Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


Wearing My Heart on My Sleeve

After reading the previous posts by my fellow potatoes, I'm amazed at the similarity of our writing fears, and I begin to wonder if writers, in general, are better writers because of our fears. If we all wrote fearlessly, we might not take the time for that very necessary revision process. We might not pare down our ramblings or search for the perfect words. We might not work to make our characters believable and our settings real.

Beyond the fear of not producing more work or not even making the time to write, my greatest fear in the writing process is not being able to come up with a plot. I have no shortage of characters and settings and rough ideas, but can I incorporate them into a believable story with a beginning, middle, climax, and resolution? Can I pull it all together?

Once I've worked through that process successfully enough to please myself and an editor, I must face the fear of releasing my work to the world. I venture to say that the majority of serious writers are introverts because writing is such a private and lonely process. The thought of sudden exposure can be exhilarating and paralyzing at the same time--especially in this age of the internet. Even though I tell my students time and again that they can never please everyone and they must focus on pleasing themselves and their particular audience, I still wear my own heart on my sleeve. It's a scary process--putting your heart and soul out for the general public to read and comment upon.


My internal editor

My fears about writing begin with the first draft. Like a student who thinks, "My teacher will hate this." I think, "My editor won't buy this." But is this the time to be thinking that way? This is the first draft. Teacher nor editor will see the story yet. This is the time to create not to panic.

To stop my super-critical internal editor I pretend that a monkey is my real editor. I blind fold her eyes. I also cover her ears because I read aloud everything I write. I also have a Lego doll that I call Dr. Speller. Dr. Speller sleeps throughout my first draft. If something negative still comes to my mind I put it in brackets. [This is stupid.] In other words, I write everything that comes to my mind. Because, if I stop writing, my brain freezes.

In my second draft the brackets are deleted. In the third draft I wake up Dr. Speller. The monkey stays blindfolded until I feel the story is as good as I can make it. I read it aloud for the monkey to hear it. Tweak it here and there, and off it goes to the real editor.

It still comes back bloody with corrections and suggestions in red ink. But the editor likes it and buys it.


Season of Fear

It's that time of the year to be scared...and I don't have to look much further than my writing desk to feel the fear.

Like Christy, I am afraid of not writing. I look at the great accomplishments of my author friends and I fear that I am letting time slip past me without being productive myself. My passion is creating children's books; why do I then struggle so when I sit down to write? How come I haven't accomplished as much as other people I know? Why aren't I using my time better?

And like Stephanie, I'm afraid that when I do write, I won't be able to write anything good. I've been fortunate enough to have a couple of successful books, but maybe I've run out of clever ideas. My mind doesn't feel as nimble as it once was. Whenever words don't come easily, I immediately fear that I'm in the early stages of Alzheimer's, the disease that overtook my father. Maybe I've lost the ability to write at all.

How sad and ironic that the fears themselves are often what stop me. Roosevelt made a pretty good point when he said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."


I'm just a hamster who can't say, "No."

I want it all. I am eagerness personified. Overly responsive. My eyes are bigger than my stomach. My hands are in too many pots. Overextended. My biggest fear about writing, is NOT writing. Ideas I have in abundance. Time to develop the ideas is lacking because I am scrambling to fulfill all my commitments. I alone can control this, but I will always give you lists of excuses why I must do everything I do—everything that prevents me from doing this important thing I WANT to do—write.

Okay, I’m going to practice saying the word that causes me fear, “No, no, NO!”


Writing is Scary

Most of my work days are spent in my house, in the workplace I shared with you last week. Nothing scary about that, right? Um, wrong. There are so many scary things about writing once you've become a published author. The first fear about writing a novel? Looking at the blank computer screen and wondering: Can I come up with 50,000 words? There is no way around it but just to write and write.
Then comes the biggest fear is: Is this any good? There is never an easy answer there, or any way to know that until I've sent it to a reader or my editor. Scary.
Once that fear has been dealt with, and we've determined that yes, this story is pretty good, the next fear is Will the review be any good? Waiting to see the first reviews is so stressful, because they can determine so much, like will libraries buy the book, etc. ( Although, I must say, I don't base either my movie-going or book-reading on reviews I see. If I want to see a movie or read a book, I'll do it.) And then, when the book is out, is reviewed well, gets some cool honors and makes a couple nifty lists, another fear creeps into my world.
Will I ever sell another book? This one has been going on for a while with me. It has been a couple years since I got my two book deal for The Compound and the second book of the deal The Gardener is out in ARCs now, so essentially it's done. I was soooooooo relieved to have that fear abated this week when my editor at Feiwel and Friends acquired my next novel The Raft in a two book deal.
Which means it is about time to look at that blank computer screen and start the fear cycle all over again...........