As a writer, it feels great to find your rhythm with a story. You’re flying along the keyboard — or paper, or vellum — and the words seem to shoot from your fingers. You don’t even seem to have the same tiredness in your hands, or the ink stains on your pinky that you so often get with less fruitful writing ventures.
But we all know those high-flying moments are the anomalies when writing a long piece, like a novella.
More often, you find yourself caught up in some absurdly minute detail that you simply cannot leave behind until you find the perfect word, even if it’s just one among tens of thousands.
These hang-ups can be entirely derailing to a decent writing flow, but you’re not the only one it happens to. Here are a handful of the more frustrating writing hang-ups we’ve all likely encountered.
#1 – That. Perfect.
I mentioned it above, and we’ve all been there. How many times have you searched through a thesaurus to find just the right phrasing? Or some alliterative flair? (I know that wasn’t alliteration, but I didn’t feel like spending several minutes looking for a synonym for flair.) Or even the word with the right etymological root to fit the style of your story?
The answer is too many times. But we’ll all do it again.
#2 – An NPC’s Name, or Clothes, or particular shade of brown hair
I know, I know, writers aren’t supposed to refer to their own creations as “non-playable characters”. Every character is the hero of their own journey, et cetera. But every story has them — characters that you know for a fact you will never see again, but because they’ve met your Main Character in some backwater inn and happen to have a bit of knowledge to help your Main continue their quest, they just have to have a name, and maybe a few clothing descriptors. And a cool tattoo. And strangely penetrating eyes that seem to hide deep-seeded pain. Aaaaaand now you’re writing a short story for them.
I suppose that’s what name generators are for.
#3 – The Dreaded Scene Transition
I definitely struggle with this one. You’re writing a scene that you know has to take your characters to the next place, or the next plot point, but you just can’t seem to make the turn. So it feels like you only have two options: let the transition drag on for another several paragraphs, detailing every step each of your characters are taking, throwing in random chit-chat dialogue that, while entertaining, is certainly not getting them anywhere fast, and overall just refusing to end the current train of thought…
Or you could make an awkward narrative jump that feels like you’re leaving something behind, but you’re not quite sure what. And now you just have to move on.
#4 – The Scene that Grows Too Big
This is sort of the opposite of number three, where a scene grows far beyond what you had intended, either in length, or scope, or even in its emotional weightiness. Maybe some of you wouldn’t consider this a hang-up, but it can be disruptive if it no longer lets your narrative flow in the way you had it outlined. That’s when the Dreaded Scene Transition hits, but you can’t just delete all that great work! So maybe you reform it until it flows better. Or you leave it and change your outline!
Those are just four potential hang-ups that I definitely run into every now and then, and I’d bet a lot of other writers do, too. Leave a comment with your “favorite” storytelling hang-ups!