Write What Scares You

April 23, 2012

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It’s the command Ellen Hopkins (author of CRANK and other issue related YA books) gave me at SCBWI NY.  I don’t mean she inspired me after a speech.  She literally pointed her finger at me and said “That’s the story you should write."  (In response to me saying “But I’m scared to write about that stuff.")

I’m writing that scary story.  It’s an LGBTQ story set in the rural south.  As much as I wanted to write it that day Ellen pointed her finger at me, I didn’t know how.  At first I considered the POV of a girl, whose best friend was a gay guy.  But it didn’t feel right because it would be like passing on a story second-hand. The retelling of someone else’s story just isn’t as powerful.  I considered writing it through a gay guy’s point of view, but I am sorely lacking in gay male perspective and I’d probably mess of him, having him in Prada and being a cliché rather than what he should be.  Then I did the most unthinkable, I’m writing it from the POV of girl, a lesbian.

Now that scares the shit out of me.  I'm scared for many reasons.

Once I go there, the place where YA issues reside, I can never turn back.
I’m scared I’m going to piss the LGBTQ community off, for not getting it right.
I’m scared the country people from my home town will look at me differently, shun me.
I’m most afraid of what my momma will think of me because she doesn't share my same views on gay people.

Needless to say, I might piss a lot of people off.  No matter how much I try not to, there is no way I’m going to make everyone happy.  It’s a lesson I’ve battled all my life and now I’m going to have to accept it as truth. 

I know you are thinking, “Dana, you don’t even have an agent.  This manuscript may never get published.” Well, I can’t think like that right now. Not while I’m writing is anyway.  There’ll be plenty of time to worry about that later.

Writing what scares you means face your fears and don’t look back.  Don’t second guess yourself and don’t let the future judgment of what others may say about you, stop you from writing what you have a voice for.  Speak and let them hear you, whether they like what they hear or not.

What are you scared to write?  Why? 

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  1. I'm so darn proud of you for doing this! The saddest part? Is that writing about normal people is scary. It's scary for them that it's scary, it's scary for you that it's scary and it's scary for all of our children that it's scary. Which is EXACTLY why this book needs to be written, and so many more! I have good feelings about this one!! :)

  2. Sometimes a story calls you and you have to answer. I would do some serious research so you have an authentic voice for the character.

  3. Nicole - Thank you! I'm pretty proud of myself. I have good feelings about this one too!

    Leslie - That is so true, when it calls, it calls. And you can't shut it up. I plan on reading a ton of LGBT books after my first draft. Voices in other books tend to influence my own so I want have a clear head when writing this.


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