Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fear of Failure or ADD?

I'm currently working on a romantic suspense set in the Congo featuring a blue diamond for Wild Rose Press' Jewels of the Night call. The deadline is March 31. I'm in the middle of chapter four of a possible eight or nine chapters. About half done. I've also got a paranormal novel that I've been working on for a while. I'm in chapter thirteen of twenty and approximately half done via word count. I know I have a lot of revisions to do on that one. There is a point behind this, but of course you knew that, didn't you?

Last night as I was drifting off to sleep, my paranormal novel started haunting me again. Last summer I found out that a published author, one in my RWA chapter, no less, had a new series coming out. The name of her series? The same name I'd planned to use for my series that I'd been working on for over a year. To say that I was bummed or disappointed is an understatement. Of course, because she's published and I'm not, if I continued to use the name, others would think that I copied her. I literally felt sick to my stomach. I stopped writing for several months. This is all backstory. The long and short of it is that I stopped working on it at about the halfway point.

I've been struggling with chapter 4 of my current work in progress (WIP) for about a week. I know what I want to happen, how I want the chapter to end, but I'm having trouble getting the words down on paper (or computer screen, as the case may be). Again, at about the halfway point. When I realized this, it made me think, always a dangerous pastime.

Before, I attributed my lack of ability to finish a project as ADD, but I think it's more serious than that. I think that I am subconsciously trying to protect myself from failure. When I get to the halfway mark, I get distracted by another shiny plot idea and run off to work on that, leaving me several half finished projects. By not finishing, I can't submit and therefore can't be turned down. But by protecting myself from failure, I'm assuring myself of it. If I don't finish, I can't submit. Sure, it can't be turned down but it can't be accepted either.

So, now that I've realized how I'm sabotaging myself, I'm determined to break the cycle. I'm not starting on or working on another project until I finish my romantic suspense and I will finish it in time to submit to the March 31 deadline. You know what they say – recognizing a problem is the first step to solving it.

Do you find yourself sabotaging your own success? What do you do to work past it and accomplish your goals?


Alannah Lynne said...

Hi Riley - I saw your subject on TWRP Promo loop and had to stop by. I can relate to pretty much everything you said.

It sounds like you're on the right track, but if you wanted an added push, I'd recommend getting Margie Lawson's lecture packet - Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors. You can get it from her website -

I took the course 2 years ago and made a lot of progress. I felt like I needed a refresher kick in the butt, so I took it again this past January when she taught it online at Writer U.

It's really helped me to break free of some of those self-sabotaging things I do. And fear of failure is a HUGE one for me!

Good luck with finishing the paranormal! I hope it's one that's selected!!


Danica Avet said...


I know exactly what you mean. I think every author goes through this phase and they all have different ways of combating it. I'm actually going through the same thing myself. I started a novel for NaNo and when I got four or five chapters in, my mind started brainstorming up a new story. It took everything I had not to work on that story rather than the NaNo one. I literally had to force myself not to write it, but what I did instead, was take notes on what I'd like to see for that new story.

Now that I've finished the most basic editing of my NaNo manuscript, I can go back to that new story and start plotting.

Good luck with your WIP, I know you'll do fine :)


Lynn Romaine said...

Hi Riley - I'm another TWRP author - saw your post - I work through fear of failure by reminding myself it's not real - our thoughts, our emotions, our attitudes are all something we made up as children or inherited - I've created a great context for my writing and for life - Life is an opera, with all its richness and death of a best selling novel - when I get significant about myself, my editor, or any of it, I remind myself to get over myself and get out there and start playing. Second, I get into action - make up a schedule of writing such as an hour every day and stick to it - lynn romaine (

Rachel Lynne said...

Riley, we are so in tune it is scary! I wonderd why I hadn't received another chapter to crit. Well, I am stuck in chapter 5 of Ring and same thing, I know what I want to say, know exactly where it is heading, etc. just can't get the words to come out right. I actually start getting bored with the scene. A lot of backstory is coming out while the two talk and I keep faltering thinking I'm divulging too much, or this is dumping, etc. but in reality it is me who knows everything and so it seems old news to me so I am trying to make myself view the story like a reader would. They don't know all the little details I'm dropping and they don't know how it ends or where everything ties together, etc. That makes me trudge on instead of hitting the delete button. IM me if you want to sprint, maybe we can work through the middle sags together!

Mary Ricksen said...

As far as a name, I know you can come up with something even better. No matter how much you liked it there is always something better.
So think of a better name!
Maybe that will inspire you?
I write slow myself. And the biggest detriment is distractions.

Word Actress said...

Novel writing is so much harder for me than writing my short stories and poetry. I started my novel in the 2007 NaNo. I was so hyped about it and I've stuck with it, but, man, it's taking a long time. In my defense, I rewrote the first three chapters and there are so much better and I thought of a brilliant way to end each chapter which helps me stay focused. What helps me usually is to take a geographic break where I can refuel. I have a new puppy and no extra cash right now so I'll have to think of new, innovative ways to recharge the battery. I do write every day, but a lot of that is promoting my first book and blogging.
I belong to a 500 word a day online group. I just wish I had someone to come in every day and whip my ass. That would make me very happy.
Here's what I decided to do yesterday and maybe it will help you.
I have a beautiful 1940's vintage illustration that would be the perfect cover for my novel Night Surfing. I made a mock-up cover with the novel title and my name on it, then I put my blurb on a mock-up back cover and I pasted it to the table in front of where I work. I'm hoping it will inspire me to get the guts of this novel finished and published! Thanks for the post! Mary Kennedy Eastham

Kym said...

Hi Riley,

I can very much relate to what you're feeling, we all have self defeating techniques - personally mine is creating 'busy work' you know, the kind that keeps you busy doing anything but writing!

I've found two things that have helped me when I realize I'm falling into this behavior:

1) Remind myself why I started writing in the first place - because I love it, not because I was seeking publication - so if all I ever do is satisfy myself I have not failed - of course I want the brass ring too, but this help ground me back to where my heart on the matter started out from.

2) I ask myself if my hero/heroine would be proud of me. I put them though all manner of grief insisting they grow into the wonderous people I know they are - can I offer them any less? I look at the pics I have on my desk representing my current characters and know they won't live unless I man up (or in this case woman up) and get past myself.

I take the pressure off by remembering that no one is forcing me to submit anything, but after the crap I've put them through, the least I can do is give them their HEA by finishing.

By the time I do - I'm ready to submit because without the pressure, I can write the best story there is in me.

Hope this helps and good luck, you can do it.


Terri said...

In an interview with January magazine yesterday, Margaret Atwood (of all people!) had an amazing quote that I slapped up on my blog to help me (and other ladies I know who occasionally need reminding)keep on truckin.'
I offer it to you.

"Anybody who writes a book is an optimist. First of all, they think they're going to finish it. Second, they think somebody's going to publish it. Third, they think somebody's going to read it. Fourth, they think somebody's going to like it. How optimistic is that?"
~ Margaret Atwood

Riley Quinn said...

Thanks for all the great tips and support. Terri, I love the Margaret Atwood quote. Update: chapter 4 is almost finished. I will probably finish it tonight before I head to bed, so be on the lookout, Rach.

Caroline Clemmons said...

The same sort of thing happened to me years ago before I was published. I had this lovely series planned called The Hearts of Texas. Right, then Debbie Macomber came out with a series of the same name. I not only felt sad, I felt cheated. Not by Debbie Macomber, you understand, but by fate. It's not ADD, it's just disappointment and it's very understandable. Now I don't think I'd be as daunted and would recover more quickly. At the time, I was devastated. I hope you are recovered and well on your way to surpassing your original plans.

Calisa said...

I went through the same thing Riley. Two years ago I received the third rejection on the same ms (2 Rs by the same editor). Two months after I got the last rejection I was to pitch to editor and agent at a mini conference. I had my pitch ready (totally different story) and went to the pitch, did good. Then When the agent asked me for the first 13 pages, I never sent it in. I never finished the wip and didn't even start a new one in earnest for a full year from getting that R. When I did it was because, like you, I'd realized I was sabotaging myself. I started 2 wips and wrote a complete ms in about 8 weeks time. I'm still editing that ms and writing another that I took te reins and entered in a contest before finishing it. I consider the contest entry my motivation to actually finish this story by the end of April! I'm almost to half way now- ch 5 or 6, of a possible 12-14. I joined a cp group and they are helping me keep going also. I'm sabotaging procrastination this time.

Jana Richards said...

Like you I am working on a Blue Diamond story, also not finished. I also have three other WIPs partially completed. One of my goals for 2010 is to finish everything I've started. Being distracted by a shiny new story is a problem for a lot of writers I think.

Good luck with your story.

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