watching, reading, and writing stories

The Difficulties of Writing a Novel

Recently I’ve been trying to start writing again. I’m now working on my third novel “Finding Home: The Pirate Princess.” It’s been awhile since I forced myself to actually sit down and write. And since I’m self-published it really is up to me to get it done. And it can be hard. It’s easy to assume that writing just comes naturally to some people, that amazing sentences just fly forth from their brains onto the paper… or word document in this case. But writing can be hard.

So since I was having trouble even thinking about what to write today for this blog post, I thought I’d share some of the difficulties I’ve found in writing a novel. Maybe it will encourage other writers out there that they are not alone.

1. Motivation. It comes and goes. Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s nowhere to be found. Often when I’m just starting on a project, I’m highly motivated and excited about where the story will go and what will happen. It’s almost like an adventure. But as time goes on, and round after round of editing, adjusting, cutting, adding and tweaking the story continue, sometimes the motivation just dies. It’s just not as fun as it was when I started and it really takes some perseverance to keep revising that story to get it right. And that brings me to difficulty number two…

2. Creating an Engaging Plot. Sometimes my first ideas for a story sound really good. But as I start actually writing, what I create can be downright boring. Or I have trouble getting it to connect to the story as a whole. I end up writing some things that later I just have to delete, either because it’s not needed or because it just isn’t interesting. And it can be really hard deciding what is worth keeping and what just doesn’t add anything to the story and needs to go. Having to make those decisions is one of the hardest things I have to do as an author.

3. Keeping Track of what I’ve Written. Remembering how each little scene I’m writing fits into the overall plot can be daunting. Even just remembering details I’ve already written can be difficult and I find myself scrolling back through already written pages to figure out what was happening, or what that character’s name was, or how I described this person in the past. It’s hard to keep track of a whole book and sometimes it seems simpler to just focus on what I’m writing now and hope that when I read over it later it still makes sense within the story.

4. Sifting through Critiques. As I write, I try to get some feedback from people. But sometimes their advise or what they notice can be hard to hear. It can be discouraging or overwhelming. I once went back and changed my whole book’s point of view so that it was more first-person instead of third-person, because someone who read one chapter said it was more engaging that way. I know I don’t have to make my writing appeal to each person who reads it, and ultimately if I like it, that should be good enough. But I do want to hear what others have to say and often someone else can spot a problem much more easily than I can. And so it again is up to me as the author to choose what advice to listen to and what to ignore. And that is a hard decision to make.

I know there are many other things that are hard about writing, and I don’t even know what kind of hoops people who have publishers have to jump through. But in any case, writing isn’t easy. It is a lot of work, requires tough decisions and many people who try to do it give up.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing, it’s that even though it is difficult, it’s worth it. So don’t give up. If you’re trying to finish a book, or a screenplay, or a short story, or a poem, or whatever it is, don’t give up. Just keep writing.

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Writer Resource

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I thought I’d share something helpful I found for getting feedback about your writings. I know I’ve posted some sections of my work on blog posts before and most feedback that you get is a ‘like’ or maybe a short comment. Though these can be encouraging, they don’t really help your work improve.

When I was in college, I was a part of several workshop classes, where we all had to do an assignment, but we also had to critique each other’s poems, short stories, or whatever we were writing. It was very helpful, and my work significantly improved from that feedback.

Since college, I haven’t really had a good place to get feedback about my writing. I’ve asked a couple friends or relatives, but let’s face it, everyone is busy and most of the time someone else’s project doesn’t take priority. But, luckily, I have another writer friend who I met at a Book Fair and she told me about this great website! I decided to try it out for myself before mentioning it to others, and now that I’ve used it, I’m a fan.

So the website is and it’s great. How it works is you have to read other’s works and give them critiques to get points, the more detailed and helpful the critique, the more points you get. When you get 5 points, you can post your own work for critique. It motivates people to actually read your work and give feedback. And it’s free, if you want it to be. I haven’t switched to the paid version, which has a few more perks, like having more than 2 posts of your own work at a time, and some fun features to get more detailed feedback. But I’m liking the free version just fine for now.

So if you’re a writer, and you’re struggling with getting feedback, check it out! Or if you would like to read more sections from my own novel, feel free to join so you can read them.


The Editor

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Let’s face it, every writer needs to edit. But at some point, we need a little help.

I remember some of my first English classes in high school and starting to learn how to edit other people’s work. It’s kind of funny how we so easily spot errors and unclear ideas in another person’s work but when we stare at our own, we can’t figure out what’s wrong or what we need to change.

Recently I’ve been working on editing my first novel, and it’s hard. I’ve read over the whole thing so many times I’ve lost count, yet there’s still little details that need to be changed. Thankfully, I have friends and family to act as my editors. Even if they aren’t “professional” they still notice when I use “their” instead of “they’re” or accidentally type the same word twice. Even plot lines and illogical scenarios are easily spotted by another person’s perspective. I was quite surprised when one reader came back to me after reading about 8 chapters and handed me a large sheet of paper with several notes. For some reason I thought I was “done” that only one or two errors could possibly be left after all my own editing and hard work. But as I made my way through the long list of things this “editor” had noticed, I realized just how much work I still had to do.

I think the problem I have, and probably a lot of writers have is getting stuck in our own little world. Everything makes sense to us here, whether because of long thought and careful decisions, or because it has stayed the same so long, that it feels normal. But once someone new, who hasn’t seen all the drafts, revisions, changes, and subplot starts reading our work, things we never noticed become apparent.

And it’s kind of cool to be on the other end of the line; to be the editor. You get to read someone’s work and point out things, give suggestions, say what you liked and didn’t like and know in the end the author could listen to you or totally ignore you. And it’s cool to come back to the finished product later and see what the result of your suggestions were.

When I was in college, one of my professors told a story about how she suggested something about adding potatoes into a short story by a fellow writer. And the guy actually used her idea. I saw the same thing happen over and over in the creative workshops I attended. Someone’s different perspective gave a spark to an author. We all need that sometimes, whether it’s encouragement that what we’re writing does actually make sense to  other people, or a critique that helps us see what needs to change. Even writer’s block can be helped by a friend reading your work and telling you what they think.

I know author’s are often criticized as not allowing anyone to read their work till it is “finished.” But I don’t think that is the way it should be. You may not be the person they want critique from, but I bet they’re letting someone read their work and give them feedback. Because that’s how we become better writers, we keep learning, keep reading, and keep listening to what others are saying.

So thank you to anyone who’s been an editor, whether in grade school when you read your classmate’s essay, or professionally. Thank you for adding your perspective to an author’s world. I’m sure there are several writers out there, who wouldn’t be where they are now, if it wasn’t for a good, or several good editors.

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