Doubts and Fears in Writing

I find myself seeing a lot of posts about self-doubt and fear as a writer – fear that swings from “what if I never finish it?” to “what if I finish it and everyone hates it?”

Well, today I’m hoping that I will be able to help alleviate these fears – mostly because they’re baseless and only exist because of your roaring (awesome!) imaginations.

Firstly; the fears surrounding whether or not you will finish your work depends on you and you alone – yes, it helps if someone gives you a motivational kick up the butt, but what do you do when there’s no one around to do it? Kick yourself. This is your story idea. Does it give you excitement just thinking about where the plot could go? Do you understand and hate/love your characters?

Take your story and own it. Even if you write it poorly, write it anyway. Get the idea down so you can edit it to a fine shine later, so long as the important parts are essentially there – and quit worrying about overusing words, adverbs, etc etc. Again, you can and will be editing it later anyway. Get it written.

As for the fear of your story being rejected by the readers we are trying to impress? You can’t count on one bad review being a shared feeling with everyone who touches it.

We’ve all read stories. I’ve had friends give me books that I didn’t enjoy, books that may have been their favourites. It will happen every time, because we as humans are complicated and varied.

Love your story, be passionate about it, and the people it is right for will find it and hopefully love it as much as you do.

I guess, really, writing is all about how we perceive the world or emotions and how we’d like to see them portrayed, so instead of worrying about what others may think of it, all I will tell you is to enjoy every step of the world and people you create. If you loved writing it, it will show in your work and the people will love it just for feeling your passion alone.

So, what are you waiting for? Get back to work – a masterpiece cannot write itself!

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What I Learned From A Writing Contest

I’d never entered a contest before – frankly,  I’d never gone public with any story I’ve written.

I learned of the contest through The Write Practice, and I’d watched a few of their contests pass me by in the past. This time I decided to give it a go. It was a Love + Fall (Autumn) theme, with a maximum word count of 1,500.

Needless to say, I felt a little out of my depth from the moment I signed up. I’d never written a short story before, not without it turning into a full-blown novel, but I felt it calling to me as a challenge. I’d never experimented properly with 1st person, and I certainly never write romances (fantasy/adventure lover, me!), but while I was in the throws of editing my novel before unleashing it to the world, I decided to take a break from my writing… by writing something completely different.

So…

What did I learn?

There’s so much I can list, but what I think is most important of all was the writing community itself. Workshopping and working together to give each other encouraging feedback and support, it was truly a great way to meet new people – from novice writers to experienced, all sharing our tales together and sharing whatever knowledge we had freely.

I don’t think this will be the last contest I enter. It was fun as hell (yes, I’m weird) working towards a deadline, and it really pumped up my motivation to get my novel completed.

Although it was a short story, and a far cry from what I’d normally write, the sense of accomplishment at having written, finished, and revised a story within 2 weeks has done the world of good for me – and I think for any writer who’s been working on the same project for a good while. It’s nice to have a break.

For those who might be interested, I’ll insert a link here to my short story which has been published on Short Fiction Break as a part of the competition. You’ll find all the other contest entries there too – and don’t forget to vote for your favourite!

Real Life In Fiction

It’s been a while between blog posts – computer troubles! But it hasn’t stopped me from doing what I love most, which is writing.

I’m constantly learning and trying to perfect my writing craft, and I’m the worst (best?) self-critic.

Do you ever find yourself reading your own material and, while a part of you feels that parental love towards it, you’re finding that some areas are falling flat? By all means love your novel or nonfiction masterpiece, but don’t hold back tearing parts to shreds when your gut tells you something’s off.

For me, my biggest issues were the dreaded “Show Don’t Tell”, and the emotions / relationships portrayed between my characters. I completed the draft and had a sound plot, but now is the most important part – I want my audience to feel what my characters are feeling. I want them to question alongside my protagonist who to trust. I want them to agonize over a decision that could have dire consequences. 

But how do I do that?

The secret… By delving into my memories, all the relationships, decisions, the feelings I’ve experienced.

What is happening to my protagonist? Have I been in a similar situation? How did or would I feel – truly? And I’m not just talking emotion here. 

If my character is feeling fear and doubt, that can show in many ways – and the great thing is that we as individuals can all react differently in the same scenario, but we feel emotion equally. When you’re scared, how do you feel physically? A few examples: Cold, trembles, your muscles tense like you’re braced to run for it. Emotionally? Fear has an uncanny way of stopping logical thought, panic grows alongside fear. What will you do, what will you do, what will you do!

We’ve all been scared. How did you fight the urge to get out of there? Did you manage it? Is there a scarier consequence if you don’t do this frightening thing? And how does that affect how you cope with the situation?

This is why I love writing. I’ve always been quiet and observant from a young age – mainly due to fear of my own – but I learned a lot about people, their quirks and how different people react in the same situation depending on their personalities. It fascinates and intrigues me, and people themselves offer a whole world of mystery.

A good way to practice this and bring your characters to life is to write small paragraphs about people (or your own characters) that you know very well. One-by-one, put them all in the same situation and I’ll wager that not one of those paragraphs will be the same.

Happy writing!

Dismounting the Writer’s Block

notepad pen

Now, I’m not entirely sure if I’m making this up or if someone actually said this, but it is a quote that resonates with me:

Creativity goes where creativity flows..

The scary thing is: writer’s block will hit you eventually, and it will smack you in the face and take a tumble with you until the point comes that you’re on your knees screaming “I don’t want to be a writer anymore!”

You had a brilliant idea for a story – even better, as you began to write even more ideas came pouring in. A stroke of brilliance. “This is going to be the best story ever!”

Then suddenly…

**BAM. SPLAT. KAPOW.**

Where have all those creative juices gone?

You don’t understand. The initial idea is brilliant and now – somewhere along the way – the flow of absoloute awesome has vanished… But has it, really?

Yes, writer’s block does affect each and every one of us. Sometimes for just a week, at other times for a month – or even longer. What can we do to overcome this? I’m going to share a couple of nuggets from my secret horde of writing genius (sorry, that does sound a little egotistical, doesn’t it?) to help you get out of this miasma of sorrow and pain.

First off: take a deep breath. Calm down. Shhh. It happens to us all.

Second: I want you to take a look at your writing – what is blocking you? For me, it was a sense of boredom and feeling like the story was going nowhere. I took a leaping step back, re-evaluated and changed a lot.

Third: What if your story is brilliant and there is nothing to change? Take a few days off then jump back in… “Wait!” I can hear you cry. “What if I’m still stuck?!”

Talk about it. A friend, a family member, anyone who might care enough to listen. I’m lucky in that while my partner isn’t a big reader, he is a big fan of movies. They’re stories, too.

I will tell him what’s happening and wait for his appropriate comments and questions. If the questions don’t come? Maybe you need a re-think. Are you giving too much away and the story has lost the intrigue that it began with?

I find that as I’m talking about my story, explaining my characters and answering questions, I’m also now considering things I had never thought out before. “Why are they there, instead of there?” Because.. “Why is he like that?” Because. “How does he know where to go?” Because…

It’s strange, but as I answer questions automatically to things that I hadn’t considered before I am also discovering more about my story, my world and my characters. I write it all down.

Now it’s time to go detective mode: who’s in conflict? Why? Is there another back-story in there that will affect your character now? Are you portraying it?

Suddenly, my excitement is rekindled and I want to answer each and every question – maybe not all at once, I’ll hide a few sweet nuggets until right at the end (who can resist a good twist?), but that’s what brings around new questions. New answers. New ideas.

Just remember….

You can’t force this. When you’re pulling your hair out looking for a sentence then I have one thing to say: Get your fingers away from the keyboard. Step back… BACK, I SAY!

If your words aren’t flowing as naturally as breathing, then you are pushing words to paper rather than following the flow of your own creative juice. If we read it, we’ll know.

Keep an open mind. Consider every option, every character, every emotion. What if it happens like this. “Yeah, but, I don’t want him to-” Shh, shh. It’s up to your character, not up to you. Go with the flow – you may find that your characters have their own minds and ideas (scary, isn’t it? Aren’t they supposed to be figments of our imaginations?).

FINALLY:

I want you to just enjoy what you’re writing. I want you to be surprised with what comes through your fingertips. I want you to have an idea, write it and find that you’ve written a different thing entirely. If that happens? Don’t just change it. WHY? Because it’s when you’re in the zone that you’re the best, and sometimes you will surprise yourself with your own genius. Pat yourself on the back.

Written by Elisabeth