Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On Being Afraid

Confession time: I'm scared to write.

I was scared for most of the time while I wrote ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. Here's why: I had this big idea, and I was scared that I wouldn't do it justice. I was scared that I wasn't a good enough writer to write this novel--that this idea was better than I was.

I wrote it anyway.

And I was scared to query it. At the time, there was VERY little YA sci fi on the market. When I went to my local indie to look for comp titles, I came back with ENDER'S GAME and THE HOST. That was it. And some of my fears were valid: I still have the rejections I got from agents who said specifically that a space sci fi would never sell for the YA market. Those early rejections made me fear that my little novel, the one I'd slaved away on, would never sell.

I queried anyway.

Now I find myself facing the barrel of the gun on Book 3. It's crazy to me that I am working on the third book of the trilogy before most people have even seen the second. And...I am petrified. What if you hate it? What if you hate the second one and hate the third one even more? What if I take the story in a different direction from what you want? What if everyone hates it? What if it flops, and my publisher, who I love, doesn't love me back? What if I never sell another book again? What if I have to admit defeat and go back to the day job and reconcile myself to the fact that being a writer isn't for me? Even though I realllllly want it to be?

I'm writing it anyway.

And I know it's bad. I'm still working on the first draft, and it's kicking my butt. I have an idea of what I'd like to see happen, but it's the same thing with AtU: it's this big idea that I want to be able to write and do it justice, but I'm worried I can't. That I'm not good enough to tell this story.

I'm still writing it anyway.

I know fully that I might have to trash this entire draft. With A MILLION SUNS, I rewrote the novel from start to finish four times. I reckon only about 10-20% of the original novel is in the final version. And so, even as I work on Book 3, I know in the back of my head that I'm just taking baby steps up the foothills, not making the big climb to the summit.

When I sit down in front of my laptop, open Scrivener, and stare at the blank document, my stomach twists. It's this sick-anxious feeling. My hands shake a little. I think about throwing up. I jump up and pace the room.

All because I'm scared.

For all the reasons I listed here and more, I'm scared.

But I'm going to write it anyway.

And for the record? There's a little voice inside my head that is whispering: It wouldn't be worth it if you weren't scared. And every time I hear it, I smile. I sit back down. And I write some more.


Faith E. Hough said...

Such a great post!! I actually blogged about fear being a block to writing reading this was very timely. It's so encouraging to hear first hand from someone who overcame their fear!

Sarah Allen said...

Wow. You are such an inspiring, brave woman! Thank you for your example.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Anonymous said...

Every word of this is completely spot-on. I just turned in the last book in my trilogy, and even now, thinking about it makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and eat my own hair. But what I remind myself is that if I wasn't scared, I'd be writing something that was easy and comfortable, not something challenging and true. Book 3 will stretch you and push you and test you, and it will be brilliant, because that's who you are -- and THAT is what will come through in the writing.

NeuroHormone said...

Across the Universe isn't perfect. But I really like it. The story lingers. I still think about it.
We won't hate A million suns. It's crazy to hate a book.
You're a great writer you know? I often compare the writing of a book with yours.
Breathe. :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I really, really needed to hear this today, Beth. Thank you! :-)

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I just visited my old middle school (my first school visit!) to talk about the writing process and told the kids how terrifying first drafts are for me. I don't think this will ever go away. The enormity of writing a book, the audacity in thinking I've got something to say that will interest others -- I have to fight these every time I sit down to something new.

And yet nothing else is as deeply satisfying.

Sherrie Petersen said...

Dude, I SO needed this today. Thank you. Off to do some scary edits...

Tristyn said...

Beth you are AWESOME!!! Thank you so much for this post it really hits home.

Jaime Morrow said...

Thanks for sharing this! I too am writing a YA sci fi story and have had moments of worry that it would never sell in a YA market. I can also relate to having this big idea and not knowing if I can do it justice. Rest assured though: you definitely did your story justice in AtU!.

Gabe (Ava Jae) said...

AtU is a fantastic novel and you absolutely did it justice. Don't worry about that first draft not being up to par--that's what revision is for.

Keep writing! We all have faith in you. :)

Anonymous said...

I have that same fear, frankly I am struggling with it now but as you do - i plug on! It is very inspirational to see you not only continue to write even with the fear, but push past it... something I hope to do when the time comes!

Becky Levine said...

Wonderful! This IS what writers do--write it anyway. Because what--stop writing?! Nah. :)

JennaQuentin said...

Thanks for saying how many times you done a total rewrite on book two! I feel people looking at me as such a loser for not getting it "right" the first time and re-re-rewriting!

HelenL said...

Thanks you for this GREAT reminder. I'm scared about all those things, and it's good to remember that it's because I'm challenging myself.

Jennifer said...

That's so been my problem lately...I'm terrified that, even after the RMFW conference where I was told I have talent...well, I'm terrified that I suck. I guess you just have to keep going, yeah?

Loved this post, Beth. Loved it. You's awesome. :)

Jenny S. Morris said...

This is so encouraging. And, you're so right. If the fear goes away, you loose something. Fear=humility.

Vera Soroka said...

Your post was dead on!The manuscript I'm working on now is like pulling teeth out of wild faerie!Sometimes I think I can't do it but I keep going. I write to my main character Julian and he tells me not to sweat it. He promises to tell me the story and he says he believes in me so I keep writing.

Donna Cummings said...

It's such a huge act of faith to keep writing when it terrifies us like this. I learn from each book I write, but the next book requires I learn something new and different. LOL It's like studying for a test I'll never take. But I keep showing up because I love my stories so much. :)

Kristine Asselin said...

Loved your last line--it's totally worth it. :)

barmybex said...

Yay - write, write, write.
Such a good message. :D

P.S. I received my charm and goodies today. Thank you so much, it's awesome! I literally squealed and jumped up and down when I opened it. You made my day. :D

Tere Kirkland said...

I love to read posts like this because as much as I love drafting, I'm ALWAYS scared when I sit down to write. I'm scared I won't be able to get it right on the first go, which is stupid, because I NEVER get it right on the first go.

I'm scared the awesome ideas in my head won't seem so awesome on paper.

I'm scared no one will want to read it.

But I keep writing anyway because I'm more afraid of what my life will be like if I don't keep spewing these stories in my head onto paper. Afraid to lose the joy I experience when I write.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing this so those of us who aren't published yet know we're not alone.

Angela Brown said...

There are four letter words that have significant impact, a few are infamously curse words. But then there is LIFE. And as mentioned here, FEAR.

Fear paralyzes, incapacitates and does so much more to restrict - if we let it. I am glad you posted this because it is important to recognize fear, then do the scariest thing ever: Face it head on.

Mary said...

Love that Eleanor Roosevelt quote. So appropriate. Fear's scared me off of writing for a couple of months now, and I've only just picked up the pen (well, opened up a Word document).
I'm scared that my idea's stupid.
I'm scared that I can't write what I need to to make this book good.
I'm scared that I'll rewrite this ten million times and it still will suck (I'm on rewrite three).

But I'm determined and back on the writing horse. Thank you for putting yourself out there -- it makes me feel not so alone.

You rock! Can't wait to read A Million Suns and the third book, too. All those rewrites will be worth it (I'm saying that to both of us)!

Unknown said...

WHY ARE YOU PRESSURING ME!! I feel pressure!!! Okay, so maybe, just maybe I'll send a query out tonight. You convinced me.

Christine Fonseca said...

Best. Post. Ever! Just saying...

Shilpa Mudiganti said...

You are going to do great because you are a brave girl. Trust your readers. They loved your first book. They will love your second book too. And will wait eagerly for your third book. :)

Megan said...

Wow. This is truly a wonderful blog post. And I just adore the quote. Thar should be my motto from now on. (:

Diana Julianna said...

Beth, I... I don't know what to say. Other than that this is perfect. I'm so scared, too, and I feel like I'm the only one who's scared, so I'm the only one who really sucks at writing and doing anything in general, right? And I'm almost ready to query, but now I'm still so scared, but now that you've posted this, I feel like I can do it. I can charge through it. So I want to thank you, because this was exactly what I needed.

Thank. You.

Nancy Bilyeau said...

As I write the second book in my historical thriller series, this couldn't be more timely. And awesome!! thank you

Mist said...

I'm reading ATU RIGHT NOW.

Please keep writing! :D

And I write as well (though I'm not published. Yet. Hopefully.) and I've been putting off starting this book forever. 'Cause I was worried about the same thing: maybe it's better when it's in my head. Maybe the words I write won't be good. Or enough. Or good enough.

So this helps...I'm gonna go draft that book.
Right after I finish AtU. :)

Katia Raina said...

Loved the post, and btw, Across The Universe was PERFECT. You couldn't have written it better, and no matter how much you agonize, I know the last book will be just as amazing.

Tristina said...

I just found you and your book and this blog. This post is the first one I read and I cried.

I haven't written in 10 years because I've been terrified. I was told by people I respected that I couldn't do it. I believed them and, until recently, that fear kept me from writing.

I just finished the first draft of part one of a story I've had in my head for 6 years. I'm still terrified. Terrified those professors were right. Terrified I won't do this tale justice.

But reading this made me realize that I can push through the fear and write it *for me* and then worry about the rest.

So, thank you...

Shari said...

Oh. My. Gosh. I didn't think anyone else out there felt the same way that I did. Sometimes I procrastinate writing because of the fear. I haven't quit, nor have I given up, but I do put it off sometimes because I feel like I will never be able to write it as well as it needs to be written.

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