s my first paranormal, and I spent weeks world-building, developing characters, and plotting it out. I drew a map of the setting and calculated the distances between the places where the action takes place. I know this story.
The problem was in the writing. I agonized over every scrap of dialogue, every action, every slice of narrative. A snail sliding over the keyboard would make more progress than I did. After several months I’d written thirty or so pages of lovely description, lyrical speeches, and dramatic action.
When I shared my work with my writing group, they tried to be kind. They always are. They were intrigued by the idea of the story and thought my writing was pretty, but they were confused. By the characters, the plot, the setting—basically everything I’d written. If my most careful readers are confused, something is wrong.
I combed through my work and salvaged what I could from those thirty gorgeous pages. Then I took my writing group’s advice and began at a later point in the story. As I wrote I sprinkled in the backstory in place of those scenes I'd put at the beginning. Starting over is always tough, but with their input I think I may be moving in the right direction. If my inner critic gets too lippy about my words not being pretty enough, I'm going to gag her until I finish the first draft.
Every word I write is a leap of faith. I shoot for the other side of the chasm, but sometimes I miss and fall on my face in a pile of junk words. When that happens, I stand up, shake them off, and get a running start for another leap. It's what I do.