Monday, February 11, 2013

Facing fear: Drawing a blank

Today my guest is Joëlle Anthony, who continues this year's blog series on the topic of fear, with hope for those of us whose story ideas develop over a long period of time:

My greatest fear in regard to writing is that I’ll never have another book-worthy idea again. It seems to me that every other writer has more ideas than they can possibly use in their entire lifetime, but I am lucky to get one idea a year. Really, really lucky.

Also, I can be very, very slow to develop an idea once I have it. The premise for Restoring Harmony came rather quickly, and was inspired by an article I read, but that was something of a fluke. Also, it went through years of revision and really didn’t resemble the original draft all that much. And that was before it landed me an agent or sold to Penguin. The Right & the Real was partially based on an idea I carried around for…wait for it…twenty years. Yes, twenty years before I knew what the story was and how to tell it.

Right&Real high res
The Right & the Real: Kicked out of her home for refusing to join a cult with her father, seventeen-year-old Jamie must find a way to survive on her own.

I just finished writing a MG novel that I’ve been working on, off and on, for at least fifteen years. My third YA came to me in that lovely state between sleeping and waking, and only took nine months to write from concept to sending it off to my agent, but I’d been playing with other ideas that didn’t pan out for books for more than a year before I got that one. That’s right, a year of false starts, synopses that made my agent cringe, and tossed pages. If that doesn’t stress a writer out, I’m not sure what would.

The new book I started working on this week has my shortest lead-time ever, though, so I’m hopeful this means things are changing for me. It’s only four months or so since I came up with the premise. I’m actually a very fast writer. I can write whole chapters in an hour, sometimes ones that actually are quite good. But I have to think about my idea for ages, sometimes years, occasionally decades, before I can write the book. So maybe it’s not so bad that I don’t have too many ideas, what with all the thinking I have to do before I can write anything.

Joëlle Anthony is a Canadian-American writer living in BC, who teaches writing workshops and does acting gigs in between book ideas.


  1. Thank you for this post. This is my biggest fear right now. Before, I thought I was some how missing a window of opportunity by having such a slow learning curve. Now that I've had a piece published, I'm afraid it will be the only one of mine that I'll ever see in print.

    I love the name Joelle, by the way.

    1. There always seems to be something new to worry about, doesn't there? ;-P

      And yes, the rate at which writers get and process ideas varies greatly. There is no one "right speed."