Recently, in a couple of writers’ groups in Facebook, I asked what some of the hardest parts of writing are. Mind you, I’m familiar with many of them, having been on my writer’s journey in earnest for five years now. But I wanted to capture common writing trials. This is so that I could present a few helpful suggestions to you, things I’ve found helpful or that other writers farther along in their journey have recommended to me. Writing, of all pursuits, is best done “organically,” I believe. We’re all better–and our books are better–when we help each other out.
So, in no particular order, I present to you:
Three Writing Trials and What To Do About Them
Writing Trial #1: Perfectionism
Rachel Virginia White, a member of the Storymakers Conference Facebook Tribe, says she struggles with “not focusing on making every single word perfect.” I struggle with this too; I want every word I write to be perfect even in the first draft. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that that’s unrealistic. Even Shannon Hale, one of my favorite authors, says that when she’s “writing a first draft [she’s] reminding [her]self that [she’s] simply shoveling sand into a box so that later [she] can build castles.”
Suggestion #1: Big Magic
To combat that trial, Whitney Owens Hemsath, a fellow Tribe member and an author featured in a flash fiction anthology, recommended Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. “It speaks to perfectionism,” she says, “rekindling passion, finding joy and wonder in the creative pursuit of inspiration, when to publish in spite of mistakes, how to handle criticism, how to deal with burnout, the proper mental attitude to have towards your creative projects, etc. It was inspiring, yet realistically refreshing.” Kindle or hardback copies on Amazon sell for more than $14; I found a deal for $12. Also, you can get a used copy from Thriftbooks.com for $5.27.
Whitney also says: “Don’t compare your books to ones you’ve read that you think are great. Comparison is the thief of joy. Those books [that make you wish you could write like that]? They probably still have one-star reviews you could go read. You gotta write what feels authentic to you, what you would enjoy, and know that some will love it and some will hate it. Guaranteed. You have to write your best, not someone else’s best, or [the reader] can feel the lack of authenticity. And you have to write your current best, not the best version of your writing you hope to obtain in 20 years, or else you’ll never move on from a project and get to the 20-years-better version of you.” Good words, Whitney.
Writing Trial #2: Editing/Rewriting
For some, writing the first draft is the easy part. Jamie D. Greening, a member of the Great Thoughts Great Readers Facebook Group, says: “For me, the hardest part is editing.” Cleaning and improving the first draft, or even revisions after that, can be daunting, tedious, and confusing.
Luckily, there are a lot of resources to help writers in that process. Here, I name only a few that have helped me:
Solution #2: Read These Books
If you’re having trouble with plotting or structure, read Save the Cat, which I reviewed here. It will help you spot ways to simplify or restructure that you may not have thought of before. Also, Jack M. Bickman’s Scene and Structure provides a great explanation of why and how scenes and chapters (scenes and sequels) need to be written so that the story flows effectively. It also provides a list of common errors in scenes and how to fix them. Thriftbooks has it for $5.11.
If you’re having trouble with your characters not feeling real enough, I recommend Orson Scott Card’s Characters & Viewpoint. I can’t tell you how many times it’s been recommended to me. You can get it on Thriftbooks for $7.27.
If you’re having trouble uniting a character’s growth with the things you want to have happen in your story, read Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland. Almost every paragraph of my copy of that book is highlighted. You can get a Kindle copy on Amazon for $3.99, and the accompanying workbook for $1.99. That’s a steal!
Writing Trial #3: Sitting Down and Writing
Maybe you don’t struggle with writing or revising, but with just finding the time or motivation to sit down and write! This was the struggle cited by Marilynn Simon Rothstein, author of Lift and Separate and Husbands and Other Sharp Objects. Life can be a bit anti-writing at times.
Solution #3: Persistence
In those moments, I recommend A Writer’s Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld. She says: “If your burning reason to write is because it makes you happy or releases the wild voices from your head or helps you analyze the world around you, you are exactly where you are supposed to be. You must learn to please yourself in the process of your practice or you will become vulnerable to discouragement, despair, and giving up” (p. 13). Amen. Thriftbooks has it for $4.35.
No matter where you’re at in your writer’s journey, or what questions you have, there is a book, tribe, or group to help you. Good luck!