Drought: A Writer’s Fears

I have been wanting a good,  solid thunderstorm for a long time now and we still haven’t had one. It makes me sad, especially as one is called for at least once a week, yet it never happens. Yet it doesn’t make me as sad as the fact that I’ve been going through a writing drought, as well, for a number of reasons. I hadn’t really realized what those reasons were, but I think I’ve started to figure it out.

I wrote at work and started to rely on that time to be my only writing time. I am lucky enough to have a job that allows me to write during my shifts, so why not capitalize on that? Yet when I have other things come up for work, obviously, that takes priority and recently, work has been more demanding, so writing has occurred less. Not to mention the fact that I’m starting to get to know my staff more, so I talk with them more throughout my shifts than earlier on, when I was too timid to say hello to my own staff. (I know, definite facepalm moment there).

I also finally caved and bought The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt for PS4 and even though I haven’t been playing it constantly, that is definitely a factor (because I definitely want to be playing it constantly). And I’m trying to take my dog on daily 30-40 minute walks. And I’m in the middle of editing two other novels for two friends. And searching for a full-time job. Plus other things like showering, eating, getting ready for work, commuting to work and sleeping are mixed in (and with the sleeping bit, that usually involves sleeping in too late). Not to mention other projects and things I have going on that bite into time throughout the day.

Bring everything together and a week has passed and I haven’t worked on my latest novel at all. Yet thinking about writing this post and I knew all of those elements combined weren’t the main reason why I hadn’t been writing much lately.

I’m scared.

Many of you know, I have a trilogy already written. And this novel is completely different from that trilogy. I’m roughly adapting it from a full-length screenplay I wrote my senior year of undergrad–though much has changed and evolved since the screenplay, which, once everything is said and done, I’ll have to go back and revise that, based on what has changed in the novel. And the changes are improvements, from character personalities to more logical connections to twists that make me smile and will make guts clench. Plus, though I’m not sure if it has enough meat to expand to a trilogy, it definitely has the promise to have a sequel, and my brain is slowly discovering what that entails. And that excites me.

I talk about all this just to reiterate that is novel isn’t my first novel. It isn’t my debut (though I’m still unpublished, so it could potentially be). I’ve completed three full draft novels. I’ve improved with each one and believe that as I continue to write (and I don’t see myself lacking material or ideas for a very long time, as my list of ideas to be written is much longer that what I’ve already written). Yet writing that first trilogy, I carried a mindset of naiveté that I obviously didn’t realize I had until looking back and being more informed. That naiveté surrounded the publishing industry. I had no idea how many words a fantasy novel should reach or not go past, so when I finished my first draft of my first novel at roughly 120k (and it has only grown since), I didn’t realize that could be an immediate turn-off for agents towards an amateur writer. I was just stoked I wrote a novel that was over 200 single-spaced pages and actually finished it. I wasn’t familiar with the terminology (I always called my books novels, not manuscripts) or the ins and outs of the business. And I’m no expert now. But I’m more informed. I’m more aware.

And I think that’s hurting me.

Instead of getting lost in the story, the word count expectations are sitting in the back of my mind. The closer I get to the end (and I’m closer to the end than I realized), the more I’m thinking, You need a higher word count. What does that mean about the strength of your story, the strength of your plot? Of course I don’t think, Hey, you might be becoming better at being more precise. Of course I lean towards the negative instead of the positive. Something I need to work on. Or I’m thinking about how I’m going to query instead of trying to tune into my characters and what they are dealing with. Instead of getting stoked about writing and enjoying it, I’m getting nervous that it isn’t publishable because of X or Y or Z.

This was a shitty realization, mostly because I’m bummed that I let myself becoming mentally affected by this. It also made me take a step back and ask myself: Why am I writing in the first place? Am I writing solely to get published? Am I writing so I can make a living as a writer without another source of income? Am I writing to impress all the agents I stalk on Twitter? Sure, some of these elements are incorporated into my dream of being published. Because yes, at the end of the day, I do want to be published. I would love to be successful enough as a writer that I wouldn’t have to work another job, so I could focus more on writing and do the fun things related to it, like traveling to conferences and meeting fans or playing video games and claiming that is research for my next novel. But is that the main reason that I write?

No, it bloody hell is not.

The main reason I write is because that’s the core of my being. These stories are in my head and I write them to stay sane. I write them because I love doing it. I write them because they are stories that deserve to be told. Do I want them to be read? Of course. Would I love to be published so that could happen? Definitely. But letting the fears that it won’t ever be publish hinder me from writing it down in the first place isn’t okay, no matter how valid some of those fears might be. Why? Because that’s what editing is for. But my favorite mantra is, “You can’t edit a blank page.” And I shouldn’t worry about those potential problems when the first draft isn’t even fully written yet, because even if those problems do exist, I can fix them later. But I need to write. And I’m tired of my self-conscious trying to stop me.

So, I’m going to end this here and see if I can get a solid thousand words in during the last hour of my work shift. Take that, drought.

Cheers.

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About Nicole Evans

Nicole Evans is a writer of fantasy and science fiction. She is currently unpublished and is working fervently to get the “un” removed from that statement. She has five completed manuscripts: a trilogy about destined heroes that fail anyway, a science fiction standalone that pits the natural desire to love against the natural instinct to kill during the extinction of the human race and a new series about a writer who can't get published and gets the chance to live a life that all writers dream. She also has two scripts done. Currently, she is about to start writing the second of a nine book series while planning two more. (If you can tell, she really likes this whole writing thing.) Considering she has run out of space for putting rejections letters up on her wall, Nicole now uses her spare time doing the typical things that nerds do: blogging, dying repeatedly during video games (which she believes is retribution for the characters’ she’s killed), wishing she was the character she is currently reading about and trying to fight off the real world by living in her own head, with varying degrees of success. Nicole has a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in Film and Media Studies, and works part-time as a supervisor in a library at the University of Kansas. View all posts by Nicole Evans

8 responses to “Drought: A Writer’s Fears

  • lissyreads

    Girl, I know these feelings all too well. Though I’m still working on my first manuscript, I learned a lot about the publishing industry during undergrad and then during research on my own after. And the idea of getting published became greater than the idea of writing, and that really hindered me.

    I worry about word count and page count as well. I’m definitely not a wordy writer. My page counts are definitely on the lower end. I tend to write the bare minimum so I can move through the story. It’s only in the editing that I can bring in more detail. I’m getting better at adding it while writing the first draft, but I still know editing is going to be where most of it comes.

    I keep having to tell myself that it’s only the first draft and it can only get better from there. We have to enjoy the first draft process if we’re going to get anywhere. Because that’s really where our love starts, right? It starts with this idea that we just have to get on paper.

    I hope you get that thousand words! You can totally do it!

    • inkstaind13

      Thank you for such a thoughtful response, darling. Though I’m sad you deal with the same thing, I imagine most writers do, right? I’m usually really wordy with my work (the previous trilogy are all in the 120-125k range) so seeing this one potentially fall short of the minimum range is actually sort of blowing my mind–and yes, like you said, hindering my ability to write. But kuddos to you for sticking with it and remembering that we can constantly edit, so we really have nothing to worry about. 😀 I didn’t get anything done last night, but about to write here in a few minutes. I wish you the best of luck in all of your journeys and hope to witness your success along the way! 😀

  • justbmoreblog

    Your letter is in the mail. (I know random comment to this post! lol)

  • Joyce C

    I feel ya. Often, when I find myself lost in the mire of (self-)doubt and fear and worry, I ask myself why I’m doing this. And every time, I come back to the same answer: because I love making up stories and telling them in the most impactful way I know how. Because I want to move and entertain and inspire people with my stories the way other writers have moved and entertained and inspired me with theirs.

    Elizabeth Gilbert, author of EAT, PRAY, LOVE, once said at a TED talk that when she starts doubting herself and worrying too much about the industry and whether she’s good enough as a writer, she takes a break and just “goes home.” Going home, to her, meant going back to the work of writing and finding that passion within her again.

    So I hope you always find your home inside you whenever you feel yourself straying from your chosen path.

    Great post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You make this writing journey a less solitary one 🙂

    • inkstaind13

      Joyce, you are absolutely a sweetheart. ❤ Thank you so much for your kind response!!!! You captured my emotions and feelings perfectly with your words (which is what we writers want to do, right? :P). Also, I think it proves a lot that when we doubt ourselves as writers, the thing we want to turn to the most is writing. I hope the muses have been kind to you, slaying the demons of doubt and allowing you to write freely and fearlessly. I look forward to reading your books, one day. 😀 Write on!

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