Afraid to Write

I’m putting this out there…

I’m afraid to try writing anything right now.

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Writing used to be my favorite thing to do. Then I started getting published. Don’t get me wrong; being published is awesome. I’m happy about it. I learned a lot about writing through the publishing process, by noting problems in my writing that editors frequently brought to my attention, by reading what others wrote, and just by writing, because the more you do something, the better you get at it.

(I still seem to have a problem with run-on sentences, though.)

The thing about learning to write better is it became a lot of pressure. With each subsequent book, I was afraid of doing it wrong. Even knowing that the first draft is meant for just getting the thoughts out of your head, I felt like I had to write the first draft as perfectly as possible, and had to edit the thing even more perfectly. That was a contributing factor, though not the primary one, to my difficulties in writing.

Now I’m at a place where the last book I submitted was rejected–for good reason; I can see the flaws in it now–and I’m struggling to write anything. I tried to fix the rejected book and got so bogged down in trying to write it better that I ended up giving up entirely on it. At least for now. I’ve been trying for the past several months to write a new book, one I thought I had plotted well enough to get it done. And last week, I reached the point where I realized it sucks. One of the characters isn’t presented the way I want him to be, and the plot is dragging. I’ve already done two major rewrites. To fix the problems I’m noticing with it now, I would have to scrap over 100 pages of writing and start the thing over from scratch. So for now, I’ve given up on that one as well.

I didn’t used to have this much trouble writing, and now it’s standing in the way of my willingness to try to write anything at all. I’m afraid of that struggle. I’m afraid that I’ll start writing something and have it go off the rails to the point that I can’t finish it. I’m afraid that whatever I write will suck. And feeling that fear is keeping me from even trying.

A couple of friends of mine have told me that I should just write, and not worry about what or how I’m writing. Just let the thoughts flow onto the page and see what happens. That’s easier said than done, but I am trying. It’s just hard on the days when I sit at the computer dreading typing that first word, because it means I’m putting myself back on the path of having to do it “right.”

Teaser Thursday- A Perfectly Nice Guy

I’ve been working on this story for a while now. Hopefully sometime soon, it will be finished…

After school, I grabbed my stuff out of my locker and left the building before my trig teacher, Mr. Tellier, caught me. Since I hadn’t done the homework, he’d given me detention, but I didn’t want to sit there for another hour while he lectured me and made me do the assignment. I might end up with an extra detention for skipping this one, but it didn’t matter. I was hoping to catch up with Tyson. Maybe even find out where he lived.

I didn’t see him outside, though. There were a lot of people walking away from the building or standing around talking or waiting for rides, so it was easy to miss one person, but even though I stood there for a while, checking every face I could see, I didn’t spot him.

That sucked. I’d hoped he would wait for me, but that was a pretty stupid hope on my part. We’d met that morning. He didn’t really know me, and I hadn’t given him much of a reason to want to hang out more. Especially when I’d completely spaced on buying him the breakfast I’d promised.

It was no wonder I’d never had a boyfriend. I was completely incompetent when it came to liking guys.

“Hey,” someone said from behind me.

Thank god, Tyson’s voice cut off the “you’re a piece of crap” loop that had started playing in my brain. I pasted on a smile and turned around.

In the sunlight, his hair practically glowed. He was smiling, showing those dimples even more than he had that morning. I fought the urge to hug him, or worse, kiss him.

I had to get over the stupid insecurity, because I really wanted to get something going with him, and he definitely wouldn’t be interested in a bundle of angst.

“Are you going home now?” he asked.

“Yeah.” I glanced up at the door. Mr. Tellier was standing there surveying the crowd. “Shit. Come on. I need to avoid someone.”

“Huh?” Tyson glanced over his shoulder. “Oh. Sure.”

We hurried around the corner and stopped. “I was supposed to have detention,” I said. “I bailed on it. I don’t think my teacher’s too happy about that.”

“You bailed on detention?” He tilted his head. “Seriously? You seem like a total good guy. Like you never do anything wrong.”

That was a pretty close assessment, but for some reason it ticked me off. “Yeah, well, I’m definitely not perfect. And I don’t see the point in detention for not doing an assignment that isn’t even going to count on our grade.”

“I hate when teachers do that.” He studied me. “Are you mad? I didn’t mean anything bad by what I said. I was just surprised.”

“I’m not mad.” I took a deep breath. “I don’t know. I think I need a do-over.”

He laughed. “For what? Detention?”

“Making a good impression on you.” I clapped my hand over my mouth. Crap. I didn’t mean to say that!

“Which One?”

Recently, I had a conversation with someone I hadn’t heard from in three or four months. He asked whether I’d finished my book.

My immediate response was, “Which one?”

It isn’t that I’m working on a lot of books at this point, though that used to be the case. From 2009-2015 or so, I was always working on a book or short story, and during a lot of that time, I worked on more than one project simultaneously. If someone asked whether I’d finished my book, I genuinely had no way to know which one they were talking about, unless I remembered the last conversation I’d had with them. Even if I did remember it, though, it might not help me figure out which book  they meant, because I might have talked to them about more than one.

hard cover books in attractive colors
hard cover books in attractive colors

Nowadays, I work on one book at a time, and sometimes I’m not working on any books or stories. But as I rebuild my career in the direction it used to be–though hopefully less stressful and better organized–I’m nearly always working on something, even if it’s just a brainstorm.

In the few months since the last time I spoke to this person, I worked on, and then temporarily set aside, a young adult novel. I’ve written several short stories, and completed a novel I’d been working on for nearly a year and a half; the stories and this novel are adult fiction and under a new pen name which I haven’t officially launched yet. My memory is wonkier than it used to be, so I legitimately can’t even remember for sure when I last talked to this person, let alone which project I’d talked to him about. And I didn’t want to ask, because that would have looked a little foolish. Some people don’t understand why I don’t remember every word of every book I’ve written; most people definitely wouldn’t understand why I can’t remember what I was working on this past summer.

Since I had recently finished the adult novel, I told him that yes, I’d finished my book. I just hope that was the book he was asking about…

Completion Euphoria

There’s a certain feeling I get when I finish the first draft of a manuscript. I feel it when I finish editing rounds and when the book is released, too, but it’s strongest when I mentally type “the end” on a first draft.

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I don’t actually type “the end.” Publishers sometimes don’t like that. But in my mind, those words appear on the bottom of the final page.

The feeling is hard to describe. Euphoria is pretty close. It’s the jump-for-joy, happy, shout-from-the-rooftops sensation that fills every part of my body. I’ve been working on this book for however long. I might have had to delete half of it and start over; that happens sometimes. I’ve agonized over how to word things just right, and whether I’m repeating myself or contradicting something from earlier in the story. I’ve wondered if the bleeping thing is ever going to be finished.

And now it’s finished.

But alongside the excitement and joy of being able to say I’ve written another book, there’s a sort of let-down feeling. I’ve been working on the book for however long, and the characters have become my constant companions. During the waking moments when I’m not sitting at the computer actively typing, part of my brain has been occupied with thoughts of plot points and plot holes, and how to get the characters from A to B. Sometimes I’ve even dreamed about the story and the characters.

And now it’s finished.

Finishing the first draft of a book is definitely a time for mixed emotions. I’m never sure what emotion I’ll feel the most strongly, though I know I’ll at least be proud of myself for getting it done. But while sometimes I celebrate and literally do jump for joy, other times I cry. I know I’ll see the characters and story again, because there’s editing to do once the manuscript has set for a while, but for now they’re not going to be part of my life, and sometimes that causes me to feel sad even as I’m feeling happy.

Teaser- A Perfectly Nice Guy

From a work in progress. Susurrus: Season of Tides (C)2017 Evil Overlord Games. Used by permission.

I went upstairs to my room. The house only had three bedrooms, but Mom and Dad had converted the attic into a room for me when Kendrick was born. I was eleven then and didn’t want to share with a baby, and my parents didn’t want Kendrick sharing with Donovan even though she was only three and he was a baby. So I’d ended up in the attic, which was fine with me even though in the summer it could be a furnace. I had privacy, and that mattered more than staying cool. At least Dad had put in an air conditioner.

My laptop was on my bed where I’d left it. I opened it and refreshed the browser, which was already on the game forums. I’d been playing before school, even though I wasn’t supposed to be online in the mornings. What my parents didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them.

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Susurrus wasn’t one of the usual types of online RPGs. Instead of choosing a character and running around bashing things, players chose a character and read things, and clicked on links that led to more things. It was kind of like the old Choose Your Own Adventure books the town library had, which I’d read as a kid, except in the game, other people were making choices that might affect yours.

No one knew I was a gamer. Like acting in community theater, it was a way-too-geeky thing that wouldn’t have gone over well in Dayfield. Some of my friends did Dungeons and Dragons, and a couple even did ren faires and that kind of thing, and they got hassled for it on a regular basis. They got hassled for being theater nerds too, which was why I’d never joined the school drama club. I liked keeping some things in my life separate.

The little envelope icon near the top of the page had a “1” beside it. Someone had messaged me, and that someone was almost definitely Corriman. No one else would have.

I clicked the envelope and read his message. Liked what you said about the mage alphabet. They should use your idea.

I couldn’t help smiling. He liked something I’d said. My idea about using the mage alphabet for graffiti to keep the city under control was probably a crappy one, and probably something the game writers had already considered. If the city was under control, there wouldn’t be much point to the game anyway. But it didn’t matter whether it was a good idea or not. Corriman liked it.

We’d been talking back and forth on forum posts since March, and after a couple weeks he’d also started messaging me privately. I felt like I knew him as well as my real-life friends. I didn’t, of course. All I really knew about him was his screen name and that his primary character in the game was a werewolf. Which meant having a crush on him was probably pretty stupid, but I felt how I felt. I just wished I had the guts to ask if he felt the same.

They probably wouldn’t use a player’s ideas, I typed. But thanks. Maybe I’ll just write a fan fic or something with the idea.

I read that a couple of times. I had never written a fan fic in my life. I didn’t write anything if I could help it. But Corriman didn’t know that, and he didn’t have to. I sent the message.

A new one from him showed up within minutes. This takes too long. Can I text you? Or message you on Facebook or something?

He wants to message me? Awesome! I started to type my phone number, then deleted it. Texting or instant messaging with Corriman would be awesome, unless he turned out not to be who I thought he was. That was the downside of only knowing him in the game. He might be a seventeen-year-old guy like he claimed, or he might be some elderly creeper who liked flirting with boys. Or he might be a serial killer.

Okay, the last one was definitely my imagination running away with me. But it still didn’t hurt to be cautious. I’d like that, but how do I know you aren’t going to stalk me or something? LOL. I was serious, but maybe the “LOL” would make it sound less offensive.

Back to School

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In my area, kids have either already gone back to school or are going back this week. For some, school is a pretty good place, where they enjoy at least some of their classes along with having time to socialize with friends.

For others, school is unpleasant at best. Maybe even a nightmare. That might sound overly dramatic, but for a kid who’s being bullied or harassed, or who knows they’re different from everyone else and doesn’t have friends, school might be one of the worst places in their life.

My current work-in-progress, Midnight Chat, is about a boy whose school life pretty much is a nightmare. His home life isn’t all that great either, but at least at home he isn’t getting smacked around, shoved, and called every name in the book. And at school, even though he and his best friend, from whose point of view the story is told, have reported the bullying and harassment, not much is done to stop it.

Unfortunately, even though most if not all schools have anti-bullying policies, bullying isn’t always reported. And sometimes even when it is, if it’s one person’s word against that of several others, as is the case in my book, the victim isn’t believed.

As people prepare to go back to school, or ease into the new school year if you’ve already started, I’d like to ask you to pay attention to what’s going on around you. If you see someone who seems to be completely alone, talk to them. Maybe you’ll make a new friend. If you see someone being bullied, report it. Even if you feel like you’re tattling. No one deserves to be treated poorly. Wouldn’t you want someone to stop it if it was happening to you?

Be kind. That’s pretty much what this boils down to. Just be kind.