If you’re a writer with a blank sheet of paper in front of you, chances are you’re currently optimistic. The possibilities stretch out in front of you, and the world you are about to craft begs to be written. But a word of warning. If you want to finish the story, you’re going to have to manage those expectations.
This might seem like a negative post – but don’t read it that way! For all these lies, there are ways to fix them!
1) ‘This will be easy’
At the beginning of a story you’re convinced that you’ll get through this project with ease. There will be no snags and you’ll complete the project in record time with a smile on your face and constant happy feeling in your heart. Does that ever happen? Something in real life will come up – a car breakdown, a funeral, a wedding. And that’s before you think about the actual process of writing! Writing might be a lot of things, but it’s never easy.
FIX IT: Grab a piece of paper. Write down how you feel about the project now, before you start it. When the wobbles happen, dig that piece of paper out and use it to give yourself a little boost. MORE: 30 Doses Of Inspiration From Fictional Teachers & Mentors
2) ‘The words will flow from me’
You might find that, to begin with, you find the story extremely easy to get down on the page. The word count and the page count increases and you start to think that the whole project will be a breeze. Done in a month perhaps? A week? Then, one day, you stare at the screen and no words pop into your head and you’re stuck. If you’re not prepared for this, it can be an awful feeling.
Fix it: Targets! Set a daily and weekly word count goals that will stretch you, but still allow you to have a day or two at a slower pace. Even when you have a bad day, you can feel positive about where you’re going.
3) ‘I know how the story will work’
Some of you might be a lot more rigid when it comes to plans and story outlines than I am. Writers I know go into a story expected a few twists and turns to appear in the story, usually caused by brain waves and flashes of inspiration when in ‘the zone’. Once you start getting feedback and thoughts from your beta readers, you’ll find the story changing bit by bit. So if you start writing with a rigid mind-set, you’re setting yourself up for a fall.
FIX IT: You could always plan your story out to the most minute detail. Personally, I simply keep a track of the changes I’ve made, so that when my story moves off on a tangent, I can always return to the plan if I need to. This gives me reassurance that, not matter how crazy the story gets, I have a “safety blanket plot” to return to.
4) ‘I won’t get distracted’
I don’t mean distractions like the kids shouting downstairs, or feeling a burning desire to update your Facebook page (or comment on the Bang2Write one). I mean new writing opportunities and other competitions. When you read them, new ideas will come along and they will try and push out what you’re working on.
FIX IT: Most competitions are repeated annually. So, if you have an idea for a story that works for a particular competition, write it down, put it to the side and wait for next year. Then finish what you’re working on!
5) ‘I’ll easily find time to write’
Finding time to write is one of the biggest challenges that most writers face. The ‘real world’ distractions I mentioned in the previous point will all conspire to take your writing time away from you. Before you know it you’ll be in bed, exhausted and with nothing achieved. That’s when you need to start to plan your time and settle into a writing routine.
FIX IT: Think about the time that you have over the coming weeks and months. Plan and share a writing routine with your friends and loved ones.
6) ‘My first draft won’t need much editing’
How many times have you fallen into this trap? Then on a read-through you’ll realise that your main character’s mother changed names half way through the story. Or someone forgot about the treasure chest key. Or, in one of my favourite anecdotes, a character didn’t get dressed again after the sex scene, so he’s been technically naked for the entire third act. And that’s before you get any feedback from beta readers.
FIX IT: Stop referring to your first draft as a first draft. Call it draft zero, or stop calling it a draft at all. Doing this will change your expectations for the work, and allow you to feel better about all the changes.
7) ‘My feedback will be excellent’
Does anyone have this feeling when you send something to beta readers? You think all your readers will come back with tiny tweaks and the occasional typo. Instead, they show you some massive plot holes. Or, worse, where they ‘didn’t get it.’ Your confidence is blown and you give up on the work.
FIX IT: You choose your beta readers, so make sure that you have a good mix of expertise in there. You should embrace the different opinions, but remember, it’s YOUR work at the end of the day!
8) ‘I won’t have any doubts’
At some point, everyone has a crisis in confidence over the piece their working on. You might see something similar on TV, or you might think that no one will ever want to read or watch it. You might stop loving the characters, or the theme of the piece. The size of the crisis usually depends on the individual (and the ego) involved.
FIX IT: Similar to number 1, to solve this you should scribble down how you feel when you finish a chapter or a scene, or have completed a set piece so amazing you think the world will be talking about it for years. Then, in periods of doubt, look at your notes to yourself.
9) ‘Everyone will love this’
Nothing is universally loved. So you shouldn’t expect it of your work. In fact, you shouldn’t be writing for everyone anyway. Choose your target audience! For better or worse in the age of the internet, everyone has an opinion and not everyone will love your work.
FIX IT: Find your audience. Do some research and see what your target audience like, what they love and what they hate. Then make sure your project speaks to them. Everyone won’t like it – but I guarantee someone will!
10) ‘This will be my big break’
Big breaks aren’t real. They are the culmination of hard work and constant production. For most writers that ‘big break’ moment is not a distinct moment that then makes everything easy. So please stop expecting that your next work will start you on the road to easy street. MORE: My Simple Writing Breakthrough That Kicked It All Off
FIX IT: Fit your project into a long term plan. Instead, look for the smaller mini wins that will start to build towards a career. The more you get your name out there, the bigger your name and the better chance that the big wins will come your way.
So don’t despair – you might be lying to yourself, but with a little bit of self-awareness, you’ll soon get the story finished!
BIO: Phil runs a blog dedicated to helping writers be more productive at www.writewithphil.com. His aim is to give new writers the tools that they need to make the most of whatever time they have, regardless of whether they are writing full time, part time, or in their free time. Phil has a master’s in Creative Writing from Queens University Belfast. As well his blog, he has writes for theatre and has had plays performed in London and Birmingham. His first novel, The Unjudged, is due out in 2018.
Odd question but what is a beta reader?