Whether poet or copywriter, novelist or flash fiction expert, writing is a process that is filled with many trials. Even the best writers can spend hours staring at a page panicking about the words they have or have not written. As a writer who reads constantly, and a writer who pushes himself to spread the words he writes, I’ve found five major areas that plague my conscience!
Starting off the list with Word Count may seem obvious, but it’s also a super important factor for anyone wanting to get work published. Traditionally, publishing houses will have a guide on the sort of word count they expect by genre. Websites that publish tend to have a set amount of words they’ll accept for submissions and the same can be said for magazines and newspapers that accept freelance work. When writing a novel it’s important to produce a gripping story first and foremost, but this story may not reach the minimum amount necessary for publication. On the other end of the scale, the word count might be double the normal accepted amount, leaving writers with the conundrum of editing out existing content. I find myself going over numbers in my head constantly. I know my genre requires anywhere in the region of 80,ooo to 100,000 words and while I am positive I will fall into that range, one never can judge the length until the book is finished and ready to submit.
After going to all that effort to produce 100,000 words, to create characters who are relatable yet interesting, flawed yet successful, and creating a narrative that gets the characters from point A to point Z, another main concern for all writers is surely readability! If the writing doesn’t flow properly then what is the point? If your readers can’t get past chapter one because the words simply do not move correctly then have you not failed? This issue in itself is widespread and can affect many areas in the same narrative for example, writing travel, writing movement or linking ideas together in a way that pulls the drawstrings of your novel together. If writers are unable to connect their narrative and bring relevance to events then the narrative will score a 0 on the readability scale. Having said this, it is key to remember your novel will seem boring and bland to you, the writer, when you spend a year working on it. A year is a long time to commit to the same characters and the same narrative so I tend not to feel too down about the chapters I have read many times over.
If your book is inspired by your love of Harry Potter and your narrative follows the adventures of a wizard in Manchester trying to learn the ways of the force all the while trying to survive in a game of death against other magic users then you’ve ripped off three very interesting ideas in order to present a mesh of plagiarism. In this day and age, being original is increasingly harder with every good idea already being played out in some way. Fortunately, it isn’t impossible to take an existing genre or medium and create an original branch off of it. Take for example the huge popularity in Vampire-Romance following the Twilight Saga. Many tried to emulate while the most successful examples merely took the idea and gave it a different branch in order for people to live out their vampire fantasies in different ways. Ideas have to be original, otherwise readers will go for the original, not the rip off. I have found that while writing it is impossible not to step on the toes of something that already exists but with a few tweaks and twists a used idea can become a plot line that has its own unique personality.
Is your novel the first in a trilogy? Undecided? Will your novel be the talk of the bloggersphere for a month before dwindling to a Where are they now? type of situation, or will it bring you an income and a movie deal over the next five years? Unfortunately the longevity of your novel and yes your career as a writer depends totally on the success of your book and the commitment you have to it. The best advice I have received so far comes in two parts. The first is to begin writing your next book the second your first is finished. Devote your time to presenting your current work whilst also working on the next. The second part of the advice fits in here, just because your first book isn’t a hit does not mean you won’t write a hit. The more writing you do, the more likely you are to have something that puts you out there as a great writer.
“Oh no, that character died but I don’t really care because after 300 pages I didn’t really get him/her anyway.” Is the worst thing you can read, feel or have said about your book. If the characters and the plot don’t have depth, the book will fail. People read for many reasons and relating to characters is one of them. This is an especially difficult task if you’re writing a book with multiple characters. Each one has to have his or her own attributes, flaws and personality. Writing a group scenario can cause a major conflict in my own mind as I try to write five personalities into one chapter. Often times I will edit said chapter only to find the five all have absorbed the personality of one, and the chapter reads like a financial statement, dull and shallow. It is in the editing I believe that the most mistakes with depth can be caught and it is in the planning that the depth of your novel takes centre stage. My advice, and certainly my method of controlling this issue, is RESEARCH. There’s nothing wrong with spending a whole day watching videos of a man climbing a wall if the writing you produce from this research is able to transport your readers onto the same wall with your character, red faced and heart pounding as together they try to reach the summit of the challenge.
For me, writing is time and it is space, it is as much an experience as it is a journey and as writers we face a very broad range of problems that others might not fully understand. It is not for the non-creative to worry about a fictitious being, but for us, those of us who breathe life into characters and stories through pen and paper.
What issues have you faced in your writing? Or alternatively, how have you combatted the issues I often find on my mind?