By Marcia Thornton Jones
Troublesome ‘what-if’ taunts often translate into crippling fear that keeps writers from writing. I thought a lot about fear when writing WOODFORD BRAVE. After all, the primary theme for my mid-grade novel is ‘courage and fear are two sides of the same coin’. So, how do we flip the coin from fear to courage when it comes to writing?
In THE JOURNEY FROM THE CENTER TO THE PAGE, Jeff Davis tell us, “We don’t have to send fear back down more deeply into its hole; we can coax it out with our flute, let it spread its terrifyingly beautiful body before us, and see what it has to teach us. Sometimes, the best advice I can offer students about fear of writing is simple: Write.” (page 176)
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Do the very thing that scares you. In fact, that’s what my lead character does in WOODFORD BRAVE.
“I stopped then, heart pounding, blinking away the blur in my eyes. The sun glinted off something lying in the middle of Ziegler’s yard. Dad’s silver dollar mocked me from a puddle of sun. I was supposed to be a hero like my grandfather and dad, but I had no Helmet of Power or HyperSpeed Boots and this was no comic book. It was real. I was nothing but a scrawny eleven-year-old kid and I was scared spitless. I stepped into Ziegler’s yard anyway.” (Marcia Thornton Jones, WOODFORD BRAVE, page 179)
For some of us, taking that first step toward what frightens us seems impossible. We’re paralyzed by the fear. For those of us that struggle with crippling fear, here are a few strategies.
1. Write what you plan to write—jot down notes.
2. Write out of sequence—write what you already know.
3. Invest in a writing space and writing tools that you love.
4. Schedule writing times as if you’re scheduling a doctor’s appointment (and keep them just like you keep your doctors’ appointments).
5. Set quotas—word, page, or time (and reward yourself for meeting them).
And, for those of us that need a little extra push, one of these prompts might help.
1. List five personal fears. Choose one and show the protagonist facing that fear.
2. What does the lead character wish he could say? Freewrite starting with: What I wanted to say was…. Finish by telling why your character can’t say those things.
3. Describe the perfect family. Have the lead character compare her family to the perfect family.
4. List all the things you don’t want the next scene to be about.
5. Brainstorm the worst that could happen to your character. Write a paragraph where that exact worst thing happens.
How about the rest of you? How do you flip the coin from fear of failure to the courage to write when those haunting what-if goblins start to taunt?