Pitfalls in The Writing Process
Pitfalls in the writing process
There are far more aspiring authors in this world than there are published authors. In fact, According to the Washington Post, More than 80% of Americans report wanting to become an author. Why is it then that so few make it to the end? Aside from the hard work, luck, and dedication required to succeed in this highly competitive and saturated field, several pitfalls in the writing process tend to get in the way of many aspiring authors ever finishing their first novel. I have even fallen into a few of these traps. Below is a list of writer pitfalls that have the potential to derail or stall your progress as a writer. This list is by no means a complete list of all of the pitfalls; instead, this is a list of the common problems I encountered while writing my first novel.
I have severe ADHD; because of this, distractions are a significant obstacle to completing my novel. From Video Games, other books, social media, television, family, and friends, there is no shortage of other activities to take you away from your writing. In order to be a successful writer, you have to cut out some of these distractions. I find that it helps to have a controlled space that you can retreat to when writing. Maybe that is a local coffee shop or an office at your home. Regardless of where your “Safe Zone” is, it is crucial to let the other people in your life know that you need your alone time while you write.
This is certainly true for me. However, other writers report that they work better in busy environments filled with background noise. If you find it easier to write in these situations, more power to you. However, if you find yourself continually getting distracted, you may want to consider creating a safe zone.
Lack of Motivation and Writers Block
Motivation and Muses are fickle friends. I find they are rarely around when you can write. Relying on motivation alone is likely to prevent you from ever completing your manuscript. Instead, you are going to need to create your own motivation.
I find that most of the time, even when I do not feel like it, if I sit down to write for more than a few minutes my muse returns, and the words begin to flow.
The same is true for writers’ block. If you force yourself to sit Infront of your computer and begin typing, you will find that your motivation and ideas slowly begin to return. Before you know it, you will be writing more than ever.
Writing a novel is arguably one of the most challenging things someone can do. Moreover, it does not help to know that so few people succeed in this industry. Something I have found that helps with self-confidence is to picture yourself as a successful writer. It will sound cheesy, but if you believe you have already achieved success and are just taking care of a few formalities, you can bypass many cycles of self-doubt that come with the fear of failure.
Another thing that helps is to stop writing for others. This is your story; in the end, you should be writing it for yourself. It should not matter what critics or publishers think. This is especially true today when publishers are not required as part of the publishing process.
This plays a massive part in self-confidence as well. I cannot tell you how many times I have caught myself back-tracking to edit or rewrite a passage I have already created. This has lead to my first draft taking far longer than it ever should have. The best thing you can do for your manuscript is to write. Tell the story to yourself. It does not matter if it is utter garbage. The first draft is meant to be flawed. It is merely you telling the story to yourself. No one will ever see your first draft; there is no reason to make it perfect.
That said, I do not mean you should write your entire first draft before editing or reading any part of your work. Doing so could lead to some significant reworks further down the road. Instead, when you are writing new content, do not edit.
I find it works best for me to write a few chapters without editing, then go back the next few days and edit and tweak what I have written. I repeat this cycle until I have finished my first draft. Then I go back for a full edit of the entire manuscript. This way, I find major plot issues before I have gotten too far in the book.
We all have busy schedules. Many writers like myself are not fortunate enough to be a full-time writer as of yet. Meaning we still need to work full-time jobs, take care of our family, do housework and so on. Because of this, it can be challenging to find time to write. This is why having a schedule is essential.
I find it works best to schedule at least a few hours every day to dedicate to writing. Once I have the schedule, I fight to keep it, only breaking it when necessary. Schedules help to ensure that you are writing every day and will also help prevent you from losing motivation or passion for your project.
Fear of failure is a problem for me, and I am willing to bet many others have this problem as well. This fear is not helped by those around you who continuously criticize you and remind you how hard it is to be a successful writer.
Often, however, I find the best cure for this is to ignore it. You will always fear that your work is not good enough or that people will not enjoy it. Often that fear is unfounded. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you. Find people who will give you honest feedback and seek their opinion on your work. Be willing to accept their criticism and improve upon your work.
Enough rounds of beta readers and edits, and you will find that you have the talent to produce your story.
Getting Ahead of yourself
This goes hand-in-hand with fear. Thinking too far ahead can lead to anxiety about things that are not to happen for some time. Keep your focus on what needs to be done now. Think about the future in the future. Figuring out how to query for agents when your only halfway done with your first draft is not helpful. It will only add to your stress and overwhelm you.
Marketing is a double-edged sword for many authors, including myself. On the one hand, it is required to be successful. You need a social media presence, a website, a book cover, and you need a following if you want to have any degree of success. However, some authors become bogged down by too much marketing. Having too great of a focus on social media and marketing makes it easy to lose focus on your writing. You need to form a healthy balance.
I find that spending no more than 15 minutes a day interacting on social media and writing one blog a week is the best mix. It only takes a few hours to write a compelling blog, and you can take care of the social media around your lunch break. Doing more than this or sacrificing writing time for the sake of marketing is inadvisable.
These may not be all the pitfalls you fall encounter as you refine your writing process, and this is certainly not an exhaustive list of every possible obstacle along the way, or even every obstacle I have encountered in my writing process. With that in mind, it is vital to develop the ability to recognize when something is impeding your progress and learn to find ways around obstacles that arise. Your writing process should be constantly evolving to accommodate and encourage your growth as a writer. Never stop seeking ways to improve.
Cover image by Jakirseu - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70583465