When You’re Afraid of Your Own Story

Alrighty, I have now finished the partial requested by Mills and Boon, and also the full I need to send to to Carina. All I need to do is a final polish on both and then a synopses each. Easy.

Well, okay apart from actually writing the synopses.

And the HUGE subbing fear that is currently lurking around in my brain.

Yep, easy all right.

I think this might be a good time to remind myself of the speech Jane Porter gave at the close of the Romance Writers of Australia conference. She was incredibly inspirational and what she said really struck home to me at the time. She spoke about how long it too her to get published and the ups and downs of the industry. Then she then went on to describe a little incident with her son about how he was learning how to play baseball and how his coach was talking to him as he prepared to hit the ball, how the coach was telling him he owned the ball, this one was his, this one had his name written all over it, he could do it. The kid struck out about three times but the coach was constantly telling him how he could do it. How he could hit this one out of the park. And on the third time he did it.

She mentioned this in the context of how wonderful it is to have support when you’re doing something hard, but I got something out of it that was a little different. Because it gelled with something else that someone had told me earlier on in the conference – that we are the experts in our stories. No one else knows our stories like we do. No one else knows our characters like we do.

And I thought to myself that yep, I’m that kid. I’m standing there with a bat in my hand. And that ball? That ball is my story and I’ve been afraid of it. Afraid I’ll get it wrong somehow, that my characters will be wrong, that my conflict will be wrong, that my plot will be wrong. And for the past year, I’ve been kind of taking punts at the balls that keep being thrown at me, but I’m so afraid of them, I don’t even try swinging. Because deep down, I’m not sure I can hit them.

I am not owning my stories. They are owning me.

Well, at the end of her speech, Jane spoke about not giving in to despair. That your journey is your own, it’s not anyone else’s. That all you’ve got is you – but that’s the biggest strength there is.

And I thought ‘yeah, she’s bloody right’. I need to stop giving in to despair. Stop being afraid of my own stupid stories. Stop letting them own me. Because I am the expert here, not them. I write them, they don’t write me. I own them. They’re mine. And the more I own them, the greater the chance will be that I’ll hit one of them out of the ballpark.

It may not be the ones I’ve just written. But one day, one of those stories will, literally, have my name written all over it.

So there, inspirational speech/pep talk/coach for the week. Just remind me of it when the time comes to hit send! 🙂

16 thoughts on “When You’re Afraid of Your Own Story”

  1. Hi Jackie
    That makes a lot of sense. I know that I have suffered from overanalysis and fear and lack of self belief and yes letting the stories own me. I think it was because I got nearly there too soon (2 rounds of revisions on my first m/s and the same on my second and then everything I did went wrong – lots of partials rejected, because I lost my voice to overanalysis). Anyway things are looking up (I have two partials requested from the NZ Great Beginning contest – I’m in the seat behind you on the roller coaster)and I’ve learnt to celebrate every good bit on the way, from hitting send, to entering a contest. Will stop rambling now and say what I wanted to say in the first place – very best of luck on the partial and the full to Carina – I hope they both fly out of the ball park. Nina x

  2. @Nina I think that is so true. Giving into that fear leads to overanalysis, to a bland shadow of the story that has had all of its spark edited out.

    So, I’d better gird my loins and prepare for battle.

  3. crossing EVERYTHING that I cross on your partial for M&B Jackie. Great blog – and one day there will be your name on a cover. Caroline x

  4. Jackie, it’s so good to see you finding the strength to smash those doubt crows right out of the sky.

    I love the comment that we own our stories…we really do ! And the worst thing we can do is drown them in second-guessing and over-analysis.

    It’s something that I’ve been very,very guilty of over the last year. Except I get so freaked out about everything I’m doing ‘wrong’ that I stop writing all together.

    And on the subject of synopsis writing here’s something I found just yesterday in Hearts Talk … (editors) can gauge the saleability of your writing
    from a partial – but they need a full synopsis to gauge the
    saleability of your story.

    That gave me focus for writing the synopsis. It’s all about the damn story!

    Thanks for a great, inspiring post 🙂

  5. Honey, just bear in mind that you’ve had more than one editor tell you how much they love your writing. That is SUCH a good thing and having read some of your work, I whole-heartedly believe you can knock it out of the park. Truly!!! Now get those big girl pants on and PRESS THAT SEND BUTTON!!

    I can’t wait to see YOUR name all over a book in the 2012!

  6. Nina – hey! You know what? That’s EXACTLY what happened to me. Rounds of revisions, then partial after partial rejected. And you DO question everything after something like that happens. I lost my voice too. But damn, I’m claiming it back!
    Go you! Hope you hit those partials out of the ballpark too!

    Julia – losing the spark is exactly what happened, at least that’s what happened to me. Don’t let fear take it away huh?

    Caroline – thank you!! One day! *shakes fist*

    Anna – thank you my dear! Yep, we can’t help worrying about whether our stories are ‘right’ or not, but dammit, we can’t let it take over. We have to fall in love with our stories so that we can’t NOT write them.
    And love that idea about the story. That’ll give me something to think about when I do get to doing that stupid synopsis. Sigh. 🙂

    Maya – *pulls on big girl pants*. Thanks for the faith, m’dear! And right back at ya!

  7. Wise advice for all of us. I’ve been shying a bit away from my own wip while working on revisions. Now I feel inspired to kick it’s butt. Carpe story, Jackie!! Go gettum, girl!

  8. I needed that pep talk, Jackie. I’m in the final scene of the final chapter of my book and just starting to wonder whether I’ve wasted the last nine months of my life on this story. I’ve believed in it the whole time and only now am I thinking that it’s useless, that there’s no point. After reading your post, I suspect it’s only because I’m getting close to the end, to actually submitting it, that I’m doubting myself. But I shouldn’t, and you’ve reminded me of that. I should just finish it and be done!

    Thank you x

  9. Aimee – glad to help! Go carpe that deum…I mean story! 🙂

    Madeline – Yep, you said it girl. Finish it, get it over with then sit on it. I guarantee that when you come back to it, you won’t feel that time has been wasted. Oh and let me know when you sub – I’ll need to handhold with someone. 🙂

  10. Hi Jackie
    I think what scared me was that I had peaked at ‘nearly there’ and ‘Nearly There’ was the best I could do. With the result that I didn’t take all the feedback I had been given on board – even though I genuinely thought that I had. So I kept making the same mistake (not enough conflict) worse whilst losing the bits I could do.
    So now I really hope I’m on the way to tackling conflict, am digging much deeper and am holding on to my voice. So whilst I am no doubt making new mistakes thats OK because it means I’m moving up the learning curve!!
    Heres to you reclaiming your voice and believing in yourself – go for it!! And can I join in the handholding too please.
    Nina x

  11. Nina – you and I sound like we’re on the same kind of journey! I too had the ‘nearly there’ thing. Thought it was all on and then it was a slow slide down to ‘nowhere near being there’ again. So hard. My problem was my characters and making my conflict almost separate from them. So they were never believable and acted weirdly. It took me AGES to understand what the problem was and how I could do it better. Like you I think I’ve overcome it now, but then, I’ve probably made other ones. I guess that’s the nature of the beast.
    But yes, I think I have got my spark back, and seeing your contest success, looks like you’ve got yours back too!
    Keep me posted on how you get on. And yep, join in the handholding! It sure helps.

  12. FANTASTIC post, Jackie. I needed this too. I find very often my revisions are focused on the places I ‘bunted’. I had an idea, but it was out of the box and it scared me so I went halfway and in the end, that doesn’t work.

    Swing with everything, then, even if you miss, you gave it your all. Cheesy, maybe, but it’s very true. Because halfway doesn’t get you there either.

  13. Maisey,m’dear, you are so right. Halfway is nuts. It has to be all or don’t do it. So here I am, swinging with everything (but not that kind of swinging..aaaand I’ll stop now). 🙂

  14. Oh, Jackie,

    I hear you!

    It’s awful to second-guess everything you write. I wonder if it ever gets any easier? Popular authors sound so very confident about their writing, I have to wonder whether they ever have shaky moments. Well, that’s what I used to wonder, until I say Maisey’s comment.

    Thanks for being so honest, Maisey! I found it refreshing and utterly motivating. 🙂

    Best luck with your subs, Jackie. Can’t wait to hear the outcome.

    Author of humorous, feel-good romance

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