Help me build the How To Think Sideways Surprise
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I’m putting together the How To Think Sideways Surprise—the extra course material that everyone gets when they join the new version of How to Think Sideways, ULTRA.

(Legacy students and grads will upgrade automatically and for free—but you can still help build the Surprise.)

I want to make sure the Surprise is spectacular.

To make it great, I need to know this:

What part of writing do you find most difficult?

Anyone—even folks who aren’t considering joining the course, can comment here.

I’ll let you know what the HTTS Surprise is going to be in a week or two.

(And I’ll get back to writing soon. I’m still working from 7AM to midnight every day getting this put together—once it’s done, I’m back to Create A World Clinic. And Write A Book With Me will resume. Clearly I’m not a great pace rabbit anymore, though. :/)

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Help me build the How To Think Sideways Surprise — 451 Comments

  1. I find middles hard, I know where point A is and where point B is but getting there is hard when the scene cards run out and you still have story to fill

    • Hey Kate. I know exactly how you feel. I often will have a great B-M-E but not sure exactly how to do to get from b to m or m to e. Have you tried action and reaction? it helps me from time to time. I will write from a certain characters POV that will lead to another characters reaction to what the previous character did? Making any sense? Sometimes while doing this it can catch and it can lead to more ideas or more scenarios sometimes. Just thought I would pass it along. Best of luck with your writing!

    • I have great scenes and first chapters for the beginning then I say “What Happened”? So the middle gets me. I am taking the course “How to plot an outline”!!! I got to the fifth lesson and now I don’t know what to do. I wonder if it is just me, and my understanding???

    • Agreed, middles are the most difficult. I have no problem imagining a good beginning and or resolution and maybe one middle conflict but after that I lose the small events

    • Yeah, I have struggled with keeping things moving from plot point to plot point and I get stuck at a place where the ideas dry up. It’s not writer’s block, per se, but just running out of steam.

  2. The hardest part for me is maintaining momentum. When I feel I have a good grasp of what’s going to happen next, I have no trouble writing every day and writing thousands of words at a sitting. But inevitably I run into a bit of my outline where it’s not quite working yet – maybe I need to get my main character to the top of the building because I know the next thing is for him to parachute off, but I’m not sure what sorts of obstacles he should run into on the way up and I don’t want to make it too easy for him. Then I get a little stalled, and I have to think about it, and the next thing I know it’s been a week and I still haven’t figured it out. Sometimes I can push through, but sometimes something honestly ISN’T working, and I have to figure things out before I can get back to it. And then, it can often take some time to get really rolling again.

    I don’t know if there’s anything I can do about this. Maybe it’s just the way my mind works and I should concentrate on other projects (like editing) for a week and then get back to it, or something. But it seems to cause my drafting to get drawn out SO much. If I didn’t do this, I could easily finish a draft of a whole novel in 2-3 months and then concentrate on the next project. But instead I feel scattered and wind up spending 6-12 months getting a draft done, constantly feeling like I have to reacquaint myself with the story before I can plunge back in.

    Any tips would be wonderful, lmao.

    • While plotting a novel idea, I get stuck while trying to invent details, and so whatever actual writing I do goes like molasses. I’m sure that the heart of my problem is perfectionism. I say to myself that I don’t want to “waste my time” by writing stuff that will ultimately get tossed, but of course the result has been that I’ve wasted YEARS not writing anything, really. I’ve never been able to craft a plot outline to the level that feels ready enough for the “butt in chair” writing part.

      • Ouch, that sounds like a more severe version of my problem. When I outline, I generally write a few sentences to cover what happens in each chapter or scene, to give me a roadmap. When it’s going well, it allows me to feel that rush of excitement and creation because it’s not like I’ve worked out every tiny detail in advance (which would probably make me feel like I’d already written the novel before I wrote the novel and I’d never actually write the novel).

        But yeah, when the details aren’t coming, then I get a little stuck, and it probably is a bit of that same perfectionism – if I haven’t decided what’s going to happen, I don’t want to just skip forward or write something that’s not very good, and have to flesh it out later.

        …Which is probably exactly what I should do.

        • Almost.
          Plotting, outlining – Good.
          Creating the scenes as ‘movie shots’ in my head, along with dialogue – Yes.

          Transcribing it, actually sitting down at the word processor and doing the grunt work, describing the scene and ‘texture’ and doing all those words that you actually get paid for – No.

          “Writer’s Block’? – Of a sort, I suppose.

          I don’t seem to have a problem with email or comments like this …

          • Try Dragonspeak or a dictation program – it’ll do the typing and your mind can be on autopilot (almost) and not lose its way in the tedium of typing. Bet it’s just fear of success!

          • I have problems with describing also. I write really tight action, but have trouble knowing how much description is needed for the reader to see what I see in my head. More often than not, I get so caught up in the action and dialoguethat the description really gets skimpy. I also find it difficult to go back and fill it in. I haven’t found a good solution yet. Help!!!

              • I find I’m very light on the scenery. Plenty of action and dialogue, but not enough details for the reader to know where it’s all happening. Then when I edit I find it hard to pinpoint those places where I need to add description or how to add it without boring the reader.

            • I have the same problem, but in my case it’s because my imagination doesn’t work visually. I don’t see the scene in my head beyond a few vague and blurry images (I’ll have a very good sense of the scene, mind you, but it won’t be visual, because my mind just doesn’t work that way), so I don’t know what details to include. And they often feel tacked on, like they’re in there not because they’re important to the scene but just for the sake of adding description.

      • I’m not good with notecards, myself (they get lost or aren’t available to me at the moment I need them). I like spreadsheets because they’re on the same computer as I write, so are easily accessible.

        I usually do a few-sentences-per-scene with the main points I have to hit, and that gives me a roadmap. I just run into problems when I see “MC escapes the crocodile” and I go “Hmm, how should that actually take place, it shouldn’t be too easy” and nothing comes to me right away.

    • I easily lose momentum too. It does always seem to happen when I hit a part where I don’t know what the next obstacle is or when I hit a difficult research problem that I’m not super interested in.

  3. I have two areas, one is after I’ve plotted it and figured out all of the motivations and have a shining star of a book to write, I sit down and an entirely New story comes out of my fingers. AAARG!

    Two, is going from preparation to actually writing because of the above. I feel like if I’ve spent enough time plotting, thinking every possible avenue through then I can just sit down and write That book but no. Every single time, I sit down to write and go off in a different direction. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a deeper, richer, bolder, more wonderful story that comes out but it seems like there should be an easier way to do it.

    • That’s precisely what happens to me! I “spiral” into the micro-story so deeply that I feel like a tension spring so tightly wound that I can’t add or subtract a thing, else I’ll “unwind” the whole thing and the brakes go on!

      • I relate to that, Teresa. Getting lost in subplots and themes. Somewhere between first and second draft. Probably need to learn how to write a 3rd draft but by then I am so sick of the mess I’ve made of things, so far from the original ‘purity’…

  4. The hardest part? Getting my Butt In Chair. Story flows through me–in one side and out the other–before I ever get the chance to write it down. I need to keep a consistent writing time. I even know the reason I don’t. It’s because I consider writing something I do for *me,* which puts it at the bottom of the to-do list. I need the courage to put it at the top!

      • Yeah, the butt chair ratio is so off for me also. I should hang a recorder around my neck because when I clean my bathroom or kitchen, water my plants, iron my clothes that’s when I write my stories (in my head). I can’t wait to be brave enough to buy a voice activated computer set it in the middle of my house and keep on talking.

        • wow that voice activated computer or a recorder around the neck is a perfect idea. I’m going to do that. When I clean or drive the most wonderful ideas and dialogue, dead on for the characters flows…. but when I stop to get it down, it flys right out of my head! Once or twice while driving I reached for the voice record on my Iphone – Not a safe move at all – your idea rocks

        • Don’t overlook the “bane of modern existence,” the “smart” phone.

          Need something to record your thoughts on-the-go?
          “There’s an App for that.” ;)

    • For me the most difficult aspect of writing seems to be just doing it. I need to put a giant Nike Swoosh logo above my desk. I have a couple of vision boards because I’ve been told my writing is cinematic. I draw, like every writer, from my subconscious, so it’s vital to feed that aspect of my make-up continuously with images I cut out of magazines, slogans I like, places I wish to travel to, etc. A good guide to this is the book “The Secret”~ but if you can’t stomach the cheesier aspects of the book/film, at least watch it to get ideas for creativity building. As a former teacher, I find the best way to learn anything new is through immersion. So go out and see those five movies you really want to, read 3 books at once, go to the museum and stay for an hour sitting and staring at your very favorite painting. And last but not least turn on some music. Last time I checked, the radio is still free.

      • Each day I awake full of ideas to progress my short story, but the cut and thrust of the day nearly always beats me in the race to get to my writing chair. By the time I get to the chair exhaused I just know that many of my daybreak ideas have evaporated. That’s the most difficult for me. But my family does get fed. I feel that often I have to rewind, rewind, rewind, to get started again. And then hope for no interruptions to trigger the next rewind. Like deep sea diving, it takes me ages to put on my writing suit before I descend deep enough to continue from where I last left off.

    • Putting down the first word. Shutting out all the world except the work. I have the time, the space, and the software, but I stop myself. My mind flies off on unrelated subjects. When I force a beginning I love the flow; it’s forcing the beginning that is very hard.

  5. The hardest part of writing for me is dealing with my own negative emotions. There are days when I read another author’s work and get down on myself because I’m certain I’ll never have the talent that Author X possesses. Or I read a review of my work and it makes me question myself, and if I have any talent/skills whatsoever. I’m learning I need to make positive choices to keep myself in a healthy place so I can meet my writing commitments.

    • It’s the same for me!
      Sometimes I stop reading while I’m writing to avoid it but it doesn’t work so well.
      I can stay a whole day wondering if it’s a good idea to continue what I’ writing.
      The only thing I know in these moments is that I really like writing and I enjoy my self very much in doing it, but I can feel very uneasy about my talent (if I have a little…)

    • Thanks for sharing your frustrations. mine is similar. I have ideas that excite me, and I have no problem with getting my butt into the chair. My greatest problem is a maddening lack of confidence. Even when the words are flowing, a voice pops in to ask me who I’m kidding, that no one is ever going to want to hear anything I have to say. That voice can undermine my work for days. I eventually work through it, but I’m left with the fear that the voice is right.

  6. When I get an idea for a story, the plot usually comes very quickly. I write down a basic plot outline, and I might do some character descriptions at the beginning to keep me on track, but then I start writing. The HARD part comes when I’m writing descriptions of the scene so that it’s not all dialog and transitions. I want the reader to be able to experience what the MC is experiencing, right down to the feel, sound and smell. But I get bogged down in the description, and feel like the story loses forward motion.

  7. Staying focused for the long haul from an idea to a finished story is definitely the hardest part of writing for me. I doesn’t matter whether I’m trying to write a short story or a full-blown novel, I struggle to overcome procrastination and “story abandonment.”

  8. The other day I read a sentence that went something like this: she propped up her arms on the ultra-smooth table, the wide sleeves of her satin gown pooling around her elbows. That’s what I want to learn. How to effectively incorporate the environment (not just the setting, but EVERYTHING) to anchor the reader in the moment.

    • That’s one of my issues: well, not so much getting those descriptives into the work, as getting them in without distracting from the story.

  9. Holly,
    Getting the ending right. Going on draft three of the ending. Using HTTS Ch 19-20 has helped, but still…

    Uh, and rewriting in general. I almost have to take a month off for a short story and years off for a novel in order to read it carefully enough.
    Rob

  10. Plotting. And starting. I have great ideas for scenes, but to carry through with a total plot is difficult. Even when I have the glimmer of a plot, I have trouble writing the first/opening scene. Or sometimes I get a great opening scene in my head and that’s where the story stalls…sheesh!

    • Change my mind to often. Change the outline which changes the story. Then I think I got it, I get writing. A few chapters in and it happens all over again.

      I change the opening scene constantly. The problem is I can’t stop doing it. I am perfectionist and because of it, I can’t seem to move forward. I am constantly going in reverse with a new direction in mind but all it does is get me lost. I feel like I am on a road to nowhere at times.

      The wheels in my mind are always turning but it brings me in too many destinations. I can’t stay parked anywhere. My characters are like hitchhikers, I pick them up and drop them off before I really get to know them. It’s confusing and frustrating and the hardest thing for me to overcome.

      The new year came and I promised myself I would’t do it but I’m doing it.

      I bought write way pro thinking maybe if I had something like this. My thoughts would have a better roadmap and linger long enough within a setting to make some progress. Not the case.
      The program is great, I love it but my problem hasn’t improved. I keep moving the scenes to the scratch pad and creating new ones.

      It’s the most bazaar thing because I am also a creature of habit and stick to a routine in all aspects of my life, except in writing. I’m committed to my husband, my job even my hairdresser. Why can’t I commit to an idea?

  11. Plotting the in-betweens! By this I mean, when I write a story, I know where I am starting from, and I know two or three major highlights, and I know what the climax is, and most times, the ending. It’s filling in the details: how did Michael know the program had been sabotaged, how did Lilly find out that Troy betrayed her, and how or how do I get from there to the ending?

  12. My biggest problem is that I will come up with an idea that I like, and as I flesh it out, I ask myself more and more questions. And as I go on, I end up with far more questions than I have answers, and I feel like the idea doesn’t make sense anymore and now I’m stuck. Partly the problem is that I don’t like the answers that I do get, and the other part is that I honestly don’t know how to answer some of my own questions.

    When trying to figure out plot or character motivation, I have the knack of asking myself a question that shatters the logic of the whole idea and I can’t figure out how to fix it. It’s very frustrating :/

    • Ow. Yes, this too. I broke my novella beginning-to-end with one question: “Why doesn’t this character react realistically here?” Argh.

    • Yes! I think maybe it is a by-product of having a naturally analytical mind. A bit like being an editor at the same time as being a writer. Some folks say you just have to keep telling the editor to go away until you’re done and ready for editing. But I wonder… I did that with one project and it left me a huge mess of a first draft to try and shape into something workable… I know there simply are different ways to write. The two extremes are ‘plotters’ and ‘pantsers’. When you’re somewhere in the misty land between these two … I guess you’ve just got to figure it out yourself.

  13. Watching that damn cursor blink while your mind has become an empty echo chamber. You say, “Okay, I’ll write something that I would really like to read, which would be . . . Well, maybe that’s too big and vague. What about just a character goal? What is something a character might want? . . . Umm . . . Okay, what is something you want?” The answers to that question rarely rise above the mundane. Then, if you do squeeze out a few words, the next day you hate them. They are either boring or overwritten. That is the hardest part for me — fighting my own cold engine again and again until the only alternative is to start over with something else.

  14. My biggest stumbling block is committing to a single large project long enough to see it through before I fall into questioning whether I should work on something else. I think this is probably why I’ve done better with short stories so far – I can finish one before the doubt derails me.

    I also still need to improve my gut-level grasp of building plots, especially novel-length plots. I think it’s just going to take practice at this point. :-p

    • Anthea, The biggest confidence-building factor in being able to come up with a first draft quickly (in a month) was doing NaNoWriMo. One of the useful things to learn that 50K in a thirty day month (Nov) is just 1667 words a day. I had the advantage that a friend whose writing I respected and who I was rather in awe of was also doing NaNo that first year. It wasn’t a competition, certainly not a race, but certainly helped keep me going. Not keeping up was just too embarrassing. I would recommend doing NaNo with someone whose writing you respect. It might work out.

    • I didn’t realize this was kinda my problem until I started writing short stories, too. I can knock out quite a decent story in one draft. Short, compact, compelling. My problem with longer pieces seems to be that I want more depth than I see in my outlines and draft attempts. I write character-based and I don’t seem to see past the people to the world itself, to the contexts that move the characters (read “push them around”). It’s not worldbuilding; it’s neighborhood-building, but creating a neighborhood that is also a living, breathing character

  15. I’m in the trouble with plotting boat. I can create characters and write pretty sentences and (somewhat) clever dialogue. But getting those plot points and twists to be interesting and coherent is where I start to fall down. And endings. I find it very difficult to come up with interesting, compelling endings, which I believe is linked to the above problem.

    • I have been there and done that. What you said is me all over again. I start feeling that I am simply not as smart, or creative as the authors I read and begin to question if I really have what it takes to do this thing called writing

      • Yes! Exactly that! It is so frustrating and disheartening. I look at the writer friends I have, their brilliant ideas, and feel about two inches tall. Not to mention looking at the books that line the bookstore shelves.

        • Me, too! Self-doubt is the worst. I finished a novella and hated it. My betas gave good advice but I couldn’t bear to continue working with it because I felt it wasn’t any good nor did I feel it was plotted correctly.

          I also have trouble when coming up with ideas. I try to model other stories that I love but, coming up with a unique twist or just making it my own seems impossible because I’m stuck on the fact that the original was so good.

          I’m trying to write a P.I. series. I have all the character bios done and the setting is pretty solid. Yet, I’m not sure what to use for the first case the female P.I. is to work on and how I can lead into the second in the series. And I keep thinking that female P.I.’s have been done too much now. How can I make mine different?

          It all has me stymied and stuck.

  16. Keeping it going and rethinking too much. I always start off strong but by the middle section it gets tough. I find myself always questioning whether everything makes sense and I’m always sure that it doesn’t. Moving the plot forward and working in the subplot(s) is always so difficult. It doesn’t help that I am a ‘panster’ trying to move to a plotter.

    • Conflict is the hardest for me. Tension isn’t so hard, but trying to put a mean person or attitude on the page is a terrible struggle.

  17. Revisions! I can usually get some good stuff down on the page during my first draft because I give the Muse full rein. When I have to let the critic back into the room for revisions, I stutter to a halt.

    (HYRYN has helped with that a lot so TX, Holly!)

  18. The revising. I’m not sure how much of my hatred of this part of writing is from the “Do it Right the First Time!” mantra from my mother as a child, or that I’ve not gotten professional feedback on my manuscripts to know if my writing is any good yet, but I hate the ambiguity of the how to make it better and what to make better. And I’ve taken the HTRYN course to boot!

  19. When you’re a beginner, everything is hard but plotting and making the conflict big enough are the hardest!

    Ditto to what others have said about finishing! :)

  20. I have two big stumbling blocks. Or maybe three. Or you know what? It really just depends on the day, I guess, lol.

    I struggle with dialogue. Making it sound natural and flow.

    Names. Believe it or not, this is a serious killer for me.

    Sometimes, plot. I’ll plan and then it’ll skew off on a random tangent without my permission. Silly characters.

    I’m working through a few of your courses (Thank goodness for Holly, people. Seriously!) and it’s helping a lot!

        • I do use several sources for names, including ones that specifically cater to fantasy and such, but it’s just tough sometimes. I wind up with too many people with similar names, or just don’t like anything I come up with.

          Even worse is coming up with a title for the work itself.

      • I use movie credits! Especially movies that are made in foreign countries. I take the last names if the first ones are too familiar-sounding, and match them with other last names. If the first names are unusual enough, I mark whether they are male or female.

        Fantasy movies that are made abroad are good for this. Watch the credits for the crew list and the more effects the longer the list, right?
        Hope this helps!
        m

        • It’s amazing what specific ethnic and cultural name lists are available. I had a story in which I needed two Phoenician names. I googled ‘Phoenician names’ and found any number of lists. This is my first step whenever I need a very specific name and don’t find one in my head.

    • Yes, dialog for me too. I find it hard to make it sound natural and not wooden. Oh and not getting too down and discouraged on the project after working on it for an extended period of time.

    • Scrivener has a name generator inbuilt.
      Websites are great too.
      Scroll thorugh lists of female or males names, then pick one you like and look up the meaning.
      Change a few letters if you want a unique name!
      Have fun.

  21. Figuring out plot points. I read a lot about this. I study it. I read more. Study more. Everyone seems to explain it in a variety of ways, and yet when I have to sit and fill in an index card to describe the plot point, I go blank. I even have stories completed that were great, but find assign a plot point from the story? Nope. It just keeps eluding me. And then WHERE they’re supposed to show up is confusing as well. I get page numbers and percentages and have no idea how to apply that. Especially if I only have the hook, inciting incident and climax written. Figuring out where subplots fall (cardwise) is also an issue. Seems like the more I learn, the less capable I am of writing a coherent story…lol. So I for one would love to see more specifics on plotting with more examples.

    • I have similar trouble — in my case a half-pants/half-plot problem.

      Got scenes, got plot points, but when it comes time to integrate them and figure out who knows what when or how someone finds out about what… yikes.

    • Hey AJ-

      You know what helps me when I get like this with plot points and where to put events etc…? I deconstruct my favorite authors book. Yep from start to finish I will outline the book and make a skeleton of it and see where the author adds a subplot or introduces a character etc… It helps me with pacing to. I can see where the author put in certain aspects of writing and how he or she paced the book. Believe it or not it does help.

  22. The hardest part for me is finding the discipline. It always has been, ever since I moved out on my own and had to deal with a job and stress. I would love to find or create a routine that I can stick too.

  23. The hardest part for me is finding the balance of camera angles and the balance speed. There are so many parts that seem so rushed but then others seem so very slow and parts that are so far away you can see the whole world, but so close you can envision a bead of sweat. it’s so hard to find the balance!

  24. Funny you should ask. My agent loves the novel I submitted except for one thing: it lacks emotional impact. Feedback from trusted readers, including my agent, say the characters are great, the world is great, the story is well-told, but the emotional impact is missing. I have some ideas, and I’m working on it, but wow, I feel like I’m fogged in and can’t take off. How do I do this?

  25. I have the hardest time not rushing through to the ending because I want to start on my next story idea. So my current story doesn’t have time to devlop a satisfying ending.

  26. Just one? Ha!

    Okay. If I have to choose, I’ll say that showing strong character emotions is the toughest. I never feel like I’m conveying what the character actually feels. There’s such a fine line between telling and showing.

  27. I have the hardest time, with the middle. I can do the outline. I can have an interesting beginning, an interesting ending, but all that stuff in the middle you need. I tend to go over board or not at all. Have of the time, I don’t know how the journey is going to go.

  28. The hardest thing for me is finding the balance between the Muse/Inner Editor, or creative and logical sides of my brain. My logical brain kicks into overdrive every time I give it a task, whether that be logical plotting, analyzing the story gravity to find the best ending, or revising. This seems to drive my Muse crazy, sending her into hiding and shutting down progress. I need to figure out how to tap into my logical side but still let my Muse know that I love her, value her and want her to keep giving me the good stuff! Otherwise, despite HTTS, I end up with 80% of a first draft, or a short story which refuses to be revised.

    More specifically, once I take on a logical task related to writing, my Inner Editor wants to complicate it, overwork it, re-analyze it, etc. Of course my poor Muse runs screaming from the room! Heck, it is all I can do to keep myself plugging away.

    Help, Holly!

    • YES!! Story starts off like gangbusters, then I get several chapters in, and the inner editor whispers, “y’know, that plot point back in chapter one would be more believable if… “, or “hey, that heroine should be more like this, or less like that.” A little bit of editor is good… but her timing and insistence really stink sometimes!!

  29. Two things are hard for me. One is planning/plotting enough to keep things moving along tightly and effectively without overplotting to the point that I lose interest. And two is making sure I write consistently on my own work, given that I work full-time as a copywriter for other people. Not sure you can address issue two, but issue one seems to affect a lot of people, based on the comments here and also what I’ve heard other writers say.

  30. My issue is distractiblity and attention deficit. I manage to write 200 words, then want to hit the Outlook icon to check e-mails (spam, anyone?) and then go to the Yahoo page to see if Seth MacFarlane will host another Oscars. As if this has any bearing on my life or the outcome of my manuscript. When I’m in a ZONE, I can knock out 2,700 to 3,000 words. But practicing the methodology of “Butt In Chair” seems to be hard. If I could figure out how to stop getting distracted and letting the underlying FEAR paralyze me… ah! Dream come true.

  31. I agree with the two earlier comments – what comes next still gets me, or even, how do I get from scene 1 to 5 in the most interesting/logical way that still fits my characters. I’m improving this slowly but surely, but I still feel like I’m muddling through half the time.

    The other thing that I’ve noticed lately is my dialogue – I feel like it’s very stilted and/or lacking the voice of my character. Some scenes feel like I’m having a conversation with myself – and the awkward kind, not the useful kind.

    Thanks for all the great resources! I’m finally getting to use HTRYN on my first draft and it’s so helpful!

  32. Outlining a novel, and setting up the plot is where my biggest problems are. And then editing it to the second draft and the final draft. Maybe I need to get my payments reset so I can get back in HTTS

  33. I find pacing the story properly to be the most difficult part. Some sections speed right through, some get bogged down in molasses, and then I want to throw the whole thing out, because I get frustrated.

  34. The hardest I find to write is the middle. What happens at the start I usually have a clear idea and even have a good ending in mind. But to get to that point without it sagging and wandering off – a challenge!

  35. Tight, focused plotting is the hardest for me. I might start with a focused idea but as I write the idea/story feels weaker and by the dreaded middle it’s just getting boring.

  36. Climaxes.

    I have the hardest time writing climaxes. I have some suspicions as to why, but still. Climaxes are hands-down the hardest thing for me to sit down and write. Once I muscle into the climax, by about halfway through, I hit a stride that carries me through the end of the story, but muscling through that first half of the climax is worse than the mid-book doldrums, for me.

  37. The hardest part for me is sustaining confidence in my own work. I often read someone else’s story or novel and find myself thinking, “Wow that was incredible. I could never come up with that/match that/write something as relevant.” Comparisons are the kiss of death for me.

    • I agree that reading the work of authors, especially in the genres in which you write can be depressing when comparing your own output to theirs. But, we must not let the error of comparison dampen our spirits or keep us from continuing with our own writing. The beauty of our individuality is what puts that unique spin on everything we do. Everybody has insecurities that plague them, no matter their art or talent or seeming lack thereof.

      When in writing mode, I avoid reading anything remotely similar to my own work so that I do not end up looking into a looking glass that may be as unreliable as the one Alice stepped through. I know it is hard for all of you writing novels to avoid reading in the genre you love, but for me, most comfortable with short fiction, it is easier to accomplish.

      Most importantly, enjoy what you do, what you write. As Hemmingway and Holly will tell you, all first drafts… and many subsequent drafts will be SHIT. But, that’s okay. Your skill as a writer is not in the first drafts, but in the final draft. The first draft is always exploratory and this makes it the most exciting to write. This is the creative release portion that reveals elements of the story you will complete and present. The final writes, proofs & edits will be the spit and polish versions reading for beta readers and ultimately for publication.

      I would just like to encourage all of us to not wallow in self-doubt or stress from the pressures of deadlines that for the most part are self-imposed. This is your art, your craft, so enjoy it… and, in the process you will have a least one more story to tell. The story of how you accomplished writing your opus and got it into print.

      • I agree, I try to avoid writers whose work I find ‘similar’ to mine and yet there is also the advice given to all writers to “know” your genre.
        Read it. See the trends, what readers are loving now, what is doing well. Not to follow ‘trends’ but to know where the genre is going and how it is growing so we don’t get left behind.

        The best compromise for me is, as I said, to try not to read specific writers but to embrace and enjoy my genre. Fortunately, famtasy is a wide enough field to allow for both. :)

  38. I have trouble with what I call transitions. When you have to get characters from point A to point B without boring yourself to tears. The necessary information that needs to be worked into a story without it dragging the story to a halt.
    I also, for some strange reason, find every excuse under the sun not to write the last few chapters. If I could figure out why I don’t like writing endings I’d be much happier. I usually know the ending, just don’t like writing them.

  39. The part of writing that I find the hardest is making my characters. When I know what I want my story to be I want to start on it immediately and not make my characters first. It’s something that I have to do though.

  40. That’s simple: Outlining. Still trying to find a balance between making outlining a creative act while also using it to build a solid story structure. Which also raises the question of structure … something I’ve struggled with. And finally, how to outline a solid story structure that ALSO allows the maximum creativity while writing.

  41. I still think, even after all these years, that plotting a novel is the hardest part for me. That and keeping the confidence to write 300 pages without tossing it in the recycle bin (digital or physical) before I’ve finished. :)

  42. The thing I still struggle with is getting from the initial idea to something coherent to write about, involving a twist, conflict, and an antagonist. I can do setting and characters all day long, but I don’t understand what moves the story forward beyond the initial setup.

    I can ask myself, ‘Why do I care,’ and, ‘What do they need,’ and that fills in a lot of background information. But if I push forward with the story, it turns into an episodic non-plot – very frustrating!

    Thanks for doing all this cool extra stuff; I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

        • You could try reading Ursula Le Guin’s thoughts on this stuff. She has a whole different take on what plot is and what story is. I just recently re-read an old fave of hers ‘Tehanu’, her sort of feminist addition to the Earthsea trilogy. It is a beautiful illustration of her approach, which is very ‘feminine’ if I could be so bold as to say that. It has really got me thinking about how we approach storytelling. There is such a light, trusting touch to the way Tehanu unfolds. It breaks many ‘rules’, yet it remains compelling. The story is not forced, it emerges from the ordinary, rich details of the world and the characters. I think this was also possible for her because these are characters and a world she has known a LONG time. The intimacy and familiarity and love she has for them are so palpable, that in itself is compelling.

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