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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What’s Holding You Back from Succeeding in Your Writing? by Vickie McDonough

Vickie McDonough is an award-winning author of 23 books and novellas. Her books have won the Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest, Texas Gold, the ACFW Noble Theme contest, and she has been a multi-year finalist in ACFW’s BOTY/Carol Awards. Vickie is the author of the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series from Barbour Publishing. Watch for her new books from Moody Press, Texas Trails: A Morgan Family series, in which she partners with Susan Page Davis and Darlene Franklin to write a 6-book series that spans 50 years of the Morgan family. The first three books release this fall. Also, next year brings the release of another new series from Guidepost Books, Whispers on the Prairie, set in 1870s Kansas.

What’s Holding You Back from Succeeding in Your Writing?

As I’ve progressed from a green-as-they-come newbie writer to one with several published novellas to published short novels to trade fiction, it’s always amazed me that at every level of writing, I’ve faced fears. Fears that I was stupid to attempt to write a book. Fears that I’d never get published. Fears that now that I’ve sold a book on a partial, that I won’t be able to finish it by deadline.

What I hope to show you in this article is that you’re not alone if you have writing-related fears. Writing is such an insecure career. You’ve worked hard and finished a book, but there are no guarantees that you will sell that book, and if you are fortunate enough to sell one book that doesn’t mean you’ll sell another one. It’s no wonder writers tend to be so insecure about their craft. Fears are something that every writer faces at one time or another in their career, but the question is—do you defeat them or allow them to defeat you?

Isaiah 41:10 says: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

As a Christian writing fiction, we don’t have to travel this road alone. Our God promises to strengthen and help us, to hold us up when we are weak or tired. God’s word tells us to not be afraid, for He is with us. And if God be for us, who can be against us?

So, what’s holding you back? Is your beginning too slow? Does your middle sag? Do you fear success? That seems an odd thing to fear, but it’s a very real concern for many writers.

Now that you’ve finished your book, are you afraid to let others read it? Afraid to send it to an agent? To a publishing house? Or have you sold a book, but are afraid you can’t make the deadline?

I’ve attended a number of writers’ conferences and heard big-name authors express that in every level of writing they had fears. I queried some and got quotes, hoping that hearing from other authors will help you see that you’re not alone in your fears.

Here’s what Robin Lee Hatcher had to say: “My #1 fear usually hits me about half way through the novel when I start muttering, "I don't have enough story. I don't have enough story. I'm lost. I don't know where I'm going. I don't have enough story." I'm a pantser (NOP: No Outline Person), so this fear feels very real at the time. However, it helps that I recognize I do this with every book, so I can remind myself that I felt this way with the last book and it turned out all right. Thus it will turn out all right this time too.” Award winning author of more than 60 novels, www.robinleehatcher.com

Margaret Daley, author of 75 books said she has a “Fear of never selling another book. Fear of coming up dry on ideas.” Trail of Lies, Love Inspired Suspense, www.margaretdaley.com

Ann Shorey, author of The Dawn of a Dream stated: “My biggest fear, whenever I start a new book, is that I can't do it again. Not physically unable, but mentally. Can I write another story?

The Lord enables me as I peck away at the keyboard. It's like the Israelites having to step into the Jordan before the waters stopped flowing” www.annshorey.com

A few weeks ago, someone on one of the loops I’m on put out a call for writers to state their fears in relationship to their writing. I sat down and quickly penned her a note similar to this one:

When I first started writing, I feared I wasn’t any good. I was embarrassed to even tell people I was writing a book. I feared I’d never sell and that I was wasting my time and money on writing classes and attending conferences. Then I sold a novella and feared the editor would hate it and would send back my manuscript with major rewrites. I also feared I’d never sell a long book. But I did, then I was afraid I couldn’t finish it, that it moved too slow, that it was too far-fetched of a story. That readers wouldn’t like it. That it wouldn’t sell well. That I wouldn’t make my deadline. I was drowning in my fears and not trusting in God to guide me down this path that He set me on.

Let me tell you that I’m not normally a fearful person. I raised four boys, and that’s not something for a lily-livered woman. When I was 12, I begged and pleaded until my parents caved in and bought me a horse. I loved it and rode it all over town—usually by myself. I bought a motorcycle when I was 14 (with babysitting money) and rode it all over town, alone. I’m not a sissy and have done many gutsy things. But writing has at times terrified me. It is more of a mental battle than a physical one, and I find mental battles harder to conquer.

Let’s hear from some more authors:

“Striving to write your absolute best is a wonderful thing, but I have held on to a manuscript for years, fearful it wasn't good enough, I hadn't researched enough, etc. I am still sitting on that manuscript until this summer, where I will pull it out and rework it yet again. And then? Who knows." B.K. Jackson, http://www.bkjackson.blogspot.com

"Before you're published, you fear never getting a contract. Once that contract comes, you fear disappointing editors and readers. Then comes the fear that the next book won't be as good as the previous one. Or the fear that there won't be another contract. Fears can be all-consuming in this business, if you allow them to take root. Ultimately all of this is in God's hands, and if our God is for us, whom - or what - shall we fear?" Kathleen Y’Barbo, Anna Finch and the Hired Gun, www.kathleenybarbo.com

Here’s a comment from a friend and fellow author who is eagerly awaiting the release of her first book this May:

'The biggest fears I've faced are sort of related—fear of rejection (both from editor and from readers) and fear of failure, that my "best" won't be good enough. I don't know that these have been overcome totally, but having a strong critique partner who "encouraged" (pushed) me to submit, plus a husband who encouraged me as I finished and submitted Marrying Miss Marshal was a big help in overcoming those fears. I'm still praying that God will remove these fears completely!" Lacy Williams, Marrying Miss Marshal, Love Inspired Historical

"It's not the not getting published that worries me, but rather that I haven't heard God right when I felt called to write. I worry that I'm not in His will and am wasting my time when He wants me doing something else. How I deal with it? I pray everyday that if this isn't His desire for my life that He will show me in a way that I will know it is Him. But I know my timing isn't His timing, so I can't say if I'm not published by such and such a date then I know I'm not supposed to. So far God hasn't closed any doors for me, but He has opened many. I just have to trust Him that He will guide me down the path I am go. And many times my crit partner has to give me a pep talk to remind me of this." Debbie Lynne Costello www.debbielynnecostello.com & www.theswordandspirit.blogspot.com

"My greatest fear probably stems from my perfectionist tendencies and fall into the "fear of success" category, I guess. Will I disappoint my editors so that they won't want to buy from me again—because of the writing, because of a missed deadline, because of miscommunication, poor sales . . . any number of reasons. That readers will discover I'm a fraud after reading one of my books and never want to read another. That I will burn bridges. That I won't take full advantage of the opportunities presented to me.

"If I let myself, I could wallow in fear. . .but I choose to plunge forward in faith, that everything will turn out okay. I have come to believe fear never completely disappears but that doesn't mean I have to let it defeat me. I move forward in spite of the fear." Darlene Franklin, Bridge to Love http://darlenefranklinwrites.blogspot.com/

Don’t allow your fears to become an excuse that keeps you from succeeding in writing. The key to conquering fears is to recognize them, then give them to God, and press on knowing that He is with you, strengthening you each step of the way. Philippians 4:12b-13 says, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

So, tell me, what is it that you fear most about writing? How is it keeping you from succeeding?
Here is a small saying that I found at one of the first writers’ conferences I attended, and it has continued to encourage me to stretch my limits.
Finally a Bride

Jacqueline Davis, a reporter for the Lookout Ledger, is bent on nabbing her story at any cost. When Noah Jeffers comes to Lookout as temporary pastor, Jack suspects there may be something hidden behind his shepherding ways. Soon though, Jack becomes attracted to the new pastor despite her initial hesitation. But as she uncovers the truth, will the story cost her too much?

Will she reveal what she’s found, or keep it hidden to protect newfound love?Jacqueline Davis, a reporter for the Lookout Ledger, is bent on nabbing her story at any cost. When Noah Jeffers comes to Lookout as temporary pastor, Jack suspects there may be something hidden behind his shepherding ways. Soon though, Jack becomes attracted to the new pastor despite her initial hesitation.

But as she uncovers the truth, will the story cost her too much? Will she reveal what she’s found, or keep it hidden to protect newfound love?

4 comments:

Julie Garmon said...

Oooooh, I love this. Totally relate!

Keli Gwyn said...

Thanks for your post, Vickie. I needed to hear this today.

Ane Mulligan said...

Great advice, Vickie. Thanks!

Vickie McDonough said...

Thanks, Julie!

Keli, I'm glad my article was a help!