What I worry about when I worry about writing

What I worry about when I worry about writingThe worries I have about my novel are a random selection of middle-of-the-night mental rabbit-holes that my imagination plunges down. Oddly, unlike the myriad worries listed by Susannah Felts in this great post on Lithub, my night-time panics aren’t so much about the technical aspects of The Novel – I fret about those enough during the day – but rather about the terrifying leaps I will have to make when I’ve finished and finally have to send my novel out in to the world.

  • I worry that The Novel will be as good as I can possibly make it but that no agent will want to represent me.
  • I worry that I will find an agent who loves my work and wants to represent me but they will be unable to find a publisher to take the book on and I will be unceremoniously dumped.
  • I worry that I will be lucky enough to secure both an agent and a publisher but there won’t be enough in the publicity budget to promote it properly or that the cover will be off-putting to booksellers who will be loathe to give it precious shelf space.
  • I worry that readers will hate my book and leave bad reviews that will make me cry and kill my book stone dead.
  • I worry that no-one will review my book and so it will sink without trace.
  • I worry that because my book has been killed stone dead by the widespread opinion that it stinks I will walk through town and see huge piles of it languishing in the windows of every remainder bookshop.
  • I worry that The Novel will be deemed to have no merit whatsoever and so I will not be invited to bookshops and libraries and festival – events that are important for building that precious word-of-mouth and introducing your work to potential readers.
  • I worry that I will be asked to take part in festivals and the like but that no-one will turn up, leaving the interviewer and I to have a slightly awkward natter on our own over a cuppa.
  • I worry that my first book will do OK and that the publisher will want a second but I will be unable to write it.
  • I worry that I will write the second book and it will be rubbish and that the publishers won’t want it and so my carefully planned series of novels will turn out to consist of just one book.
  • I worry that no-one else will ever want to publish me after word gets out about just how bad that second manuscript is and that my writing career will be over almost before it’s started.
  • But mostly, I worry that this first novel will fail to be published and that I will have wasted so much time and energy vainly pursuing a dream.

And so I slog on, one word after another, page after page, each phrase and plot point carefully considered, each line of dialogue read out loud.

These worries are universal, the insecurities of every unpublished writer and many published ones. They are the insecurities that drive us on and make us strive to be better. But all the same, given these 3am circles of doubt, it’s amazing that anyone writes anything at all.

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