Archive

Monthly Archives: May 2014

A number of circumstances have raised something inside me recently which I call The Writer Fear. The Fear is actually a mixture of many emotions which can be called upon at the touch of a delete key and sometimes is perpetuated by yourself, and sometimes by others.

Fear Emotion #1: Rejection

Ah, the eternal fear of being told no. I was told in January that my resolution should be to send more short stories out. I know a number of people who have had great success in magazines and e-zines, some in anthologies, who are trying to encourage me to do the same. But what if they say no?

That’s the thing, isn’t it? If they tell me it isn’t good, is it my writing, or what they’re looking for? What are these invisible hoops I have to jump through? The letters and e-mails which say ‘we enjoyed it, but…‘ don’t make you feel that much better. Because the ‘but’ is the only thing you see.

And the fear of the ‘but’ is what stops you sending. If they outright say they hate it, it’s better (marginally) than that mysterious ‘but’. Going on to…

Fear Emotion #2: Failure

When someone recommends you, that’s terrifying. Today, a friend asked me if their younger brother can read a story I wrote a long time ago. It hasn’t been edited for years and instantly that paralysing fear that a child would see through me was all over me like a rash.

Children are discerning readers. They are blunt and honest. If he hates it, what then? Have I ultimately failed at writing an engaging young adult text?

I don’t generally let people read what I write unless I have full control over its distribution and I am absolutely sure that it is as perfect as it can be. This story is not perfect and good God I want it to be. If it is not perfect then I have failed. Right?

Fear Emotion #3: Regret

While I’m busy wringing my hands and deliberating whether or not to send something to a contest, time is ticking by, and before I know it the deadline has passed. Part of me is relieved. The other part of me always, always, feels regret.

Am I stupid? How is anyone going to ever see my work if it is never read? If I don’t put myself out there, I am only stunting my own growth. The only person who suffers in this arrangement is me. And I know this.

If I send 100 stories out, if I get 100 rejections, I perpetuate The Fear. And yet, what happens if someone likes one? Or if I never send those 100 stories?

 

In short, I am my own worst enemy. I feel this fear while writing, after writing, and after editing. It is something I live with day in, day out. So much so that sometimes I fear reading in case it pushes that fear back into me, the fear my writing will never be publishable.

It is rather melodramatic. I think a bit of fear is good for you. It pushes you to strive for better. But when it’s a hinderance rather than a help, shouldn’t you do something about it?

Happy Star Wars Day!

For anyone following me on Twitter, you will have noticed that I’ve been live-tweeting a Star Wars marathon today. I love Star Wars (I mean, doesn’t everybody?).

I remember my first Star Wars experience. It was a big anniversary, and cinemas everywhere were replaying Episode IV to celebrate. I think I was about 6 or 7. I remember that huge Star Destroyer coming over my head and thinking wow, this is something. I had never seen a single thing like it. A classic story of good vs. evil with imagination and flair. With truly terrifying villains and likeable anti-heroes. With mystery and danger. I hero-worshipped George Lucas. I got my hands on nearly everything he’d done. Indiana Jones, Monkey Island, I did them all.

The older I got, and when I began to write, the more I noticed flaws. Everything is flawed. At first I kind of felt betrayed by my own revelations. Like I was watching a magic trick and then the magician told me how to do it. But I realised that I could learn things from it. Here are some of them.

1. It’s totally cool to do the thing nobody expects you to do.

2. It is also totally cool to do the opposite of that.

3. Not every hero has to be likeable or understandable (C3PO and Jar-Jar Binks, yeah?)

4. Magic does not have to be easy or explainable. In fact, it should be neither of these things. Come on, midichlorians? Really?

5. Hard decisions are the right decisions.

6. The nicest characters can be the most corruptable.

7. Picking at scabs does not make them get any better. Lucas is a notorious scab-picker. Always trying to go back and fix everything. And ruining it in the process.

8. Always proof-read for continuity errors. (Yoda never taught Obi-Wan, yet he always goes on and on about it.)

9. Stereotypes are fun because they are flexible.

10. You can make some things obvious if you make other things shocking.

11. Women can be strong and men can be weak.

12. Scoundrels rule.

13. Keep hold of your plot threads, don’t let them go, and know where they’re heading.

14. Science fiction doesn’t have to be clean and pretty – although it does look good when it it.

15. Making your characters suffer is a price you must pay.

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying pulling it apart on Twitter, but also enjoying everything I love about it too. May the force be with you all, and happy writing.