Advanced Writing Problems, Part I.

Everyone has issues with writing.  However, moving beyond grammar issues, many veteran writers will recognize some of these all-too-common scenarios.
1. The Impossible Dream – Your idea is good. It’s amazing, in fact. You have somehow managed to have one of those rare moments of brilliance, the kind that only comes along once or twice in a person’s lifetime, and the angels have descended from the heavens to present you with the perfect writing idea. It’s a story that is complete on so many layers, so many levels, that Shakespeare himself would weep at its beauty. English professors will spend years discussing and debating the many hidden themes and motifs, and the sweeping, panoramic beauty of the scenes will give James Cameron a semi. (By the way, that last sentence has just disqualified this writing from ever being analyzed by any professor, ever.)
There’s just one problem, however. This idea, this vision, is too perfect. You know your limitations as a writer. Sure, you might be the next Stephen King, but even you can acknowledge that you haven’t quite made it to Hemingway or Faulkner status. What if you set out to write this perfect piece, this ultimate tribute to literature, and you fall short? What if you can’t quite capture the deeply moving themes and ideas, and the piece instead comes across as trite and shallow? It is for this reason that The Impossible Dream, this perfect conception of a story, forever remains in your draft bin, its beauty and majesty on the page never quite equaling how it appears in your head.
2. The Malaise – It started out as a great idea, with tons of enthusiasm and energy. In the first night, you wrote twenty pages, and you’ve added thirty more over the last week. But now, the story’s dragging a little. You’ve managed to reach that boring middle part, where there’s no action, and far too much backstory to be filled in. Your mates have just purchased the latest Call of War: Modern Honor Duty game, and you feel that you deserve a night off to go play with them. Maybe a couple nights off. Better just round it up to an even week.
At this point, you might as well acknowledge it; The Malaise is now dead in the water. You have lost the motivation, the story no longer seems to sparkle as it once did, and you can’t remember all those fidgety little details that really pulled the whole thing together. Because of all the hard work that’s already gone into this story (seriously, it’s got fifty whole pages!), it will never be discarded, thrown away into the recycling bin. Instead, it will remain on your desktop, hoping in vain that someday, some day, you will return with a surge of motivational energy and write the second act.
3. The Copycat – It’s almost never intentional. Lying awake at night, counting down the hours until your deadline when you must publish some sort of update, a blank page in front of you, an idea suddenly springs to mind. And it’s a good idea! A scientist, mad by all accounts but perfectly sane within his own mind, creates what he believes to be a beautiful creature, only to realize the horror of his actions. He now finds himself beset by a monster, and vows to destroy it, for the betterment of all mankind. It’s a wonderful little story, and you’re quite pleased with the results. You hit publish, sending it up to your totally unread little blog, and drift off to sleep feeling happy and satisfied.
It isn’t until two days later, at your editing group, that someone points out that you have just written a shorter, crappier version of Frankenstein.
Oops. You knew the concept seemed too familiar.
Part of the frustration with The Copycat isn’t the fact that some lady beat you to the punch by a couple hundred years (although that certainly doesn’t help). No, what is most frustrating about this pitfall of writers is that, as the story is being written, there’s always a nagging little feeling in the back of your head. That little feeling whispers that the idea may not be one hundred percent original, but you ignore it. Only when someone else points out the obvious does that little feeling resurface, and you feel ashamed, ignorant, horribly uneducated, and like you should issue some sort of apology to Mary Shelley.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s