The story that scares me

So . . . I guess it’s been a while since I blogged about anything other than yarn. Here, have a Kippy picture to make up for it.

Kippy reaching for you
Why the silence? Nothing in particular. I haven’t had a lot to say because I’ve been writing. Imagine! I finished my draft of IN3 and sent it off to my editor, and then I began some fairly major revisions of my side project, code name Sparkle Story.

What is Sparkle Story? I can’t yet tell you what it’s called or what it’s about, but I will tell you this:

I wrote it because I was afraid of it.

Ever since I realized I would be a writer, I’ve been afraid to write a certain kind of story. Let’s call that type of story Sparkles. Though I’ve always loved Sparkles, I’ve always believed I wasn’t smart enough to pull it off. I thought it was fortunate I had never had an idea that would require me to write a story that involved Sparkles.

Then last year, I was spinning yarn and daydreaming when the story appeared, little fragments at a time. I fell in love with this bit over here, and this bit, and a piece I thought would go one way but ended up going a completely different way . . . and finally I began to see the bigger picture: Sparkles. If I wanted to tell this story, Sparkles had to be there. And I had to write it because it was so daunting.

The kind of story I’d always loved but thought I would never write? I’ve written it. My crit partners like it. My agent likes it. I dearly hope Sparkle Story sells one day and I get to share it with everyone who wants to read it, but even if it doesn’t, the most important thing has already happened: I wrote the story I was afraid of.

The story behind INCARNATE is similar. It took three years and a very, very low place for me to get the courage to write the story that intimidated me so much. In fact, when I first had the idea for INCARNATE (June 2006), I hid it in a file on my computer for three years and tried not to think about it, because it was so complicated I didn’t think I’d ever be up to the challenge. But when I wrote it, I wrote it for myself, not worrying about what would happen after.

Since then, I’ve tried to be more willing to accept writing challenges. I’ve tried to be braver about the stories that scare me. And I’ve tried to remember that (one of) the most important part(s) of writing a book is writing something I am in love with. If it doesn’t make my heart go pitter-patter, if it doesn’t scare me a little (or a lot), if it doesn’t make me cry or gasp or laugh . . . it’s not going to do that for anyone else.

So, what challenges have you accepted lately?


The story that scares me — 14 Comments

  1. I’ve accepted the challenge to stand in the middle of the rock the water flows over at Graves Creek Falls. Yes the middle with the drop directly behind me. I’ve sat there before, I’ve stood up, but never stood there talking..hence the talk part, it will be a part of my Vblog I am doing this summer that I will be inputting into my normal Vblog. Basically different areas my book is located in Thompson Falls. And no that is not the only dangerous area I will be filming from. I am either crazy, out of my mind or…that’s it I’m smart, yeah that’s it, smart! So that is the “challenge” I have accepted. Scary, nerve-racking, but rewarding…and will my my little heart go pitter-patter for sure! I should get a pair of feet mitts for it! :-)

  2. Wow it did. Okay here I go again. Shorter version. I have taken up the challenge to film some of my preliminary Vblogs from not so safe locations in Thompson Falls, MT where my YA novel series is set. One of the locations, the first I will do, is at a waterfall. I will be standing directly in the middle of the creek at the smooth rock the water tumbles over to far, far below. I’ve sat there before, stood up and walked away before, but never stood there and filmed myself. Yikes. Yes the challenge is scary, will make me gasp (I’m doing that now) and will make my little heart go pitter-patter (happening now just thinking about it).

    I’m either crazy, out of my mind or…smart, yeah that’s it, I’m smart!!! :-) I should get a pair of feet mitts for doing this challenge! No *hint-hint* intentionally intended there Jodi.

    The other big challenge I am have been doing lately is getting myself out there with another newspaper interview, this time in Thompson Falls and it went well and I gained lots of attention in the area when it hit the stands a few weeks ago. Also just talking to teens and other peeps like libraries, etc. to get the word out. I’ve never been the greatest in public or just talking with people I don’t know, so I am challenging myself to change that and it is not as bad as I thought!



  3. Oh goodness. My challenge.

    First, it was rising above a comment I received in college from a professor who told me I’d never write a book because he didn’t think I was capable of it. That took me ten years to overcome. But I did and I wrote my book.

    And a couple of days ago, I had to set it aside after months of querying and passing on an offer to publish that fell short of my goals for my career (ebook only, no agent, etc.). I realized it would need more work and that work was more than my heart could handle at the moment.

    So I’m “starting over” – new book, new characters, new story, even a new CP group. New challenge. And telling myself that I didn’t fail with the first one – I learned.

    • Hi Tristina,

      Bravo on overcoming that college professor’s remark to you. I had a similar experience but with family members many years ago who told me that I needed to forget writing because it wasn’t like I would become the next Stephen King or something. That becoming a successful author is rare and following that path is a waste of time and only leads to the poor house. Like you, it stung, it hurt, it deflated me and took some time to get over because I questioned my ability to write and whether it was something to go after.

      Eventually I did overcome it with the help of my wife’s poking at me and a good friend in London so I started with screenwriting and then started novel writing again. I believed again and I pushed forward and succeeded. Funny, because now the same family members that were against me are now happy as peaches!

      If you believe in your writing, go for it, don’t give up, never give up! You will make it! I was turned down by agents over 80 times for one reason or another before finally snagging a publisher and now some of those agents that turned me down are after me to be their client!

      Make sure you keep the novel that got the e-book offer, don’t toss it out. Come back to it in the future with fresh eyes and a fresh mind.

      You finished a book, you definitely didn’t fail! I can’t tell you how many people I know that write but never finish a novel! You succeeded, you didn’t fail and writing is a learning process. I am learning still and most likely will years into my writing career.

      My best to you and your new work in process!


    • BAH to your professor. You ARE capable. Perhaps he was simply projecting his feelings of inadequacy onto you.

      I’m sure I’ve told you before, but INCARNATE was my 17th completed manuscript. Completed. That’s not even counting all the novels I started and didn’t finish. When you write a story, love it, and give it everything you’ve got . . . you don’t fail with it. You learn from it. One day you’ll probably look back and be grateful the first one didn’t get published because you’ll be able to see all that could have been better with it. But you’ll be grateful you wrote it, because it’s experience you wouldn’t have if you’d never sat down and finished it.

  4. This is such a fabulous post. I love hearing about all the different ways stories come to us, and knowing how much I already love your work, I cannot wait to hear what happens with Sparkle Story. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head about taking on the challenges that scare us. I think they make for the most exciting books to read. I’ve started on a new project this month tackling the story I’ve been trying to write for five years. I think I’ve finally found a way to tell it, and I’m trying to let myself linger and explore that characters slowly without worrying about all the externals that I’ve let myself be distracted by in the past. It’s been freeing and exhilarating.

    • Oh yay!! I’m so excited to hear that you’re working on something new, too! I love that new-story feeling. Freeing and exhilarating — you’re exactly right.

  5. My biggest challenge yesterday was going to Barnes and Noble and not buying anything. I can’t believe I did it with so many titles on my wishlist. Even my husband was impressed:-) But I’m in the middle of the long querying process and you know how frustrating that can be. My current challenge is not to give up, especially when I feel there are other books out there like mine so it will never get published. My challenge in three weeks will be learning the 150 new names of my high schoolers!
    Jodi, great post about writing what scares you!

    • Oooh, man, it’s hard going into the bookstore and not buying anything!

      Don’t give up on querying. i hope you’re writing another novel so that even if it doesn’t work out with this one, you’re ready to send queries for the next one sooner rather than later. Don’t be discouraged if your first (or second or third) novel doesn’t get an agent. That’s okay. That’s normal. Just keep on writing.

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