Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Fear of Starting

Those of you who are following The Second Realm (thank you! <3) may have noticed that it's not exactly been going smoothly in the first half of this year. There have been a series of delays in the actual publishing schedule, and in all honesty only a lot of mad scrambling behind the scenes kept things from being much worse than they were. I owe major thanks to my beta reader, Lynne Hunt, for working so hard and quickly for me at such short notice for so long.

I have a few legitimate excuses, which I've covered before - mainly a very disjointed work schedule and the concluding challenges of my PhD - but those ran out a couple of months ago, and I've struggled to pull things back together since. I'd like to say I've had writer's block - I've certainly felt like I've had it quite a lot - but in truth, when I've actually sat down to write, I've mostly been able to write just fine.

The problem has been sitting down to write. Writing The Second Realm is hard. For whatever reason, my average pace writing The Second Realm is about a third of what I used to consider normal for me (if I'd written The Second Realm at the same speed I wrote my previous large fantasy project, I'd have finished the first draft in about August 2012). It may just be that I'm a better writer now and thus paying more attention to nuance and detail, but that's not what it feels like when I'm sat at my desk and trying to make words happen.

And with the feeling that something is difficult comes the fear of failing. After almost three years of working on this series, I've had just enough days where I sat down to write and nothing happened that I know failure is a possibility. Just enough to seed the fear that my mojo might have gone - and that being a writer might not have been the right career choice for me.

Once that question got into my head, it was better to not try to write at all than to try and risk failing again, gathering more 'proof' that I made the wrong choice. Not trying can be hand-waved away, as being too busy, too distracted, too messed-about by the weather (summer and I really don't get on). Trying to write and failing is less easily explained.

But the truth is that all writers have days where nothing comes. Some can deal with that by changing projects, or writing waffle to be deleted later. I prefer to work on something writing-related instead, whether that's planning, or editing, or blogging. None of those things are as damaging as not trying.

Allow yourself too much not-trying, and your commitment to a project starts to falter. I've always told myself that The Second Realm isn't suited to writing marathons and binges, which are my preferred ways to write, but during NaNoWriMo 2012, I wrote 50,000 words of season 2 in a week.

So, it's writing marathon time for me. The goal I've set myself is to finish the remainder of season 3 by the end of July, somewhere between 20k and 25k words in five weeks or so. It works out to about 700 words a day, which is wayyy slow compared to my normal marathon pace, but baby steps.

I've known this was the solution for a long time, but I've been afraid to commit to it, because what if I fail? Poor preparation and overambitiousness almost cost me NaNoWriMo last year, and I basically did fail at my intended project. My confidence took a big hit after that. If I fail at this one, my confidence will probably take another big hit, but at least I'll be able to say, for the first time in a while, that I tried something definite on my own initiative.

It's easy to ignore failures born of not trying, but that doesn't mean they aren't failures.

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