Just Start Writing: The Existential Fear of New Ideas

Two weeks ago, I concluded the #NaNoWriMo tips blog series. If you missed it, I discussed outlining plot, designing characters, constructing setting, and achieving your word count goals.

Suddenly, I’m faced with countless possibilities for what to cover next; simultaneously, I’m approaching final edits on my YA fantasy, THE FIRE BREATHES, and I've started outlining the sequel.

As a result, the visceral threat of creating something new is top-of-mind.

Today, I’ll be discussing the excitement and terror of starting a new writing project. But first…

Current Book Giveaways

The current book giveaway is a paperback of GUMIHO: WICKED FOX by Kat Cho! If you like fusions of urban fantasy, romance, and Korean culture, then this book is what you’ve been waiting for. Just follow me on Twitter and retweet my pinned before Friday, November 15 for a chance to win.

The next giveaway will be FIREBORNE by Rosaria Munda.

I finished reading FIREBORNE this past weekend, and it was the first book in a very long time that I promptly hugged after turning the final page.

There’s a glut of YA novels set during a revolution or uprising, but FIREBORNE begins in the aftermath of a political revolt, coupled with two dynamic leads, tense romance, and my favorite thing of all, dragons. The FIREBORNE giveaway will go live on Twitter after the GUMIHO giveaway ends; the winner will be announced on November 29.

After the FIREBORNE giveaway, you’ll have the chance to win a SIGNED copy of THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON by Katherine Locke. I’m still reading GIRL, so I won’t get into details about it yet, but I’m about 100 pages into it and can hardly wait to finish it and pass it on to someone else.

All that being said, on to today’s topic!

So You Have An Idea

Since childhood, I’ve found that new interests creep up behind me like pickpockets, stealing my idle brain space before I consciously realize what's happened.

Sometimes it’s a video game, and I surface from several side-quests deep, abruptly realizing that I haven’t eaten lunch. Sometimes it’s a book, the conclusion of which leaves me incapable of starting a new one right away because I’m still constantly thinking about it (looking at you, NINTH HOUSE.) Sometimes it’s a Netflix show that I binge in lieu of sleep (ahem, FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD).

When I feel one of my own concepts moving in, bringing decorative details and distinct voices, I know I’m ready to write another story.

There’s nothing quite like diving headfirst into your own original ideas—hearing your characters in songs on the radio, seeing them in people you pass on the street, thinking about their journeys when you’re supposed to be doing literally anything else.

It’s exhilarating. At the same time, it’s terrifying.

Write The Book That Scares You

The idea that intimidates you is the one you should be writing.

But that means, inevitably, that the breadth, depth, and impact of the story in your head will not be on the page in the first draft.

If you’re doing #NaNoWriMo, you’re familiar with this feeling. You have passion to spare, and you believe your story needs to be told, but when you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, the words you produce aren’t as powerful as the ones inside your head.

Hear me when I say: You are not alone.

You aren’t a hack. You aren’t kidding yourself about your literary ambitions. Your rough draft is not a finished product—nobody’s is—but if you don’t draft, you’ll have nothing to revise. No matter how excellent the story in your imagination is, it will only ever live there, known by you and you alone, unless you start writing it.

The world deserves to hear your story, and every story begins as a draft.

Start Shoveling Sand

As a teenager, I stumbled upon a quote by Shannon Hale: “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

That quote is currently my header on Twitter. When I’m afraid my characters will fall flat in print, when I can’t quite grasp the setting’s complexities as the plot careens forward, when the emotional arcs swing wildly between extremes in the initial version, I remind myself that I need sand to build castles.

And I’m going to build castles.

Don’t let the gap between the story in your head and the story on the page discourage you.

If you were waiting for a sign that your book is worth writing, this is it. I believe in you. Keep going. We can wade through this moat of impostor syndrome and existential fear together. You are the only person who can tell your story, and I want to read it someday.

Whether you’re doing #NaNoWriMo or, like me, populating a new blog and/or a new book, you’re building a castle.

Castles take time—but heck, they are so utterly worth it.

I’m Laura Genn, a copywriter by day and storyteller by night. You can follow my random thoughts and writing journey on Twitter and Pinterest.

I’m always open to suggestions on future blog topics! If you drop a comment below, you might just make my day. Thanks for reading.