My 5 fears (and me ripping myself to shreds)

This post is my chance to say the things I need to hear. I am not insane — although it is possible I have issues that need resolving. This is my experiment to share my writer fears and gather other writers’ fears so we can bask in the ridiculous things we think/say in our quest for publication.

FEAR: 1. Your manuscript isn’t good enough.

ANSWER: Of course it isn’t good enough now. But it will be eventually. The more time you spend putting yourself down the longer you’ll waste having to pick yourself up in order to be in the right mind-frame to write.

The easy solution? Quit being dramatic and write. And re-write. That’s the only way your manuscript will improve.

Almost … al-al-mo … nope. *hope dies*

2. You’ll never make it. Why do you try?

You’ll make it one day, Bec. Seriously, if you query 101 agents, one or some may say yes. If not, try the biggest publishers first that accept unsolicited submissions. Next, try the mi-list ones if you think they can do a better job at selling than you can.

Finally, you have this little, tiny blog-thing called NOVEL GIRL. And a Twitter page. And a Facebook page. You may find that two or three readers will support you.

Thanks Mum, Nanna, and Rachelle Ayala by the way ;)

3. I will break Darcie Chan’s record of 100+ agent rejections.

This is possible. I won’t sugar coat it. But Bec, didn’t you read that Kimberley Derting received a manuscript request THREE hours after she sent an email?

God! Stop being pessimistic.

Remember that Lauren Kate, #1 NYT bestselling author, received 100+ rejections before she was published. She told you this when she signed a copy of her novel for you at Target.

Kathryn Stockett gave querying one last try with #61. Only then did she receive a “yes”.

I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that this could be something you can wave around at agents, publishers and readers in the future. Something like “I received 200 rejections and now my novel has sold one million copies!” See? You can dream, Bec.

4. You’ll embarrass yourself by publishing your manuscript; there’ll always be holes and errors.

A photo of a REAL sign I took at my local, giant supermarket chain store, Coles.

Come on. You’re really going to be that ridiculous? Every book has errors! I’m talking typos (remember that cooking book that printed “black people” instead of “black pepper” and the print run had to be pulped?) as well as plot issues.

No one is immune. It happens to bestsellers as well as the books that go unnoticed. The trick is to dissect and re-write your manuscript to the best of your ability and that’s all you or anyone can ask for.

As a side note, please know I wouldn’t have answered your stupid questions if I realised earlier you were going to be this ridiculously look-at-me-I’m-a-depressed-writer.

5. Quit your fantasy and spend your time doing something constructive (money earning).

Okay, before I scream at you think about what you just said … go on, think.

“Quit” …?

You silly girl! You would have quit on day two if you didn’t want to do this. Not after you’ve spent 1 year and 9 months on your WIP novel, not after you enrolled in Certificate IV in Professional Writing and Editing at Box Hill Institute to improve your craft, not after finding a few critique partners to pick out issues in your manuscript, not after you re-wrote your WIP novel 10 times … urgh! I could go on forever.

Quitting isn’t possible. Okay, maybe it is. Sure, not breathing and not eating ever again are possible too but you wouldn’t survive long.

Come on, now. You were born to be a writer. That urge doesn’t go away. You’ll only satisfy it once you’re published.

Even then, the desire will grow and continue to grow.


Thank you for listening to my spiel. I find my family and writing friends are too kind to me. The only one who was going to give myself that kind of slap-back-in-line was me.

For interested readers, that was the censored version. Please visit me at ## Xxxxx Avenue Xxxxxx ####, Victoria, Australia to see my diary entry — which is uncensored in all its glory.

As usual the mic is over to you. Comment with your writer fear then annihilate yourself for your dramatic/irrational/embarrassing fears.

46 thoughts on “My 5 fears (and me ripping myself to shreds)

  1. Wow. Talk about great timing. I just and I mean just admitted Fear #1 to an editor I’m considering! More specifically, I’m afraid that unless someone tells me my work sucks and I need to do this, that, and the other thing to it — unless that happens and I do all this rewriting, I don’t believe it’s good enough. I’m shopping around for an editor and they’re all saying that my work is good, clean, interesting, etc. but I think they’re just trying to get me to pick them. I’m insane. I know it.

    • The best person to help you is you. And the only way to gain a partially objective perspective is to take some time away from your writing. I suggest analysing bestsellers. What aspects do their novels have in common? What jumps out at you? Etc. Then come back and read your ms as a stranger would see it.

      • I am generally more objective once some time has passed but not enough to give myself a compliment even if it’s well deserved. I think it just comes from a lack of confidence. I expect the worst. I do. I heard this quote once … (and I’m paraphrasing here) that most people are not afraid of failure, they’re afraid that they are powerful/talented beyond measure. I got chills when I first heard it.

  2. Hi Rebecca, I think your fears are justified and yet unfounded. We are all afraid people just won’t like our work – they will judge it on its merits in seconds and in one moment in time, it’s a subjective done by one person at a time. A little fear is healthy – it makes us want to strive harder, however, you can’t mull over the same MS 10, 20 or 30 times. It will NEVER be perfect, just get it out there and start the next one. They say it can take a million words before you’re up to task.
    Take a look at some famous authors who sent their MS off religiously only to get rejected in varying amounts. More recently Kathryn Sockett who wrote The Help was rejected about 60 times. Do you think she was a tiny bit scared when she sent it off? Of course she was. While the book is good, there are far too may bad books out there with representation. There is alot of luck involved as well; we can’t all be Bill Gates or Richard Branson.
    I recently did some work for a chap who works for a well-known and respected publishers. Years ago, his boss ended up with JK Rowling’s first book (what was it called now? titter, titter). She rejected it.
    So, for now, get your book finished, by all means send it off to agents, etc, but what’s stopping you from self-publishing?
    Remember, think of writing/publishing like you would go see a movie about ghosts; expect it to jump out at you, be scared, it keeps the heart pumping!

    • I’ve been meaning to put aside some time
      To reply to your other comments. It’s nice to see such long and detailed comments from you!

      The problem is I know my ms isn’t ready yet. There are always mistakes or issues I find to improve when I have some space from it.

      I’m going to persist until I get a trad publishing deal. I want to most success possible and I can’t produce the best quality book on my own.

  3. Great blog! My biggest fears is like the one you mentioned above, about my manuscript not being any good. Though everyone thinks my work is dark, disturbing and some even horrifying. One reader told me she put my book down and went straight to church that next morning to ask God to forgive her for reading it, I knew I’d hit a home run lol….but as I wrote it, I was horrified that it would come across as cheesy or silly.

    My other fear is that of never making it. I don’t need to be Stephen King. I would just like to make a living doing the one thing I love most. Right now, I’m a corporate cubicle monkey. While the job pays good and its a nice place, it isn’t me. Writing and connecting with readers is me. So the chance to do it full time would be priceless. I just often fear it will never happen.

    • LOL! I love that story about your reader and her compulsive need to visit church. That sounds like a winner (for you, at least).

      You know, if you keep writing quality books, your readers will buy all of them and that’s how your following will grow. Many indie success stories say that their success happened after multiple books.

  4. Pingback: Read along and help re-write excerpts from my manuscript! | Novel Girl

  5. Oh hell yes! I think I’ve had pretty much every one of these fears at some point or the other – or at least some variation of these fears.

    My single biggest fear that is not amongst the ones listed here? That when I try and write something, all the meaningfulness and undertones and attempts at subtlety and character building will come off as cliched and pretentious and painfully amusing. The kind of thing critics would have a field day picking apart and loving every second.
    Don’t know if you and other writers get this too, but it scares the crap out of me!

    I’ve gotten over it over the last two years because I’ve shared my writing with a few more folks, gotten more feedback (a.k.a genuine, helpful criticism as well as thought out positive responses) and have realised that while I may not be Shakespeare, I’ve definitely got a voice and a style and what I produce is readable and can be good – maybe not truly iconic and great, but good at the least. I can only get better from here, if anything, and I must admit, moving my blog to wordpress and getting actual readers and some who even actually leave a comment now and again has helped immensely in my writing and self-confidence.


    • I share your fear. I worry that all those tips I hear about writing — that you mention above — such as subtext and characterisation will be obvious and poorly written.

      My confidence as a writer has grown massively since I started this blog. It gives me something to be proud of, to make meaningful friendships and, well, get some support when I’m feeling low.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  6. This is a great place to see how other writers feel.
    I’ve finished after years of re-writes, editing and finally sharing with two writer’s groups. That took courage. I humbly submitted chapters and listened to the suggestions and encouragements. Honest critiques are great! They tickle my imagination in ways not thought of before.
    When someone says, “very nice writing” or “great chapter” and say nothing else, find another writing group.
    I’ve grown as a writer because of bold critique honesty and encouragement.
    Every writer learns from another writer as their work is critiqued.
    Now, the query letters…
    Thanks again. Love the comments.

    • Good job. It’s hard walking away from people saying “you’re manuscript is so great/almost error free/etc” but you need people who’ll be honest. Crappy stories don’t sell, or work.

      It took a while to grow my thick skin when receiving critiques on my work, but I’m glad I pushed myself through. I enjoy being ripped to shreds (not by myself–by my beta readers), because the thought that I can produce a better story is exciting. “End goals, Rebecca. End goals.”

      Also, in case you’re wanting extra tips on query letters, I recently posted this article (sorry if you’ve read it): There are other links to helpful sites too at the bottom. :)

      Shame on me for self-plugging …

  7. I wish my writing was (insert adjective here) — better, funnier, snappier, more intelligent, error-free, etc, etc, etc. Writing a novel is like jumping off a cliff…it’s frightening as hell, you’re not sure anyone cares, and it makes you want to throw up! :) That said, it doesn’t always feel like that. Just most of the time. It gets better after Novel 1 is out there. xx, Lauren

  8. I am saving this e-mail. I have been sweating about the submissions process although I have several novels finished and have edited each to the point they are becoming nauseating. This concept of perfection needs to be axed, as well as my fears of not being able to ‘label’ my work by an appropriate genre. Once I stopped lauging at your ‘black pepper’ typo example, I have decided to stop procrastinating. I get right on this – next week! LOL!

    • Don’t worry, we are sweating about submitting together! And I certainly get the feeling of “edited to the point they are nauseating”. I laughed at that black pepper thing too when I was told about it. Whoops!

      Find strength and keep going (so cliche, sorry).

  9. Bec,
    I feel this way ALL the time. But there’s a flaw in me that gets my competitiveness going and makes me say, “I’ll show them.” I write because I’ve wanted to do this since I read those Harlequins with the awful covers when I was a girl, late at night when I was supposed to be sleeping. I write because I don’t like what’s out there. I write what I want to read. I suppose if other people want to read it, then awesome. I don’t know if I’ll succeed or if a publisher will ever want to take the chance on the things I’m interested in, but I have to do it to stay true to me. Like you said, it’s like eating and breathing. You just won’t survive if you quit.
    Every little challenge either helps us change or proves that our convictions are on track. Don’t ever give up. I’m not.

    • Wow. That reminds me of one if those power ballad songs. The ones when you feel like I’ll stand up to my boss when I finish singing. Or I’ll just break up with my lousy boyfriend.

      Good on you. An attitude like that WILL have you published. Thanks for the reassurance.

  10. Rebecca, thanks for this post. These are all my fears too but I just keep going. You have to plug away every day. We write because we love to write, and hopefully one day we might even get to share our work with others. Some of them may even like what we write :)

    • I don’t know why but I keep going. I guess professional writers like us continue not because of a career or goal (so much so) but out of necessity. I know that latter phrase is used so much it’s a cliche but that happened for a reason — it’s true!

  11. What a smart, brave idea this is. When you put it in writing it all does sound silly, doesn’t it. Yet we all have our fears, our insecurities, and our ways of talking ourselves out of going through with this lunacy. I’m glad you had a reasonable, logical answer for every one of your obstacles. You’ll do just fine as long you keep up the kick-arse attitude! ;)

    • Bahaha, but I fall back into my insecure mode so easily! The person who wrote this post already seems like someone else. I don’t think I will make it but I keep trying anyway.

  12. Hey Girly! All writers are insecure! Really. Putting your words out there is like walking into church naked. Even worse, because everyone can now see how your mind REALLY works, or doesn’t as the case may be. Ha, ha, have I made it worse for you?

    Don’t sweat it. You’re going to break the record! Or maybe not. Depends on which record, right? Love ya!

    • You never make it worse! Your humour and support cheer me up.

      “Don’t sweat it. You’re going to break the record! Or maybe not. Depends on which record, right?”

      ^^^^ See? How can you not cheer me with a reply like that. Oh, and see what I replied to Betsy about. Am I on track for my novel?

      • Ha, you’re SO wrong!!! I want to read a novel about PTSD. I don’t care to read all the Psych books saying this or that or presenting clinical studies. If I want to experience what it’s like to have PTSD, I want to read a good novel!

        I portrayed David with elements of PTSD. Don’t know if I got it entirely accurately, but the man had seriously gory flashbacks and self-guilt. I even tagged my book with “PTSD”. so really, no self-deprecating self-talk. There’s ALWAYS someone out there who wants to read about something, even if it’s how to clean an elephant’s toenails without getting your foot stepped on.

  13. I know exactly where you are coming from here. I have my first novel out there around Agents just now. You have to keep at it. There is always e-books now and that is now starting to look really attractive as an option. It means you can get your work out there. Good luck with your writing and don’t stop.

    • Thank you, GJ. It’s soo tempting to self-publish these days that many people go that route out of easiness.

      (For when I begin querying –>) However, until I start receiving personal rejections that are more based on style on writing and other subjective issues over writing quality and the like, I won’t give up querying/submitting.

  14. I feel so much better. I am not alone in my fears as a yet-to-be-published writer. I don’t know if my ms is good enough. It will probably never be good enough for me, but maybe it will be good enough for an editor. I think I tell a good story, although one editor wanted it to be lighter. How can PTSD, a murdered daughter and a son-in-law in jail be lighter? Maybe if I sent him a hula hoop to play with. Not the editor for me. I write similar rants to this, but have never had the guts to publish them in my blog. I will now. Thank you so much for putting my fears into perspective. I thought I was paranoid. Maybe some editors just don’t like me. I can live with that.

    • The weird thing is I hate other people saying “my ms isn’t good enough”, yet I say it so often! My motto is “you’ll only be as good as you strive to be.” Not sure how much I actually believe in it but it sounds good, ey?

      Betsy, I’m having the same problems as you are. My story is about PTSD too. But I just found my problem, maybe yours too. My problem is saying the story is about PTSD. See, no one wants to read a novel about PTSD — they’d go to the health/psychological non-fiction books for that. I need to write scenes “lighter” in between my emotionally heavy ones. Otherwise, my reader (agents and editors included) will hate the story and never make it through.

      This remark has stayed with me ever since watching the behind-the-scenes clips from the Charmed TV series DVD collection. “None of the stations were interested in a show about witches who happened to be sisters. Once they changed their idea to sisters who happened to be witches, they got the deal.” See the difference? This problems about focusing on non-human issues is my problem too. I hope that with the change in attitude it will enhance my novel.

      Not sure if you agree or disagree with what I said but thank you for commenting anyway. I hope I helped and you also helped me to sort through things in my head!

      • Thank you, Rebecca. Yes, turning the idea around helps. I reached out to my agent for her comments. We immediately revised our query letter. Thanks for the advice. Fingers crossed that it will work.

  15. Each of us think we are the only ones who feel this way, don’t we? Ugh. Though we may sit alone all day chatting with the people in our heads, the fact is that writers aren’t alone. We have each other. And who better to understand our logical and illogical fears, regrets and obsessions? :)

    Wonderful post, NG. I didn’t know all of those writers had been rejected so many times. Thanks for sharing!

    • See, we are all the same! You and I enjoy hearing of other writers’ failings. [What sick people we are.]

      I love that you wrote “Though we may sit alone all day chatting with the people in our heads, the fact is that writers aren’t alone.” This is true, yet easily forgotten because of the nature of our work. It’s nice to have reminders we are all miserable sometimes. :p

  16. As a writer, I bounch back and forth between steely nerve and wet noodle spirit. Such a conundrum. I don’t get it, but I keep going back to writing and I keep submitting. Perhaps it is the masochist in me! Who knows?

    • Ooh, ooh! This is me too. Sometimes my writing spirit is thick as bone, strong as Hercules, etc. other times I’m floppy as jelly. Excuse the cliches …

      Thanks for sharing, Bob.

  17. Fantastic post! And since every one of those fears will be posed to you (and us) as a question at some stage, it’s great you have such clear answers. I think we all have to develop thick skins to do what we do… and I’m happy to see you’ve addressed those fears we all share. Thanks for this!

    • Naww … It’s strange what blogging does to a writer. I used to hold all my fears inside so no one could see them, which I thought meant I couldn’t get hurt. Well, well — sharing has helped me become stronger.

      In case you thought any of the above fears don’t let yourself believe in them! Thanks for your contribution, Kimberly.

  18. Just posted a blog ( – thanks for commenting by the way – about a recent rejection. The first person to read my second novel told me it was great and read like a professional, published novel. I had others read it, carefully considered and incorporated comments and critiques and did spent time, adjusting, editing it (I hold a degree and have worked as a freelance writer and an editor). I think that every writer, even after they get published, is secretly terrified that they suck at it. The trick, I suppose is just to push through it.

  19. Your honesty is refreshing. Also love that it’s laced with humour. You’ve expressed every writer’s fears. The other fear is that once your novel is published, will it get the attention it deserves?

    • I did need to get this all out of my system. I’ve been embarrassing to talk to in the writing department lately. (sorry writing friends!)

      That’s a wide-spread and valid feat you added. In my case, I’d feel lucky if I had the chance of worrying about my published book! It’s sad, though, when a quality novel doesn’t get enough “voice” to reach its audience.

  20. Wow! This is neat! So true and right in your face. I like your straightforwardness, Rebecca.

    And I agree those fears are so real and true. But you have answered them back so well. Both reality testing and encouragement in there. Good one! :)

  21. I’m half concerned I wrote this article in my sleep and emailed it to you. I’ve been going through ALL of those worries so much in the last couple years, but it’s especially prominent this last month. Whew! Good to know we’re all a bunch of neurotic nerds together.

    • In all seriousness I actually LOLed. Yes, out loud. It’s 10.20 pm here but luckily I’m home alone so no one heard me. Phew.

      Thanks for commenting. You just brought joy to my night. Hallelujah for other — sorry — crazy writers in my community such as you!

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