First Contract Jitters

It wouldn’t happen to me.

At least not full-blown.

After all, I’d written for ten years, penned multiple novels, experienced a myriad of rejections letters, sold a bunch of articles, and met repeated free-lance deadlines.

I would NOT get the dreaded-first-contracted-book-jitters. Or writer’s block. I was a professional, just taking a next step in the industry.


You know what’s coming. My first book deal was contracted on a chapter and a synopsis. It was time to write to meet my first book deadline.

Only I needed to do more research. Read more widely within the genre.

I read 13 novellas in less than two weeks.

Obviously, it was becoming an addiction, all of this reading instead of writing.

I should quit—and would—as soon as I finished the 400 page novel that just arrived in the mail.

Then my friend brought me her collection of novellas to help with my research.

(Why do best friends feed addictions? Seriously!)

I had to write.

So I tackled every left-brained project I could find. I wrote non-fiction free-lance assignments, submitted proposals, started a devotional facebook page, and spent a bunch of time networking and marketing.

Which made my brain hurt, so I slipped away with a good book . . .

Renewed and with great resolve I went to bed excited for the morrow, when I would do nothing but write my first contracted novella.

I got up earlier than usual—not because I was eager to write, but due to the need to escape nightmares about inadequacy.

Bleary-eyed, I curled in my recliner, grabbed my journal and Bible, and prayed it through. The Lord reminded me of His promise ten years ago to lead me on the best pathway for my life, to guide me and watch over my writing journey (Psalm 32:8).

He asked if He’d done a good job so far. I said yes. He asked why I would think He would stop now. I said He wouldn’t. He promised to be with me.

Buoyed by God’s assurances for this new writing season I told my husband the whole wonderful story. Then promptly burst into tears.

The sweet man tried to hide his chuckles as he reminded me I was living my dream—that I could do this. Then he resorted to an illustration that good, non-fiction reading, left-brained, red-blooded husbands turn to: football.

Quoting Tim Tebow, the Bronco’s new wonder boy, my husband talked about going out there and doing what you love because you love it and because it is fun.

Oh, yeah.

This is what I love to do, this thing I’ve been avoiding for the past month. It’s fun.

No more fear! I’m going to get creative and let this story pour from my fingertips  . . .


(How about you? Got a “first contract jitters” story?)

24 Replies to “First Contract Jitters”

  1. My first book was finished when it sold, but I had a case of Second Book Syndrome that durn near choked the creativity outta me. With determination–and and a heap o’ cheerleadin’ from my super supportive pardner and my amazing CPs–I wrestled that rascally varmint to the ground, hog-tied it, and stuffed my ears with wads o’ cotton so I couldn’t hear it squealin’. Although it ain’t purty, the first draft is complete. Now I’ve got somethin’ to edit, and since I’m right fond o’ that grammar and punctuation business, I reckon things are gonna git lots more fun from here on out.

  2. My first contract for a book that wasn’t already finished was my last one and every day I said to a friend that I didn’t think I could do it. I was just going to have to tell the publisher. Fortunately, for some reason I only told that one friend who always said calmly, ‘You do what you think is best.’ And every day I’d write a little more and tell myself I could give it one more day. Book was finished and ended up helping a lot of people. I had a few prayers as well that I said all the time.

  3. Not yet, but hoping to (as weird as that sounds). I think husbands all across the country deserve awards for lovingly keeping their wives on track to follow their vision.

    No more fear! Love it!
    ~ Wendy

    1. I totally agree, Wendy–and wives of male writers. I have a friend whose husband writes plays. When he starts a new project she takes over his household chores and brings him chocolate. :O) Other than all the extra help my husband as given me the last week as I’ve finally dug into this project, the best thing he did for me was to threaten to get on my facebook and tell all my friends I wasn’t writing. lol

  4. I’m in that place right now, but I found that a calendar and leaning on those wise, published authors who have gone before me to be incredibly helpful. I’ve set/calendared a daily word count goal (allowing time for editing and already-scheduled social commitments) and it’s made a world of difference. You can do it! Blessings as you write, Paula.

    1. Great advice, Donna. I just did this and it made a huge difference. I saw how very doable it was to not only complete ahead of my deadline, but in plenty of time to let my crit group give it the once-over. That took away a lot of the stress and now I’m ahead of my goals!

  5. It’s not just “first contract jitters” that causes procrastination, but it seems that just about anything can emerge to preempt our best writing intentions.

    1. True. Procrastination is easy on a daily basis. But I must be an all or nothing gal ’cause now I just want to cancel all my appointments and do nothing except write . . . one extreme to the other. My poor teenage sons are starving. (Not really.)

  6. I get those jitters and that urge to procrastinate with every book, Paula. I have to force myself to stay on track with my writing schedule. Somedays it’s easier than others. But there’s always time to sneak in a little “research”. 🙂 I ease the guilt by reading while I exercise. I’m doing something healthy and feeding my muse at the same time. No one could fault me for that. Right?

  7. You all have great advice and are wonderful cheerleaders! After I procrastinated by preparing this post last week, I set some word counts and dug in. I’m happy to report I’m ahead of the calendar in word count!

  8. Thanks for the encouragement, especially the Psalm 32 verse. Big-time husband points to your spouse for reminding you that you’re living your dream…oh, and bonus points for working a football example into his pep-talk. 😀 Love Tebow!

    1. Tebow sure came through for us this week, Erica! And Jerry helped me out another way. He threatened to get on facebook and tell all my friends I wasn’t writing. lol

      Glad you liked the verse. Been a mainstay in my writing journey.

  9. After I landed a contract for my first book (non-fiction) I came down with a serious case of writer’s fright. I couldn’t call it writer’s block, because I knew what I wanted to write. I just couldn’t write. Not a word. Nothing. It was like stage fright: I knew my lines, but I completely froze up. My crit group finally had to tell me that they wanted me to bring something, ANYTHING, to group each week. They didn’t care how lousy it was. Sitting down and going with a lousy first draft made all the difference.
    (On another note: YAY for Tebow!! I’m a happy Broncos fan!)
    And I’m thrilled for you, my friend!

  10. I just fought the worst writing fear of my life this past summer. Like Keli, I had already completed my first novel when I signed my first contract, so it was the second novel that ate my lunch.

    It came out pretty well, in the end. But I got up every morning this summer and fought off the hyperventilation, prayed, and then told myself I could get through one day at a time. I had a wits-end, exhausted weeping meltdown in front of some friends, halfway through. One friend told me at the time that going up against a very hard deadline “feels like a death sentence.” Though I knew my feeling of impending doom was not rational, it was pretty intense. But what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. 🙂

    1. Rosslyn,
      It helps me to know know I’m not alone in this–but I’m sorry you had to struggle like that, too. And . . . I’m SO glad you had friends who helped you through. I really don’t know what I’d do without the support of the writing community. Writers truly are some of the most encouraging, committed people I know.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: