Novel-Writing Frustrations

Here I shall list the most frequently frustrating problems I have while writing, and what I do to solve these problems.

1) Laziness. This is by far the largest one.  Symptoms include lack of inspiration, boring yourself with anything you can find to avoid writing, banging your head against things, and possibly pulling out your hair. The common name for this condition is “Writer’s Block.” However, I do not believe in such nonsense. There is no such thing as writer’s block. (Yes, I’m one of “those guys.”) “Writer’s Block” started as a conspiracy, and now whenever someone doesn’t feel like writing, they have an excuse not to. “Writer’s Block,” they say. Lies! Don’t believe them! The only way to get around this is to write! If you call it “Writer’s Block” and wait for it to pass, you’re only digging yourself a hole. Writing is the only things that will make it go away, so telling yourself you can’t doesn’t do any good. My mentor once said something to the extent of the following. “A writer’s mind is like an attic. In the middle of the attic is a treasure chest that is your potential writing ability. The longer you go without writing, the more junk piles up around that treasure chest, and you have to dig through it to get to the good stuff. The only way to clear all that junk out is write it away.” So whenever you feel a bout of laziness, or what you might call “Writer’s Block,” start writing. Anything. Even a shopping list. Write the alphabet, or describe the first thing you see in minute detail, down to the way you image it might taste. Write a memory, which is easy because you don’t have to decide where you’re going with it. Just write. Truth is, this list I’m writing now is my own attempt to get over my writing laziness.

2) Absence of ideas. Now, this isn’t hard if you’re looking for something to spark a story, just a beginning. There are plenty of online story generators that can give you ideas, or writing exercises, or other things. Truth is, I usually have far too many of these and can’t manage to balance them all at the same time, and so store them somewhere until I’m done with what I’m working with. Sometimes, the best thing to do in this situation, is to consider your novel idea as a short story, and if it would work, write it that way instead. Okay, on to the actual topic. This “absence of ideas” usually comes in the middle of the novel. You know that your story is meant to be a novel, and maybe you have a vague outline after the first five chapters, but you just can’t pin down exactly what is supposed to happen. You need something solid–an event on the timeline instead of the timeline, itself. If this were Spanish class, a preterite verb instead of an imperfect verb. Alright, so what are you going to do? Think about things in real life, and maybe twist them around to suit your story. Or, if you’re looking for conflict, think “what is the worst possible thing that could happen right now?” This is a pretty tricky one to get around. Plot isn’t something you can sit down and force out, like an essay. Sometimes you just have to wait for it to come to you. Maybe you should read a book, preferably one of the genre you’re writing.

3) Gaps. You know your plot, have a solid outline, and are typing away at chapter fifteen. You just can’t wait to get to chapter sixteen, when something really big is going to happen. And suddenly, your fingers stop, and you realize that you’ve finished whatever it was your characters were just doing. Now what? What happens in-between? How do you get your characters from one point to the next? First, think about when you see transitions in published books. They’re usually used for pretty large gaps of time. Plot progresses quickly between one event and another. That’s because transitions are boring. Nobody wants to see your character walk down the hallway to their next class, or ride in a carriage from one end of city to the other, unless something significant happens during that time. Find a way to keep things flowing straight into the next scene without stopping to look at the trees, or grass, or flowers. Unless they matter, of course. This is one time when it’s okay to tell instead of show.

Those are the biggest problems I have on a regular basis. What sort of problems do you face when writing a story?



3 thoughts on “Novel-Writing Frustrations

    • Well, short stories are great. A lot of writers have the problem of having too many words, and not being able to keep things short. It takes real talent to write great short stories.

  1. You want to hear about my list on biggest problems with reading this?
    Raven my dear, those paragraphs rival Choji’s largeness.

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