Writing doesn’t always come easy. In fact, it’s a rather lengthy process that is hardly easy at all. Everyone has something they’re good at and something they find very challenging to do. This week’s question was asked by Amy Morris-Jones.
I think creating a coherent and controlled plot is my biggest problem. My characters are basically people, so I’m rarely concerned about them, and I’ve been working on my setting for more than a decade so could probably detail it down to individual blades of grass if pressed. But actually figuring out how to push all the characters into one place, keep them there, and make them do something dramatic and purposeful, can take me a long time to get right. My first book spent a decade being rewritten until I finally figured out its plot, and even now my book 4-6 notes mostly concentrate on focal scenes and character arcs, not any coherent storyline. I think maybe I’m the sort of writer who puts the plot together on the second draft.
Apparently, I have a problem with setting. My stories are always very character-focused, and so setting is the last thing that gets polished out of my brain and onto the paper. I’ve been getting better about it in recent months since it was brought to my attention, though.
All of them! Maybe that’s why I wrote this question… I tend to focus most on character, so I’d say plot development is toughest. In particular, I HATE endings. They always feel so false, which they have to be. Life goes on beyond the “the end,” but as a writer, I have to decide when I’ve taken the characters as far as I can (or want to). I often think that’s why writers choose to write a book series—they don’t have to write endings as often!
Setting is my downfall. I think this comes from reading too much fantasy in my teens. Long paragraphs of setting were the things that stood between me and what happened next. I skimmed many a well-described meal, festival, special gown, town history, pastoral portrayal of the surroundings, details of why the magical thing does what it does, and family history. So pretty much all those detailed bits that set the scene and build the world. And that’s still me to this day. Give me some tidbits to go on and my brain will fill in the rest. If only readers were also in my head, I’d be golden, but alas, I’m forced to go back during editing and put those details on the page.
I’m going to have to go with setting. Characterization can have it’s issues, but I usually don’t have too much trouble with that, and plot is something that I generally just figure out as I go along and somehow it manages to work out. Setting, however, is the bane of my existence. I have a bad habit of forgetting where my characters have been and where they’re going. World-building is just something that I can’t seem to wrap my head around – my mind works in terms of “mountains…ocean…forest…” – so I rely on beta-readers and critiques to remind me that it’s impossible for a human character to walk 30 miles in an afternoon, and that the air gets thin on the top of a mountain, so my characters shouldn’t be running any marathons up there.
On a similar note, I find it difficult to describe places, even though I’ve got this perfect image in my head of what it looks like. I’m not sure why that is, exactly, but while I can handle descriptions of people, feelings, events, battles, and psychological incidents, describing a physical place is one of the most frustrating things I ever have to do as a writer.
Worldbuilding, while rewarding is definitely the most challenging part. Bigger picture aspects are easier to nail down. Subtleties in the fictional universe are just as important but not often thought about. Effective worldbuilding is time consuming because worlds aren’t meant to be small.
Definitely setting. With real settings, it’s so easy to have a research failure on something I’d never even think about, but a reader would notice. And inventing a setting that actually seems real is very hard work.
Do I have to pick only one? Grammar is always a challenge. Even when I do it right, I second guess myself and fret over every comma and apostrophe. I have flashbacks of middle school, walking to the black board, and having to diagram a sentence. I hated it and I am now scarred for life.
Dealing with it when I find out halfway through a book that one of my main characters has been lying to me.
Hmm… I think the hardest two things for me are describing facial features and, even worse, fashion. Clothes are a challenge for me in real life, so it’s no wonder.
I have difficulties with several aspects of writing, but I find that my most challenging thing to write effectively is character descriptions. I have trouble integrating descriptions into the narrative without it sounding like it sticks out. I need to work on that a lot more.
How about you?
What do you have the most difficulty writing? Let us know your answer in the comments below.