One of fear’s main jobs is keeping us safe: safe from falling, safe from making mistakes – from failing.
But, as many things, it is a more useful servant than it is a master.
I visited WriterUnboxed.com this morning, as I do most mornings, to get my brain in gear, give it time to focus, possibly preload it with something creative.
And I run smack into a blog post by Annie Neugebauer in which she talks about how to overcome the fear of making a mistake.
And not just any mistake, but the fear of falling flat on your face when taking a risk in your writing.
It is possible to miss the source of your fears
I left the following comment:
I have found that what scares you to write doesn’t often get the scary reaction – it’s more likely to be ignored, after all that courage it took to face the fear. In either case, though, you’re absolutely right: taking the dive feels good.
I’m doing that right now, diving into the fears I deliberately planted in the middle book of a trilogy – from the very beginning. I have spent years asking myself if I really had to go this route. The answer is that I do – there’s no way around it, and there’s never been a way around it.
If no one else in the world likes it or thinks it’s essential, oh well.
But now that a small number of readers have said they’re waiting for the second book, and the first one is slow, I just realized that I have been afraid of disappointing those readers! Who didn’t even exist when I started the first book.
What a concept: being able to disappoint readers.
Understand this first: the whole of what will be the Pride’s Children trilogy was meant to be, was planned out to be, a single book.
Due to my plotting with Dramatica, when the story got too long in the telling, the breakpoints to split it up were obvious (one of the great pleasures of plotting thusly), and it took very little to separate the pieces out into three volumes instead of one.
Writing Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD has not been automatic
I expected it to be easy; after all, I was just going to the next scene in a long list of scenes, and thought I would merely be doing what I always do: gather what I have assigned to the scene in Dramatica, Save the Cat, The Key…Power of Myth, The Fire in Fiction – my go-to books while writing; structure everything into a scene that ‘happens’ in time, instead of a collection of bullet points; become the character – and write.
And I’ve been baffled by how hard it’s been.
I even started a post (in draft) about how hard the first scene was to write (short version: a new kind of scene required some new thinking).
But it wasn’t until this morning, after Annie’s questions:
What scary drop have you been avoiding?
And are you willing to accept any bruises or ego dents that may come?
that I realize what was going on: a brand new kind of fear, one I’d been vaguely aware of, but hadn’t fully engaged with.
I may get reassurances on this one, of the “I’ll like anything you write” or “Whatever you’re planning can’t be that bad,” from my friends who really believe that, and have taken risks of their own.
Facing reality may not change it
But those reactions are promises made to a future which doesn’t exist yet. When making the comment – and encouraging writers to take the risks – readers and other writers don’t know what they’re endorsing: they are writing a blank check.
If I blithely accept the recommendation to keep going – it could still turn out to be something my readers hate.
All I can say at this point is that it is built into the story from the beginning, and if you liked PURGATORY, you have already bought into the foreshadowed premise, whether you know it yet or not.
If you don’t like it, remember it was a choice made with full realization that it is dangerous – and that I tried my darndest to make sure it was the best choice. The only choice I have is to write it as well as I can – and to be as accurate as I can be to the mind of the character I’m writing in.
I am trying to sneak it past the reader, which, paradoxically, may require mentioning it early, and then being almost too subtle.
You just gotta trust the writer
I remember being delighted by a comment in a review:
I honestly don’t know how to explain the grip this book had on me from the first. I couldn’t stop reading it, and I wanted it never to end. I’ve read other books that affected me this way, but the authors always hurt the spell by tossing a plot bomb in through the window. Ehrhardt may do that before the trilogy is over, I can’t see the future, but she doesn’t do it in this book.
That’s, of course, one of the readers I don’t want to disappoint, who were kind enough to say I knew how to finish a book.
Maybe, when it’s all finished, I will describe why it must be the way it is.
I hope it will gain more readers than it loses me. If not, I am still writing this trilogy for me.
As a reader, what do you do when the ending of a book doesn’t satisfy you?
As a writer, have you come to this place?
Thanks to Stencil for the ability to create ten images a month – for free. If I ever need more, I will be using them.
Also, thanks to Blasty for helping me try to remove unauthorized downloads of Pride’s Children from Google search results. They are looking for more free beta readers to help them finish figuring out their methods. They have removed over 2000 infringements already for me. I mind, because I don’t want my work enticing readers to phishing sites. If you want to read for free, ask for an electronic Review Copy and consider writing a review.