BJ Phillips

I met BJ Phillips on FB many years ago when she was recovering from a serious shoulder injury. We became online friends, eventually fellow authors at Desert Palm Press, and finally met in person at the GCLS con in Virginia. In the beginning, we talked about writing, and eventually conversations became more personal as a true friendship developed. She shared a bit about her initial doubts about her story and how I shared with her some of my own writing mishaps and false starts. Long after our friendship was well established, I was working on I Love My Life and struggling with my own writing demons. 

My first chapter is always the hardest for me, and I often begin a book and end up discarding the first chapter entirely. Anyway, I was having trouble with the beginning, and I shared my doubts and asked BJ if she’d read the first part of what I’d written. She gently reinforced that I could do better with the first chapter. I can’t tell you how many first chapters I had in that book, but she read every one of them. Eventually, I found my beginning and the rest of the story fell into place. 

I hope you will enjoy this piece she wrote about author’s fears. I found it very interesting and I hope you will too. 

                                                                                AJ Adaire


Writers live with fear every single time they sit down to write. Even the famous authors with big advances feel it, from what I’ve heard. Maybe they have it even worse, since they got those big advances and now they have to perform.

Fear of that blank page. Yes, every story starts with a blank page, just looming there, staring at you. It really does help to just type something on it. Anything. There, now. It’s not blank any more, is it? Seriously, it does seem to help me. It can be stream-of-consciousness stuff that just flows out of the back of your brain. The nice thing is that it can always be tossed. In my case, I ended up using part of one of these in something later. Do not just go over to Facebook and check what’s going on. You tell yourself you’ll just be there for a minute—sure you will. Three hours later, you’ll be back to staring at that same blank page.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

Wow, that’s some blank screen! Don’t let it intimidate you. 

Fear that we’re not good enough. That one has a sister, fear that we’re really faking it, and someone is going to figure it out someday and stop reading what we write. I’ve had that feeling all my life, no matter what I have been doing, so it’s a familiar enemy. I became one of those overachievers that checked everything three times more than was warranted, and even then my editor finds stuff I missed.  I have learned, though, that it doesn’t have to be perfect right away. Quite frankly, it will never be perfect; but I’m learning to give myself permission to do the best that I can each time, no matter what I’m doing, and leave it at that.

Fear that what we’re writing is really garbage. It’s a cousin of the last one. I sincerely believed that books sprang fully formed from the author’s head and the words we saw in print were exactly as the author wrote them down in her first draft. I thought there was something wrong with my story because it wasn’t springing forth fully formed at all. I seem to remember my friend AJ Adaire laughing out loud when I told her this. She then let me read some early versions of one of her books. She now kids me about enjoying watching her squirm out of plot corners, but I sincerely thanked her for letting me see that it takes time for a story to mature. I figured that if even my favorite author had to go through all those versions to come out with a really good story, then I was not a lost cause.

Fear that when I write “The End” that I’ll actually have to do something with what I wrote. I actually put off writing those two words on the end of my book until I’m finally ready to send it off to my editor.

The end.

Those are just two words, but it in my mind it means it’s finished. In reality, it will never be finished. It will be sent off to the editor, and eventually on to the publisher, but even in the proof copy I spot places that I could’ve written something better than I did. If I held onto it until it was perfect, though, it would never be out there. Who am I kidding? It would never be perfect. I have heard famous authors say that their first books make them cringe now. They wish they could rewrite them, knowing what they know now.

Fear that even though your book is good, no one will want to buy it. That happens each time a new book comes out. When Hurricane Season, my first book, was published, I was surprised at how well it did—that readers actually bought it and read it. Some of them actually took time to write a nice review! I got up in the middle of the night sometimes to see if it was still selling on Amazon. Seriously. Then when the second one, Snowbird Season, came out, I went through the same thing, but watched as some readers bought that, too. Now I’m about to go through it again. The third book in the series, Changing Seasons, is being released and I’ll be a nervous wreck for a month.

In case you’re wondering, here’s what it’s about: In Book 3 of the Seasons Series, there’s trouble in paradise. Kelly Bradley and Andi Wainwright haven’t yet said those three little words to each other. Andi is waiting for Kelly, and Kelly is waiting for the right time and place.  When Andi is suddenly taken ill with a rare heart condition and Kelly must race her to the emergency room, time could be running out.

Andi’s aunt, Elise Wainwright, and Kelly’s friend, Lauren Prescott, both in their mid-sixties, have become a couple in many ways. They’re much more than friends, but Elise is afraid of real intimacy. When Elise takes off suddenly for New York, Lauren is sure this is Elise’s way of backing away and ending everything.

Romance novelist Shawn Richards and her wife Carrie Alexander are now a solid married couple and want to see their friends as happy as they are. Unlike the endings in Shawn’s novels, though, maybe there can’t be a ‘happy ever after’ for everyone, after all. 

Fear that the last one was THE LAST ONE, that maybe I don’t have any more stories in me. I think that worries me a little more now that I have three books under my belt. That may not sound like lot to some, but to me, it’s more than I thought I’d ever have. To try to keep that one at bay, I keep a file of story ideas as they come to me, hoping that someday one of them will inspire me and I’ll be able to turn them into something readable. One day, though, there will be a “Last One.” No one writes forever, and I’m no kid. When that time does come, I’ve decided I will collect those laurels and rest on them. Most people never write even one book, although they will tell you they’d sure love to. And if I never write another one, I will have written at least three.

I am now facing down another fear I have. My first three books were all romances. I am a lover of mysteries, as well, and I thought it would be great fun to write one. It’s something totally new for me, and I’m not at all sure it will fly. It’s taken a lot of self-talk to get to the point of seriously planning it. I started re-reading my favorite cozy mysteries and took a class on how to outline one. I have talked to my publisher about it, and she seems to be interested in taking a look at it if I ever get it finished.

And yes, I started it. I actually began writing it a couple of years ago. The idea for the story line came to me, and even a cute name: Gator Bait. Whenever I got tied up on something else I was working on, I’d write a few paragraphs on Gator Bait, have a few giggles, and then go back to the love scene I was working on. I’ve decided now is the time to really take a run at Gator Bait and see if I can bring it to life. It’s kind of scary, doing something this different, but I’ve already decided that if it isn’t publishable, I will enjoy the ride of writing it and just show it to my friends for a laugh. And, oh, yes, they would laugh—with me, not at me. That’s what friends do.

Contact Information and Where To Find My Books

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© JEN 2014