In this blog post, we look at some of the more common fears that often keep writers from finishing their novels.
What keeps you up at night?
Some writers speak openly about their fears, while others keep these invisible fears locked away in their brain’s attic, surrounded by Halloweenesque cobwebs, unwanted heirlooms, and a pile of unfinished manuscripts.
But, somehow, they all come out to torment us, usually at three in the morning. Mine like to show up when I’m driving or taking a walk. When do yours creep up on you?
As writers, I don’t think we’re inherently lazy or lack imagination. We all want to complete our novels and share our stories. However, we’re sometimes faced with doubts that we’ll never finish it.
What can you do to finish writing your novel?
Writers are a neurotic bunch. Our fears can run deeper than most. Because we’re good at telling stories, the stories we tell ourselves can often be the most dangerous.
You know what I’m talking about – those fearful voices that whisper in your ear, ‘You’re not good enough’ or ‘You’re not a real writer’.
While we can trust the power of spoken and written words, we must realise the words we tell ourselves are not always true and seldom define our authentic writing selves when taken out of context.
Today, we’ll face these fearful voices (and replace them with bold and fearless voices).
5 Fears That Keep You From Finishing Your Novel
We’ve listed five common fears writers experience, with ways to reprogramme our doubts, along with bite-sized motivational quotes.
We fear rejection and the criticism that comes with it.
We know that rejection is always a tough pill to swallow. But, it’s important to remember that your first (or even second or third) attempt at publishing a novel may not succeed and there can be many reasons for that.
At publishing houses, experienced editors have a wealth of knowledge and insights that can help us improve our writing – it’s important to be open to their feedback.
When it comes to fiction, tastes and opinions can be subjective, so try not to take the sting of rejection personally. I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s not a reflection of your worth or potential as a writer.
▀ The fearful writer says: ‘They don’t want my novel. In fact, they probably think it’s rubbish.’
▀ The fearless writer says: ‘It’s not easy to be objective about my work, but I’ll keep an open mind and find ways to improve.’
‘A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.’ – Bo Bennett, screenwriter and social psychologist.
You may also like 10 Remedies For The Horrible Things That Writers Tell Themselves
We fear we lack knowledge of the craft of writing to be successful.
We all know the feeling of having good days and gruesome writing days. On a good day, we feel like we could give Tolstoy or J.K. Rowling a run for their money. But on a bad day, it’s easy to doubt our abilities, wondering how we can even string a simple sentence together.
The truth is, we all have moments of feeling like frauds, but it’s important to remember that our stories matter. While overconfidence can be dangerous, making it harder for us to see our faults, too much doubt can be crippling for any writer.
Instead of focusing on our shortcomings, we should keep striving to improve. It’s through our failures and mistakes that we learn and grow.
▀ The fearful writer says: ‘I’m not a real writer, I feel like an impostor.’
▀ The fearless writer says: ‘I will show up and write with the confidence I have at this moment in time.’
‘If you want a quality, act as if you already have it.’ – William James, psychologist and philosopher.
You may also like: 10 Ways To Tell If You’re Writing With Confidence
We fear our words won’t flow to create a descriptive novel.
We all have those moments when we’re struggling to put our thoughts into words. It can be frustrating when you’re clutching your pen, trying to describe the exact shape of character’s eyes or the raw emotion of grief in your memoir. Fear sets in, paralysing you.
Remember, your first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, if you think it’s perfect, that may be a problem.
Simply get the most honest words on the page. Don’t slow down. Don’t censor yourself. You can always refine and edit later. In the first draft, focus on writing down the story – don’t try to ‘show off’ with clever descriptions.
▀ The fearful writer says: ‘I don’t have the vocabulary or descriptive powers to write a novel.’
▀ The fearless writer says: ‘If I write with authenticity and clarity, I’ll find the right words within me.’
‘Put your vocabulary on the top shelf of your toolbox and don’t make any conscious effort to improve it.’ – Stephen King, author of On Writing.
We fear writing in isolation and losing motivation.
We fear the thought of going ‘solo’ in our writing journey, feeling lonely and unsupported. But if you think about it, we don’t work in complete isolation. Even before submitting our manuscripts, we have a support network that can offer valuable feedback and encouragement.
This includes friends and fellow writers who can provide input on our work, as well as family and loved ones who give us the time and space we need to write.
In some cases, these ‘cheerleaders’ go above and beyond, bringing us tea (or better yet, wine and pretty notebooks) to help us stay focused and motivated.
If you know someone who has an interest in a topic you cover in your novel, consider asking them for help with research. If you have a family member or friend who is particularly skilled at proofreading, don’t hesitate to ask them to cast an ‘eagle eye’ over your manuscript before submitting it.
▀ The fearful writer says: ‘I’m going to lose my nerve. I’ll never finish this on my own.’
▀ The fearless writer says: ‘I know that writing doesn’t always have to be a solitary pursuit. I can embrace the support and help of those around me.’
‘Collaborative workshops and writers’ groups hadn’t been invented when I was young. They’re a wonderful invention. They put the writer into a community of people all working at the same art – the kind of group musicians and painters and dancers have always had.’ –Ursula K Le Guin, science fiction and fantasy writer.
We fear that we don’t have enough time to write.
We all know this particular fear never gets easier to overcome, no matter how long we have been writing.
Yes, time can be a terrifying prospect when we’re faced with the herculean task of writing a novel. But, the giant shadow of time often seems more daunting than the time itself.
First, you need to recognise that writing a whole novel in one sitting (or even one week or month) is simply impossible.
Break time up. Think about how much time you’ll need for each stage of the writing process, including outlining, first drafts, research, and edits. Once you have estimated the time required for each stage, then commit to setting aside that time to work on your novel.
▀ The fearful writer says: ‘I won’t have the time to finish this’ or ‘It’ll take too long’.
▀ The fearless writer says: ‘I don’t always need hours and hours to write. A half-hour before work, the fifteen-minute tea break, a long weekend – these can all add up nicely.’
Fearless inspiration: ‘Time is a created thing. To say “I don’t have time” is to say “I don’t want to”’- Lao Tzu, author of The Art of War.
Do you want to write your novel in a year?
The Final Word
Fear is a common experience for every writer, but we can’t let it hold us back.
The only way to overcome fear as a writer is to keep writing every day, no matter what. Never let your fears stop you from finishing your novel.
More Posts From Anthony:
- 5 Ways To Look At Viewpoint (Slightly Differently)
- 5 Fresh Starts To Your Writing
- 8 Ways To Uncover Your Character’s Motivations
- Which Way North? 5 Methods To Outline A Novel
- Writer In Search Of A Novel – Finding Your Genre As A New Novelist
- Writing For Tweens & Teens? 8 Insights For Middle Grade & Young Adult Authors
- Ready To Save The Cat?
- 5 Simple Steps To Writing A Short Story
- 2 Questions To Find Your Writing Process
- 11 Popular Sub-Genres In Fantasy Romance