The Fear Factor

Does this sound familiar?

I know it’s imperative that I complete the science fiction novel I started, yet I find myself doing everything, but finishing the novel.  I’ve watched Youtube videos and read by books by several motivational speakers, so I understand the importance of setting goals and taking action. I’m constantly reading books by great writers, which is one of the ways you improve your craft. I take the time to write articles and short stories, which is still writing, but if I keep taking side roads, I’ll never reach my final destination.

Isn’t it strange how two completely different fears can have the same result?

I fear failure. Once I finish the novel, I know that I’ll start submitting it to agents and/or publishers and I’ll have to face the very real possibility of rejection and criticism of my work.  Having a short story, essay or article rejected is not a big deal, because I didn’t put that much time into the process.  However, I’ve also had several feature length screenplays turned down, and I know how much those e-mails sting.

I fear success. Success would mean giving up my job as a forklift operator, and taking full responsibility for my life. I would no longer have a predictable work schedule, or a  regular paycheque. How much would I be paid to speak at libraries and writers’ conferences? How much would I earn from book royalties?  Could an agent sell the film rights to my books and short stories? If I had a popular novel, would directors and producers finally take my screenplays seriously?

And yet, I want to find out. I want to know whether I have what it takes to be a successful writer and the only way to find out is finish the novel. Do you have a major writing project that could change your life? Perhaps it’s time you made that final effort to cross the finish line. You could be signing books and doing interviews sooner than you think. For writers, it often only takes one book or one screenplay to move from obscurity to being a headliner at writers’ conferences.

Copyright © 2018 by J. Paul Cooper


Just Keep Writing

Reading is a double-edged sword for writers. If you love books, there aren’t many things as enjoyable as sipping a cup of java as you immerse yourself in a great story. It doesn’t matter if it’s a legal thriller by John Grisham or a science fiction novel by Robert J. Sawyer, you’re drawn in from the first paragraph and there’s no escape until you reach the last page.  I recently read the novel Absolute Power by David Baldacci, and then the adapted screenplay by William Goldman, and both were page-turners.

Reading, however, is more than something you enjoy, it’s essential for anyone who strives to become a world-class writer. You won’t learn how to write great action sequences by watching movies. You may learn how action sequences are filmed, but you won’t learn how to use words to make a reader’s pulse race.

Every novel, short story or screenplay written by someone who knows their craft, is like a master’s class in writing,  waiting for you to attend. It’s where you learn how to structure stories, how to build tension, and what pitfalls to avoid. The dilemma is, if you spend all your spare time reading, you won’t have any time left to write. And you should write.

Although I’ve mention this before, it definitely bears repeating; the world needs to hear your voice. Ben Mezrich, Erik Larson and Michael Lewis all write masterful non-fiction, but their styles are unique and their subjects open our minds to the immense diversity of the human experience.

We all follow different paths, but there is one element that is critical for your success; you have to be persistent. As long as you continue to write, you’re making progress.  How do you know you’re making progress climbing a mountain? You’re still moving. From a distant mountain it might appear you’re standing still, but it’s an illusion.

Do you have a short story, poem, essay, screenplay or novel idea that won’t leave you alone? Does it just drive you crazy? You better start writing, because it’s the only way you’ll find any relief. And whether you know it or not, the world is waiting….

If you’re curious, you can find out what I’ve had published by visiting the Writers’ Guild of Alberta website: I’m listed in the Members Directory. What aren’t listed are the unproduced screenplays I’ve written, or the science fiction novel that I’m currently working on. As to how many rejections I’ve received, I lost count years ago.

Copyright © 2018 by J. Paul Cooper