Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fear is the mind killer

So, you may have noticed my blog stutterings lately. On again, off again. Whining about time and not being able to write and so forth. Trust me, I irritated myself with my constant fussing.

But I think I'm finally back on track (God, I hope so!). I hate not being able to write, being afraid to put words on the page. 

Because that's what it was--fear. And I completely brought it on myself.

Around the end of last year, I had a shiny new idea, had plowed my way to about 50k and was making good time towards a tidy ending. Then a golden opportunity presented itself. Someone well-known in the writing blogosphere--someone who'd just landed a major book deal--held a contest in which she'd read and critique the first 25 pages of a novel. And I won. I WON! I never win anything, at least nothing like that. I was thrilled and, even though I knew my pages weren't read to be seen, I couldn't pass it up. So, I sent her those shiny, new, beautiful-to-my-eyes pages knowing she'd have plenty to say. I mean, they weren't perfect, after all. I'd only gone over them a handful of times and wasn't even done with the story, so they were probably going to change anyway. I thought she'd give me some good pointers, talk about flow and character and the like...stuff I knew I needed.

Or so I told myself.

She ripped them to pieces, throwing questions at me left and right, pulling loose all the dangling threads in my story. In fact, she did exactly what I expected--exactly what a strong critiquer should do. She did nothing wrong.

I thought I was prepared. I swear I did. But those questions made me question my sanity in writing that story. A story with a guy's voice. A story where said guy works in a field I'm unfamiliar with, except though extensive research. A story that takes place in a setting I don't know much about, having never been there except virtually.

Despite all that, I plowed forward, at least until I reached the end of the book. Then I went back to the beginning, read over her notes again, and realized everything was wrong. What the hell was I doing? The story sucked. My characters were paper-thin. The setting wouldn't hold up if someone who'd been there ever read it. And the plot was so freakin' over-the-top that no one would ever believe it.

I stalled out. Went into a tailspin. Crashed and burned, engines flaming with black smoke trailing behind me. It wasn't pretty.

For months, I tried to rewrite, rework, research more, fill in the character holes, shore up the plot holes, and research some more. I ditched pages, dropped characters, moved events, and moved the beginning a kazillion times. But I couldn't get past the first pile of chapters. Or start anything new. I was afraid that I'd fail. Afraid of failure before I even got anywhere and I couldn't move past it, no matter what I tried.

So. Freakin'. Frustrating.

But lately, the muse has been whispering sweet-nothings in my ear again. A reworking of my crash-and-burn guy story (I mean, who cares if it's over-the-top? I love over-the-top!). A new YA urban fantasy and an adult urban fantasy set in the same world. A hot and humorous romance. All yummy. All just waiting for me to write. *rubs hands together gleefully*

Oh, thank all that is good in the world. I'm writing again. I'm getting words on a page, even if they are only backstory, character development, and research at the moment. Writing. That's right, y'all! Yeah buddy!

Frank Herbert, author of Dune, was right. Fear is the mind killer. It certainly laid mine low. But I'm determined to work with my fear this time. I mean, it's okay to be afraid as long as you don't let it stop you, right? Fear is the whetstone upon which I sharpen my blade (who said that? I know it wasn't me...).

Okay, so that's my story. What have you all been up to?


  1. that's one of my favorite quotes; because fear IS the mind killer.

  2. Fear sucks. I'm glad your muse is back and whispering! It's hard getting past that terror. I've had my battles with it as well. Glad you're winning! :)

  3. Sounds like you moved passed fear to growth ... that means the trip was worth the journey!!

  4. Thanks for the support, all! Here's to writing through the fear. :)