In this series of posts, I’ll be talking about top secret code words used by me as a writer. Some may be used by other writers, too, in which case I picked them up from elsewhere. Some are the terms I am using for my own creative process. And I figured, if they’re worth me churning in my brain, they might be worth sharing online with other indie writers as well. (It’s also good therapy for me, and it’s free.)
Secret (and not so secret) words coming up are Sequencing and Donut Hole, and maybe even BFF.
But today’s not-so-secret code word is: FEAR.
FEAR is the primary reason I’m sitting here typing this instead of the next scene or chapter in my novel. Because, like most of you (if not all of you) fellow writers, I’m afraid of it.
I’m afraid to sit down and write it, because it might suck. Or I’m not sure where to go with it, not sure what happens next. Or I do know what happens next and it’s challenging or I’m not confident I can handle what has to be done, so I am avoiding it.
Or I’m afraid of failure: What if I write it and publish it and either no one reads/buys it? Or they do, and I get only bad feedback and negative reviews? And everyone tells me it sucks? And I suck?
Or maybe even I’m actually afraid of success: What if I finish this novel and somehow, suddenly, this big tsunami of sales happens and I’m thrust unprepared into the possible realization of my dreams—that I can actually quit working and write fulltime? Holy shit, wouldn’t that be horrible? Then what the hell do I do??!!
Or a hundred other reasons, all of which boil down to one thing: Fear.
The last couple chapters I wrote, I had exactly that problem. One of them was a scene I’ve known was coming for years! I have been looking forward to it, both because it meant I was nearing the end of the book and because it was just going to be a damn fun scene.
And yet, when I finally got there, I paused. I groped for my confidence and came up empty handed.
So, what did I do?
I sat down and wrote the damn scene.
And it was fun. Some of you may eventually find it fun, too. 🙂
Actually, it wasn’t quite that easy. I knew what would happen in the action part, the middle part, but wasn’t sure how to get that started. How to broach the chapter in order to reach the meaty part of the scene?
Sitting and thinking about it didn’t get me there. So I just started writing. I rambled a little bit, wandered more than expected, but I eventually wandered right into the place I needed to be. Perfect!
The next chapter was similar. Right after that chapter, I knew the book was breaking into the next act. (I generally support the three-act structure in my longer work.) I did a page break, typed in PART THREE: SHIVA THE DESTROYER, and then… Paused again. Now what?
Well, I knew it was going to be dialogue heavy, so I just let the characters get me through it. I let them go into the natural discussion that was coming and they hashed it out for me. Easy peasy.
As I’ll get into with the next code word entries, I’m also deathly afraid of deciding, What comes next? Which of the 30+ books in my head to start once I finish this one? There are arguments for several of them. And even though I know what the best answer is, I’m still afraid of it. Because I don’t know what’ll happen. (I usually don’t, until I write it!) I don’t know if continuing the superhero course is for the best when I have these other, easier, probably more accessible sci-fi series I could get moving onto.
But all that is a discussion for another time. (Or, in my case, about three times a day in my own head, or when I’m on a walk outside.)
Fear is ever-present. No way around it. One or all of these scenarios will continue to pop up. And all you can do is trust in the process and proceed as normal. I imagine having a routine helps. Like you get up every day at this time and churn out this many words. Sounds solid. (Too bad my schedule constantly changes—in ten years, I’ve never been able to get a routine like that!) But if you have a good routine, I bet it’s easier to just say, “Fuck the fear, this is my writing time and now I’m wasting it. Time to get to work.”
Ooohh, that sounds nice!
I’m very likely about to be job hunting again, so I still won’t be able to get a routine down. (Long story, mostly still involving the Navy and expectations for me and the Reserves. I don’t want to think about it right now. Because I’m afraid of that whole mess, too!) But damn if having that kind of daily, set-aside ritual doesn’t sound wonderful!
And there we go. Almost 900 words in like 20 minutes. If only I could focus those powers toward a book. It’s no harder to write. It’s still just pounding keys with my fingers! And once I get going, it flows just as fast as a raging river. Sometimes I even have to skip ahead to get the good part down, then come back to fill in how to get there. My brain goes that fast on the good stuff. And yet…! Here I sit, afraid to switch over and do just that.
You know, I have so many other things I should be doing too. Still have boxes to unpack, books to filter through to get rid of, go to the post office, get some exercise… Maybe I’ll save the writing thing for now. It’s just too scary…