Tag Archives: doubt

So You’ve Got a Doubt Monster!

Welcome friends! Casey here.

Yesterday I guest blogged over at Jill Archer’s site about our favorite buddy – the Doubt Monster. Fellow CT RWA members may recognize some of this information because it was taken from a presentation I did last March. If you missed it, here’s your chance to catch up!


Many creative types proclaim that they have a Muse – a benevolent entity that encourages the artist and nourishes the soul, allowing magical prose to flow from his or her fingertips like golden honey down a river of . . . blah, blah, flowery words, blah, blah.


Me and a Muse?  No such luck. Instead, I have a Doubt Monster. In fact, if I ever had a Muse, I’m pretty sure the Doubt Monster ate her a long time ago.

What is a Doubt Monster? Let me introduce you.

The Doubt Monster is that nagging feeling while writing that your prose is terrible, your plot is silly, your characters are insipid and no one in their right mind would read this drivel, let alone buy it. Definition courtesy of Jen Moncuse.

In my case, the greedy Doubt Monster messes with my confidence and rears his ugly head (yes, I believe it’s a male – no clue why, honest) at various times in the writing process. Sometimes, he nags me constantly like my brain has been Rick-rolled by an earworm (you know, an irritating song that repeats in your head over and over).

What? That never happens to you? Never mind, then.

Other times, he appears sporadically. If I’m lucky, he won’t show up until I’m almost done with the first draft.

So what attracts the Doubt Monster? (Besides Rick Astley lyrics)

In my experience, lack of certainty creates openings for the sneaky cretin. Observe:

  • If your self-confidence is shot. Hello, Doubt Monster.
  • If you received a rejection letter. Hello, Doubt Monster.
  • If you received a bad contest score or one star review. Hello, Doubt Monster.
  • If you receive an awesome five star review. Hello , Doubt Monster. (Yes, success can also freak you out with an – “OMG, how will I ever top this story? I will never write anything good again” – moment.
  • If your family doubts you. Say it with me – Hello, Doubt Monster!
  • If you’re like me, and you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop or you just expect that what you’re working on will suck at some point – yeah, yeah, Hello, #@!# Doubt Monster!

And the Doubt Monster doesn’t prey exclusively on unpublished writers. Once you’re published, he has even more confidence busting fodder to torment you with! Even multi-published, NY Times, award winning authors battle the beast.

So how do you combat this annoying creativity killer?

Don’t Feed the Monster!

1. As with any problem, identification is the key.Admit you have a problem. And take it seriously. Yup, it’s that simple. Consider the possibility that you’re staring at a blank page because you’re suffering from self-doubt. If you’re lazy, sorry. Can’t help you with that one. Maybe consider not being a writer, ‘cause, you know, writing requires self-discipline and actual work. Just throwing that out there!

2. When you are in “the creative mind” – anything should be possible and telling yourself that your ideas are dumb or won’t work is not helpful. Really. Sit back and play out those ideas to their logical conclusion. Do they work? Do you like it? Does it move the plot along? Even if it doesn’t – write it down. You know the old adage – you can’t edit a blank page!

4. Confront your Doubt Monster and root him out. What stage of writing are you in? Are you allowing your inner editor to stomp on your creative process? Do you fear imminent arrest by the Grammar Police? If yes, remember you’re not in English class anymore. You don’t have to have perfect sentences or perfect grammar while you’re drafting your story. First draft = word vomit! And that is fine!!

5. Are you worried about what everyone else will think? At this stage in writing, do not think about your critique group, readers, the marketplace or much of anything else real world related. And, seriously, who cares what anyone else thinks?

6. Tell old Doubty to shut it. Don’t feel guilty about it. You can’t hurt his feelings. See # 4.

7. Do not stop writing. Ever. That is the worst thing you can do. If you are truly stuck, work on something else for a little bit. Take a walk, read, go the movies, clean your closet. Whatever floats your boat.

Who’s seen Men In Black 3? There is a great scene in the movie where J &K are stuck trying to figure out the enemy’s next move. Agent K says – “let’s have pie.” Meaning, they will eat a piece of pie and discuss anything but the case. Believe it or not, this really does work (well, you don’t have to have pie). Sometimes, in order to solve a problem, you have to let your subconscious work it out. Doing an alternate activity and letting your mind wander can help silence the Doubt Monster.

Which leads me to my next point  . . . sometimes you need to listen to the Doubt Monster.

Wait! What?? But you just said –

– Yes, I know. There are times when you should heed the Doubt Monster’s warnings. He or she is not always wrong to make you question your work. One way to test the validity of the DM is to ask a non-writer to read your finished work. I find it helpful to use first readers whenever I complete a draft. They are not writers, but friends who will be honest and read extensively in the genre I write in.

During editing, let the Doubt Monster play all he wants. This is the time to question your plotline, pacing, word choices, and story flow. The DM can be the voice of reason. Think of

Cats don't have doubts!
Cats don’t have doubts!

it as the same instinct that prevents you from engaging in dangerous activities like jumping off a cliff or leaving your house in nothing but your underwear.

Over time, the more you write the more you’ll find a happy medium. And, I have discovered that some stories are more prone to attacks of the Doubt Monster. Many times, those books turn out to be better stories in the end and that’s a goal even the Doubt Monster can get behind!

If anyone has confidence building techniques, please share!


The Saga of Mr. Fern

DSCF0661Mr. Fern, who by then was raggedy, although he still had green fronds, sat discarded outside the teachers’ room door at the school where my husband teaches, and rather than let him be consigned to the garbage, John brought him home. For years, Mr. Fern sat by the sliders to the deck in the winter, and on the deck, summers, and regenerated and bloomed, and — I truly believe — begat a whole family of ferns that return every year, shooting up like alien pods, in my pachysandra patch.

So it was with great sorrow that two or three years ago, we watched as Mr. Fern deteriorated to the point where he had no new growth, his leaves shriveled, browned, became dessicated, and he died.
We put him in the back yard nevertheless, loath to leave him in the detritus that would be cleared away in the bi-annual garden clean-up. And there he sat for a summer, a winter, another summer, forlorn, dried up, leafless, lifeless …

And then one summer day, I saw a sliver of green poking out from the midst of the jungle of brown. One fully formed fern frond, child-size, fresh green, fresh life, a little miracle stretching out from the dirt and decay. No stopping him then. I began watering him. He pushed out more long stringy fingers which turned into an explosion of brand new fronds.

Mr. Fern is back. Why, how, from that mass of crinkly dead leaves, I’ll never understand. I thought he was truly gone, and then, suddenly, there he was. And now he sits in my cluttered dining room by the sliding doors, growing and flourishing every day.

It’s a lesson to all of us. Sometimes we feel hopeless, helpless, dry, dessicated, chewed up, beaten down
— like we couldn’t produce another word, even if it was the word “I” — and we just bury ourselves and let it all go.

Don’t let go. We’re writers. There’s always life in there, even if at times it seems like still life with no possibilities. All it needs is a little poke and prod. A book, a word, an overheard conversation, something in the news — and we green up, poke our way out of the dessication, and get going.

Because we have to. Because there are stories to tell and we can tell them. Because there are fictional lives to explore, and we can do justice to them. Because when you’re a writer, you’re never not writing, even if you think you’re not.

And, because we can.

Thea Devine is currently working on her next erotic contemporary romance. She’s pleased to announce that five of her early books, Reckless Desire, Ecstasy’s Hostage, Relentless Passion, Montana Mistress and Angel Eyes are now available in Kindle editions.

Imposter Syndrome

Happy Friday everyone. Casey here. If you have a moment, please stop by my blog. I’m hosting another Goodreads giveaway to celebrate the paperback release of The Undead Space Initiative.

Lighthouse, Stonington CT In case you hadn’t yet heard the news, Mystic Storm will be published in 2013. And while this is my third published novel, I still feel like a giant imposter.

Like someone is going to single me out and yell – “Fake! Fraud! She’s not a real writer!”

I know that sounds totally ridiculous but I know I’m not the only one who sometimes feels this way. I have heard an established NY Times bestselling author admit to having the same feeling – that no matter how many novels you write and sell that this one might be your last.

That you will never, ever write anything “good” again. Your career will be over!! You’ll be a “has been”, the equivalent of a dried up old spinster.

Eek! What’s a writer to do? Well, for starters, it’s time for a reality check.

By the power invested in me I say to you –  You’re a writer. A real, honest to goodness writer. Doesn’t matter if you’re unpublished, published big, published small, self-published, or any variation in between. If you’re dedicated to the craft of storytelling and you are actively putting words on a page, you’re a writer.

Feel better?

If not, and you’re still fretting,consider this:

1. Ignorance is bliss. Remember back in the early days of writing before you knew any of the “rules”? When it was a thrill just to type those words on the page and “publication” was some far off dream on a distant shore? If you find yourself traveling down the road of uncertainty, hark back to that earlier time. Too many “rules” equals zero fun. Ditch’em. Be that dreamer again. The completion of one book doesn’t mean you’re doomed to never write another good story again.

2. There are many paths to publication. Readers don’t care who published your novel. All they want are well-written, entertaining stories. I know I don’t go looking for books based on who published them. I just want to read something good and judge accordingly.

3. Tell the Doubt Monster to shut his (or her) gob. If you’re suffering from imposter syndrome, consider it a form of self-doubt. Cut it out.

And finally, square your shoulders, hold your head up high and be proud of your accomplishments (no matter how big or small they are that day, week or month).

Now say it with me – “I am writer, hear me roar!”

Time for the truth – who else has had imposter syndrome? And what are your suggestions for combatting it?

The Buck Stops Here

Yay! It’s Friday again! Hope you’re having a good one! Casey here.

Harry Truman famously had a sign on his desk that read – “the buck stops here.” I’ve always loved that phrase.

It’s the ultimate mark of true leadership, taking responsibility for an action, even if you personally didn’t cause it. Like a good captain, you go down with the ship and are responsible for your subordinates behavior. Not an easy thing to do.

I’ve been in this position, not as U.S. president, but as a mother, a manager, even president of my sorority chapter in college. In my day job, I’ve sworn off having responsibility for others. Too much stress, too little reward. Obviously, as a mom, I can’t do that, but lucky for me, my sons are well-behaved.

However, I can’t totally abdicate my leadership role as an author because there’s only one captain at the helm of the good ship SS Writer – me.

Often times, when I attend my monthly RWA chapter meetings, I hear a common complaint – “I need more time to write.” Or “I need someone to motivate me to write.”

I’ve addressed adding more time, so this time I’m switching to motivation. And I’m not going to go easy on you. There’s a reason Suze calls me “the whip cracker.”

First rule, when it comes to motivation – you are in control of you. No one else.IMG_2073

To use myself as an example, if I’m sitting at my computer staring into space or web surfing or avoiding writing, the first person I chastise is me. Sound harsh? You bet!

But it’s also great news. That means you can take charge and do the work.

Casey’s Whip Cracking Tips:

1. Recognize that you are procrastinating and cut it out!

2. Determine why you’re procrastinating. Maybe you’re stuck at a certain point in the plot. My advice, either skip that spot and come back to it later or plow ahead and write something (and fix it later if you don’t like it). I can tell you this from personal (and recent experience), waiting for inspiration to strike isn’t going to work!

Don’t make me send this guy . . .

3. Enlist the aid of a friend. I know I just said, no one can make you do the work, but it can help to spend time with others. Even if to cheer you up!

4. Join a writing sprint – CTRWA has them all them time on our Facebook fan page!! All writers are welcome, not just chapter members.

5. Use the carrot and the stick approach. Try to reward yourself for meeting your goal (avoid using food, otherwise you’ll be stressed about your weight too). And, sorry, but if that doesn’t work, you have to suck it up and just do it (hear the whip snap?)

My final tip, realize that tomorrow is another day. Believe it or not, there are days (and sometimes weeks) where productive work won’t get done. That’s not an excuse to slack off, but do recognize that sometimes life throws curve balls.

Now, go forth and be productive! Or I’ll find you with my whip! *snap*

What are your favorite whip cracking techniques?And do they work for you?

Highland Haven – Krystal Brookes

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here. I’d like to introduce everyone to my fellow Pink Petal Books author Krystal Brookes. She’s been kind enough to answer our interview questions. Stay tuned to the end for an excerpt of her latest novella, Highland Haven.

Tell us about your latest novel –Highland Haven?

Highland Haven is the story of Erin Murray, a young teacher who has taken a job on a remote island in Scotland. She’s on the run from something and the island of Kilrigh seems like a safe haven. The first person she meets is the gorgeous, younger son of the laird. Finlay is kind, helpful and sexy, but Erin is not in a place to be able to trust again.

Do you have to read book 1, Highland Fling first? Can you tell us a bit about that book?

No both stories, while set on the same island can stand alone. The Hero of Highland Fling is Finlay’s older brother Brodie. When an old childhood friend comes back to Kilrigh, he falls for her and has to convince her that it’s worth coming back to Kilrigh permanently to be with him.

Is the Island of Kilrigh a real place? And if not, is it based on an actual location in Scotland?

No it’s completely made up. I did travel around some of the islands when I was younger and it is a mix of Skye (which is a lot larger than Kilrigh), Cumbrae and Mull. It also has a lot in common with the fictional island of Rhanna from the Christine Marion Fraser novels.

What made you decide to go with a smaller press? And how has your experience been so far?

I did Nanowrimo and I finished it but knew it needed a load of work (it’s still not finished). I had looked around for publishers and I liked Pink Petal because their submissions page made it sound like they really look after their authors. Many submission pages make it sound like they are doing you a huge favour and they are being inconvenienced by your submission. I didn’t get that sense from Pink Petal. They help to bring on new authors. Also they had out a submission call for Dangerous Men Dangerous places and I had an idea for a story, so I wrote it and took a chance. I really didn’t expect to get published first time.

You have a fantastic cover. How much input did you have into it? And who is that handsome man on the cover?

I get some input and get to say what kind of thing I like. Obviously there are some things that can’t be put on. I would have loved a game of shinty on the bottom but unfortunately, I doubt there are many royalty free photos of that. Obviously, the guy is meant to be Finlay. I have no idea who the model is. I love that it looks really tender.

Why a Scottish Contemporary? What drew you to that subject?

I come from Scotland, I live in Scotland and people always say you should write what you know. While not living on an island, I do live in the countryside. But I wasn’t keen to write historicals. I wanted to write about modern Scottish men with their iPhones in their sporrans, flashing their bare butts in Facebook photos.

Can you tell us a bit about the Dangerous Men series? And what’s it like writing short stories vs. longer novels?

Dangerous Men, Dangerous Places was an anthology. It is still available as such. It’s pretty much just that: stories about dangerous men in dangerous places. My story is called Bounty and is about a female Bounty hunter who has to crash land on a prison planet full of criminals whom she caught. Rob takes her in and protects her but she’s not sure how he’ll react when he finds out that she was the bounty hunter who caught him. It’s available in its own right as a short novella or as part of the anthology in ebook or print format.

I hear you got your start writing Star Trek fan fiction. What made you decided to write Scottish contemporary and science fiction? Was the transition hard?

Yeah, I first tried writing in 2011 when I wrote some fan fiction for my buddies. My profile (Libby Kim) still gets a lot of hits each day over in fanfiction.net. Most of my stories are about Janeway and Chakotay. My only real problem with changing was to stop seeing all my heroines with bobbed red hair like Captain Janeway. I can’t get away from the tall dark handsome hero though.

What advice do you have for newbie writers?

Don’t compare yourself to others. Work hard at the marketing. Take every opportunity to do blog tours and interviews etc. And remember that very few writers will get a lucky break on a scale like EL James did.

Do you have any other novels coming out soon? And can you give us a hint about them?

The third novella in the Kilrigh Heat series is due out on 20th December. Keep an eye on Pink Petal’s website and my website. I have a lot of nearly finished irons in the fire.

Now, it’s tradition to ask all our guests about The Doubt Monster. Does he or she plague you? And if so, how do you deal with him or her?

I live with the doubt monster constantly. I used to seek reassurance and still do to an extent. I guess I just try to ignore him.

Quiz time!

Favorite food? doughnuts

Favorite place to visit? the beach in the summer

Favorite pastime when not writing? visiting my nieces

Guilty pleasure? Sitting in Starbucks writing (I know, it’s so cliched.)

Sexiest man on earth? Colin Firth or Karl Urban

Kirk or Picard? Neither. Janeway. She is by far the best captain-if a little pre-menstrual at times. But having met both Shatner and Stewart, Stewart is the one with charisma in bucket loads. So I have to go for Picard.

Favorite Star Trek series? Favorite episode? Star Trek Voyager. Favourite episode is Scientific Method. She has ha huge dose of PMT in that one (and an alien device giving her headaches.)

Who would you cast to be in a movie version of Highland Haven? Daniel Radcliffe could play Finlay (if he can do a Scottish Accent – I’m sure Robbie Coltrane could teach him) and Evanna Lynch could play Erin (though the same again with the Scottish accent).


A couple of hours later, Erin and Finlay walked into the convenience store for a look around. They’d had lunch in the village pub, and he’d introduced her to the pub landlord, the barmaid, and all the customers who had come in for a lunchtime drink. The doctor and the dentist had both told her to pop in any time to register.

Erin’s eye caught a small stand of postcards showing beautiful views of Kilrigh. She stopped to leaf through them, picking a few that she would send to family and friends if she ever felt safe enough to let them know her address. Someone walked down the aisle, causing her to step closer to the shelf behind.

As she moved forward, her elbow caught a glass jar of jam, sending it smashing into pieces on the hard tile floor. Biting her lip, Erin immediately bent down to pick it up. Suddenly, she was hauled by the upper arms back to her feet by Finlay. Instinctively, she moved to shield her face, and she cowered, trying to pull her arm out of his grasp.

“Watch, you’ll cut yourself,” Finlay barked, moving her out of the way. His grip loosened, and he pushed her gently away as if she’d stung him. His dark brows knit together in a frown. He stared at her for a moment then looked away.

“Ailsa, do you have a brush and pan?” he called over the shelf to the woman behind the counter. The woman said yes and hurried away. Erin could not take her eyes off Finlay. She’d known in her head that not all men hit women, but somehow that knowledge disappeared from her heart. She had probably offended him by the way she reacted. He turned to her, his frown deepening.

“Sorry,” she whispered.

“No, no Erin, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you. I just didn’t want you to cut yourself. I didn’t mean to be so rough. You looked as if you thought I was going to…” His voice trailed off as the short, white-haired woman came up behind him and nudged him out of the way, so she could clean up the mess.

She wanted to get out the shop as quickly as possible. Such a nice day had been spoiled by her clumsiness. He’d never want to remain friends with someone as messed up as she was. She grabbed a packet of cold meat, not really caring what it was, a couple of tomatoes, and a loaf of bread. When she got to the cereals, she automatically reached for the bran flakes—then stopped. She didn’t even like bran flakes. But Pete had insisted on her eating the healthy cereal in case she got fat. She looked at the small selection and chose some nutty clusters with chocolate chips. She knew it was a mental middle-finger salute to the man who had terrorised her for years and it was childish in some ways, but she got great satisfaction for something as small as choosing her own breakfast cereal. She looked at Finlay, expecting a raised eyebrow over her unhealthy choice but he didn’t seem to notice. He seemed to be in a world of his own.

It took Ailsa only a minute or so to ring up her purchases on the till.

“That’s six pounds twenty-four, please.”

“What about the jam?”

“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.” She looked around at Finlay, who was studying the display of car magazines.

“Please let me pay for it. I feel terrible.” Pete’s lazy drawl was in her head. She was stupid and clumsy. He was only with her because he felt sorry for her. She was ugly, fat, ignorant. She shuddered as she tried to push the memories away.

“Oh lass, don’t be silly. We have breakages all the time. I wouldn’t dream of taking the money for it. Besides, any friend of Finlay’s is a friend of mine.” Erin nodded and smiled. She already liked the white-haired, plump older woman. “He’s single, you know,” she whispered conspiratorially.

Heat flooded into Erin’s cheeks and she looked again to see if Finlay had heard. He seemed too engrossed in an article in one of the periodicals he had picked up.

“I do now, I guess.” She giggled and felt the tension ease a bit. Finlay turned and motioned her to go first out of the shop. They both thanked Ailsa, who winked at them and turned to continue cleaning the counter.

When they reached the jeep, Finlay opened the door for her to climb in, then moved around to the driver’s side and settled himself on the driver’s seat. He stared at the steering wheel, biting his lip as if working something out. He inhaled deeply before he addressed her.

“Erin, did you think I was going to hit you when you broke the jam?”

She turned her head from him, staring out the passenger side window—tears burning behind her eyes.

“Has someone hit you before?”

Blinking back the tears, she turned to face him. “I don’t want to talk about it,” she said gruffly.

“Fine.” He nodded, lifting a hand to cup her cheek. “Most men don’t hit women. I don’t hit women,” he emphasized before leaning forward and kissing her lightly first on one eye, then on the other. She kept her eyes closed—willing the tears away. Without another word, he turned on the engine, and the car moved off.

They drove in silence back to her cottage. As he stopped the vehicle, he produced a business card from his jeans pocket and handed it to her.

“It has my mobile, business, and home numbers. Call me if you need anything, are unsure of anything, or just want a chat.”

She nodded and gave him an uncertain smile. As she undid her seatbelt and opened the door, he laid his hand gently on her arm. “Erin, don’t judge us all by the actions of one weak-minded bully.”

This time she didn’t look at him. She simply got out of the jeep, shut the door, and headed for the cottage. At the front step, she looked back to see him run a hand dejectedly through his hair before putting the vehicle into gear and driving off.

She shut the door and leaned her back against it, allowing her legs to bend. As her butt hit the floor, she raised her knees, hugged them, and allowed the tears to flow. Was Pete’s behaviour going to cause this reaction in her for the rest of her life? Today, Finlay had shown a care and tenderness that Pete never had and she’d felt safe. But could she truly learn to trust him after all that had happened? She wasn’t sure.


When Erin Murray decides to escape her past in Glasgow, she picks the small island of Kilrigh as her haven. Arriving at her new home, she’s alone and scared, but is welcomed by the overly cheerful laird’s son. The tall, dark and sexy Finlay must earn her trust–something she’s not willing to give easily.

Erin begins to let the walls of her heart come down, only for her past to darken Kilrigh. Can Finlay keep her world from falling apart and can their budding relationship survive this threat?

Available from http://pinkpetalbooks.com

About Krystal:

When Krystal Brookes isn’t enjoying staring at the beautiful scenery of her Scottish home, she’s writing about what’s under hunky Highlanders’ kilts, feeding her nieces too many sweets then taking them home, and drinking way too much coffee.

She started out writing Star Trek fan fiction but has recently progressed to original stories for publication. She writes contemporary Scottish romance and science fiction romance. When the wet dreary weather in Scotland gets too much, she dreams of taking off in a space ship to find warmer climes. Who wants to go to a sunny country when you can head for a sunny planet?

Krystal, thanks so much for being our guest today! Scribes readers, if you have a questions or Krystal, please ask! Am I the only one curious about the Scottish men Facebook butt flashing?