The benefits of believing in your ability

It is said that a fire requires oxygen, heat, and fuel, to prompt a chain reaction. Similarly, I believe that such a formula can lead to a good novel manuscript, too. Before you start setting your pages alight, I’ll explain what I mean.

In the year, or so, of writing my first draft, I noticed that things were different this time. I had tried, and failed, to plan novels in the past, for a variety of reasons. Last week, I began to think about what these reasons might be. Could it be a lack of confidence? Doubts in my ability? Or was I simply not enjoying the task at hand? It turns out that it was a bit of all three.

Initially, I decided that my formula for success would be ‘confidence + ability + enjoyment = a good novel manuscript’. It seemed an interesting theory, but I think it would be foolish to dismiss each element as existing in its own vacuum. ‘confidence’ needs a capital ‘C’. Here is a brief rundown of my reasons for each; try to look for a recurring theme…


An absolutely crucial ingredient in writing a novel. If you lack confidence in your own work, then how do you think other people will feel towards it? How do you plan on promoting an engaging author brand if you lack belief in your writing? Sure, everybody feels a little overwhelmed from time to time, but there’s a difference between that and a frustrating lack of belief. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I used to be severely lacking in confidence, not just in my writing, but in the real world. I was hesitant, and often held back from doing things because of my niggling lack of self-belief. Now, I smile in public, and I walk tall. People smile back. Confidence attracts confidence. If you show a bit of confidence in your work, then others will follow.


Of course, another key element to writing a book, especially if you are self-publishing, is ability. One of the main downsides of the indie publishing world is the naive decision of the author to take everything into their own hands. Who needs research on the three-act structure, anyway? Everything’s better with an adverb, isn’t it? Show, don’t what? Swallow a bit of pride, and do some research. I take a full-time English with Creative Writing degree, which is helpful, but of course, this isn’t the answer for everyone. Read some books, or blogs. A personal favourite starting book of mine would be Jurgen Wolff’s ‘Your Writing Coach’, or Roz Morris’ ‘Nail Your Novel’. Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ will forever be a writing bible, too. So, accept that you aren’t the perfect writer (nobody is), do some research, and make sure as hell you get a decent editor when you finish.


Simple truth: if you don’t enjoy writing, then your work will fall to pieces. The only motivation you should have to write is personal gratification. Don’t just do it because someone you know is doing it, or you want to make a quick buck. It’s a full-time vocation, so be prepared to put some hours in, too. I blog three times per week, video blog once a week, Tweet throughout the day, Facebook and Google+ a few times per day – all that, and I’ve not even gone into the writing or web design side of things. So, make sure you enjoy what you’re doing. The internet is a harsh place, and you don’t want to write a career ruining stinker of a book just because you’ve rushed into the process.

Notice a common theme? Confidence, capital ‘C’. If you enjoy writing, then you can easily improve your ability, resulting in more Confidence. Show a bit of pride in your work, and you’ll shine with Confidence. Without any one of these factors, the whole formula crumbles, hence the fire analogy. Look closely, and you’ll see that everything, really, comes down to Confidence.

I call it ‘The Confidence Complex’. Maybe I’ll write a book about it some day.

What factors do you think are crucial? Have you ever noticed your confidence slip? How did it affect your writing?