Write What Scares You

Photo credit: Wrote on Flickr
Late last spring, I came up with an idea for a new book. It was an ambitious idea, different from anything I’d written in a long time, and required a lot of world-building. As in, an entirely new planet, species and language, kind of world-building. 

I’ll admit, it intimidated me. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it justice. But I liked the idea, and I had a feeling that I may even be able to love the idea if I dove in headfirst, and after plotting it, I knew that if I somehow managed to pull it off, it might even be good. 

So I started writing. Tentatively, at first. I called it an experiment and tested the waters and told myself that if it didn’t work out, it was fine. It was just testing an idea. 

When I hit 10,000 words, I knew I had to make a commitment. This wasn’t just a little experiment anymore—if I continued down this road and fully committed myself to the project, I could have a completed draft in a matter of weeks. 

It still scared me. I still worried that I wouldn’t do the story justice, that I’d lose interest or confidence in the story halfway through. I hated the idea that I may hit 20 or 30k and realize it was wrong, as I had done with an ambitious project in the past

But despite my nervousness, I made it official and told Twitter I was working on an actual WIP. Which made it official to me, at least. 

Now several months and drafts later, I’m starting to think this WIP may be the best MS I’ve ever written. I love the story, the characters, the world that I was terrified to create. I love the plot, every jerk character or snarky line, you guys, I’m a tad bit obsessed with this WIP. And I love it. 

But had I allowed my fear to stop me from writing it to begin with, had I given in to the voice that whispered it won’t be good enough, I never would have fallen in love with my new characters and world. I would have missed out on several weeks of absolute joy while first drafting and revising. 

I’m not saying this MS is going to be The One—I have no idea what will happen from here. But regardless of what does or doesn’t happen with this WIP, I am so grateful for the experience. And even if the only ones who ever read it are my CPs, I would do it again in a heartbeat. 

I’d heard writers say you should write what scares you, and it always seemed like a nice idea. But now that I’ve experienced it myself, I can tell you with absolute confidence that the fear is worth it. Acknowledge it, accept that your project makes you a little nervous, then write it anyway. 

Because at the end of the road, when you’ve conquered your fear and have a shiny new WIP to boot, the feeling of accomplishment and wonder makes it all worth it. 

Are you or have you ever written something that scared you? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Don't let fear paralyze your words. Writing what scares you might just lead to your best work yet. (Click to tweet
Have you ever written something that scared you? Writer @Ava_Jae shares her experience with fear and writing. (Click to tweet)


Grace said...

What a great post about overcoming fears. :-)

I confess this wasn't what I was expecting from the title of your post. I was thinking of "fear" more in the terms of "heebie-jeebies." I don't write horror or thrillers or things like that, but in some of my fantasy stories, I've written a few scenes that actually scared me because of what happened to the characters. And I had one character in a story who was battling a magic-induced suicidal rage, and I got so depressed writing her that I had to take long breaks between scenes just to get my mind back out of the abyss.

Yep, that was writing that scared me. :-P

But I like this post, too, about pushing through the trepidation and writing anyway. ;-)

Ava Jae said...

Thank you, Grace! I did take a slightly different approach to the writing what scares you thing, but I can definitely understand the aspect that you experienced as well. That's slightly different, but a similar idea. :)

I've written a couple scenes that creeped me out before, but I find that I actually don't mind that...because if I'm creeped out by it and I know what's going to happen, I figure my readers will be even more creeped out. :D

But maybe that's just me.

Grace said...

Ha, good point there! Yeah, if we as the authors are scared by our own writing when we're the ones in control, then it means it's probably good intense scary stuff for the reader. I'll remember that next time I creep myself out with what I've written. ;-)

James Garcia Jr said...

Hmm? Actually the book I'm promoting now is a paranormal with a healthy dose of romance. As a horror guy, I wondered whether I really had it in me. As I finished the editing stage I became very excited to share it. So, yeah! Now I'm getting ready to do it again with something else.



Laura Rueckert said...

I have many fears about what I've written.:-) My story includes euthanasia, and I've received several critical comments on it already, so I imagine it will only get worse if I ever have more readers. I also have a half-Vietnamese character and a depressed character, so I'm scared I'll get a lot of "that's not how it really is" comments.

Ava Jae said...

That's great, Jimmy! Sometimes it really pays off to take some risks. :)

Ava Jae said...

I think the best way to combat those is loads of research and feedback. I don't know if you know anyone who has dealt with depression, but speaking to someone with personal experience can be a good way of learning how to portray depression. I also believe there are resources online where people share those kinds of experiences, which may help?

All valid fears, and I commend you for writing them. :)

Ava Jae said...


Laura Rueckert said...

Yep, I did lots of research. But I think no matter how much you do, there will always be someone who says you got it wrong. I just hope my skin is thick enough to deal with it.

Ava Jae said...

That's very true—you can't make everyone happy, and there will always be someone to find fault in just about anything. But if it's any consolation, I thought you handled all of the aforementioned elements quite well. :)

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