So Scared about Formatting

I’m leaving tomorrow for a week-long writing retreat on Denman Island. I am attending a five day group writing workshop with Steven Galloway, where the first chapter of my first novel will get its first critique (sounds like I’ll probably make it big time), and then staying for the Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival.

I didn’t get nervous until yesterday, when I had to print out seven copies of my first chapter. And then I got so nervous. I stood over my printer as it ejected double-spaced, Times New Roman versions of the sentences I wrote. Why is there so much dialogue? I asked out loud, sweating. Such simple words, such petty subject matter.

The worst was my title, which I had to format four double-spaced lines down the first page (according to the first website Google generated for me). I previously thought my title was neat, but now with my name underneath it (with “by” before my name), isn’t it a little pretentious? A little too trying?

Then I had to write a summary of the rest of my book. I didn’t know whether to make it sound gripping and suspenseful, like the dust jackets of novels that have actually been published, or analytical, like I was really telling people what was going to happen and wanted to get their advice on whether it made sense. I remember doing it wrong in elementary school – I was supposed to write a book report, and instead I made it sound like a book trailer.

Why is it the formatting that makes me want to curl up in my bed and throw my novel away?


I think it’s because formatting makes immediately evident the serious writer who has before sent things out to agents and editors, and me, who is only calling this a novel because it took me a long time. I’m also afraid that now that my book will look like everyone else’s – with the same margin and page formatting (I hope) – it will be clear that I am nowhere near the stage I need to be at, that I am not yet a writer.

I’m scared about formatting because it replaces other things I could be scared about. Instead I could be scared about imagining people laughing at my writing. Instead I could be scared about the way I will react – maybe I’ll pretend this was a first chapter I just threw off and I don’t have any more than that, I’m just trying this writing thing out. Instead I could be scared that I’m going to leave this place thinking I’m not a writer, I don’t fit in with writers, and I’m never going to get anything published.

So instead of being scared of any of that I keep glancing at the pages I printed off and worrying about the way it looks. I hate Times New Roman! I hate my name!

9 thoughts on “So Scared about Formatting

  1. I think this feeling is pretty universal amongst writers. We write for ourselves, but deep down I think we want to earn the praise of others. Whether its big time authors about to break in to the industry, or junior high school girls writing fan-fics on Internet message boards. For me, I could review a chapter of my book twelve times and still odds and ends to change around. I’m always confidant in my writing, but once I press that publish button, I immediately read over each and every line. Did I use correct punctuation? Are the spaces even? Why didn’t I change his dialogue? We create these things that define us, and we want others to see our work in the same light that we do. I always have high expectations of how I want my writing to turn out, but that nervousness is something that will never subside, regardless of how well I think I’ve done. I’m glad you posted this, it makes me feel like I’m not alone. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your awesome comment! I love the name of your blog and I love it too! So are you using the format of blogging to write your novel one page a day? I think that’s brilliant. But how open and vulnerable, that you show every page to everyone as you go! So neat.

      1. You’re welcome :). Yes, this will be my primary mode of writing. I’ve written close to 530 pages, but by doing this it ensures I stay on task. Thanks for the kind words! If you choose to follow along, I welcome you. Things are about to get interesting. 😉

  2. Your writing is so refreshingly raw Nicky…I think you are getting so much out of it and I love your name. Please say you will never change it, just for me, ha ha.

  3. Congrats on your hard work and making it as far as you have! I would love to know the protocol for the elevator speech / book-pitching summary, and whether it’s supposed to be a full plot overview, or “trailer” style as you say, or what…I’d be interested in seeing what you’ve come up with!

    Anyways I originally was stopping by to let you know I have tagged you for a Lovely Blog Award (though really it’s more of a creative prompt!) and if you’d like to participate I write about it here: Cheers and keep writing!

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