My Greatest Fear as a Writer

revising HallAt least as far as my books are concerned, I think the biggest fear that drives me is actually throwing in the towel too early.

Potential is great except when you short sell it. The feeling of promise is one thing, the potential of it going somewhere. But when it doesn’t deliver on that promise, it’s just disappointing because “it could have been great.”

It’s probably the biggest issue with the contemplation of self-publishing. I’ve seen too many books where it seemed the author got impatient. Or, I watched the author rush for the finish line of publication.

I’ve read books that had great ideas, and intriguing, but in the end they let up the pressure and left me with coal instead of the chance of a diamond.

That desire to be true to the potential has kept me at it for years, enabled me to toss the entire draft of a two book series and start all over – twice. Secrets of the Dragon Seal bears little resemblance to the book it started out as, but I vouch that it’s loads better.

However, the dark side is that it also freezes me up at times. I’ve come to resent the words “It’s a good start”. I never lack for ideas, in new stories or in revisions of old ones.

One of my writing teachers said that even when she got the finalized printed copy of her books she still couldn’t resist grabbing the red pen, knowing that most people would never see those changes.

It’s like having to put artwork behind glass in order to keep one’s self from changing it.

No one is perfect, thus no creation from our imperfect hands can be truly perfect, right?

I’ve heard time and time again from motivational speakers that perfectionism can kill actual progress.

I attest to the saying that we tend to be our own worst critic.

Once the blush of novelty wears off we know the work so well that it’s easy to find each and every pothole, plot hole, awkward phrases and those parts that we wince every time we go over it even though we can’t figure out a better way of saying it. A hundred thousand words are a lot to comb through over and over.

As revisers and self-editors we train ourselves to find the flaws.

I like the saying, “What you focus on expands.”

So perhaps it is about time that I stopped fearing falling short and watch for parts I tend to write well, and focus on them.

So what is your greatest fear in this crazy world of writing, publication and marketing?

About Ren Black

Part-time novelist. Weekend artist. Full-time Mother. Ex-poet. Perfectionist by training. Compulsive researcher sporadically. Prone to fits of linguistic commentary Unorthodox Renegade occasionally. Sarcastic by habit... Dreamer Always... Consider Yourself Warned

19 comments on “My Greatest Fear as a Writer

  1. Mine might be that I am wasting my time writing a SciFi novel when I know so little about science. I fear that, in spite of my research and multiple rewrites, the science I’m using in Kaimerus will be debunked by science fiction readers. I’m not finished yet, and hope to find knowledgeable beta readers, but that’s still my fear.

    • That’s understandable for that genre. So is yours intended to be what they call “hard” sci-fi or “soft”? I think the hard is focused on the science where the soft is more set up as a setting/situation and the focus is on the people.

      I would expect readers of soft sci-fi to be pretty forgiving as long it works for the story. Of course, I haven’t actually read much sci-fi. The hard science audience would be the group more bothered by fallacies, but they are also a much smaller niche.

      My Husband dabbles in physics though and loves sci-fi. He’s often fascinated by ideas even if they aren’t actually possible. I guess you could say that he enjoys chewing on them even if he doesn’t/won’t swallow them. lol

  2. While commiserating with other writers about procrastination, someone questioned whether it was rooted in a fear of success — the idea being that once you succeed, you have to continue producing at that level.

    I said no, I’m pretty sure that in my case it’s a fear of failure.

    • I can see the potential of fearing success in that logic, particularly while prepping to launch a book two or so. Lots of people talk about the idea of “keeps getting better” or that you improve with each book, so it’s like you have to push it more in order to maintain reader interest. Of course ideally you do that progression through each book too, but being human I can see people being intimidated by it.

      I haven’t gotten to that stage yet though. lol, but maybe someday.
      Fear of failure is so common. I’ve seen a youtube of a presenter who said point blank that as writers we need to accept that we will probably “suck” when we first start out and it’s okay. But it holds a lot of people back.

  3. Boy, I’m with you on the perpetual editing to make it better!

    I guess my biggest fear as a writer is rushing things. I’m terribly impatient. Yet that results in sloppy writing and mediocre storytelling. Maybe that’s not so much a fear as it is knowledge of my own weakness. I’m also so new to this publishing biz that I honestly don’t know what I’m doing wrong or how to fix it. I’m relying heavily on my critique group and hoping to score an editor.

    • Sloppy writing happens. I know I’ve been doing a bunch of it lately. I have scenes where I just skipped setting and set-up and just started writing wherever I wanted to. You know the spots of “fill in later”. I think I’ve had more and more of those happen the longer I’ve been writing. But I think some people can successfully pull off the style, skimming through and getting the basic story sketched in can be highly valuable if you can then discipline yourself to go back and flesh it out like it deserves.

      I’ve done lots of sections of just dialogue because I didn’t have the patience at that point to deal with things like body language and voice tags.

      I agree Kessie that critique groups and editors can be priceless. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Reblogged this on Armand Rosamilia and commented:
    Reblog: Ren Black and her Greatest Fear as a Writer

  5. Really good post. We all have our fears: selling, writing etc.
    I think the trick is to make the fear into something positive. For instance, I used to be very afraid of rushing what I was writing, but then I learned to chill and to take it slow. What’s the rush, after all? And as far as selling, I try different things. Some things work, most don’t but I keep trying.
    The reality of my situation (my own perception) has made me feel more comfortable. Anne Rice does not have to lose any sleep over this author trying to get work out there to be read.
    We write because we are. And we are writers, fear is a given. Success is not but why not go for it anyway?

    • Great points Carolegill.

      These days, small niches can be wonderful and rewarding places. We may not ever be “famous” but I think there is always room for well-crafted work.

      • Thanks, Ren.
        That’s an excellent point, it’s so easy to lose sight of the crafting when marketing comes into it!

      • Thank you!
        yes, the craft of writing and the satisfaction it bring us should be what he strive for.
        The marketing is just that, it is separate and should not be the entire focus. if it is, we lose something of the ‘art.’
        Thanks, Ren

  6. It is very difficult to stop tinkering. With a novel, story or script. I love working with my coach/editor and hope we can sort out some more time to work together. Most of the work though I have to do myself. And at the moment that seems pretty daunting.

    • It can be daunting for sure. It is encouraging though to recognize how much we as people can grow from the process. And the rewards are pretty sweet too once you get there, knowing that you have done well, that you have fought a good fight.

      Thanks Kanundra

  7. I could edit till the cows come home and still want to edit some more. I am currently reading The Hobbit aloud to/with my nine-year old daughter. I now have a goal. To write a book that flows so effortlessly off the tongue and delights the senses with such an incredible story…

    • It’s such a fantastic book – one of my all-time favourites (and has been since I was a kid). Yet it didn’t come easily for Tolkien. I’m currently reading John Rateliff’s ‘History of the Hobbit’, which reproduces the drafts and reconstructs how Tolkien wrote it. A long, long process of careful and often painful iteration and re-iteration. The results were magical, but even then, Tolkien didn’t stop tinkering – the first, second and third editions of the book were all different, and that didn’t include the complete re-write he started in 1960.

      • Wow. I figured Tolkien, as the scholar he was, put a lot into it, but it’s intriguing to hear more of what happened. Thanks for sharing, Matthew.

        It’s also reassuring to those of us still fumbling along.

        Millie, aspiring to learn from Tolkien is a great idea. He was such a scholar of language and it really shows. Thanks for sharing and good luck with that goal.

  8. I’m definitely an obsessive editor/perfectionist, relentlessly tweaking and adjusting things. I guess my biggest fear is having all that work go no where. I’ve read enough fiction to know it won’t be perfect–some of my favorite novels are marked with a very flaws here and there, and I just don’t care. If the story is strong, and the characters are compelling, then it’s all good. But to have put all that work, and have no contract, no readership, nothing–well, it kind of defeats the purpose of writing the darn thing, yes? If I wanted to just do something for myself, I wouldn’t bother making it so accessible. But I’m in this to try and glorify God and be a reflection of that glory in my work.

    • Very true, Janeen, honestly some popular and even famous books wouldn’t make it through critique groups I’ve been in, but yet people love them. When the book captures one’s imagination, one tends to be rather forgiving of occasional rough spots.


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