Four Things That Scare Me While Writing A Novel

As I close in on 20,000 words for my YA novel, I keep hitting the same anxiety hurdles:

  • What if I don’t finish?
  • Will I like my story when I finish?
  • What if a publishing company doesn’t want my book?
  • What if I self-publish and nobody wants to read my book?

These four questions swarm my head like flies buzzing around a overly-ripe melon. I’m constantly swatting at them as I write. Sometimes the questions become too much and I have to stand up and walk away from the keyboard, away from my doubt, and away from the swarm.

Combating the fear

I’ve always been a worrier, even as a child I would literally worry myself sick and give myself stomach aches. My mom would soothe me by asking,

“What is the VERY worst thing that could happen in the scenario that you are dwelling on? Discover what is in your control and the factors that are left to fate.”

So taking my mother’s advice, I decided to list my fears and examine the worst-case scenario for each.

What if I don’t finish?

Completion is entirely up to me. I have ultimate control on whether or not I finish this story, unless I die before it’s completed, but hey at that point i won’t care anymore. In order to finish I just have to get past my fears and procrastination.

When I rationalize this part of my anxiety, it’s really quite stupid. So, moving on…

Will I like my story when it’s finished?

What I’m really afraid of, or the “worst case scenario” is that I will finish it and then abandon it because I’m tired of it. What if the completed story is a cheap re-print vs. the original masterpiece I created in my head? (I’m abusing the word masterpiece here.) The mountain of edits and rewrites is daunting, and I don’t know if I will have the motivation to summit that mountain.

But again, I can control the outcome, I just have to battle the same demons above: fear and procrastination.

What if a publishing company doesn’t want my book?

Now we are getting to the festering part of my anxiety. This is where panic sets in and my manuscript is about to brutality end because my fears strangle my creative voice.

So I put a ton of time, energy, and heart into my story. I complete a solid draft and edit until I can’t edit anymore. I line up my list of book agents and publishing companies and write a snazzy cover-letter, attach my manuscript, hit “Send”, and nothing.

I don’t hear back. I don’t even know why my book was rejected.

Months go by, and I open my story again. The malleable story I thought I was sending out into the agent/publishing world to be critiqued, re-shaped, perfected, but nobody wants to work with my little fledgling story.

Where did I go wrong? What do I change?

This question breeds more questions and anxiety. This is a scenario where outside factors play a role in achieving my dream.

What if I self-publish and nobody wants to read my book?

Again, I complete my draft, pay multiple editors to review my book for grammar, structure, and flow. I pay someone to publish my manuscript, now I have time AND money invested in my story.

Then nobody buys my book. Or maybe a few people do and it gets horrible reviews. I literally paid to have my dreams crushed.

Pretty dismal right?

So how do I combat my fear?

When I start to panic and drown in a sea of self-doubt I remember this quote:




I also remember what my mother would ask me, how much can I control? I realize that I can control most of the fate of my book. I may get rejected from my top choice of agents and publishing companies, but if I keep re-writing eventually someone will want to work with me. Or I can take my chances self-publishing and be content knowing that my loved-ones will read and enjoy my book (simply because I wrote it and they are biased). Neither of these outcomes are terrible, and most importantly by writing this novel, I am becoming a better writer.

What do you do to combat your fear of failure? Please answer by commenting below.



Author: Rachel McKee

I love reading about everything. I'm not a book snob. Lately I have been "reading" a lot of picture books to my toddler and baby. In my past life before motherhood, I was a professional technical editor and writer.

18 thoughts on “Four Things That Scare Me While Writing A Novel”

  1. Dear Rachel,
    I have been reading your blog regularly and I think you are a very articulate writer. You write with so much clarity, about what you feel within, and your writing strikes a chord with me. I suppose self-doubt is inevitable, because you are baring your soul here, for everybody to see. Please rest assured that you are a wonderful writer and a beautiful person, radiating so much positive energy and spreading cheer with every word. I would certainly queue up at a store for your novel. So, when do you think you are going to be ready?
    Wishing you all the very best!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Dear Sailaja,
      Your kind words warmed my heart and give me so much encouragement. You are such a kind soul, and a kindred-spirit.
      My goal is to send my book out to agents this time next year. I think I will finish the first draft by the end of September.
      As always, thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 1) You ‘re smart and know HOW to complete finish.
    2) You have strong love your “child” before and after birth.
    3) and 4) You are among the intellectual elite, without waiting for the statements of individuals or companies.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I admire that you have these thoughts to get you through times of anxiety – they are some very logical thoughts to combat fear. I don’t have that. When I fear that I won’t get to finish my novel, or it’s not worth reading, I let those feelings overwhelm me. And then I remember 3 words that a very important person told me years ago: “Keep on writing!” And even though what I’m writing might be terrible, I keep on doing it. Those words keep me going.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I think we all have these fears at some point. I just recently self-published and I know at least one person who has the read the book. She liked it and can’t wait for the next one. So at least one person likes it! At the end of the day, no matter what happens we should write because we have to write and nobody can take that away from us. You can put be down as a starter to read your book!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t tell you how much I relate to this post! I’m still stuck with the whole publishing thing too! Every agent emails back with a “sorry we’re not looking for this” and it never gets old. It’s always sad to see. But that quote was so incredibly encouraging. I consider myself an amateur writer, and if that means I can be professional soon, then let me be remain the amateur with professional potential forever! I have faith that your book will get picked up by great companies one day, and I pray mine will too 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Such a fantastic and relatable post! I combat my fears by dissecting and challenging them, just as you outlined…and, I pray…and I stumble, pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep going…I also give myself permission to cry when it weighs one ounce too much–it’s a great release, like a brief sun-shower (without the sunny part, however), Fear of failure is such a strong pull…it’s great that you’ve shared and prompted us to think about helpful ways deal with it….thank you for opening up and sharing your vulnerability…you’ve been a great help 🙂 You are succeeding and will continue to do so!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I know what you mean…I was so over the moon when I started my blog, and shared my writings. I couldn’t wait to get feedback…it was so exciting. And, I love reading other’s blogs (that part hasn’t changed). However, I’m getting sick of the sound of my own (writing) voice…feeling like a one trick pony. Then, I think it through and remind myself that anxiety (coming from other aspects of my life) colors most everything, if I’m not careful. I shouldn’t ever take my ability to write for granted…and, must remind myself that there are those who enjoy it…and, who appreciate the messages. And, even beyond that, I must remember that I would write even if I lived on a deserted island…thanks for listening…I’m on a roller coaster of feeling confident and optimistic….then, being hard on myself and seeing every disappointment as proof that I’m losing ground….but, I know it’s not true…my best bet is to keep doing the best I can, and to keep looking for the bright in the shadows….sorry for rambling…thanks for listening…can’t share this with people face-to-face…

        Liked by 3 people

  7. Can relate totally to the anxiety and the fear and the worry… And guess what, it’s not worth it. What is worth it is not giving up. Pushing through…and deciding that as long as you like the results, to heck with what others think. (Chances are, when you decide that, and put in your best effort and create what you really want to create, other people will like it… because of how real and authentic it reads.) Best wishes!

    Liked by 1 person


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