Each Story Inspires Its Own Fears (Sydney Salter)

Every time I sit down to write, I experience a slight shiver of fear. I've learned not to analyze the feeling, but to ignore the twanging little wah-wah-wah and start putting words onto the page. Just move the story forward, fix it later, don't think about readers right now.

Upon finishing a novel or story, I allow myself to think about the particular fears haunting that work.

Jungle Crossing was the first novel I wrote, so I mostly worried that I would not know how to write a novel. Yet each writing session grew the story--I was doing it! I should have feared revision (and rejection). Instead, I made the classic newbie mistake and sent that raw flawed manuscript out to all the editors listed in my backlog of SCBWI Bulletins. Writing four other manuscripts and learning to love revision taught me what I needed to know to fix the story.

I wrote Not A Doctor Logan's Divorce Book quickly before attending a writing workshop. The words flowed easily because I'd been waiting to write that story ever since my parents divorced when I was nine years old. Maybe I should have feared the marketability of a book about divorce, but I didn't worry about that. If it never got published, my dad would never read it. Oh, how I dreaded having my dad read that book! After safely sitting in my file cabinet for years, my little divorce book was published by a small press. So my dad did read the book, and he loved it, maybe more than any of my other books. I realized that while my emotions were very real, I had written a fictional story, and my dad understood that too.

My first published novel (4th written) was the one I feared the most. It took me months to tell people the title: My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters. I dreaded having to talk about big noses, my nose, essentially admitting that I had a nose, maybe a big nose, maybe a big nose that I hated. Oh, did I end up talking about my nose. Over and over again. I learned that there's nothing like repetition to end a dumb fear.

Swoon At Your Own Risk was my sixth manuscript. I put a lot of my mom into the story, but she loves attention of all kinds, so I never worried about her reaction. I had, however, based the love interest on a teenage boy in my neighborhood who skateboarded to high school, gracefully weaving down the street, sometimes holding a coffee in one hand.
A real hottie! Sure, I felt like a creepy old lady, but I was sure no one would ever really know. But then right as the book hit the presses, my youngest daughter became best friends with my inspiration's little sister. Best friends! Soon we were getting together as families for BBQ's and sitting together at biweekly soccer games. Awkward! I'm not sure that my inspiration has read the book, but his younger siblings loved it--and likely did not see much resemblance aside from skateboarding because I'd turned their physicist brother into a poet.

Right now I could swamp myself with all the fears involved with the current story I'm telling--what if X? What if Y? What if Z? But I've learned that most of my fears turn out okay in the end. So I'm going to ignore that wah-wah-wah and just move the story forward, fix it later, and not think about readers right now.


  1. I know that feeling well--I started dictating first drafts so I can't overthink it too much!


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