It’s nice to know that every writer, even the ones with lots of success, are still tortured by the same insecurities as the rest of us. Acclaimed mystery novelist John Connolly writes:
I can’t speak for other writers, but there is a wall that I hit during
the writing of every book. The point at which it occurs varies from
book to book, although it’s usually around the halfway stage or just
beyond it. I start to doubt the plot, the characters, the ideas
underpinning it, my own writing, in fact every element involved in the
[…] You’d think that, by now, with eight books written, those doubts would
have become less intense. After all, I’ve been through it before. I
know that I’ve had these concerns about other books and in the end
those books have been written and published without bearing any obvious
scars from the turmoil that went into their creation. But there is
always that fear that this book, this story, is the one that should not
have been started. The idea isn’t strong enough. The plot is going
nowhere. I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way and now have
to try to find the right path again.
This happens to me, too…but less often if I have a strong outline to start with (though an outline is no insurance policy against realizing 35,00o words into your book that it’s crap and you’re a complete fraud). In talking with other writers, I’ve noticed that the ones who hit the wall the most are the ones who make up their plot as they go along, preferring to be "surprised" by their characters and the turns in the story. Of course, this means the turns may lead to a creative dead end. I don’t know if John outlines or not, but my guess is that he doesn’t.
UPDATE: Author PJ Parrish is nearing the end of a new book and is experiencing night terrors:
The new book is almost done. First draft, that is. I haven’t read it
through since we started the thing months ago. I am afraid to. I have
this really bad feeling that it is a heaping, stinking, fetid, rancid
pile of crap. I dream about it now, this pile of crap, almost every
night, like Richard Dreyfus in "Close Encounters." I wake up in a sweat
over it. My only consolation is knowing that I feel this way with every
book. And that I am not alone.