The terror of writing

You stare at the stodgy sentences.
You can’t think what words to write next.
You are starting to bore yourself.
Your characters are boring each other.
Nobody will want to read this drivel.

And so it goes round and round in your head.

You’ve written ten novels or none. You’ve won prizes or you’re just starting off, snatching precious evening or weekend minutes. It doesn’t matter where you are on your writing journey – this writing terror hits us all.

And yes, we then find ten thousand things to distract us from our writing; emptying the dishwasher, rearranging the office, even a desire to clean the loo. Some of us fiddle around on social media doing ‘marketing’ or even draft a blog post instead of getting on with our work in progress (Innocent face…).

But it can be sorted out.

A few things to consider…

Are you writing your first draft of a new story?  Then don’t worry – this is the first rubbishy version. As one prominent author interviewed on the BBC said “All first drafts are shit.” This is my favourite comfort blanket. But it’s true. The first draft for me is to get the story out, however mangled the words may be. Then I have something to work on and the real writing begins.

The scary blank screen and the pulsing cursor…  Haven’t we all been there? Yes, every writer knows this horror. No word occurs, no scintillating first sentence will come. The solution? Write some words. Any words. Not necessarily very good words. Keep it simple, just a short piece of dialogue, what the character is wearing, where they are, what just happened to them – anything – but get started. “The cat sat on the mat. It had just sicked up all over my new shoes. Now I’d never go to the ball and meet my heart’s love.” Don’t worry – the good words will mosey along in their own time, often when you aren’t looking.

Are you worried about the subject matter being considered silly?  No topic that can be imagined by the human mind is silly. Only if it’s poorly executed; that’s a matter of craft, skill and persistence, and it’s definitely achievable. A school for young witches, vampires, wars in the stars, spiders that talk, hundreds of murders in a sleepy English village – those don’t seem to have been ‘silly’ ideas. And as for a small country peopled by Ancient Roman descendants and ruled by women… 😉

Who am I to write this drivel?  No writer thinks they are good enough. We all think we’re imposters without a proper job. Let me tell you a secret – no writer is ever satisfied with their work when it finally goes off to the editor, agent, publishing house or beta reader. Every time you read through your manuscript at any stage, you see something that could be improved. But after the nth time you become completely sick of it. That’s the time to push it out into the world and close the door on it. Then start the next piece of work which will unconsciously benefit from all the effort you’ve put into the previous ones. Yes, even though you think you won’t, you will write better prose, draft more quickly, be more observant and creative with every new piece you tackle..

Are you afraid of nasty reviews, multiple rejections, scorn, and your work being ripped apart?  Sadly, some people have personality disorders that make them incapable of seeing anything positively. Some relish slashing and burning, but many are just envious of your achievement and of your daring and dedication. Even the very best authors, the darlings of the book world who may also be best sellers of all time have been rejected and lambasted. Yes, you will be hurt at sometime, but you are in honourable company. Not everybody will like your writing; they may dislike the genre, style  or story. But you DO like it and it’s yours. Nobody has the right to stop you writing your story. Make it the very best you can then arm yourself with a dollop of self-belief and ignore the carpers.

But… Sometimes there IS a kernel of truth in the harshest of criticisms, so it’s worth steeling yourself and reading them. No writer can be wonderful all the time. But most help and advice will come wrapped in warm encouragement, surrounded by friendly suggestions and full of positive steps you might like to consider. Writers are like that. Editors are like that. Most people in the book world are like that. We all want writers to succeed.

And there will be readers who LOVE your words, your characters, the finely tuned plot, the clever research, the intelligent observation and the action-packed narrative and will be desperate for more. So you probably need to settle down to some writing…


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series.Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA, a new Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email update. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

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