Thursday, January 7, 2010

Writing Fears and Challenges

I came across an old post about some of my greatest challenges and fears as a writer. I thought I would list a few and invite you to do the same in the comments section.

1. The fear of not making my male characters masculine enough. In many books by women authors (especially romances) I find that the male characters think, act and talk a lot like women. Perhaps I'm sexist, but I think men should seem different. Because they are from Mars.

2. The beginning. I think all writers struggle with this. On the one hand you have to hook the reader's interest without too many boring details, but on the other hand action that takes place in a vacuum is boring as well. I really don't care who is stalking Esmerelda as she approaches her car if I don't know who Esmerelda is, what she is doing there and why the stalker is pursuing her. Putting her in imminent danger on the first page makes me feel manipulated. Like, I'm just going to go get a cookie now. Good luck, Esmerelda.

3. Keeping strong physical (or emotional) action from seeming overdone. Sometimes I find that when I'm describing a busy scene, it comes out looking silly on the page. I find it helps to read these sections out loud and to try cutting about half of the original description. It's easier to add more if needed than to keep shaving little bits off. Unlike carpentry.

4. Feeling foolish when I see my prose. Sometimes even after I've done several edits, the whole thing still just seems invalid. I have come to realize that this is a side effect of looking at my own writing on a computer screen rather than seeing it in print. Other books seem to have an authenticity about them because they are actually books. Imagining the text of my favorite novel as it would appear in a Word Document helps a lot.

5. Exposition. Where the heck do you put it? This is surely my biggest challenge right now. I want to use an omniscient voice so I can tell my readers about my fantasy world. But I'm being told, "Noooooooooo, omniscient won't sell." So where the heck do I mention that my characters aren't human? They're not going to sit around thinking about this fact, because it doesn't matter to them. There's not going to be a scene at a bar anything like this:
Lt. Harth: "Hey, Faldur, aren't you glad we're small and quick, unlike those big clumsy humans?"
Capt. Relaszen: "Hey, now, Prince Melbrinor is six feet tall but he's got magical powers, too, so he can beat any of those guys if they come our way."
Lt. Harth: "I've never actually seen a human, have you?"
Capt. Relaszen: "No, but I'll bet one's never seen you either. Hahahahaha!"

Instead I have to rely on subtle clues and hope the readers pick them up.


  1. Okay, after reading number five I have a lot of questions and want to turn the page. Too bad you can't have that dialog as your first page. LOL

    I can really relate to #4. The other thing is I can't seem to find the clumsy sentences until they're printed on paper.

    My fear:

    That I'll pour my heart out and no one will get it.

  2. #3 and #4 are the ones that I can relate to the most. #3 because I worry that my text gets overly dramatic at times, where every line contains some momentous event or some incredible tension. I have to remind myself to "chill" sometimes when I write.

    #4, not because I feel my prose is foolish necessarily, but because I don't feel it comes close measuring up to actual published works. I love reading, not only for entertainment, but to learn from authors and maybe get some ideas of own. But sometimes I just end up muttering to myself "there is no way I can write as well as this "fill-in-the-blank author".

  3. Doug, from the little I've seen of your work, I think that people will definitely get it. :o)

  4. I know *exactly* how you feel, Chris. What has helped me overcome that enormously is reading earlier books by my favorite authors, written before they became best-sellers. Sometimes when I find one of these, they aren't that great, and I realize, "Okay, this person had to learn, too."

  5. Okay, I have decided to eschew conventional wisdom and go back to omniscient. Perhaps I'm not good enough of a writer to do third limited, but I just can't. World-building isn't happening the way I want it to, and the flavor is getting lost.

    According to my research, omniscient is still acceptable for fantasy.

  6. As an avid reader of fantasy novels, I have no problem with omniscient POV as long as I can identify with the main character. If I like the main character, and sympathize with his/her plight, omniscient works just fine for me if handled well by the author. I say go for it. Right now I am trying my hand at limited third person, and I can see my hurdles ahead when it comes to world building and scene setting.

  7. Chris, I hear you! The total irony is... now that I'm actually trying to do omniscient, I can't. Third limited is so ingrained in my consciousness that I keep thinking, "that doesn't sound right" and editing myself back.
    Argh! LOL!

  8. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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