How New Writers Can Conquer Six Common Creative Struggles
About the Author: Brooke Dore
Brooke Dore is an aspiring author who spends her days fighting writer’s block, brainstorming new story ideas, and… well, writing. In her free time, Brooke enjoys drawing and painting and can be found pinning a host of cute dog photos on Pinterest. You can learn more about Brooke and her books on her website by clicking here.
Beginning your journey as a writer is challenging.
We’ve all faced obstacles in our writing lives — whether it’s rejection, self-doubt, criticism, or something else. We’ve all thought, “What if my novel just isn’t good enough?”. When we read great books with complex characters and fantastic plot arcs — books so engrossing we can’t put them down — we compare our novels to those amazing books. “Why would someone read my story when that author’s book is so much better?”
But that’s the thing. If you look at those authors, they’ve been writing for what — ten years? Now they have a publishing contract, an editor, beta readers, and others to support them in their work. But when they first started writing, they had the same doubts and fears. They all faced struggle. Today, let’s tackle those doubts, fears and struggles head on.
Struggle #1: You fear your work isn’t good enough.
You re-read your manuscript, and you think it’s lacking. On everything. In fact, you think it’s just plain terrible. You’re about to throw it in the garbage when…
Stop! Don’t throw it in the garbage. Not yet. Let me tell you something. Is this your first novel? Okay, here’s the thing: Nearly every author’s first novel is terrible. You just started. I hate to break it to you, but your novel isn’t going to be perfect on the first try. You have to revise.
Maybe it’s so bad you think it can’t be revised. That’s perfectly okay. Just sit down and figure out what’s wrong with your novel. Are your characters too clichéd? Is your plot lacking? Is it not interesting? Target what’s wrong with your work, and make a plan to fix it. Turn doubt into action.
Struggle #2: You run into writer’s block.
You’re stuck. You bang your head against the table, but no ideas come to mind. Writer? Stop banging your head against the table please. You’re going to give yourself a headache.
Okay, so you’ve run out of ideas. What is your plot? Do you even have a plot? Think about what you’re writing. Are you writing a horror story? Fantasy? Romance? Sci-fi? Do something that inspires you:
If you write horror, take a walk at night, when it’s windy and there are no stars shining through the clouds.
If you write fantasy, think about your hero. What is their goal? What keeps them from reaching that goal?
If you write romance, go to the park and people-watch. Observe a couple’s argument. What are they arguing about? Why are they arguing? Is it about something silly, like why all the pigeons are gathered around them, or is it something serious, like relationship issues?
If you write science fiction, consider the science. Let’s say you’re writing a book about clones taking over the world. Research cloning. How would it really work? What if there was some sort of mutation?
For all of the above, go someplace that helps you get new ideas. Take a break from the computer (or notebook, if you write the old-fashioned way) and go on a walk or a drive. Go someplace that makes you happy or sad or inspired. Go to a place that stirs strong emotions in you.
Struggle #3: You don’t know how to handle inspiration.
You have a flash of inspiration. An image of a person maybe, or an emotion you feel the need to write about. Figure out how you can work this into your story.
What was this person like? A long scar down her cheek? What was her personality like? Secretive, cold, standoffish? Would this be one of your secondary characters or a main character? When, where, and how can you put this in your story? Write it down and try to figure out where you can use it in your novel.
Struggle #4: You’re no longer feeling inspired.
Your bolt of inspiration has fizzled out. Now you’re left with 30 pages of work that you don’t know what to do with. It’s okay. Don’t panic.
Try to work on your plot. Figure out what’s going to happen next. Are your characters kidnapped? Do they have to figure out a puzzle? It may help to consider how you’ll develop your characters instead. What kind of journey does your character go on? How do they change throughout the story?
Struggle #5: You don’t know how to get started.
You have great ideas, and you’re ready to start writing — but you have no clue how to draft the beginning of your book. This is something I can relate to. Let me give you a piece of advice: You don’t need to start at the beginning. Wait, what? But when I read a book the beginning comes first…
Well, duh. But you don’t need to start writing there. You can even write from end to beginning if that’s your preference. My advice? Start with the scene that energizes you the most. Excited about your story’s climax? Write that first. Don’t worry about the beginning. Just start writing.
Struggle #6: You don’t know how to handle rejection.
You finished your novel. You worked hard on it, you’ve poured your heart and soul into it, you’ve cried many tears over it, and you’re almost bald from pulling so much hair out from the stress. You send it to an agent. A month later, you get a form letter addressed “dear writer.”
Take a deep breath. I know you probably cried your eyes out at the sight of that letter. I know it hurts. I know you may want to give up and never send your manuscript to another agent again. You’re hurting, and that’s okay. Go ahead. Cry your eyes out. There’s absolutely no shame in it. We’ve all done it.
Okay, now listen to me. No author gets it easy. Every single author, even JK Rowling and James Patterson, have received rejection letters. I personally know someone who has received 98 rejection letters. 98. Now, he’s a published author.
The thing is, if you receive a rejection letter, you need to figure out where you went wrong. Was your query not interesting enough? Is your story’s hook lacking? Did the agent no longer want submissions for stories in your genre? If you can take action, do so. Allow rejection to refine your work.
Writing is hard. I think we’ve all learned this. If it were easy, everyone would do it. We’re different from other people though. We don’t write to entertain people. That may be one of our reasons, but we write because we have a voice that others don’t. We can speak for those who can’t.
Every word you write, every sentence, every paragraph — you can change people with what you write. You don’t have to write non-fiction to do that. You can inspire people. Your characters can be the ones readers turn to in times of struggle. And that, my friend, is what every writer strives to achieve. You’ll get there. You can get published. You just need to believe in yourself.