I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last few days, the relationship between excitement and fear (I’ll get to the dots) when drafting books.
I’d been excitedly planning out the Archived sequel when edits for Vicious came in, and I put the first on hold for a couple weeks to nail the second.
But a strange thing happened when I came back to it.
I’d always been afraid of the Archived sequel–it’s very scary for many reasons, none of which I can talk about–but for the first time, my fear of writing the book outweighed my excitement. It smothered it. Those few weeks away from the project were enough time for the excited chirpings to quiet and the whispers of fear and self-doubt to grow. I hadn’t lost my love of the project, but it had gotten buried, and I knew I had to unearth it.
But I didn’t know how.
I tried picturing my characters, and while I was excited to see them again, the promise of their company wasn’t bright enough to dispel my fear of facing the plot.
I tried free-writing scenes, but those dark little voices crept in, telling me a book was so, so much more than a collection of scenes, and I ended up feeling more lost.
I tried rereading what I’d already written, hoping that when the words ended I would just start typing, but it didn’t work. In fact, the words on the page, while I loved them, daunted me more than anything else because I felt detached (I don’t know if this happens to you, where you read something you’ve written and it doesn’t seem as though *you* could have written it at all).
In the end, what saved me (or helped, anyway, I wouldn’t say I’m through the fire swamp by any means) were my DOTS.
Allow me to explain. I’ve mentioned this before, but when asked if I’m a plotter or a pantser (whether I plan vigorously or just let the muse drive the car), I say I’m neither.
I’m a connect-the-dots-er.
When I sit down to write a book, the first thing I do is figure out the dots, the key scenes moments that are going to make my book my book. The ones that NEED to be there. These dots aren’t just for structural integrity. They are the scenes in the book that EXCITE me, before I write, and while I’m writing, and, I’m learning, when I scare myself out of writing, they are the scenes that will help draw me back.
The problem was that the dots had changed. I’d reworked the plot of the book, and had yet to re-establish/re-discovery my dots.
So that’s what I’m doing now. I’m figuring out my dots. Every time I find one, it’s like a flicker of light, scattering one of the many shadows of self-doubt that have had time to creep in (I picture those Miyazaki shadow bunnies, nesting everywhere). It’s a process, unearthing the dots, finding some unusable, others intact, creating new ones, but I’m finding my way back into this book.
I asked Twitter which part of drafting a new book was most exciting, and which part was most terrifying. Overall, writers were most excited by the novelty and potential of the world and characters, and were most frightened by the possibility that they weren’t good enough to tell the story.
I’ve been known to say again and again that as a writer your excitement must always be stronger your fear, but sometimes it’s a close race, and sometimes, you fall behind. I hope that if you ever do, you can find your way back in, and if you need a path, I recommend you try the dots.