I’m a plotter. Writing mysteries means that I need to know how my character is going to cross obstacles, find clues and get to the bottom of things, alive, and in one piece by the end of the story. Many times, during revision, after I’ve read or re-written a scene a creeper of doubt will start to grow. ‘Does this sound plausible?’ doubt will ask me. ‘Is it believable?’ it will nag at me. My first reaction is to dig up that creeper and chuck it as far away from me as possible. ‘Think positive’ I tell myself. Don’t second guess yourself. Doubt isn’t going to help you finish the story.
My second reaction is different. I wait. For that creeper to re-grow. It usually does. This time I don’t run away from that feeling of doubt. I look at it. While it grows I examine it. After the examination, I pat myself on the back. ‘I’ve faced doubt,’ I tell myself. ‘Now, time to move on to the next scene.’
But it doesn’t end there. If there is every even a niggling thought in the corner of my mind ‘does my character stay true to herself?’ ‘does the scene ring true to the story arc?’ ‘would someone really use feng shui to increase luck in her life?’ that creeper of doubt will return and re-grow until I face it square in the face and do a re-write.
Doubt keeps our compass pointing true. It allows us to move from one point of view to another and view the facts with truth. It’s uncomfortable! It’s painful! Doubt isn’t an easy emotion to allow yourself to feel, especially, when you’re trying to keep positive through a revision. Doubt, I’m constantly afraid, can lead me to a dead standstill. I may get the ‘I’m no good! Why am I even trying to write this story!? Let me pick another story’ feelings. But when I do allow doubt to linger, when I look at it without negative connotations and allow it to swim steady in my head I start to pick apart the various pieces in my scene. I examine each bit like a true Nancy Drew –clearly and without judgment. It gets me energized to re-think the scene from a different angle, to ask the what-if questions and then think up answers to write a stronger, better scene.
What do you think? Do you say ‘hello’ to doubt or ask it to take a hike?