The 4 Most Frustrating Story Hang-Ups for Writers

Creativity Sessions writing process. Evening Satellite Publishing.

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. Term. Word.

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!

More Hang-Ups!

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!

Steve D

When Rewriting is more Efficient than Revising

Although I haven’t officially updated you all on my writing progress for April (that’s next week), I can tell you that I have moved on to the second draft of “The Herb Witch”.

Since I wrote the first draft by hand in a journal, I’m now transcribing it to the old electronic typewriter (PC) and making edits along the way. Here’s why this type of rewrite is more efficient than revising a single draft.

Continue reading “When Rewriting is more Efficient than Revising”

Writing a Novel vs. Writing a Short Story

For the first time in my authorly endeavors, I have two major works in progress… in progress.

I’m 60k words into The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy, a sequel-ish novel of 180-200k words that I know I’m not finishing this year.

Simultaneously, I’m 6k words into a duology/novella of about 60k words that I damn well better finish this year.

And after much deliberation and introspection, I can confirm: writing a short story is different from writing a novel. Continue reading “Writing a Novel vs. Writing a Short Story”

Using Side Characters to Provide Perspective

Perspective can be one of the most important aspects of writing an in-depth, detailed narrative, especially when world building is a big part of your writing.

World building is the reason I started writing.

So, that means sometimes I want to write about the story underneath the plot–the cultural or historical context, even if it just pertains to one character’s arc. Continue reading “Using Side Characters to Provide Perspective”

Building Characters To Hide Yourself Within

I’ve always admired Stevie’s ‘Creativity Sessions’ for their purity of endeavor; I don’t think about writing so much as I feel burdened by the drive to write or by the procrastination instead of writing. I’ve accepted this lack in my self – always more emotion than logic, always more flailing than finesse. In an effort to find some middle ground, I thought I’d craft one of these for myself and see how it feels, you know? So tell me how I do in this, my personal step-by-step process of character building:

BLUEPRINTS Continue reading “Building Characters To Hide Yourself Within”

How Pantsing Makes Revising Harder than It Needs to Be

That’s right, I said it. My semi-pantser model of writing the early drafts of WoEM has become a bit of an annoyance. I think I have been converted to a planner.

Now that I’m well into of my revisions — in the final third of my story — my somewhat free-wheeling outline style has come back to bite me.

Luckily, I found a somewhat easy way to fix it… and avoid it in the future. Continue reading “How Pantsing Makes Revising Harder than It Needs to Be”

Creativity Sessions: Finding a Character’s Heart

Last Friday, I touched on the changes that were beginning to manifest in the third draft of The Warden of Everfeld: Memento.

As one of two leading protagonists in the novel, I knew that Jaed’s characterization was paramount to both a well-balanced story, and an enjoyable read. Achieving that has been easier said than done.

Continue reading “Creativity Sessions: Finding a Character’s Heart”

Creativity Sessions: Writing Social Issues into Your Story

Throughout my revision process for The Warden of Everfeld: Memento, I have continually questioned the information I am presenting in my story. Is this detail pertinent to the scene? Does the reader care/need to know this? How does this trait affect the character’s personality?

These questions are vital for building real, lifelike characters while also maintaining a fluid and natural story arc. However, at times I have wondered if the trauma or suffering I put my characters through is necessary to tell the larger story. Continue reading “Creativity Sessions: Writing Social Issues into Your Story”

Writing Lesson #64: World-Building Offers Many Avenues of Storytelling — Use Them

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NaNo 2016 got off to a less-than-stellar start for me. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the shock induced by the presidential election, I was not focused on writing my second novel, The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy. Part of me feels like I’m jumping ahead too much, considering my first significant round of revisions looms for part one, The Warden of EVerfeld: Memento.

I tend to second-guess myself in such ways. The point is, I haven’t advanced WoEL much beyond the 5,000 words I covered over the first eight days or so. Instead of wallowing in my own thought process, I decided to change focus. Continue reading “Writing Lesson #64: World-Building Offers Many Avenues of Storytelling — Use Them”

NaNo Re-Hash: The Little People Still Matter!

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I published an earlier version of this article, “The Little People Matter Too!”, way back in 2014, but since it only has 15 total views, I’ve decided to revisit it and update it a bit. This was among my first “Creativity Sessions” pieces, and I think its themes still ring true as I begin exploring a new story this November. I wil post more of these re-hashes through NaNo 2016 (and likely beyond) with some new insights and thoughts to share.

As I discussed last Friday, I have entered NaNoWriMo 2016 with a much more solid foundation to begin a new novel. While WoE: Memento was largely experimental, with ideas and narrative points coming to me as I wrote, I have been much more structured in my approach to the follow-up novel, The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy. Continue reading “NaNo Re-Hash: The Little People Still Matter!”