There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ― W. Somerset Maugham
Given this short insight from W. Somerset, it’s no wonder so many aspiring writers and novelist struggle.
Sure, there is a basic formula to writing any story. Regardless what genre you are writing in, a story can be knocked down and methodically outlined. My outline would look like this. I always start with characters.
- Characters—The individuals that the story is about
- Setting—Where the story takes place
- Plot—The story around which the book is based
- Conflict—What the plot is centered around
- Resolution—How the conflict is resolved
While understanding these five elements is necessary when writing a story, in many cases, they are simply not enough to get us there. If they were, writing a novel would be so simple that doing so, would hold very little merit.
I know first hand that it is not necessarily the elements of a story that keep an aspiring writer in check—it’s writing itself. Finding the time to do so, and making it count.
So, let’s forget about the five little elements of a story, and focus on two giant obstacles that can, and will prevent, the writer from writing.
While there are numerous reasons any given writer can find not to write, such as:
I’m going to look at two factors that can impede the aspiring writer that have nothing to do with the six nouns listed above.
2 Common Obstacles for Aspiring Writers
The objective here is to better utilize time in order to have the time needed to write. Let’s face it, by the time one gets done with a hectic day at the office, the desire to sit down and put words on a blank page, is pretty much gone. While ideas came and went throughout the day, any such memory has vanished by the time we are available to sit down and commit them to the page.
I faced this struggle for years, but thankfully I figured out a way around it. The only way to retain a thought in the midst of a busy schedule, is to write it down, immediately.
“Always carry a note-book. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.” — Will Self
I realized this years ago and made it a habit. So much so that I had numerous pads and pencils lying around, ready to grab at a moments notice. I even kept one in my car, and one at my bedside. Modern technology has made this even easier by putting a notepad on the everyday smart phone. The note pad on mine is often packed with writing ideas. When I transfer the ideas to my computer, I am usually surprised at what I had taken note of, most of which I would have forgotten if I had not written it down at the moment.
Begin to practice this habit, it will pay off and you’ll find just as I did, that it is much easier to write at the end of the day. Even though you may feel as though the stroke of literary genius has passed, your notes will rekindle the moment when the idea struck.
Writing your ideas into the body of an email and then emailing it to yourself is a good idea as well, if you are at liberty to do so. Then you can just copy and paste what you wrote.
A voice recorder may work even better, and may be something to consider when it comes to getting your immediate ideas down before they fade away.
Another hindering factor when it comes to writing time, is the lack of will to do so. This is where the true writer is separated from the masses. One who is passionate about writing will do so when given the chance. Even so, writing is often like going to the gym, the thought if it can be a dreadful one. Just like working out, the motivation to write often doesn’t come until we begin. I know it feels unnatural to force ourselves into something we don’t want to do, but I also know that when it comes to writing, the reward of doing so far outweighs the temporary satisfaction of laying around watching TV, video gaming, or any of the other thousand, nonproductive ways to waste our lives. (yes, I called video gaming nonproductive.)
“Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.” — Zadie Smith
Having a place to write away from the noise and clamor is essential for productivity. When writing, it is necessary for me to reside in the location where my story is taking place. In order for me to produce quality writing, I must be completely submerged and live in that fictitious world along side my characters. It is there that my story is taking place, so it is there that I must be in order for my story to be written and to take on life.
There are many writers who seek solitude when writing.
Turn off your cell phone. Honestly, if you want to get work done, you’ve got to learn to unplug. No texting, no email, no Facebook, no Instagram. Whatever it is you’re doing, it needs to stop while you write. A lot of the time (and this is fully goofy to admit), I’ll write with earplugs in — even if it’s dead silent at home. —Nathan Englander
However, this is not the case for everyone. Take E.B. White for example.
I never listen to music when I’m working. I haven’t that kind of attentiveness, and I wouldn’t like it at all. On the other hand, I’m able to work fairly well among ordinary distractions. My house has a living room that is at the core of everything that goes on: it is a passageway to the cellar, to the kitchen, to the closet where the phone lives. There’s a lot of traffic. But it’s a bright, cheerful room, and I often use it as a room to write in, despite the carnival that is going on all around me. In consequence, the members of my household never pay the slightest attention to my being a writing man — they make all the noise and fuss they want to. If I get sick of it, I have places I can go. A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper. —E.B. White
When aspiring to anything, it is necessary to form good habits in the beginning. For a writer with a hectic schedule aside from their writing, it is especially important to form habits that will assist with your writing goals. Whether it is taking notes throughout the day, or simply less TV, the practice must be applied in order to achieve those goals.
When it comes to removing obstacles that may keep us from our best writing, it is obviously up to the individual to determine what an obstacle is. Regardless, a place to write, free from distractions that would prevent one from doing so, is necessary. Find the place where you do your best writing and visit it often—demand it. You will be amazed how things fall into place when you are there.
The true passion to write is formed deep within. It is not an idea, it is a will, a desire. A true writer feels compelled to do so and finds much satisfaction in it. Amongst the frustration and mountains of doubt that an aspiring writer feels, there is a sense of fulfillment. —Clayton Morgan