Two Frustrations Authors Face (That Mean GOOD Things Are Happening)

“I have the best idea!!! I have to tell…. Oh, WAIT a second….”

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.”

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25 responses to “Two Frustrations Authors Face (That Mean GOOD Things Are Happening)

  1. Well put.The interesting part also is that the story-line keeps on changing and at the end is totally different from what you have foreseen.

  2. Such a good article! I love the feeling of a new idea while writing!

  3. That first one always drives me nuts. Though many times it’s that I have a great idea and nobody wants to hear it. I’ll start explaining the basis and the person suddenly starts talking about something else. That might just be an issue of rudeness and that I need more artistic people to talk to.

    Another frustrating thing is when I write a great scene, share it with someone, and they bombard me with questions. Almost like pulling teeth to get an opinion on quality of the scene.

  4. I definitely agree with the first point. I always used to share my ideas and read out my first chapters to people back in the day but those stories never got off the ground. The only one I managed to complete was the one I shared with nobody until I’d written the whole thing!
    I’d heard people talk about how things happen to the plot they wouldn’t have expected, but I never truly believed it would happen to me until it did. This is so true!

    • I’m so glad you can relate!!!! It really is true…. I have had small realizations about how a character is just a bit different than I thought. That in turn has had huge ramifications on where I thought my novels were headed.

  5. I never tell anyone about what I’m writing, I find that not talking over it helps keep me motivated.

    Great post! :)

  6. When this happens to me, I start getting the “It’s too good to be true” feeling, and then I start second-guessing myself. Often, I go back to my synopsis to see how far I’ve veered from my original concept. Sometimes, the “road less taken” turns out to be better than the route I’ve charted. Other times, not so much. When the writing is going well, I go with it…and remind myself that endless revisions lie ahead anyway!

    • That’s a great mindset. It’s very true that endless revisions lie ahead :-) And it never hurts to look back on what you first considered and compare strengths and weaknesses of each route!

  7. The number one is the worst, lol, I’m bursting with excitement as I type because of ideas I have, and I can’t tell anyone! Just because I think they’re that awesome… :D I might feel differently tomorrow. Or the day after. For now they shall remain as files on my hard drive. Literally and figuratively!

  8. So true. My story seems to change depending on my mood sometimes. One day I think I am through with a chapter and once I sleep on it, the outcome may change and mostly for the better.

  9. As for #1, I’ll frequently punch my fists in the air in joy when I see something leap out and change everything, in a marvelous way. I’ve even been known to do a little dance in by my computer, while my children stare. All I can say is, “I figured it out!” and go for a jubilant jog around the neighborhood blaring my favorite Two Steps From Hell music in my earbuds. Writing is a very isolating hobby, to say the least!
    As for #2, I have an “alternative endings” book in my head, full of sidetracks and other options my characters could have pursued. Sometimes I think I’ll convert all of those into an entirely new book, just to let those storylines have life as well.

  10. Thank you for this great post!

  11. I’d like to expand on your first draft excitement. For me, each draft I revise brings a new surprise to the table, like my mind is slowly reading the book before it even exists. I’ve had left-field twists, massive character development, thematic shifts, the works, and I never saw any of it coming. It’s like I’m hunting for buried treasure but don’t know I’ve found it until the gold is already glittering before my eyes.

    • what a true analogy. It really is like hunting buried treasure, and even finding it when those awesome twists and developments and changes to your plan come out of nowhere!

  12. I’ve heard it, I’ve experience it. Never a good idea to share your story, even with critters until you have the first draft down. Those unzepected plot changes get stuck in critters heads and from that point on, they are crit ting the old version and not the new!

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