Writing the Fear Away

Do you keep a journal specifically for each novel you write? I don’t, but I’m glad some writers do.

I’m even more glad that they willingly share their soul-baring angst with us.

Eye Opener

One of my favorite mystery writers is internationally bestselling author, Elizabeth George, writer of the Inspector Lynley books that have been made into Masterpiece Mystery movies. She writes “literary mysteries,” that excellent combination of fast-paced, intricately plotted whodunits and fully realized 3D characters in “you are right there” settings. The fact that they are set in England is the icing on the cake for me.

Lately I’ve been re-reading Elizabeth George’s excellent writing book, Write Away: One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life. Throughout the book, she shares snippets from her work-in-progress journals.

In Her Own Words

At the time of this book’s writing, she had had thirteen novels published. (She has twenty-one now, if I counted right.) Keep that in mind as you read her journal entries (below) of her feelings about writing and the writing life.

“I’m trying to work for an hour each day. That’s all I can demand of myself…I became so incapacitated by fear that I was having trouble getting out of bed in the morning. I finally resorted to saying, ‘These are only words and I will not let words defeat me’ in order to get up and get to work. Thus I struggled to the end of the novel.”

and

“I have a love-hate relationship with the writing life. I wouldn’t wish to have any other kind of life…and on the other hand, I wish it were easier. And it never is…I would never have believed it would take such effort.”

If award-winning, mega-selling writers feel this way when creating fiction (and how I bless her for her honesty!), then it should come as no surprise if you and I also feel this way. Apparently it is common to those who strive to write fiction with excellence.

One Answer

Successful career authors find ways to work with and work around these fears and insecurities. Let me share Elizabeth George’s words of wisdom. If it resonates with you as it does with me, you’ll want to buy her book.

“Every writer has to develop her own process: what works for her time and time again. Having no process is like having no craft…Having no process puts you at enormous risk because writing becomes a threat instead of a joy, something that you are terrified to begin each day because you are at the mercy of a Muse that you do not understand how to beckon. If I had no process and no craft to fall back on, I would be paralyzed with fear every morning and, frankly, I see no fun in that.”

She outlines her 14-step process in the book. It makes good sense to me, and it’s similar to the steps I often now follow when writing a novel.

We All Do It Differently

Each writer has his/her own way of doing things. What your process is like doesn’t really matter–if it works for you. However, do find out what kind of process produces your best work. How?

That’s one big value of keeping a novel-in-progress journal (notes to yourself about the novel and your feelings and the problems or successes you have with it). You have, when finished, a complete description of your writing process!

Analyze Your Notes

You’ll have concrete information. You’ll know how much planning you did, what order you worked on things, what time of day and what places produced the most writing…your process. You can then repeat what worked for you–and eliminate what didn’t.

You can also later read all those angst-filled passages and realize you survived those writing days just fine. It will help when they roll around again–when you start your next novel!

How about YOU? Do these journal entries ring any bells for you? Is this ever your experience?

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