Writing fiction is delicate, difficult, and sometimes painful work. However, some of those difficulties are lighter than most, even if the frustration is real.
I feel like my last series of posts has been pretty heavy, exploring the connections between character, characterization, and emotions such as love and hate, and even how fear can be a paralytic or a motivator.
Because of that, I thought today it could be fun to start a conversation about the “good” problems and the wonderful “frustrations” of creative writing. You know: the troubles that are indicators of good things and are unavoidable byproducts of the creative process doing what it should.
1. I just had the best idea EVER for my story…. And I can’t tell anyone.
There is a time for collaboration and getting second opinions when it comes to fiction, but that stage (for most of us) arrives long after a first draft has ended. Generally, we edit and then edit some more before anyone reads our work: even beta readers and editors. At least, that is how I work.
My favorite thing about writing is the surprises that come along when I’m writing a first draft. Many times, I don’t see a twist or a plot development coming before I actually write it.
This is so exciting for me; I love that thrill of realizing my story is going to be way more interesting than I first had realized, or that a character has more to him or to her than I anticipated. It’s decidedly a positive development.
But it can feel so lonely not to be able to share that joy with anyone! Trying to explain–even if an author were to try– just ruins the sense of shock, the necessary sense of everything falling into place all at once. There’s too much buildup required in the explanation–too much work trying to hold the basic background structure together–for anyone else to get the same feeling you did. Plus, no one else could understand what you’re really saying. They haven’t read the book. They don’t know the characters.
All we can do is be happy about the awesome developments in our stories, whether or not we can share that joy. And we can remember that our readers, in the future, might be able to understand (albeit belatedly).
2. I have two ideas about where to take this plotline and I love them BOTH.
This situation is obviously frustrating. In fact, I’ve written about it before as one of two forms of writer’s block: I call it “the crossroads.” You’re not sure where to go or what to do next, because there are multiple options.
However, as overwhelming as standing at the crossroads can feel, I much prefer that to having no clue what to do next, or to being unable to make something happen in a believable way (when I know that one specific thing does need to occur.)
The crossroads is not a horrible place to be, for a number of reasons:
- You can always keep writing by choosing one path, even if on a whim or at random. If you don’t like where it takes you, you can backtrack and take another road. You have gained experience from what you’ve written, if nothing else.
- You can use the different possibilities for where to take your story as inspirations for other stories. Maybe that’s a sequel. Maybe it’s a tale completely unrelated to the one you’re writing now. The fact is, many novels or short stories are inspired by the image of one scene or one event, perhaps even one line of dialogue, that gets a writer’s head working.
So, what are some of the frustrations that come to when when writing is going well and things are falling into place?
Victoria Grefer is the author the Herezoth trilogy, which begins with “The Crimson League” and has new editions coming out this Fall. She also has a writer’s handbook out, titled “Writing for You: A Novelist’s Guide to the Craft of Fiction.”