Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Do you write scared?

As writers, we become accustomed to dealing with fear and uncertainty on a daily basis. What if no one likes our story? What if this story isn’t as good as the last one? What if we can't find an agent? The list is endless.

However, most of these fears come after we’ve written and edited our words. We face them when we're ready to send our chapters off to our critique partners or our editors, or when we're about to upload our precious manuscript to Amazon. But what about the fears we face when we’re in the middle of writing?

In my case, I’ve come to the conclusion that, for the past couple of years, I’ve been writing scared.

It wasn’t always that way. When I first began writing six years ago, it didn’t occur to me to be scared. I wrote what made me happy, blissfully ignorant of the rules of writing. But then I learned about showing versus telling and story structure and active versus passive sentences—and everything changed.

Some of the writing blogs I visited back then would nitpick over the smallest hint of “telling” or deride any use of the word “was.” These writers/editors convinced me that allowing these problems to remain in my manuscript would be a sure fire way to brand myself a newbie and render me unworthy of consideration by an agent. So it’s no surprise that whenever I sat down to write, I concentrated more on avoiding these kinds of mistakes than I did on the story itself.

It's the main reason I waited so long before searching for a critique partner. Based on what I’d read, I was under the impression that any CP worth their salt would be horrified if they came across a telling line or two and wouldn’t want to waste any further time reading my manuscript.

But now, after two long years, I’ve learned most CPs (and readers in general) aren't nearly as worried about the “rules” as I thought. They’re much more interested in whether the story is entertaining, makes sense, and is easy to read. Don’t get me wrong. I still try to “show” as much as possible and weed out passive sentences whenever I can, but I no longer feel as if my CPs pull out their hair while reading my chapters. And since I don't fret over the rules so much, my writing moves more quickly now.

It feels great to no longer be writing scared.

P.S. I’m saving my fears for when the story is finished. :)


  1. You're right, most readers don't care.
    I write careful. Like you, I've heard all the rules and I try really hard to avoid breaking them in the first draft. Of course that means I also write really slow. Well, slower. Guess I need to take your advice.

  2. Yep. I still spend lots of time in the first draft trying to follow the rules even though there's no reason to worry about that until later drafts. Just can't help myself.

  3. I'm one of those critique partners who is more interested in story. Occasionally, the "was" and "that" words will pop up on my radar, but it's only when it's used excessively in description.

    Keep on fearlessly writing!

  4. The small, technical stuff only really becomes noticeable when the story isn't very interesting. I can forgive a lot of questionable style choices if I'm caught up in the action.


  5. I don't really worry about all that stuff until my first draft is done. That's when you revise. 1st drafts are for you, the writer, so they can blissfully make sense only to you! :)

  6. I just write and then look back to see what can be edited.

  7. I went through the same phases. Now I really don't care about the rules. I'll happily break them, stomp on them and even poke my tongue out at them if it means my story is better. Of course, to do this to the rules meant I first had to learn them and understand them ;)

  8. Good for you. I went through a stage like that, too. I scrutinize things like -ly adjectives, telling sentences and passive voice, but I don't automatically throw them out. If it works, it works. (And sometimes it works. ;)

  9. Ha! If I'm not worth my salt, maybe I'm worth some pepper, LOL! So that's why I got two chapters instead of one last month. And I am way more interested in whether your story is good than whether you tell something. You did a great job of knowing when to tell in one of those two chapters. And I wanted to laugh at one funny conversation.

  10. Truth be told, I write to escape. My worlds are much more fun than the one I'm living in right now. They are the only place that doesn't beat me down.

    Was that too much information? Probably. I'll never stop writing it is the pure goodness of life :-)

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette