Writing Advice

Telling Impostor Syndrome to Kiss It

Ever since beginning my writing journey, I believed two things about Impostor syndrome. Both of which I now know to be untrue.

First, Impostor syndrome only effects published authors.

and Second, since I’ve been writing for so long and never experienced it, that I was somehow immune to it.

Both are completely FALSE.

For those who are unfamiliar with what Impostor syndrome is, I’ll do my best to summarize. Impostor syndrome can effect anyone in literally any endeavor. Whether its creative arts, music, or your 9-5 office job. It effects everyone in different ways, but essentially it is the feeling that whatever you’re doing, will never be good enough.

In published authors with their smash hit debut, it can feel like they just got “lucky” and will never again strike gold. With querying authors or those on submission to publishing houses, it can feel like their writing will never amount to anything. The hours of time they’ve spent outlining, drafting, editing, will be for naught. Time and energy wasted.

In my naivety, I felt somehow that my skin was “thick enough” or I had enough objectivity that I would never experience such a feeling. But, alas, Impostor syndrome is a sneaky B*tch.

I’m currently in the query trenches with what I feel is THE best novel I’ve ever written. (yes, yes authors always feel this way) but for me it is true! And being aware of how slow the query trenches are, I’ve begun outlining and even drafting scenes for my new Middle grade sci-fi. However, each time I sit down to write, I’m overcome with the sinking sensation that I’m wasting my time. I’m flooded with questions and negative thoughts like…

Will this story ever be as good as my previous one? Should this really be a middle grade, or perhaps I should switch to YA? What if this story would be better told as a graphic novel and all I am doing right now is spinning my wheels when I should be focusing changing the entire format?

So, as a writer, I did what I typically do when frustrated, I poured myself a bowl of cereal and browsed Instagram. BAD IDEA. Story after story showed my favorite authors on book tours, greeting fans, signing special editions at packed bookstores, or jetting off to overseas countries that had invited them.

None of which made me feel better.

Feeling now even more in a slump, I had the sudden realization that perhaps, THIS was what Impostor syndrome was all along and I just hadn’t realized it. So, I started googling it discovered dozens of articles, some even from big name authors, and how (surprise, surprise) THEY too experience it as well!

So no matter how YOU experience it, I can guarantee it’ll rear it’s ugly, joy-sapping-head up at least once in your life.

Through all the articles and blogs I read, the one piece of advice that was consistent was this…

NEVER, EVER take yourself too seriously.

Write for yourself, and no one else.

Write something that YOU want to read. Write something silly, write something that makes you tear up because it’s full of such flowery prose, write something that you’ve held in your heart for so long, but have been too afraid to share it. And If at any time, you find yourself dreading sitting at the keyboard, worrying that you’ll never do your story justice, you should ask yourself a single question: “Why?”

That bar you have set SO high that you’re trying to reach?

Guess what…It doesn’t exist.

I hope this article was helpful, and I’d love be sure and comment below with any other tips or experiences you’ve had!

Writing Advice

QUERY PROS

Tell us your name and any fun facts about yourself or your writing!

My name is Sarah Pounds and I write MG/YA Fantasy/sci-fi. I’ve written off an on for years, and have always been an avid reader (my first job was at our local library) I live on a mini-farm in Eastern WA state with my husband and two children. When I’m not writing, I manage the bookkeeping side of our electrical business.

How many projects did you query in the past?

In 2017, I queried my first book, an Adult sci-fi. I didn’t get a single request. In 2018, I wrote and queried two more adult fantasies, which garnered some interest.

What were some of your rookie mistakes when you first started to query?

Looking back, there were so many silly mistakes I made, mostly because I was naive. My first two books had prologues (strike 1), they also were too short for age and genre, the first one capped at 65k, and second was 72k (strike 2), and strike 3, I didn’t use ANY beta readers which I think truly hurt my chances (strike 3).

At what point did you decide it was time to stop querying your project(s)?

My first two, I received nothing but form R’s or silence, so I knew something wasn’t working. I also started beta-reading other querying author’s MS as well as participating in workshops and realized my books weren’t near ready to query.

What do you wish you had known and could tell your past self about your very first query?

I would tell past Sarah to find writer friends, and get their valuable feedback on your materials. I’d also tell myself to get as many eyes on my book as I can as well as read, read, READ. Sign up for writing workshops as well as use Querytracker to keep track of which agents you’ve queried, and when.

What advice would you give new queriers?

FIND your tribe!!! Connect with other writers, no matter their writing journey, there is much to learn. It is a very lonely journey while querying, and so much of it is viewed from the outside. It seems like EVERYONE is getting an agent but you. But I can promise you that is NOT true! A tremendous amount of work and effort goes unseen. Trust me, no one is above rejections.

I also recommend participating in online contests and critiques (there are so many on Twitter these days). It’s nerve-wracking putting your work out there, but hey, isn’t that the whole idea of querying? Might as well rip off the bandage and go for it. 😉

How do you pass time during all the waiting of querying?

WORK ON A NEW PROJECT (not a sequel!) It might feel like the LAST thing you want to do, but trust me, it’s vital to keep busy for your mental health. Diving into a fresh, shiny project will not only keep you occupied (and off querytracker) but also give you a confidence boost that YOU are indeed a moving forward in your author journey even when those rejections roll in.

Lastly, tell us about the new project you’re querying–if you’re querying. What is it about this project excites you?

I am currently querying a Middle-grade portal fantasy set in 1970. I have read (and follow) the advice of craft books including Save the Cat, Stephen King’s book On Writing, and Story Genius. I have CP’s and read widely as well as books in my genre/age range.

This book has gone through many revisions, including changing it to MG from YA. Thankfully, the feedback I have received  (from CP’s and agents alike) has all been positive! I really feel it’s unique and I love how the societal issues are mimicked of those still present today, of which I feel is important for kids to be aware of.

Querying is a scary business. Don’t go at it alone! Use the #amquerying hashtag on Twitter, or DM me @Sarahjp22 on Twitter if you’d like to join our Query Support Slack Group!

Feel free to comment with any book/query questions you have. Writing is such a difficult, isolating world, find your tribe and love them hard!

If you’re interested in reading other QUERY PROS posts I’ve posted the links below.

These questions were graciously put together by the amazing Catherine Bakewell and the link to her awesome blog is www.catherinebakewell.com