I’m not a new author. Let’s get that out of the way up front. I’ve got a few titles under my belt, both with a digital-first publisher and self-published. I wouldn’t say I have a huge amount of experience, but I’m no noob. I don’t really have a lot of anxiety about writing, editing and submitting a book. I know my process, know what to expect, and have a reasonably good idea of how this book-making thing happens.
At least, I do now. I didn’t start out this way. For every book on my little backlist, I have a dozen more on my hard drive serving as reminders of the days when I didn’t know what I was doing. I’d try to produce my own version of the books I’d read, scared to stray from what I knew publishers bought. If I had a crazy story idea, I’d skitter away, worried it was too out-there. If I stuck to stories like those I’d read, I was worried it was too trope, too cliche, too DONE.
Sometimes I miss those days, not because being a terrified neophyte was fun, but because I had this sense of wonder about writing, a feeling that I was doing something, really doing it, for the first time ever. I was taking a giant step out of my comfort zone and into a great adventure. Now it’s all become routine. It’s easy to forget what it felt like to be just starting out on that path.
One thing I love about Nano is all the new writers. They have that sense of wonder that I’ve lost, and they can remind me what it felt like the first time I opened that blank page and filled it with my imagination.
They also remind me of the feelings of terror and inadequacy that went with the wonder. I’d try to sound like books but… wow, I didn’t. My stories seemed so silly, my writing sounded so stilted and rough and who did I think I was fooling with this author thing? I gave up over and over again, shelving the story and this stupid idea that I could write.
You know what I wish someone had told me back then? Shut up, put the book down and WRITE. Forget about what you’re reading. Forget about what other people think. Forget about everything but the story in your head and putting it on paper.
Funny thing about those new author jitters, they fade a little more with every word that goes on the page. Every sentence written that is true to the vision and the story in your head can make the fear of failure and that feeling that you are way outside your comfort zone.
Writing makes its own comfort zone. It’s a place where your story and your voice grow, a place where you find yourself and who you are as a writer. The more you just shut up and write, no rules, no limits, no worries, the more those jitters fade away. You become a writer.
Will every story become a masterpiece, a treasure that will have readers and publishers clamoring for more? No. There will be rejection and sometimes the stories we pour our hearts into will flop. But even through the failure, you grow. You learn. You become more and better than you were before you started.
So, if you’re out there feeling jittery, second guessing yourself, thinking this will never work…
Shut up and just write. No questions, no comparisons. Plot it, write it, edit it. Take that story you’re not sure about and learn from it.