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On fear and beginnings

At the moment, I am in the process of starting a new project. There are lots of extremely good things about starting a new project. The shininess! The exciting moments late at night when you realise something essential and race to write it down! The shininess! Did I mention the shininess?

But there are also lots of things which are less good and more, well, terrifying. Like, you know, there's that moment where you sit down and actually have to start. That moment when all the doubts arrive. Because doubts and beginnings are, after all, the bestest of best friends. Suddenly you're interrogating yourself. Am I good enough to write this at all? Why did I decide to write a story about magicians? The Maybes set in. Maybe it would be better if it was about pirates. Maybe it would be better if it was in present tense. Maybe it would be better if the main character was a monkey. And that feeling where the unwritten story is so beautiful in your head you'd almost rather not touch it at all, because seriously, what are you doing? You're just getting grubby fingerprints all over it. And then you start thinking about how your best friend says she never reads anything in third person. One of your characters swears on the first page, and your grandmother turns up inside your head to tell you off. And there's that feeling, that inescapable feeling of knowing someone will totally hate your writing.

And will someone hate your writing? Yes. Absolutely. I can promise you that. Whatever you write, someone will definitely hate your novel. You got that fact? Can you hold it up in your head, and keep holding it up in your head when you sit down to write, and all the schizophrenic voices keep turning up to tell you what you're doing wrong? Whatever choice you make, someone will disagree with it. They might even be someone you adore, who you desperately want to impress. They might be someone witty and clever. Even if you finish it and edit it and it eventually gets published and wins lots of awards. Someone, somewhere, will always hate your writing.

You got that fact? Good. Now let it set you free. Write about monkeys, or magicians, or monkeys who are also magicians, in third person, in first person, in deranged monkey person, in past tense, in present tense. Write about whatever you love writing about. And tell those doubts that you're too busy to talk right now, because you're writing a story that's yours, a story that's shining so strong that it has to be told, no matter how scary telling it might be.

I'm going to leave you with Ze Frank, who talks about fear and beginnings beautifully.

Leila Austin

Leila lives in Middle Earth, also known as New Zealand, and writes YA fantasy.

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  1. Man, I know this feeling all too well. What helps me is seeing how authors like JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins have people who hate their work, even though they have written some of the best books of all time. I loved this post. Good luck on your project!

  2. This is definitely the feeling I've experienced pretty much every time I've tried to write a novel- and it's stopped me far too many times. I'll keep what you said in mind this time around. Thanks for the great advice, and best of luck on your new project!

  3. Great post! I'm in the throes of both submitting and beginning something new right now and this is very familiar. (Also I did once consider writing a pirate story from the POV of a parrot, but thought that was a sign I was maybe not ready to write the story at all. I'm sure it's been done, though maybe not in YA...)

  4. Beautifully said! You're so right that after the stings of the first critical reviews fade, later ones are so liberating. Not that I WANT people to hate my work, but ... it's the price you pay for writing something with corners on it instead of something round and easily digested.


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Item Reviewed: On fear and beginnings Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Leila Austin