162: “How Do I Know My Writing is Any Good?” with Azul Terronez

Listen In On an Actual Coaching Session with an Author

“You’ve got to turn off the editor brain because you’re judging yourself before the words come out.” – Azul Terronez

Have you been staring at a blank screen, instead of typing “The End” on your book? Or maybe you’re still dreaming about writing, but you’re worried if it’ll be any good? 

Having a mentor or coach can be invaluable when we start to question our writing. On this week’s episode of “Authors Who Lead,” I’m bringing you a live coaching session with a listener just like you, answering questions that I’m sure will resonate — whether you write fiction, non-fiction, or have yet to start.

Get Out of Your Head

Have you ever felt like writing just isn’t for you? It seems so easy for other people that you may doubt yourself. You may even wonder if your characters or story are good enough.

This sensation of “being in your head” is a problem for most authors, and leads to you feeling stuck. We all need to get out of our heads and concentrate on putting actual words on the page — or, as I tell my authors, “Don’t think in your head, think on the page.”

We All Start With a Lump of Clay

Another reason to get out of your head is to improve your writing — which you can’t do by only thinking about or studying it. Keeping your writing in your head slows down the process. Your thoughts are getting in the way of your story.

And so, the only way to get better at writing is to write.

Once you start doing instead of thinking, you will find your way. You can’t fix or edit your writing if it’s not on the page, so don’t worry about investing a lot of time with your first draft — even if you feel that it will need a lot of editing.

Today is the best day to start thinking on the page. A Turkish proverb says, “No matter how far down the wrong road you’ve gone, turn back.” You can be an author, and you will find much more joy in this work if you can get out of your head.

The beginning with any creative endeavor is like starting with a fresh lump of clay. You need to write that first rough, dirty draft so that in the editing phase, you have something to shape.

Turn Off Your ‘Editor Brain’

Overthinking can distract authors when the “editor brain” gets in the way of putting words on the page.

I’ve found in both my own writing and talking to authors over the years that the “editor brain” can tell us we’re not really authors, or what we’re writing is wrong, or our story is crap. We edit and delete and put off finishing our writing because the “editor brain” whispers to us that it’s not good enough.

When we write, we must turn off the “editor brain” and allow our “creative brain” to take over. This is where the magic happens on the page. We were built to tell our histories and our stories, and that is where we must return.

One exercise that shows you how to turn off the “editor brain” is a two-minute writing sprint. Set a timer for two minutes and just write without editing. Think on the page without judging what you’re writing, and you’ll be surprised how many words you can get onto the page.

‘How Long Should A Chapter Be?’

When trying to decide how long to write your chapters, consider your reader. How much can they tolerate? Are they a casual reader, or someone who can read for hours at a time? Do they want to feel success turning the page, or do they enjoy a deep dive into complex ideas? 

The length of your chapters may also depend on your genre; some have a faster pace and could use shorter chapters. So think about the type of book you’re writing and who will read it. This should help you decide.

‘What Genre is My Book?’

In a bookstore, the fiction section is usually divided into genres, making it easier to find the type of book you like to read.

As an author, sometimes this line between genres blurs as we mix different ideas and themes. For example, in science fiction, there may be a romantic element — but be careful, because if you write a romance novel and don’t have any romance in it, then you cannot call it a romance novel.

Learn all the genres and the rules inside each one. Then, take intelligent, creative steps to break the rules in your own writing. Even the line between fiction and non-fiction can be hard to describe. If you’re writing a mostly fiction book, but you add a lot of knowledge and expertise, you might have trouble deciding if it skews toward non-fiction.

Unless it’s a biography or straight memoir, you most likely are writing fiction — and this gives you more freedom as an author. All those details you have in your head and want to put in your book can be selectively added to enhance the interest of your book.

‘What Makes a Book “Bad”?’

I hear this question a lot — and in many different forms, from both writers and readers.

What makes a book good or bad can be very subjective. One way we can work toward making a decision is by seeing whether the book does its job. If it’s telling you how to make money from owning a lawnmower, then it should do just that. If you’re reading a fantasy book, are there different worlds than our own? And some people may simply prefer one topic or another.

So don’t worry about whether your book is good or bad. You’re telling a story that will impact the reader. That is all you can hope for.

I hope you enjoyed listening in on this coaching conversation. There are many questions that will come up as we journey through writing our books. Just remember these main takeaways from today’s episode:

  1. Get out of your head. It’s better to think on the page.
  2. We all start with a lump of clay. Practice writing words on a page in order to get better.
  3. Turn off your “editor brain” and allow your creative brain to take charge.
  4. Whether a book is good or bad is subjective. All you can do is hope that your story will impact the reader.

What was your biggest takeaway from the episode? In the comments, share your biggest challenge in writing your book.

That’s all for this week. If you have a message inside of you that needs to be written, know that any obstacles you encounter can be overcome. Don’t delay – get out of your head and put words on the page today!

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