Writers and the Self-doubt Struggle


photo by Tamma66 on Pixabay  – Self-doubt

You’re at a family gathering, and you’re catching up with your cousin Louie who you haven’t seen in a hundred years. If truth be told, you thought he had passed away or moved to Canada.

But here he is back in the deep south. You exchange a few pleasantries and then he asks that question. The one every writer and stay at home mom hates.  “What do you do?”

Heaven help you, if like me, you’re both.

You stare at him for a few seconds, unsure of how to answer.

Should you say you’re a writer? After all, what have you published lately?

You could mention the marketing or the critiquing for others or your weekly blog, but none of it sounds like what normal people do.

Then the winds of self-doubt begin to stir, and the old familiar questions whisper to your heart.

How can you call yourself a writer? Aren’t you a fraud? What value does your writing bring to the world anyway?

You do write, but often you feel it is more of a hobby then a career. Sure, you’ve spent money going to conferences, buying books on the craft, and paying for edits to polish your manuscripts, but what does all that really mean?

By the end of the evening, those inner voices of self-doubt and Louie’s weird comments send you home to toss your laptop out the window, into the trash bin.

We all face these inner questions as writers.

The struggle exists. One minute we are all in. No doubts, sure of our calling. The next we wonder why on earth we pushed the send button on that email to the editor or posted that piece online.

We want to share our words, to give hope, to encourage, to point to Christ.

Yet …

Here, in the hesitation, we find the truth.

Self-doubt is fear, all gussied up.

Fear of failure.

Funny enough, sometimes fear of success.

Fear of criticism and judgement.

Fear of public exposure when we share parts of our journey.

Fear of what others will think. Of us.

So, what is a writer to do? Well, we are word nerds, so let’s take apart the word.

First, let’s look at the word self.

We must remember it’s not about us. “The Lord is my helper.” Our confidence pours from Him, the living water.  We aren’t supposed to try and do our writing in our own strength. Our life and our calling are in the Lord’s hands, and He is the cornerstone of both.

And second, let’s look at the word doubt.

With the Lord as our helper, we need not fear, because no man can stand against the plans of the Lord, or as Romans 8:13 says “If God is for us, who can be against us?” What can mere mortals do? We can not determine the course of our calling based on the consensus of man. It won’t work that way. Fear of man is a trap, and our love for God is the only way out.

Our doubts must be bathed in prayer and held to the light of God’s Word. Then the Lord will calm our fears and help us do what He has called us to do—write.

Self-doubt for the writer comes as part of the journey. All of us battle it, but once it has been exposed as fear, we have a better chance to quiet those whispers and settle those winds.

Because as Courageous Writers, we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.” Hebrews 13:6 (NIV).


Bonita Y. McCoy





Tag Your It – Tag Lines and Action Beats

by Bonita Y. McCoy


Dialogue is fun to write. You get to be witty or sassy; snarky or angry; wise or entertaining. But along with dialogue come tag lines and action beats. These two companions play a large role in forming solid dialogue in your story.

Tag Lines:

Tag lines are the he said, she said of the dialogue world. They are used to identify the speaker.

If done right, they practically disappear to the reader. For that reason, you don’t want to use anything odd or exotic in your tag lines. You don’t want your character to wail, snarl, or whine in the tag line. Save those actions for where they belong in the action beats.

Too many times writers will get their tag lines and action beats mixed up. An example of this would be: “You startled me,” Carol groaned.

Carol can groan, but she cannot groan and speak at the same time. Instead write: “You startled me.” Carol groaned. Changing the comma at the end of the statement to a period makes Carol groaned into an action beat instead of a tag line.

The same holds true for actions like laughed, hissed, giggled, and sighed. These need to be action beats instead of tag lines.

The best advice with tag lines is to stick to the plain Janes of he said, she said, he asked, or she asked.


Action Beats:

Now action beats are a horse of another color. You want them to be filled with strong, vibrant verbs and nouns. You want them to paint a picture of your character and how they behave in your reader’s mind.

Good action beats should complement your dialogue. The danger is sometimes we use them to explain the dialogue instead of showing the action. An example would be: “You are so funny.” She said laughingly.

The action beat is explaining the dialogue. Instead the better use of the action beat would be to describe the character doing something someone does when they laugh.

“You are so funny.” She held her side as she tried to stand straight.

In using the action beat to portray what the character is doing instead of explaining the dialogue, you are drawing your reader into the story and moving the action of the scene along. Your action beats should help to paint the scene and your character for the reader.

The best advice with action beats is to make them count. Use them to add to the scene and give your character life.

Tag lines and action beats are staples in the dialogue world. As a wordsmith, it will be to your advantage to learn to use them well.


Happy Writing,

Bonita Y. McCoy

connect with me at my website Bonita Y. McCoy

Three Differences Between Dialogue and Conversation

by Bonita Y. McCoyfeedback-2990424_1920

Dialogue simply put is what the characters in a story say to one another. The back and forth flow of their words. Most new writers think that writing dialogue is easy. After all, we talk all the time. How hard can it be, right?

However, there is a huge difference between good dialogue and the typical conversations we hold every day.

One difference is where they start. Most new writers start their dialogue in the wrong place. They want to start at the beginning of the conversation like when you answer the telephone and say hello. But the reader is not interested in the everyday courtesies we use in our conversations. The reader wants to get to the meat of the dialogue.

As writers, we must determine the right place to start. Just like the scenes in our story, we want our dialogue to start as close to the important information as possible without it seeming unnatural. We don’t want any extraneous chatter, but we don’t want it to sound contrived either.

Good dialogue should move the plot forwarded by giving us information about the story or another character; or by creating tension in the scene; or by giving us a picture of the character who is speaking.

Another difference between good dialogue and typical conversation is filler words. Umm’s and Uh’s can be used to show hesitation on the part of a character, but if we wrote dialogue as we hear it out in the real world, our readers would die of boredom.

Good dialogue should be paced at a nice clip. You don’t want your dialogue to drag. Filler words slow down the pace of the scene and cause the reader to lose interest.

Again, we want our dialogue to sound natural and have a good rhythm but without all the speed bumps real conversations contain.


One other aspect of dialogue is the use of dialect, slang, or colloquialisms. As writers, we want to use the kind of language that everyone will understand.

Colloquialisms, sayings familiar to a specific area of the world, can distract the reader and pull them out of the story. Try to use sayings that are familiar to the larger audience.

With slang and dialects, a little goes a long way. If your character has an accent, you don’t have to mangle every word to make the point. Pick a few key words familiar to the audience as part of that areas dialect and use them. An example would be a southerner using “y’all” or an Irishman using the word “lass”.

The use of dialogue can be tricky, but with practice, dialogue can become one of the best parts of your story elements.

connect with me on my website Bonita Y. McCoy


Marketing – Not One Size Fits All

People hangout together at coffee shop

As a writer in today’s business world, you are expected to do the lion’s share of the marketing for your book. It does not matter if you are traditionally published or if you, like many others, are an Indie author. You will carry the responsibility of giving your book wings.

Because of this fact, the noise level on the subject has increased in recent years. Everyone is looking for the “right marketing plan” that will land them in the financial plus column at the end of the day. Many have copied the marketing plan of others to no avail, only to be frustrated and feel like they are running in circles.

But do not despair.

There is hope for all of us authors who would rather be writing, but also want to make a living with our words.

Here is the secret. The best marketing plan for your book is the one that fits you and your quirks.

There is nothing wrong with looking at what other authors do or how they do it. In fact, you’d be amiss if you didn’t, but the marketing plan that is going to push you forward in your goals is the one that fits who you are.

The mistake is thinking one size fits all.

IMG_title not one size fits all


So, here are four questions to ask yourself as you start to plan a marketing strategy that fits the way you work.

1. Am I an introvert or an extrovert?

This will affect some of the strategies you might use. For instance, an introvert will be more comfortable using Facebook Ads and Direct Mailing because it takes less social interaction.

Using these strategies will be more successful because the stress factor for the author will be lower.

If you are an extrovert, book signings, interviews, or teaching a class will be of interest to you. These authors enjoy the interaction with readers as a group and find it energizing.

2. Do I work better in the morning, afternoon, or evening?

The real question is when are you firing on all pistons? Whenever that is for you, set aside that time once a week to hit the marketing hard.

3. How much time does my schedule allow for my marketing?

I know many of us are not yet full-time writers and with that in mind, we have to pick and choose our marketing strategies very carefully.

The first thing to take into account as you choose strategies is where are you in your writing journey? If you are just beginning, then this is the time to set up your social media accounts. Begin connecting with others in the industry such as agents, editors, cover designers, and other authors.

If you are further along, your goal should be to connect with potential readers. Let friends and family know about your writing and start a blog or a newsletter. Engage in Facebook groups online and with writer groups in your community.

Another thing to take into account as you choose strategies is how much return on invested time will you see. If you have limited time, put your efforts into the one or two strategies that will profit you the most. These strategies will, of course, depend on your overall goals. But do not try to do it all.

4. Do I need accountability?

If you are one to procrastinate, you might need an accountability partner. This is someone who will hold you to your plan. These types of friends are helpful not only in keeping you on track with your marketing, but they also come in handy in meeting deadlines for writing.

There is something about saying a deadline or goal out loud to someone that makes it real.

These four questions are to get you thinking about who you are. The bottom line about marketing success is author know thyself. Design a plan that fits who you are, and you are more likely to stick with it and have success.

Happy Writing,

Bonita Y. McCoy