Strike Your Fears by Being An Active Participant In Your Writing Journey
This is for every writing reaching for publication. Mark Twain the famous author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, defined a word that we all need by saying “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”
Sometimes people are not going to connect with your writing and you will have serious doubts about your writing at times. Some people may not hate your writing but they will not love it either. And sometimes it has nothing to do with mechanics of storytelling.
I read a young adult novel because I connected with an author’s youtube videos. The author’s videos helped me while drafting my manuscript and I still listen to other videos by this author when I have a chance to. Because of this, I know I will read another book by this author and there must be something I am sure there will be something I will enjoy more. However, when I first read a novel by this author’s book, which is a popular book as well, I finished it from beginning to end but was not compelled to read more of the series.
I liked the main character and as a writer who has been studying the craft of writing through self-study, my writing group James River Writers and so forth, I realized she did everything right as far as plot, letting the reader get to know the character and pacing is concerned. Strangely I did not love the story nor the character that much.
It surprised me that I did not connect with the story even though I finished it. I even tried to analyze why I did enjoy the book much. Where matters irrelevant to writing affecting me so I was not enjoying the story? Well, obviously not when I read another book I was engrossed in indirectly afterward.
What I now realize is that is ok. When I publish my stories, even if I make them the absolute best they can be, there will be people who do not have strong feelings about my story and characters in them.
This is my first attempt at revising a novel because my manuscript is the first novel I have written. I even read a novel on revising and had a game plan and awesome beta readers by my side. I had been revising and I believe doubt in other areas of my life had been seeping into my belief in myself about revising.
Also the mechanics of how to revise with my original game plan made me realized still had not planned out enough of a game plan. I went through the rest of my novel and made notes about anything I could think of. Now I have another revising book from the library to help aid me to figure out the correct strategies.
One thing I am learning is truly understanding what I have heard before from other writers. Writing really is a personal journey. I am very grateful to my beta readers and my writing community for a warm and supportive environment. No matter how many books you read or how much about writing craft you study, someone else’s perfect method might not be yours. You have to figure out what works for you and utilize what you can from sources around you.
Also listening to author Kim Chance’s video on being a fearless writer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXcXx49stNk (Disclaimer: Kim Chance is not the author whose book I am referring to. I found her YA novel Keeper, to be engaging plot and looked forward to following Lainey’s adventures in the sequel) made me realize how psychologically fears were holding me back as well.
I had the wonderful experience of pitching my story to two agents at the James River Writer 2017 conference, my first writing conference I attended. Both agents said when I could finish the revising my manuscript I could follow the submission guidelines and send them the requested part of my story. That in itself was a wonderful and rare experience. But still, fears cling onto me.
I am not disillusioned about believing if something like being a New York Times Best Sellers list does not happen all is lost, such as when I was a teenager. This statement is in no way trying to put down teen writers. If it had not been writing in my teens, I know I would not be where I am today. It is only explaining my mindset as a teenager involving writing my stories. I realize that is not going to happen.
What did and am still having to do is fight through the fears: What will people think of me from reading this story? There are so many stories that I want to tell will be I judged for this one? What about other stories I want to tell in the future that are different in many ways from this story? Will I have the courage to tell other stories to the best of my ability and still not be that successful? If I am lucky and meet fans who want to learn more about my life, will they be disappointed I’m just a woman trying to get by and make her mark on the work in a good way as I grow? As I learned more about the publishing world, I realized sometimes writers could be rejected because their stories were already overly saturated in the market. Or simply the agent or editor did not connect with it. Will this be my luck? Why didn’t I start my serious writing journey a few years earlier such as during summer when my school load was not so heavy when I was in college?
The lessons I am learning are no matter what you wished you realized or understood earlier in life, all you can do is move forward. I am working on myself in other areas of my life. That requires being as honest as possible about what I need to do to be the best version of myself. That also requires me to attempt to have more compassion when trying not to judge myself and others too harshly. One way to be the best version of myself is to acknowledge that I will keep having times when fears and doubts keep swarming around me like mosquitos. What matters is I keep fighting. The best version of myself includes continuing my writing journey.
Sometimes fear is there to help you realize you need to stop and assess before making a move but other times it is there because you are only human. Taking the time to try and be honest with yourself is a great way to try and learn the difference.
Psychologically our memories and brains hold onto fear as a protection mechanism. It’s why often negative memories can be more vivid than happier ones. (https://www.webmd.com/brain/news/20070829/bad-memories-easier-to-remember) We need to be wise enough to learn when to fight through those fears.
So in the spring of 2017, I found a childhood object that reminded me of a story. It particularly reminded me of a character. Characters that I had been putting on the back burner due to completing my education and striving for other goals in my life. They would sometimes emerge when I was eating new food and would instantly think of how that character would eat the food, when shopping and how a character would react or even listening to a song and being reminded of one of them. I had various different versions of this story I had written parts of them off and on throughout the years.
The characters were pretty much consistent. And I had the realization, even if a bit dramatic, that this world, these characters, these stories would haunt me until I was on my deathbed if I didn’t write about them. One of my friends Blair Cousins, twitter name @blaireverywhere, had written her first book Ouji The Curious Cat, so saw first had it was possible for people in their twenties to publish a novel. I had heard my aunt tell me for years how she had stories she had with her since she was a teenager and they always stay with you.
I listened to a reading of Langston Hughes poem “Dream Deferred” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79YjXKYeWCk. I had heard it before but it truly struck me that I needed to write that story and start my journey to be published writer and take it seriously. Memories of myself as a teenager who I had attempted to first write one of the versions of this story flooded my mind. Back during my teen years, I was reading Writers Digest magazines and dreamed of being a writer. Then memories of my childhood as I played with Barbie dolls to release the stories inside of me also arose.
I have to thank that character. If it wasn’t for finding that object that was connected to her back in the spring of 2017, I don’t think I would have started my journey then. She is not even the main character of my story but she is in my manuscript. I thank the people in my life who followed their own dreams or encouraged me not to give up on mine. Even though I am still growing in all areas of my life, I am a writer. I am going to make my dreams come true.
It is so much easier when you are juggling responsibilities to put off writing. Whether in your free time you are job hunting, spending time socially with friends, family obligations, working out, doing chores or just running errands and filling out paperwork. There will always be things in the way. I am not saying not to be wise about when you start your journey. If you are in the middle of a major life change such as learning the ropes at a new job, starting a new school, or so forth, you need to be mindful you might not be able to jump in like you want to. But you can plan maybe the week after your starting to get settled when you can schedule a time to write and do brainstorming or read on the craft of writing in the meantime or listen to youtube videos.
I do not know what my publication path will take me or how long. But I will not let fear of anything stop me from moving forward. When you have had stories with you as long as you were a child the only person who can truly bring them to life is you. Whether you are just starting your writing journey or have been on it for a long time. Keep reading to learn what you like and don’t like in stories. Keep writing to hone your craft. Keep smashing those fears and be an active participant in your writing life.
You can follow more info on my publishing journey and more at @MAGreene996 on twitter.