Sunday, 26 June 2011


Hello, Dear Readers! Happy Monday - I hope you're all getting a chance to see a bit of the sun, even if you are heading out to work or school today.

I know that I said I would do a reader question post this Wednesday but why put off until tomorrow that which can be done today? Plus, I have another plan for Wednesday. So without further ado, let's hear from long-time blog commenter Isabel, who says:
"I keep thinking that the plot of my story from this point onwards isn't going to work or isn't broad enough for a novel. I've also been having difficulty getting my ideas down. I had this vivid image for what I wanted to write in this chapter and it's not exactly turning out the way I planned for it to. I'm afraid that I might work myself into a dead end with my story and not be able to continue with it, even though I adore my book and don't want to quit. I'm also afraid that Alex and Megha -- the two people that read and comment on my work -- won't like it anymore. How do I decide whether a certain plot-line is going to work out, and is there any way for me to stop being so critical about my work? How do you go about constructing your story-lines? What are the main pointers that you think about while brainstorming for story/plot ideas? And how do you get yourself un-stuck when you run out of ideas?"
Which is a LOT of questions. Phew! And, what's more, a lot of questions which I've actually already answered on this blog - for example in How I Plot, Turning Ideas into Plots Parts One, Two and Three, Writing Roadblocks, Take a Deep Breath, and Plotting a Trilogy. I have a feeling that you've already read most if not all of these, Isabel, but that in your slightly frenzied state you've just forgotten.

Because that's what I'm getting from this email. I'm getting that you feel under a lot of pressure, that you're worrying a lot about your work and what people might think of it, and that you don't feel in control. I don't think you're really looking for specific advice on those points you've mentioned (especially since it's all already there for you in the links above) as much as a bit of reassurance. 

I would say that I spend about 70% of the time when I'm drafting feeling exactly the way that you are feeling here (it goes up to 90% when I'm revising). Frenzied, slightly panicked, worried, out of control. I used to think if I could just come up with that magic plotting diagram or that perfect piece of writing process, the panic and worry would go away and I'd be confident and calm and would know just what I was doing. But I've come to a gradual realisation working on FF and BSP - and that's this:

It's normal to panic.

You never figure out how to write a book. NEVER. You only figure out, usually when you've nearly finished it, how to write the book you're working on NOW. Every time we start a new story we're striking out into unexplored territory, meeting new characters, taking on new challenges. New, new, new. So of course you'll feel out of control and confused. You're figuring it out as you go along, and that's what being a writer is about (unless you're one of those guys who just recycles the same characters and stories and settings over and over again, in which case your main problem is probably boredom).

So I'd like you to re-read Take A Deep Breath and then do just that. Stop putting this pressure on yourself to be perfect. Even though I know you love to create beautiful language and fiddle and get things right first time, that doesn't mean you have to get everything PERFECT first time. You ARE going to revise and re-write, and when you do you will improve everything at least five or ten times anyway. Don't expect yourself to have all the answers. Don't freak out if you don't have any answers. You are not on a deadline, and Alex and Megha will not be offended if you ask them to take a break for a little while and just keep your work to yourself until you're feeling more centred.

The last thing you want to do is take all the fun out of it for yourself, Isabel. Because, as I'm always saying, if you take all the fun out of writing, you might as well go and become an accountant instead. Relax. Breathe. It will work itself out in the end.

Now, by popular request (well, OK, one request - but it counts!) I bring you the three videos that I made over the weekend on the topic of why people keep bashing YA writing and writers. Warning: ADULT LANGUAGE!

That's all I have time for today, my lovelies - but don't worry, I will keep ploughing through the pile of reader questions, and you will get another post next week. Now I'm heading out into the wide blue yonder for a ramble with Finn. See you all on Wednesday!


Lauren said...

I know this was an answer to another's reader's question, but this is just what I needed to read right now - especially the parts about not having to be perfect first time. It's easy to forget that. Thanks!

Zoë Marriott said...

I'm really glad to hear that - thanks, Lauren. I think all readers go through these issues at some time or another, and that's why READER QUESTIONS is so useful :)

borky_qk said...

Very helpful post. I read all posts that have links too. I'm going to write right now!

Megha said...

Heh heh. Popular demand.

I haven't seen all the videos yet but I will, very soon.

Zoe, I finished Order of the Phoenix in two days and a bit! That one of the quickest times it's taken me to read a HP book, and considering it's the fattest?! WOAH.

Got Half-Blood Prince at home. Back to reading!

Zoë Marriott said...

Borko: Thank you!

Megha: Ah, so lucky. I wish I still had all the HP books to read for the first time. Good reading!

A.J. Mullarky said...

Haha, silly Isabel thinking I won't like her story! I can't believe someone her age wrote something so incredible!

borky_qk said...

Zoe, I don't understand the "BLOG TOUR" on the left. What is it? I see "The Zoe trope" with 07.07 . What? Seven potatoes? Ok. I know that is not potatoes. Calm down.

Zoë Marriott said...

Alex: I think all you guys are tremendously talented, and that's why sometimes you get in your own way and make life hard for yourselves. The more talented you are, the more you expect of yourself.

Borko: A blog tour is when a series of blogs do activities related to the release of a book - in this case, Shadows on the Moon. The numbers down the side are dates - 07.07 stands for the seventh of July, which is when I will be doing MY part in the tour. Remember I said that I'd be directing you to a lot of other blogs to read guest posts and things that I wrote? This is what I meant. Clear?

borky_qk said...

Now is clear, yes. Thank you.

Isabel said...

Zoe: Thank you SO MUCH. That is the perfect response. I feel so much better already!

Alex: You are so sweet. I couldn't do this without you and Megha. Thanks for bearing with me and being so supportive! :D

Zoë Marriott said...

Isabel: I'm really glad that it was useful - and I hope you feel a bit calmer now. :)

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