The following is the reply I posted on my message board and writers’ email group. I’m posted it here too, for the same reason I posted A Writing Future? a few days ago – this is an important part of my writing journey and it needs documenting.
First off, I’d like to thank everyone for taking my dilemma seriously and offering advice. I truly do appreciate your time and suggestions. I’ve read all the suggestions/thoughts and I have put a lot of thought into what’s stopping me from writing.
I was asked privately how I would feel if I was faced with the prospect of never writing fantasy again. Admittedly, the question shocked me, but it also helped me put things in perspective.
If I were told that I could never write again, I’d be devastated. I know I would be defiant and I’d write anyway…in secret if I had to. I love writing. I want to write. And I will continue to write. So writing is not the issue.
If I were told that I could never write fantasy again, I’d be upset and probably a little angry. Given time, I would get used to the idea and I know I would find another genre to write in. Not writing fantasy would not end my world and I think, for a while, I believed that writing and fantasy came hand in hand. I couldn’t do one without the other. That is not the case, however, and I think I can see that now.
I have many unfinished projects. All of them have stopped where the major conflict starts. All of them only need a few chapters written in order to see those manuscripts finished (some of them only need a few pages written). All of them are not written in the fantasy genre, although a majority of them are. I understand now that fantasy isn’t my problem, writing conflict is.
I admit that I have a fear of failure and a fear of success. I believe the fear of success used to be the dominant one and that’s why I wanted to use a pen name. My thoughts were that if anything published by me was not well received I could hide behind the pen name and no one need know it was me (especially family and friends). At this time I also need to admit that I kept my writing a secret from the people closest to me. However, I believe that has since reverted to a fear of failure, because everyone now knows I’m writing. As a result, I guess that makes it impossible to hide, so now I fear failure.
Reading this, I wouldn’t be offended if you saw signs of “empty nest syndrome” – a reluctance to finish the project and let all those strangers see my work; or, not wanting to let go of something precious. It’s strange, but I know I can brush this aside without a moments thought. I want these projects finished and out there. How can I be published if they are sitting in a box in a spare room? I’d be pushing my fear of failure to the extreme by having empty nest syndrome too. No, it’s just not me.
My problem is a lack of confidence when I’m writing a conflict scene and maybe a lack of imagination too…if I’m totally honest. As a reader I often skip over the top of these scenes because I find them boring. As a writer I can’t skip over them and that annoys me. However, all stories have conflict of some sort. It doesn’t have to be a huge epic battle scene to put the brakes on, even a two paragraph push and shove gives me the shudders (although I find verbal battles are less stressful). I don’t like confrontation in real life and I guess I don’t want to face them in my stories either. Old habits and all that…
I’ve isolated the germ, now I have to find a cure. Unless I decide to write non-fiction, I’m going to have to face this hurdle in order to move on with my writing. Many of you have made worthwhile suggestions, so what am I going to do to help myself?
The one consistent suggestion was “practice”. On the positive side, I have a lot of work to practice on, but if I think in those terms I’m going to push my brain into overload as it’s too much too soon.
Someone suggested a ghost writer for these scenes. I drooled at the suggestion. Wouldn’t it be heaven to write all the good stuff and leave the conflict/battle to someone else? Yes! The person who suggested this also said that I probably would find that I’d have to edit the scene to make it fit in with my style and perhaps I’d learn from that experience. Maybe after three or four projects I’d feel more capable of writing the scenes myself. Whilst a part of me loves this idea, an equal part of me hates it too. Should the story be published, I would feel as if I’d cheated. I think I’d be embarrassed by the fact that I didn’t write the entire story myself.
Maybe I need a coach instead. A coach would guide me through the scene. I guess they would ask relevant questions to get me going and then coax me into writing a paragraph or two. They would go over the crud I’d write and suggest something stronger, better. Maybe it would build up from there. Maybe those questions that got me started would form a template for future conflict scenes. And maybe the coach would help me with a couple of my projects until I got the hang of it. I don’t really know how it would fall together, but the list of questions to help me get started is something I would definitely like to pursue.
One of you has already provided a list of questions. They are:
1) Whose POV will you be watching the scene through?
2) What is the outcome of the fight? Do several people die? Are some of the goodies/baddies badly injured/killed?
3) Are the goodies going to win?
4) What weapons are involved? Will your POV character have one already? Find one during the fight? Or manage to take the baddy’s?
5) Is there magic? Does the POV character have magic? Does another character have magic and so the POV may only see flashes of light or thunderous sounds?
6) Does it finish with action or dialogue?
Do you have anything else that you think should be included?
In conclusion, I know an extra effort from me is required. If I let a thing like this make me back away from writing, then I have no right in calling myself a writer in the first place. I want to learn how to write these scenes and I humbly request your help. I’m open to how that help is given.
In addition: I had many writing friends step forward and offer me help. The response was amazing and I’m grateful to everyone. One of those people is currently helping me through this scene. I’ve already learned a lot about myself as a writer, but that will be explained in another post…on another day.