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StephanieH
02-27-2006, 01:21 AM
After 25 years of procrastinating, I'm final out of excuses. I've been starting and stopping writing projects since I was 13. I am ready to start writing "for real." Now I have another problem: I'm scared to death to begin. I'm so afraid that I'll suck, that it's debilitating. I have great stories in my head, and a fascinating family history to draw from, but I'm paralyzed with fear of failure. Can anyone please help me figure out how to get past this? Please??? Thank you!

Stephanie

Perks
02-27-2006, 01:28 AM
You have to write it and find someone you trust to be honest with you. There are people here who read and critique all kinds of work.

But most of all you have to go in loving the negative feedback. Very few people just want to take a swipe at you. It's only to make it better and to make you a better writer.

Take a leap, Lady. This kind will not kill you, I promise. (Although I have been threatened with my very life when I wrote something crappy. The thick skin is quite becoming - I got hit on by a rhinoceros at the zoo.)

Welcome to AW!

Cathy C
02-27-2006, 01:33 AM
Welcome, StephanieH! Don't be afraid--every single author "sucked" when they first started. It's the entry level position! Writing is part art and part skill. You're lucky that you already have half down! You get wonderful ideas. That's terrific. Not everybody is fortunate enough to be able to imagine worlds and stories. The "skill" part can be learned and you're just in the right place to do it. Wander over to the main board of Writing Novels and read the thread "Learn Writing with Uncle Jim. (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6710)" James D. Macdonald is the author of many, many novels under various names. The lessons you will learn on that thread will make certain that your writing goes from "suck" to "requested" in record time. You're also more than welcome to ask any questions about the writing process in our various forums. We have plenty of experts that can help you out.


Good luck!

StephanieH
02-27-2006, 01:49 AM
Thank you for the positive nudge! I think I just needed "real" writers to say it's okay to suck out of the gate. My primary fear is that people won't give me a second chance if my first try bores them to tears. But I guess it's time to find out. Thank you!!!!

And thank for the tip about the "Uncle Jim" forum!

Steph

DeniseK
02-27-2006, 02:06 AM
Sit down and just start writing if you have this much fear. Maybe don't try to tackle a novel right off the bat. Write a short story, some poetry, some flash fiction, etc, and post it in the Share Your Work section. Once you hear from other writers some positive feedback, it will build your confidence. But one thing for sure, slow down, be patient and have fun. Read some books on writing. There's a thread in the Writing Novels section about just that.

Good luck!

Patricia_Lynndail
02-27-2006, 02:33 AM
Hello Stephonie,
I seen this and thought I would add my thoughts. I have been writing since I was, well, I can't remember. lol I think I was nine when I wrote my first poem. My mom loved it and I really thought I was good at. Well, I have learned a lot since then and have rewritten and reworked my first novel more times then I care to count. Iíve taken a few writing classes and play around with a few different genres. I have been turned down, lied too and used for money by a Literary agency. It hurts, but you have to believe in yourself, learn and go on. I was self-published once, but had it pulled because of editing mistakes. You just have to believe in yourself, always willing to learn and keep faith



Thank you for the positive nudge! I think I just needed "real" writers to say it's okay to suck out of the gate. My primary fear is that people won't give me a second chance if my first try bores them to tears. But I guess it's time to find out. Thank you!!!!

And thank for the tip about the "Uncle Jim" forum!

Steph

KAM
02-27-2006, 05:23 AM
Hi Stephanie! http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/Emotewelcome.gif

You are not alone - I completely understand where you are coming from. For years I wanted to write fiction but was too afraid to actually do it. I had this weird notion that "real" writers just sat at their computers and typed up complete, perfect manuscripts from start to finish.http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/EmoteROFL.gifI knew I wasn't going to accomplish immediate perfection, so I was afraid I didn't have what it took.

When I finally worked up the courage to start, my first short story was horrible. The second one was really bad. The third was okay, and the fourth won a local writing contest.

I have two bits of advice: 1) Don't let fear steal a moment more of your precious time, and 2) It's okay to write crap. If you keep writing, you will get better.

Good luck! Kam

Cleopatra Jones
02-27-2006, 10:34 PM
Sit down and just start writing if you have this much fear. Maybe don't try to tackle a novel right off the bat. Write a short story, some poetry, some flash fiction, etc, and post it in the Share Your Work section. Once you hear from other writers some positive feedback, it will build your confidence. But one thing for sure, slow down, be patient and have fun. Read some books on writing. There's a thread in the Writing Novels section about just that.


I agree with this a million percent. I started off trying to write a non-fiction book, but I was so terrified of failing that everytime I sat down to write, I choked. Then I'd panic, tell myself how bad I sucked, that I shouldn't bother, etc. But after several months of this, I decided to break my idea down into short pieces, articles, and that has worked wonders for me (and my writing). First of all, with each project, there's an end in sight. Second, I've found that it's easier to get immediate feedback on a short piece than a longer one. Third, in writing several short pieces, I've become more comfortable with my style and voice. And fourth, I gain confidence with each piece I complete. I feel certain that I'll turn to my book again someday soon.

All this babbling is to say...if you're really afraid, start with small steps. You'll know when you're ready to take bigger ones. Good luck!

Simon Woodhouse
02-28-2006, 12:14 AM
I had this problem too, so I spent far too long (eighteen months) creating the characters and the world for my first novel, because I was convinced that as soon as I started writing it would be terrible. But eventually I came up with a plan to help myself get around this.

Part of the novel involved the main character going on a journey, the halfway point of which looked as though it would coincide with the middle of the book. So I told myself if I could get the character to the halfway point, I'd also be at the middle of the book and much further than I expected to get. This spurred me on, as it seemed easier than trying to reach the very end.

Nine months later the novel was complete, and though very rough and in need of major rewrites, just finishing it encouraged me to keep going.

aka eraser
02-28-2006, 01:53 AM
Better to think you might suck out of the gate than think you're a literary lion. Wee egos can be nurtured and strengthened. Overweening ones tend not to survive the pruning process.

Have at it and good luck. :)

Jamesaritchie
02-28-2006, 04:12 PM
After 25 years of procrastinating, I'm final out of excuses. I've been starting and stopping writing projects since I was 13. I am ready to start writing "for real." Now I have another problem: I'm scared to death to begin. I'm so afraid that I'll suck, that it's debilitating. I have great stories in my head, and a fascinating family history to draw from, but I'm paralyzed with fear of failure. Can anyone please help me figure out how to get past this? Please??? Thank you!

Stephanie

Pretty much every writer who ever lived sucked dead bunnies through a straw when they first started writing. Why should you be any different?

And you're already failing. You'll stop being a failure when you finally start writing.

L M Ashton
02-28-2006, 06:45 PM
Yeah, I'm pretty much going to agree with everyone else who's already chimed in. We ALL pretty much sucked big time with our first projects. I don't know any writers who didn't.

I've also read that the first 5 or 6 novels, or 500k to 1 million words - depending on who's doing the talking - is where you learn to write a novel. You (the generic, all purpose non-specific you) don't know how to write a novel the first time you try. You've got to do it a few times. Your first will likely really suck. Your second will be better. Your third, better still, and so on.

I've certainly found that to be true for me. I'm currently writing my fourth first draft. The third is pretty good, but of course still needs editing, the second has major plot holes, the first needs to be completely reworked. Eh. Life. Other writers I've talked to about this say pretty similar things.

You'll get better. Provided you keep writing, of course. :)

MikeAngel
03-15-2006, 10:31 PM
I did my graduate work in Writing Apprehension, and I can tell you that your fear to get started is more than likely caused by your desire/delusion for the need to be perfect, or at least world-class. In other words, the fear of failure caused by self-doubts. This fear may be exacerbated by past poor writing instruction, teasing or scornful siblings or parents, friends, etc. Also, you've connected your desire to write fiction with a desire to tell the family history--quite a burden and responsibility where failure mistakenly translates into loss of family love/acceptance.

So much for the shrink session--here's what you need to do. Discover freewriting, which leaves the internal critic out of the room. Read Peter Elbow's essays, books about the technique, or find other sites online (Elbow didn't invent freewriting, but he popularized the term...See also Donald MacCrorie, Donald Murray and other expressivists. You might pick up the reprint of Brenda Ueland's great book.

In a nutshell, here's what freewriting is and does:

1. You write without stopping for a given period of time...start with a shorter time, say 3-5 minutes. Work each session longer until you can freewrite for 15 minutes at a stretch.
2. Write by hand.
3. Write rapidly but not rushed (you'll find your pace for this as you go).
4. Do not stop to think about best word, grammar, mechanics...don't line out words or make any fixes.
5. Either choose a topic or begin without one.
6. If you run out of things to say, just keep writing the same word or phrase over and over until something occurs to you.
7. Finally, and again -- DON'T STOP!

What does this do?

By not stopping, by this very method, you leave the critic in the hall. Drafting should involve the creative side of the brain; revision/editing the analytical side. THEY DO NOT WORK WELL TOGETHER! Only one in a million writers can write a piece correctly the first time through...DON'T TRY TO DO THIS...it will discourage you and convince you that you're not a writer. WRiting is thinking on paper. Unless you have brain damage you are a thinker, thus you can write. "Everyone is talented and has something important to say." -Uehland- "Anyone can do it!" - Elbow -

Will freewriting produce wonderful prose? Maybe not...let's say mostly garbage that you can keep or throw away. Think of it like a pianist doing scales to limber up. The PROMISE may also be that now and then you will produce a passage, sentence or phrase that is FAR BETTER than your normal work. That's Elbow's claim for freewriting. I've done a bunch and taught a bunch and I've seen this to be true. I've kept a few pearls and discarded the rest, then used those pearls to write short stories or even a novel.

Another Elbow claim is that freewriting is the single best method to IMPROVE your writing, if done consistently 3-5 times a week for a couple of months.

Your problem is FEAR. Once you jump in and leave that internal critic (voice of a perfectionist mother?) behind, you can ALLOW your imagination and subconscious to contribute to your writing.

One enhancement is to take the "pearl" or "center of meaning" from a piece of freewriting and begin a 2nd freewrite beginning with that chosen passage. Even if it's one word in length. This is called "Looped Freewriting" and may go on indefinitely.

My hand begins to ache from freewriting after 8-10 minutes, so I usually hold myself to that. Also, you might do it on a computer IF you turn OFF your monitor! That will keep you from the temptation to fix anything.

I'd be very grateful if you'd share with me (us) the outcome to your first few sessions of freewriting.

Thanks,
Dave

Anya Smith
03-20-2006, 11:58 AM
I've certainly found that to be true for me. I'm currently writing my fourth first draft. The third is pretty good, but of course still needs editing, the second has major plot holes, the first needs to be completely reworked. Eh. Life. Other writers I've talked to about this say pretty similar things. :)


Ture for me also. I'm rewriting my first novel now, and also doing first drafts on two others. Then comes the rewriting of my second novel. And now, I can recongize the flaws in both of them, whereas at the beginning I thought they were pretty good.

So yeah, keep writing.

Bufty
03-20-2006, 06:09 PM
Hi StephanieH.

You aren't alone by any stretch of the imagination. Took me 50 years! But it wasn't the fear of anything that stopped me writing. It was just that every now and then I'd think - I'll write a book now - I'd pull up a blank page and stare at it, then close it and forget it.

Then one day, around 6 years ago - I started typing instead of staring, and bingo! Two novels done now and some other bits and pieces. Not published yet, but learning fast and one day I will be - if I live long enough and my writing gets good enough.

That's the key! Actually writing something instead of worrying about writing. And nobody - a least very very few people - write stuff that's anywhere near publishable first time around.

Just like swimming for a newbie - jump in and you'll gradually get the hang of it. And find plenty of others in the water here at the Cooler, many very helpful and experienced - willing to help and lend a hand.

It's nearly a month since you posted. Written anything yet? Atta girl:hooray: