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Climb that Mountain!

Climb that Mountain!

To climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first. – Shakespeare

Those of us young adult writers that want to write a novel but haven’t have failed because of one of two problems: the ability to start and the ability to finish. The ability to start comes from fear. We see the task as a mountain before us and wonder how the heck we’ll ever make it to the top. For YA novels you’re looking at around 60,000 words. That sounds like so much. You wonder, “How am I ever going to write that much?” “Will I have enough ideas?” “Will my characters suck?”

There are so many questions, so many fears that we are frightened into inaction. Procrastination because a close friend. But think of yourself as a mountain climber. Does he reach the summit in a single leap? No. His journey starts with a single step. He looks for each handhold, each foothold and advances step by step. Occasionally he glances at the summit to make sure he’s progressing, but most of the time he deals with the task at hand. You can do the same. You can’t write a novel in a day, but what if you break it down to its steps? What if you wrote 500 words a day 5 days a week? Then you’d be done a 60,000 word YA novel in 24 weeks or just under 6 months. 500 words is not that much! And if you’ve been trying to write for years then 6 months should seem like an incredibly quick time to finish.

The next task IS finishing. Another problem I’ve seen with would-be authors is that many of them have several unfinished YA novels laying around. I was guilty of this as well. Every time you get one story going, another idea pops into your head and you start on that. Your excuse is that your mind is so full of ideas that you never get a chance to finish. The truth is that, in order not to finish, your mind keeps coming up with ideas.

This may seem like a strange statement at first, but it’s true. Once our novel is underway we have two big fears to deal with. The first is the fear of failure. What if you finish and nobody likes it. What if the critics pan it? What if people laugh at it and you and call it trash? You reason that it’s better to start a new one because you’ve got all these great ideas, and this new one will be far superior, but eventually you repeat the action again when a new idea hits you. You repeat it again. And again. Real failure, however, is the inability to finish. Good or bad, when you written that last word and closed the book, you’ve succeeded. It’s done! You’ve gained experience from the endeavour and, even if the book isn’t well received, you’ll take that experience into your next book. More importantly, you’ll take the confidence of being able to complete a novel with you too!

The other fear is the fear of success. Some people won’t even believe that they have this fear, but it can be very powerful. Suddenly you’re the center of attention and being gossiped about by everyone. Is that what you really want, especially after all the gossip you’ve heard about famous people? You’re on book tours and unable to spend time with family and friends. People are hounding you for attention, for money, for help with or endorsement about their books, for so many things. As painful or dull or frustrating our lives can be, we are used to them. We’re familiar with them and know what to expect. We may just be paying our bills or be constantly behind. We may be in a bad relationship. We may be doing okay, but wanting to do incredible. But we’re used to it. There are no real surprises. If we succeed then everything could change. We could feel like we’re not in control.

I’ve got news for you. You’re always in control. If you want to know what your expectations in life are, just look around you at your current results. That’s how it works. People like to blame other people and circumstances for the fates, but the truth is that you bring everything into your life through your expectations and decisions. Knowing that, what decisions are you going to make? What actions are you going to take? Set that goal. Climb that mountain. When you get to the top, savour the view. Then pick a new one and start again. With every new climb you’ll better the quality of your life, you’ll increase your confidence and self-esteem, and you may add a new book to your portfolio! What are you waiting for? Take that first step.

The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen. – Frank Loyd Wright


One Comment

  1. This is new to me, but my main fear right now is that I’ll waste another three months writing a novel that I can’t get an agent with. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED my two novels and working on them was really fun, but their failure has really scared me into making 100% the next project I dive head-first into will actually be something marketable. I’m at the point where I can’t just write something because I think it’s a cool idea. I don’t know. It’s tough. I’m struggling to search for that one idea that I both love and think will land me an agent. Maybe it will just take luck?