Confession: I have 13—count ‘em, 13—works in progress at the moment. Thirteen stories vying for my attention, whispering in my ear, keeping me awake at night. That’s too many. Then my husband told me I needed to focus. A friend told me I was spreading myself too thin. They’re right.

So why do I have so many WIPs? I’m not really sure, but I think it might be fear. Fear that I won’t be able to get my stories where they need to be, so I keep drafting one story after another and not focusing. I’m productive, but I need to get some of these stories off my plate and into the hands of readers. After all, that’s where stories belong.

Is it a fear of success? Maybe I fear my work being out in the world, being seen by people. Or maybe it’s a fear of failure, a fear that I’ll put my work out there and won’t measure up. My guess is it’s both. After all, I’m human, and we humans are complex creatures.

So now I’ve decided to focus on just a handful of those projects. But choosing which one has proven tricky.

I once attended a voice workshop with Barbara Samuels, and one of the questions her voice worksheet asks is something to the effect of, “What story do you most want to write? Are you writing it now? If not, why?”

So I asked myself that question. I thought of books I’d read, books that thrilled me, books I wished I’d written. I thought of all 13 of those WIPs, and asked myself, “If I could only pick one, which one would it be?”

It was hard. I love all of these stories for various reasons. I love one character’s relentless strength, another’s quiet creativity, still another’s willingness to help others, even those who’ve slighted her. I love one hero’s Mr. Darcy-like qualities, another’s dedication to his responsibilities, still another’s earthy strength. I love them all, and I feel compelled to tell their stories as best as I can.

But that means getting something done, sending stories out into the world because I believe this quote:

“A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.”

–Samuel Johnson

So I ask fellow bloggers and writers to hold me accountable. After a great deal of thought, I’ve decided to focus on The Cabot Sisters, a series of six novellas, about 20K each. That’s what I focused on this week, and that’s what I’m going to work on for a while. Because fear can’t drive me to hop from story to story. I need to stick with something until it shines.

So there it is. Fear is a part of the journey. What I’ve learned is that productivity is the best antidote, but we also need self-awareness. I’ve been productive, but my husband was right. I’ve lacked focus. And that needs to change.

ROW80 check-in

  • Wrote 2,388 words in a series outline and character exercises for the Cabot Sisters series. I now have a full series outline, though there are definitely some holes that need to be filled in. But now I know where those holes are, and which questions are left unanswered. Not bad considering that I only had two writing days this week.
  • Critiqued 68 pages of copy for my critique partners.
  • Finished reading “Dialogue” by Gloria Kempton. It’s a good basic discussion of dialogue with a few good kernels in there, but I think I’m looking for something more advanced. I’m just under halfway through Roz Morris’s “Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Readers Captivated.”
  • On a non-writing-related note, we’ve officially moved out of our apartment. This week was a whirlwind of U-Hauls and boxes, and now we’re looking forward to moving into our new home in a couple weeks.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

How many WIPs do you have going right now? How many is too many? How do you choose what story to focus on? Have you ever struggled with a fear of success or failure? How did you overcome it?

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