On Writing & Storytelling: Getting Over the Fear of Starting is Not Easy, but it is Necessary

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“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.” Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings

I have a confession to make. Every time I embark on a new writing project that’s more substantial than a blog post, I feel both excitement and dread, sometimes separately, and oftentimes simultaneously.

As you know, when I finished the task of revising my novella Reunion: A Story a few weeks ago, I decided to start a new writing project.

Nothing overly ambitious – like a full-fledged novel – mind you, but definitely a work of fiction and not, say, simply a collection of reviews from either my Blogger A Certain Point of View blog or its WordPress sibling, A Certain Point of View, Too.  

I have a vague idea about what story I want to tell – I already know who my Main Character (MC) is, and I already chose at least one Co-Main Character (CMC) and one of the major settings in my still embryonic concept.

What I still don’t know, Dear Reader, is how the story wants to be told. Is it going to be a short story? Another novella, perhaps? Or will it be my most-used format (aside from blog posts, anyway) – a  screenplay for a short low-budget film?

I would like to write Project X – I have a working title for it, but I don’t want to reveal it just yet – as either a short story or novella; that way I can publish it – as I did Reunion – through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing/CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform and at least get some royalties and a modest “ego boost.”

But stories sometimes have a way of deciding for themselves how they want to be told. At least, that’s how Stephen King explained how Storm of the Century came to be written as a teleplay for a three-part ABC miniseries that aired in February of 1999.

Per Wikipedia (I have the mass market edition of King’s teleplay for the “novel for television,” but I’ll be damned if I’m going to dig it out from my bookshelves to quote from the introduction of the book.):

The screenplay for the miniseries was written by Stephen King expressly for television. The screenplay was published as a mass-market book by Pocket Books just prior to the initial airing of Storm of the Century on ABC. The book included photographs of the TV mini-series. The book contains an introduction in which King describes the genesis of the idea as it occurred to him in late 1996. Beginning to write it in December 1996, he initially debated if the story should be either a novel or a screenplay. He described the result as a “novel for television.” A hardcover edition, written as a screenplay rather than “prose”, was published concurrently by the Book of the Month Club.[1]

Even though I am still in the brainstorming stage of the writing process, I am excited about starting Project X.

A writer’s most daunting challenge – facing that blank screen. (In this case, turning on that laptop would be a great first step, right?)

And yet, whenever I start thinking about creating a new document file on Word for Project X, I feel a cold, nauseous pit in my stomach. Instead of experiencing the excitement that I should feel – Oh, boy! A blank space on my computer monitor is waiting for me to fill it with memorable characters, vivid settings, and ripping good yarn! – I’m overcome by a sense of anxiety bordering on a panic attack.

I know in my heart of hearts that I can write a story. Reunion has on its Amazon product page, 11 positive reviews. 10 are five-star reviews, one is a more muted four-star critique, but it’s still a positive one. On his WordPress blog, Leonberger Life, Thomas Wikman also gave my novella a glowing review, writing:

Typically, I like to read a little bit a few times a day. I hardly ever read a book in one sitting. I am not that way. This book was an exception. Once I started reading it, I had to finish it. It was simply so well-written and gripping that I could not put it down. The story is fresh, novel, and engaging. I think the story underscores how differently a teenager and an adult view life and themselves, leading to the many “what if” scenarios in life. It is a sad love story about regret and loss as well as friendship. It is a unique story yet timeless. The author describes the feelings and the thoughts of the characters in a manner that is realistic and easy to relate to.

I’ve been writing, off and on, since I was nine years old and was given access to an electric typewriter in Mrs. Margo Chambers’ Special Ed class at Tropical Elementary a half-century ago. I did relatively well in my journalism courses both in high school and college, and I have produced some good, entertaining stories. Mostly in short-form stuff like blog posts and student newspaper articles, but also in my scripts for A Simple Ad, one-third of Clown 365, and Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss.

I love writing. It’s what I do best, really, and I want to be both productive (which may or may not result in financial success) and earn a reputation as a good writer.

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

And yet, every time I embark on a new story – no matter what the format might be – I feel anxious, especially about typing an opening line to get the tale off to a good start.

I guess all writers, including King, experience jitters before starting a new story, regardless of whether it will be a doorstop of a novel like 11/22/63 or a short story along the lines of Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro. After all, contrary to the public notion that authors are somehow fearless when they’re confronted by that blank page on the typewriter – or, in the Digital Age, that white space on a computer monitor with its blinking, taunting cursor – we are all at least a bit scared.

“So okay― there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.” Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

While I’m not going to blow up my TV – I sometimes turn it on so I can listen to music on my Amazon Music app – and I don’t have a landline phone to unplug, I do need to shut my door, keep the shades down, and commit myself to write a thousand words a day.

Of course, some words of encouragement would also be welcome!

[1] Storm of the Century. (2023, March 29). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storm_of_the_Century


Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

6 thoughts on “On Writing & Storytelling: Getting Over the Fear of Starting is Not Easy, but it is Necessary

  1. Write, Alex. No one is watching. Write absolute shit if that’s what it takes. Trust me on this. I’ve done it more than once. Absolute shit is what God created recycle piles are for.

    You’re got two characters. Start a conversation between them. Nothing important. Give them breathing room. See what they have to say. Maybe it’s nothing you’ll use in Project X, but maybe you’ll learn something about your characters. Put it away and come back to it in a week.

    Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

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