New Writing. Old Fears.

I took a new piece of writing to my writing group last night. It was something I had written last week, when I was pushing aside my draft novel and felt bereft without putting at least some words on the page. The challenge was to write something outside of our typical genre, to open ourselves up to new types of writing. I don’t know where it came from but I began writing and what spilled out of me was the beginning of what appears to be a spy thriller.

I don’t even read this genre, nevermind specifically want to write it. But the opening scene just happened and when I read it out during our meeting the other members of the group were complimentary and enthusiastic. Granted, it’s not the most technically dazzling literature, but it does have action that hooks a reader and presents a character not often seen in the genre (apparently): an aging female agent who has been out of the ‘game’ for six years and is being dragged back in to a shady underworld that she is no longer familiar with.

I am surprised. Not just because this piece of writing was something done for fun, on a whim, that I didn’t think was particularly good, but also because I was able to create a clear, descriptive narrative that was full of action and made my writing colleagues want to read on. As a result, the ‘homework’ for this week is to finish off something we’ve already started: the spy thriller piece at the top of my list.

Is this what I see when I compare old work with new?

Is this what I see when I compare old work with new?

Now not only am I struggling to get back into completing the draft of That which is left is lost because I’ve spent some time away from it, but I’m also distracted by my new character and the potential of her adventures in a genre I am unfamiliar with. Perhaps because the spy thriller is new to me and I am treating it as something fun and whimsical I feel more able to tackle this challenge instead of finishing the draft of the novel I’ve been working on for three years.

As I’ve said before, I’m so close to finishing the novel that it’s become almost impossible to complete. I’m fearful of finishing and I am struggling to understand not just why but also how I can overcome this. Maybe rediscovering my relationship with writing outside of the novel will remind me of the buzz and accomplishment putting words on the page can provide. I’m certainly not feeling this with my current WIP, as every word seems to be difficult and, despite having an outline, I don’t seem capable of putting the actions I have in my head down onto paper. I know exactlywhat I need to do to bring the novel to climax and then to its natural conlcusion but I’m paralysed when it comes to actually manifesting words to create this.

I’m so tempted to put it aside and forget about it. Instead I could have fun exploring a new idea, a new genre, a new character. But I can’t do that, can I? I’ve come this far: doesn’t this novel deserve to be finished? Have I wasted three years and over 200,000 words (if you count my varied drafts) on a story that isn’t worth finishing?

There it is, the fear…or perhaps I’m labelling it as fear when it should be deemed an admission of acceptance. Have I already made up my mind and I’m just too afraid to face it?

I’m not sure I’m ready for that. Not Yet.



21 responses to “New Writing. Old Fears.

  1. Pingback: Using jealousy to fuel your own ambition | Cat Lumb: The Struggle to be a Writer

  2. This sounds like the old fear of success/fear of failure syndrome, especially if you notice it happening as a pattern with longer works. It is really common among writers, so don’t feel bad. Somewhere in there you’re afraid of what happens or doesn’t happen when you finish the book. This is something you have to just push past. There is no easy way, you have to set a schedule (as others have said) and treat your new work like other distractions when you write – shut it out! Sure, you can keep notes on it, but when you’re finishing the old work, the new one doesn’t exist.

    • It’s reassuring to know that this is common among writers and that there are solutions – numerous approaches have been suggested in the comments here and I’m really humbled by all the great advice people are providing to try and help me move forward. 🙂
      I fo react well to schedules, providing I have a goal to aim for and few distractions, so I like the possibility of setting one and just focusing on each section/chapter without considering the whole – so as to try not to think about the fact that this is ‘the end’ of the novel.

      Thanks for stopping by and providing support. I’m really touched by all the comments and advice.
      Take Care, Cat

  3. Y’know what’s great about writing? Words don’t mold or grow stale. I love how this new project snuck up on you, and that it isn’t even your usual genre.

    My advice? Run with it! Your other project will be there waiting for you. In the meantime, you might learn things or experience things that will strengthen the back-burnered project when you return to it.

    Btw, I’m dropping by from #Mondayblogs on Twitter I’m @TuiSnider there, and would be delighted if you’d drop by my blog sometime! Nice to meet & tweet you!

    p.s. If you’re interested in meeting writers, every Thursday night Twitter is loaded with writing chats. I lead the first one called #StoryDam at 8pmET and it just takes off from there with #k8chat and #10MinNovelists. Very inspiring night for writers! Hope to see you there.

    • Thanks for the Twitter tip – will try and stop by: though I forgot about it this last week! Might have a sneak peek at the hashtags and try and get it in my diary for next week!
      Appreciate you stopping by and encouraging me onward! 🙂

  4. I think it’s quite common for writers to get distracted by another project. It’s just like a relationship. When it’s no longer new and fresh a writer gets a wandering eye and starts wondering if there is something out there more exciting, and the honeymoon phase is over. Like others have said here before me, I think you should put the novel down for a few weeks or so. When you go back to it, if you still find yourself having trouble getting those words down you might just be having fear of completion, and the only way to tackle that is to sit down, close your eyes, imagine your characters, and write what you see before you can even think about it. Write one word, and then another, and hopefully, the words will flow. You’re so close. Don’t give up now!

    • A relationship – I hadn’t thought of it like that. I need to renew my commitment to my WIP and rediscover some of the excitement we once had perhaps?
      I think I definitely need to give myself a break before returning to it – like you say, if I still don’t feel the enthusiasm for it then at least I can just sit down and complete it knowing that I gave it a shot.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting: it’s given me something to think about.
      Take Care, Cat

  5. I feel this. So often I just want to finish the damn story that by the time I get there I don’t even like it anymore. What I’ve started doing is switching between two stories. That way when I get sick of one I move on to the other, and when I return to the first one I suddenly see it in a new, exciting way. Hope that helps!

    • Switching between the stories is a good approach. I know someone who used the new idea – the one that was proving to be a distraction from her existing WIP – as a reward for when she did some work on the older idea. That way, she could balance the two and still indulge in the new whilst progressing on the old.
      It could definitely be worth a try. Thanks 😉

  6. People have a fear of success. Maybe you’re worried that you’re finished novel will be successful? Sounds strange, but it’s a real thing.

    • What a positive way of looking at it 😉 Now if only I could convince myself of that! hehe.
      But, you’re right – sometimes the idea that we might live up to the expectations can make us afraid because, then, we have to improve ourselves all over again and shoot for the stars when we just aren’t ready for it.

  7. “I am struggling to understand not just why but also how I can overcome this.”

    Word by word. One word after the other. It’s okay if the 200k of words and 3 years has all been for your own learning. My first few attempts at novels will never see daylight again. And that’s okay. I got what I needed from them.

    It’s okay if the novel’s rubbish. But I would suggest, to get the most out of those 200k, that you finish it. Take the pressure off it as “must finish because this is my novel” and just “i’m going to finish it, to learn about finishing or because it deserves an ending.”

    Find a reason, without too much pressure. Then put one word down after another.

    • What beautifully written advice – thanks doll! 🙂 I like the idea that it’s word by word and to take the pressure off. This should be about MY journey, not about getting the book publishable: that’s for another time.

      Thinking of the experience as a learning process rather than a product to be compelted is an approach I’ve not tried yet: and I suspect it might work for me.

      Thank you! 🙂

  8. When you keep on having reasons to not finish it, may I suggest just setting a schedule for finishing and being done with it. It’s what I did with the third draft of Darkness Concealed when my much-funner Normalization stories stole my heart.
    I still hear the siren song of cyberpunk, cybernetics, and such, but it’s tempered by knowing I’m close, that the book I’ve spent over 300,000 words on (my book is 105k atm) is reaching the “best it can be right now” point.
    Happy writing. 🙂

    • I think that this could be the plan once I’ve taken a little break to get my head clear. I have an outline for each scene in the final few chapters and I think I just need to follow this to get it done, no matter how ‘bad’ the writing may turn out.
      Thanks for stopping by to share your experience: always good to know that people take their own advice. 🙂

  9. Cat, I think that you should definitely try to finish your story. After all, you are almost there! But it might be a good idea to put it aside for a few days or weeks and write something new and fun. Maybe distancing yourself from the draft might give you a bit more perspective and give you an idea as to how to finish it without pulling all your hair out.

      • Because we tend to over analyze stuff when it comes to our own work. We lack perspective. Don’t worry, I’m exactly the same when it comes to my writing – I usually need somebody else to point out the obvious to me.

  10. Taking a break from the novel and focusing on something new may just be the very best thing you could do at this point Cat. Give each other some space, explore new avenues, then come back to the novel with a renewed love for it and remember why it is that you dedicated so much time and so many words to it in the first place. You’ll most probably find you can’t wait to finish it off in the way it deserves.

    • Thanks doll. Appreciate you stopping by to reassure me support me 🙂 Reminding myself of the original reasons I had for wanting to tell the story should help reinvigorate my love for it – after some time away, that is!
      Take Care, Cat

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