Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


Welcome back, Dear Readers.

Last Wednesday, I shared some advice from a business coach. Of his four steps to success, the most crucial one was belief. It’s not enough to know where you’re going–you have to believe with all your heart that you will get there.

I’ve struggled with a lack of belief since I was a kid, past that all-too-short-lived stage where I thought that everything I did was special and awesome. Even now, after supporting myself as a writer for twenty years, I’m still pleasantly surprised if someone tells me they’ve read my work and enjoyed it. I’m always braced for this terrible criticism that never comes.

After I had to part ways with my agent, I struggled with a real crisis of faith. I’d thought landing the agent was the tough part, you see. I’d believed that once I got an agent, she would sell my book, enabling me to focus on what I really wanted to do, which was to write fiction full time. When this didn’t happen, I was devastated. I kept hoping things would change, when it would have been obvious to any outsider that this just wasn’t going to happen. So I remained in agent purgatory for several years, during which time I didn’t write a single word of new fiction.

Once I made the decision to end that relationship and start fresh, I wrote a new novel–my first since I’d signed with the agent. But what I didn’t do was submit my work. I haven’t submitted my work since I signed with the agent, but I’ve continued to write books.

What’s the problem? My belief has been shaken.

What is your goal? What are you working towards right now? Do you absolutely, one hundred percent believe you’ll achieve it?

If you ever find yourself feeling doubtful, here are the four areas to focus on in order to strengthen your belief.

1) Clarity. You need a plan.

2) Confidence. If you find it difficult to be confident about your plan, the business coach says a lack of trust is usually the issue. Identify what you might be lacking confidence in and address it…or, if it’s something you can’t control, create a work-around for it.

3) Competency. Gain competency through skill development, training, seeking advice, coaching, and gaining experience.

4) Past experiences. The past is to learn from but does not dictate your future.

The fourth point was a revelation for me. I’d been using my past experience with an agent to dictate my future relationships. Because that one instance had not worked out, I’d convinced myself that it would be the same thing with all other agents. And why would I submit my work if I’d convinced myself it would mean going through that painful experience again and again?

Think about the hurdles you have faced in achieving your goals. Could belief be an issue for you? Do you have a clear plan for success? Are you confident it will work? Do you have the training necessary to make it happen? And are you able to learn from your mistakes without letting them define you?

Feel free to share your thoughts. I’d love to hear how these principles worked for you, or how a lack of belief has held (or is holding) you back.

Thanks for reading!
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  1. Mystic_Mom

    You are so right Holli, we need to put the old critics and old things behind us and move forward. When I had a teacher who was highly critical of my writing tell me to stop, I mailed her (yeah back in the day) a copy of a letter from Ron Southern (Atco and Spruce Meadows) complimenting me on a story I had written about them. She tried to take credit for it because her harshness was the ‘push I needed’ to make me write better! What a laugh!

    So when someone tries to tell me to stop, I remember her, and in spite of her I keep going. And in spite of them.

    Good for you, being such an encourager, and for keeping on keeping on! You are a fighter at heart, and I love it.

  2. Holli Moncrieff

    Thanks for your comment, Shanyn. I recognize that this is much easier said than done, but probably the quickest way to leave the past behind is to move forward. The sooner I have a positive experience with an agent, the sooner that former experience will lose significance, right? It did teach me some valuable lessons, and that’s what I have to hold on to.

    I also had a high school teacher who was highly critical of my writing. I used to argue with him all the time. But it turns out he was doing it to make me a better writer–he thought that, if he pushed me, I would stop taking the easy way out in my work. And he was right–I became a much better writer through working with him. Is there a chance your teacher was the same? Or was she honestly a b who tried to discourage you?

    The writing life is so tough that some teachers have the misguided idea that they need to give us our first trial by fire. If we survive, then maybe we’re cut out for this gig.

    You’re a fighter, too, but I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that. Congrats on surviving! Much love to you….Merry Christmas.

  3. Janie Franz

    Holli, this is a great blog with much to think about. I’ve been facing some blocks with writing my next book and with marketing the latest one out. I think a lot of it has to do with deeper issues of belief and confidence. I have much to ponder. Thank you!
    Janie Franz, author of the Bowdancer Sage and the Ruins trilogy

  4. Holli Moncrieff

    Welcome to my blog, Janie! I hope you visit again. Thanks for your kind words. I find keeping belief alive to be one of my greatest struggles as a writer, so you are definitely not alone. I’m glad you found this post useful. I debated whether or not it was worth posting at this time of year, but you made me glad I did, so thank you!

    Hope to “see” you again. Good luck with your writing and marketing. I wish you all the best.

  5. Michelle D. Argyle

    Rhemalda closing kind of did me in, honestly. I’m still allowing that experience and “failure” in my life to dictate my future. It’s going to take me all of 2014 to heal, and I already know that, so I’ve made the proper preparations to allow it to happen. Great post. 🙂

  6. Holli Moncrieff

    I’m so sorry to hear that, Michelle, but I completely understand. I was startled to realize how much my one bad experience with an agent has held me back.

    I hope 2014 is a healing year for you, and I hope we can still keep in touch throughout that time. Thanks for commenting.



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