Writing Scares

Hey friends – Liz here. I’m writing my next book in the Cat Cafe Series, as-yet-untitled-number-4, and I’m heading into the middle. Sort of. And the middle is kind of scary because I always feel like I’m in the middle of a big pool and forgot how to swim.

So I wanted to ask today – what scares you the most about a book? Beginning? Middle? End? The whole thing?

Julie: I think my scariest time as a writer is the copy edit phase. The rest of it is daunting, especially starting, but after eight books I know I’ll figure it out. But during the copy edits, someone else is pointing out the problems with what I thought was clear, or they’re asking questions that I thought were answered. Sometimes I get so twisted up that I’m afraid I’ve made it worse instead of better.

Jessie: Interesting, Julie! I worry that I will hate the cover. It feels like it is so out of my hands and yet the thing that is right in my face so much of the time. I love all the aspects of creating the books except waiting for the cover. Even when I end up loving them, there is always a weird jolt when I see them for the first time. It is as if I have an idea of how the cover will be in my head and don’t even realize it until the reality doesn’t match up.

Edith/Maddie: Interesting, Jessie. I’ve certainly had covers I’ve hated, but I’ve never waited and worried about it. I got copyedits for Nacho Average Murder yesterday, Julie, and can’t wait to dive in. For me, like Liz, I’m most scared of the middle. Every. Single. Book. (And I’ve completed 23.) I don’t know where it’s going. No one will ever read it. I’ll never finish it. It’s crap. All the worries, every time. At least by now I know I’ll get through it if I keep the proverbial butt in the chair and fingers on the keyboard!

Sherry: The middle is hard, Edith — it’s probably why I wrote that part last in my first few books. Now I power through — at least I have lately. I think the scariest part is just facing the blank screen and knowing I need to fill it. I have to remind myself to fill the proverbial sandbox with sand (words) and then build the sandcastle.

Barb: I find talking about my books to be really difficult–both when I’m writing them and when they’re done. I don’t mean giving a high-level series description. That’s pretty easy. I mean talking about premise and characters of a specific book in a way that is interesting for readers. (I may be having this scare this very moment because Sherry and I will be at Murder by the Book in Bar Harbor, Maine this weekend and on Friday night each of the participating authors is supposed to talk about our book for 3 to 5 minutes. I have sat in audiences where a parade of authors doing this has been horribly boring and I can’t think what to do or say.)

Edith: Barb, it’ll be fine!

Liz: I second that, Barb! You are certainly never boring…

Readers, what about you? What scares you most – in books, in life? Tell us below!

11 Thoughts

  1. First I’m scared I don’t know how to begin. Then I’m scared I can’t get it done (the middle). Then I worry about the ending.

    I’m also a little worried about coming up for premises in books 2 and 3 of the new Homefront Mysteries series, but I’ll get it done. Hopefully. The only muse you need is a deadline, right? 🙂

  2. I don’t write books obviously. But I do write book reviews for Mystery Scene and I’m always worried (not sure if scared is the right descriptive term for me) that despite turning in a draft that I think is pretty good, they’ll find it so bad that they’ll just say they can’t use the review because no amount of editing could save it.

    One of my recent reviews had to have the first paragraph redone and I couldn’t believe that I’d done such a hack job that it needed that extensive a rewrite.

    My music reviews that I do for a couple of sites leave me worried as well.

    You just hate the idea that something you wrote needs to be edited. However, I can say that any edits I’ve had to rework have always ended up being better than my original drafts…and probably made me seem smarter than I really am.

  3. Middles are hard every time. I find myself wondering if the book even makes sense, if it’s good, etc., I usually ask my husband (who is my first reader) these questions before I go, oh yeah. I’m in the middle. Just happened yesterday on THREAD AND DEAD. Re: copy edits, I recently did them for the first time by hand and I can relate to what Julie said. I was paranoid they wouldn’t be able to read my scribbles. Blue pencil doesn’t erase that well, y’all.

  4. I’m not a writer, but I do a lot of other things that have beginnings, middles and ends. It’s always just getting started that is the hardest. I usually assume the project, whatever it may be, will be harder than it turns out to be. Having said that, I currently have two plumbers in the house fixing what I thought would be a simple repair and I totally screwed it up. 🙁

  5. Very interesting to hear what scares you. The middle I understand, but I never would have guessed copy edits or the cover. I can see copy edits, however. Last night, I got so turned around on the recon I’m working on I didn’t know if I was helping or not.

  6. Not knowing who done it. If I just know who the real villain is, I can eventually build my way through red herrings and subplots. But if I’m not quite sure who my ultimate target is, it scares the bejesus out of me. That’s my situation right now.

    Sandra Marshall

  7. Oh my goodness! It’s unbelievable how timely today’s topic is for me.

    First, I must go a bit off-topic and share some news. As of yesterday, I’m officially a published (or about-to-be-published) author! The short story you’ve heard me whining about here for months will be published next May in Malice Domestic 15: Murder Most Theatrical. Thank you all, and most especially Sherry for all the support and encouragement you’ve given me. It made more of a difference than you could possibly know.

    I know intellectually that every writer (and every worker of any kind for that matter) has doubts and fears about her or his skills, but emotionally I still find it hard to believe that someone like you, Edith, or in fact any of the Wickeds could still have those doubts and could think such thoughts as, “it’s crap and no one will want to read it.” I know this is no help whatsoever, but even if it should turn out to be crap (im-bloody-possible as we all know), I (and I’m pretty sure every person participating in or reading this blog) will ALWAYS want to read it.

    Anyway, after an exhilarating few days right after I screwed my courage to the sticking place and submitted the story at the end of August where I worked like a demon on the first book of my projected cozy series. The doubts and fears descended and I became certain that, not only was the story going to be rejected, but was going to be accompanied by a note telling me NEVER to send them anything again, and NEVER to attempt to write anything again, and that, in fact, they were sending to burly men to cart away my computer so that there was no longer any danger of English Literature becoming polluted by my output.

    Anyway, yesterday, I opened up my novel’s folder on the computer, and instead of continuing where I’d left off, I decided to write another chapter, somewhere in the middle of the book. The idea for it had just popped into my head and I scrambled to get it written down while it was still fresh. When I’d finished, I re-read it, and to my surprise I DIDN’T feel it was crap. (See what becoming a published author can do to one’s ego. I’m going to be UNBEARABLE now.)

    But then, a different set of doubts and fears descended. Was it OK to write things out of order? Would I be descended upon by the Writing Police who would slap my hands, confiscate my fabulous chapter, and tell me to get myself back to where I’d left off in September? Would this end up on my Permanent Record?

    Even as those thoughts were running through my head, I realized at that moment that they were just as silly and absurd as they sound here, but still, we’re never far from our doubts and fears, are we? I called my best friend Jack, who recently retired from teaching English and advanced creative writing at the University of New Mexico, and he shared a bit from the textbook he was assigned to use for his beginning writing courses. In it the author (who I think was Anne Lamott, but I’m not absolutely certain) tells writers to take whatever issues are sitting on their shoulders, keeping them from writing well and successfully, and pluck them off, put them on the counter, underneath an inverted glass bowl, and WATCH THEM DIE.

    So here’s to plucking off our demons, putting them under glass bowls, and watching them die (and then getting back to work)!

    1. Congratulations, Lee! First story is huge. I look forward to taking my anthology through that lineup (where I have sat for the last few years) and having you sign it!

      1. Thank you Edith. It means a lot, coming from you. I, too, am looking forward to the lineup. However, it’s going to feel so strange being on the other side rather than rushing from author to author, replenishing their stocks of bookmarks .

  8. To be honest, what scares and hurts is when an author who I’ve followed for umpteen years stops writing. I know that sickness will grab hold of all of us at one point. But an author who I’ve been friends with albeit online or at gatherings falls sick and we know that we’ll never hear her words speaking to us from the paper ever again hurts. I feel for their family’s loss, their personal friends loss and everyone else who was a part of their lives. A case in point would be John D. MacDonald who wrote the Travis McGee series. His last book was published I believe just before he died. Leaving all his readers wondering what would happen to the daughter he was finally connected with.

    Or Father Andrew M. Greeley. I am forever going to miss reading new stories about “Bishop Blackie Ryan” and all the other Irish families he wrote about. They entertained me and brought me into their worlds.

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