Thursday, October 28, 2010

What SCARES You?

Boo! Mwahahaha, welcome to my special Halloween post. What SCARES You? This isn't about writing horror, or monsters, or scary scenes. Though there are many wonderful posts out there about these things, including this post on Enchanted Inkpot about how to write a monster.

No. This is about writing what scares you, as the writer. Possibly the most frightening thing you will face. But also the most necessary and powerful step forward in your journey.

I know I've mentioned this concept before. That my hero, Libba Bray, spoke about this at the LA SCBWI Writer's Day conference last April. She encouraged us to banish our "inner editor" and for that first magical draft, to "write what scares" us. I was working on a new WIP at the time. One that seriously frightened me. Not only was it a new style for me (alternating POVs AND present tense, neither of which I'd attempted previously), but the subject matter itself was dark and intense compared to what I'd done previously.

The thing was, I loved it, and I knew that. But I was terrified what others may think. Was it really any good? Or was it all in my head?

My wonderful agent had already encouraged me to challenge myself, but hearing Libba's speech was perfect timing for me. It gave me the confidence to carry forward and just let it all out. To NOT censor myself. And it was exhilarating. I was on fire. I've never written a first draft that fast. Or felt so totally wrapped up in it.

That's how I want to feel when I write. And you know what? Yes, I had to revise it. No, it wasn't perfect. But, it turned out to be a clear improvement in my writing. A leap beyond what I'd done before.

Isn't that what we all want? To improve in our craft? To enjoy it? So I'm here to tell you that when the wind howls, and the shadows seem to swell, don't hide beneath the covers and ignore it. Open up your computer, and type what scares you. Because it may just be that little part of your soul that you've kept trapped inside, knocking to get out.

Really, what's the worst that could happen? You don't have to ever share it if you choose not to. But you might surprise yourself.

Now tell me, have you written what scared you? If not, will you try it now?


  1. Fabulous post Lisa! I need to do this more. Just write without worrying about conventions of anything else, get the words out and tend to the editing later.

  2. I write what I want to write, and though my stories are fairly unconventional and don't appeal to the masses (therefore making them unmarketable), I don't really care. Someday, someone will have faith in my weird stories, and I'll be published. I'm afraid to write what others WANT me to write. That's my fear. If I 'make it' with a story I'm not that into, I'd be afraid of having to continue to write THAT kind of story again.

  3. This is kinda profound.
    And I may have just solved my NaNoWriMo dilemna of "should i write?" and "what should i write?".
    Thanks, Lisa!

  4. Renae - Thank you, for me, it is VERY helpful. Let me know how it goes for you.

    Christi - Good for you! You have to write what YOU have to write. Never force yourself into other genres or conventions if it doesn't truly interest you. I seriously believe it comes through in your writing.

    Melody - Thank you for the wonderful comment!! :D Glad I could help.

  5. Don't censor yourself, I love that. Your agent sounds like a genius. My deepest fear is something I can't fight, something I have no power over. I don't think I have put that in my writing, but I will now! Thank you so much!

  6. Heather - That's the perfect thing to put in your writing because it's a very real fear a lot of us face. It would be very gripping. Go for it!

  7. Great advice Lisa. I'm having a blast with my current wip due to following this wisdom! :)

  8. Kristi - So glad! It really is freeing and fun.

  9. It seems you touched on an area that is still bruised, which explains why I winced. My fear is that writing for my employer will ultimately stifle my voice--if it hasn't already. Yet I also fear that the audience may not want my voice because I'm just a nameless face...with silly pink hair...and am not to be taken seriously.
    *shudders* Scary. But a worthy endeavor that I'm trying to dance delicately with. Thanks for the encouragement.

    PS Being an editor (by profession) makes it all the more difficult to turn off the "inner editor."

  10. So I was thinking about this post, and realized that there are two types of "scary" - outer scary things and inner scary things. An "outer" thing I'm scared of is having my house burn down (I haven't yet started a fire in my fireplace this fall. And I love a cozy fire, but so far fear is holding out). And inner scary things - like, OMG I'm sure that person doesn't like me any more because I just said something extremely stupid. I won't admit to how old I am, because surely I must be over this junior high fear by now, but I'm not.

    So thanks for helping me at least admit my fears. Now if i could get an inspiration for a story, I will gladly write them out... maybe I'll try to stick them into that NaNoWriMo thing I'm tackling next week!

  11. Sandra - do it for yourself. Chances are if you write what you want to read, others out there want to read it too! And no excuses on the inner-editor! ;)

    Margo - ooh friend me for Nano! And I think if you take that outside fear and inside fear you might just have a good starting point for both plot and character.

  12. I did this with my last novel (the one you're reading now!) It's not easy to let go, because sometimes I worry about what others will think. But I wrote it the way I wanted, knowing I could smooth it out in revision. And my idea for the next one is a little different for me too, but I'm going with it. We shall see!

  13. Julie - I think that's part of why you are getting better and better. Your stuff is AMAZING! So there you go folks, good example!

  14. I get freaked every time I write The End. Is that really the end . . . of my writing? Will I ever start another book? What happens if my brain dries up and I never get another idea? Chilling thought, I tell you.

    Give me a good Zombie any day.

  15. Lee - Seriously! I don't think you have to worry there though! It's never really the END.