1. Mirrorcle

    Mirrorcle New Member

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    Discouraged after writing a short story - why is writing so hard?

    Discussion in 'Short Stories' started by Mirrorcle, Aug 29, 2020.

    I just finished editing the longest short story I've ever written. I've had the idea for a long time and when I saw a short story competition I decided to send it in. The last two months I've spent writing the first draft, reading it, edit it, waiting some time and then edit it again and again. The result is okay, I guess. It's not the worst and when reading it you get the point, what I wanted to say. But... It's not more than that. It's not as good as I wanted it to be and when I read it now and fixed a couple of spelling mistakes (that I had missed even though I've read it so many times!) I just realised how "meh" it is. And I have spent so much time and work on this short story.

    I don't know, I just feel so discouraged and depressed. If a short story took me two months to work on and the result is just ok, whatever - I don't think it's possible for me to ever write a novel. I love writing (in my native language, I should say), but maybe I should spend my time elsewhere?

    Has anybody ever felt like this? Am I overreacting? What to do when feeling completely down after finishing something?
     
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  2. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody The Ole Frazzle-Dazzle Contributor

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    I dont think that i've ever felt down after finishing something, because i just move into the next project or explore another idea. I have short stories that i've finished and then forgot about because i moved into something else. I have hastily written shorts that I've abandoned without finishing.

    Dont worry about how long it takes you to complete it. I think thats what gets some people down. I had a non-writer friend who got depressed in college because it would take her 2 extra years to finish undergrad (she kept transfering and changing her major and ended up so far behind). She said it was taking her so long and all of her friends would be done after 4 years. I told her that people move at different speeds and not to feel discouraged. The point is to finish. Who cares how long it takes.

    With your writing, provided that you are doing this for you and not as a profession (there are members here who write as a profession and will tell you about meeting deadlines, and i agree with them in that regard), i wouldn't worry about time.

    Do you keep an idea book? I think its time to start something new. The more you write, the more you will develope a voice. The more you write, the more you learn from the previous one. You'll learn what worked well, what flows and doesnt flow. You'll learn about yourself too.

    Dont feel discouraged! Keep at it!! :superyesh:
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2020
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  3. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

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    Because it is. Writing well is one of the hardest things you will ever try to do. If that depresses you, then maybe you're not cut out for it. Writers put down millions of words, only to get nowhere. It doesn't get easier. You just move on to more complex problems.
     
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  4. NigeTheHat

    NigeTheHat Contributor Contributor

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    You don't have to create great art. You don't have to feel bad about yourself if you're not creating great art. If you're enjoying writing, keep doing it. If you're not, stop.

    (There's a post on Neil Gaiman's blog somewhere about how he e-mailed his editor because he felt like he was just a hack and would never create anything worth reading, and she responded 'oh, you're at that stage of writing again, are you?' It's not just you.)
     
  5. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You say this is the longest short story you've ever written. That means you are venturing new ground in your writing skills. Your plotting is at a more extended range, depth in description is likely more developed, and you have to employ elements more than in something shorter. This is not to say that it is harder to do, but that it is a skill you are developing. Learning a new branch of anything takes time and comes with a considerable amount of failure. We've all been there, and those of us looking to improve will continually revisit this experience. But it does get easier with time. Many styles of writing only apply to certain lengths of works. This branching of style and writing element use in writing something longer is a good thing and the struggle is expected.

    And how many drafts or rewrites are you on? Especially in these venturing stages of trying something new, a second set of eyes can make a huge difference. You may be validating problematic items within the work or have issues you simply can't see. A couple of good reviewers can take on a lot of roles. They can point out repetitive issues within your work and provide you with questions to make you look more critically at your own piece. They can also inspire you and motivate you to keep up the progress.

    There is nothing easy about writing, but to be honest, there's nothing easy about much of anything you actually want to get good at. Time and practice, and maybe a little good direction, are your basic building blocks. Don't be discouraged that it took you two months, be encouraged that you completed it, if only roughly, instead of just talking about it.
     
  6. Thorn Cylenchar

    Thorn Cylenchar Senior Member

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    I have a 90K word count story like that. It was the first story I tried to write. I have pages and pages of handwritten notes and ideas. Then it just kindof died. Some parts are good, most is ok, portions are blah. It happens.

    I have 10K story that is on the third revision and it's still not where I want it.

    I have a couple under 5K that turned out pretty well.

    The point is, don't let it get to you. Pick another prompt from the short story contest(even ones that are already over) and start a new story. Try the flash fiction prompts as well. Sometimes ideas just don't pan out. If I get to a roadblock on a story, I set it aside and start a new one. It keeps my creativity flowing so when I go back to the first I have fresh eyes and am not burned out on it.

    Don't be afraid to gut your story and go in a completely different direction. If you don't want to get rid of all that work, save it as a new file so you can go back to it if you want.
     
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  7. More

    More Active Member

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    We are all different . I'm not sure other peoples opinions are always of value . Self doubt is the fuel that dives some on to do better things. Personally , when I come to the conclusion ,that I can't work on something any more and declarer it finished . That is another word for stop . I start on something else . Finished stuff is added to my finished folder , and I don't read it again for at least a year .
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2020
  8. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    You might need to write 50 more stories before one of them is good. Or maybe 100 more stories. You might need to take classes. You might need to read more. And you might need to do all these things plus. And there's no guarantee that you'll actually become a good writer, but the harder you work at it the better your chances are.
     
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  9. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Also, I'm not exaggerating with those numbers. In my experience, it takes a lot of writing bad stories to produce the good ones.
     
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  10. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

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    Yes it does. It's why the average author writes 6 complete novels before they get good at it. It's why the average writer is 36 before they publish their first novel. It's why you need to write an average of a million crap words before you start learning how to use good ones. This isn't easy. Anyone who tells you that it is, they are lying.
     
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  11. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Hemingway's million crap words estimate came from continually rewriting a manuscript because word processors werent a thing in those days, he didn't mean a million words across multiple first drafts... if you rewrite a 100k novel five times that's 500k words
     
  12. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    that said theres no question that writing is hard and it takes time especially at the beggining... my first novel took me 2 years to first draft... if you're cranking out 50k in two months you are doing way better than is normal at the start.

    course two years and countless books in i can write a first draft in a month... but it took a lot of work and a lot of practice to get to that point
     
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  13. GraceLikePain

    GraceLikePain Senior Member

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    This is the status quo in writing. You will face disappointment in many things, even in yourself. It's the exact same, however, as drawing pictures. You only get better by doing more and more, learning as you progress. That's why it's best to start as a teenager, so that you'll be oblivious to how bad you are and by the time you're adult enough to understand how bad, you can ball up your past writing in the same ball as all the rest of your teenaged cringe, lol.

    Find your voice and write what you want to write. The key to persisting in writing is to realize that you're writing what you want, what's really on your mind and what you want to either say to people, or what you simply want to take from your mind and experience with words. Because it's a part of you and who you are, it will ultimately motivate you to persist. And as long as you persist, you will get better.
     
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  14. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

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    It wasn't Hemmingway in my example but David Eddings, a modern writer:

    “My advice to the young writer is likely to be unpalatable in an age of instant successes and meteoric falls. I tell the neophyte: Write a million words–the absolute best you can write, then throw it all away and bravely turn your back on what you have written. At that point, you’re ready to begin.”
     
  15. Kstaraga

    Kstaraga Active Member

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    I think there are other writers that have been where you're at. It does get frustrating when you fly with an idea and it doesn't have that pizzazz to it that you hoped for.

    For me, there are times when I write stuff and I'm thinking, "What a flop." Sometimes I start a blank document and take a different view on the story or write something different to help me get to thinking about different ideas.

    I am starting to write a third book while I'm waiting for some feedback on the first and second I've written and am having someone look over (not yet published). I've started writing it and about 10 pages in I'm realizing that it's not sounding as awesome as I hoped and the ideas aren't flowing together correctly. I couldn't think how to fix it so I started all over and am taking some stuff from the original thing I wrote, but things are coming along better now since I'm not concentrated on "fixing" it.

    Writing can take a long time! I started writing my book 11 years ago. I think I finished it 6 or 7 years after I started (both books together are nearly 300 pages). The rest has been mostly editing, but I haven't been working on it day in and day out. I've taken 1 year hiatuses and then thought, "Oh yeah, I have that story I need to finish." My goal is to have book one out by the end of the year.

    Parts of me have wanted to give up, but I figure I need to finish what I start and complete my dream of publishing a book. I've poured too much of my heart and soul into this to abandon it now. I will persevere!

    I remember in high school I would write a lot of short stories (usually handwritten 20 pages or so - never more than 30). I felt like I would never write a novel even though I wanted to. I remember in high school, I told my best friend, "I want to publish a book. That would be so cool." She gave me this bizarre look and said, "Don't you need more experience for that?" I won't lie, it hurt. Then again, she wasn't generally supportive of my writing in the first place and I'm not sure why. I felt like I couldn't do it and convinced myself I could never do it. Here I am now and I have done it. It takes a lot of time and not all ideas come out on the paper as we imagine them.

    Yes, you are overreacting, and I understand your hurt. This is writing, not a death in the family - you can pull through. Don't limit yourself to this one short story. Expand your horizons, find different genres that you're good at. Write a bunch of short stories and publish it as a book if short stories are your thing. You don't have to write one big story if you don't want to. There are plenty of successful books out there that are broken up into short stories like Chicken Soup for the Soul!

    Maybe you have a friend that could read over your writings and give you some tips?
     
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  16. Flamenco1

    Flamenco1 Member

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    Mirrorcle as someone just starting out I'm not sure if this thread will encourage me, or make me run for the hills. But thanks for starting it. The replies are certainly informative, but at the same time scary.

    I do have a parallel experience to fall back on. Over many years I tried to play flamenco guitar (and continue to do so). I had no musical talent, no previous experience, never played an instrument ..... but loved traditional flamenco. I got so near giving up so many times, but then a breakthrough occurred. It wasn't a massive step forward but somehow I felt happy with the progress I was making. I was playing a new Flamenco style that suited me better. Maybe I just got good at recognizing the small steps I was making. Or maybe my maestro just became a better teacher:).

    Whatever, I look forward to reading your short story here. Maybe it is better than you think?

    As for me I started a short story but have now targeted very short stories and essays. From what I have read here that may not guarantee success or make life much easier, but we will see.
     
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  17. .Nameless.

    .Nameless. Member

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    I've been running into similar problems myself. I've been working on a general outline for a world & the characters within, but every time I try to start writing the intro, I feel like it's a steamy pile of sh*t & delete it. I have an idea of how I want it to start, but I keep getting hung up on exposition (aka bullsh*t) & end up with something that's all talk & no substance. I know I can't expect anything I try to write to be any good, given that I haven't written anything for at least 8-10 years & all of that was crap that barely fits the definition of poetry. Still, it'd be nice to at least be able to get something done that isn't an outline or absolute crap. Boo-hoo-hoo, I'm fishing for encouragement like a little b*tch, boo-hoo-hoo. (self-deprecation always helps)
     
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  18. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think you are overreacting. It sounds like you did not have a realistic view of your skill level and the realisation has got you down. However, you cannot improve without knowing where your skill level lies on a realistic level. Now that you are able to see what is lacking, that actually means improvement. You wouldn't know what was wrong with it otherwise. You know what I mean? And how can you improve if you don't know what's wrong with it?

    I know it feels counterintuitive, but see it like this: now you can actually be on your way to being a better writer. The ability to be self-critical is a must for writers. Most writers' first novel never gets published because it just takes that long to get good at doing it. My first novel took 12 years. It's been rejected and shelved. It's ok :) I'm proud of that work and because of that work, my writing is now firmly on a publishable level. (I mean, not published yet but I did get a full manuscript request and the same publisher said to submit again, so I am gonna guess my writing ain't too bad!) Even on a bad day when I'm not in the mood and haven't a clue what I'm writing, it will come out decent without much effort. But that came with 12 years of work that will probably never be published, nor good enough to be published.

    Is it 12 wasted years? I mean, I do wish it could have come faster, but I wouldn't say it's a waste. I couldn't write as well as I do now if I didn't quite simply write a LOT of crap before that. And crap takes time unfortunately.

    I do like this meme I saw once. An expert is just someone who's very good at failing :) if you're not failing, you're not trying, and you won't ever improve. So, don't be afraid to fail a lot.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2020
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  19. Kyle Phoenix

    Kyle Phoenix Active Member

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    Actually, you've done the hard bit which is coming up with a story, developing a plot and characters, getting the volume of writing down, editing it and approaching writing with the consistency to get to task actually finished. Whatever you might be feeling, That is still an achievement you can be proud of. This proves that you have the discipline to write a novel. The process would be the same but bigger and longer based on the size and effort needed to put in it.

    What you are worried about is whether you can write a good novel. The fact that you know its bad or "not great" is actually a good sign. You are brave enough to critique your own writing, even after putting so much time and effort in to it. You know, if only vaguely, what "good" writing is and what it isn't. Naturally, you feel disappointed because you were hoping for more.

    I haven't even got that far. So take the next bit with a pinch of salt.

    What you need to do is work on style and that can't be rushed. Put your feet up and take your time. Take a step back and have some time off from writing. You've basically just run a marathon in literary terms so you'll need some time to "heal", "recover" and "grow". Give yourself some emotional space to process your thoughts and feelings. Focus on something else for a while. Watch a movie. Listen to music. Anything that makes you happy or might give you some inspiration or generates some enthusiasm.

    When you are ready, figure out who your favourite authors are and the books you most like. If you feel comfortable, pick a few pages out of them and copy them out by hand or on your laptop, which ever you prefer. Take the time to look at how words are used, how sentences are constructed, what you like or dislike about them and learn from others. Remember that they all were once in the same position you were in- they weren't born talented writers and didn't come out of the womb with a pen in hand, ready to capture the world on the page.

    Even from my lack of experience, I'd say that good writing is a mixture of practice and psychology. You need to practice writing to know what is good, but you also need to get in to the right state of mind where you can write well. The battle is combining the two; an inspired state of mind and the consistency to write in volume that might add up to a novel.

    The next part is a psychological battle to get past the mental blocks. Creativity and inspiration isn't about being respectable. Being Original isn't about being normal. The process of writing and the inspiration for it is about being weird. We spend our lives being trained and domesticated to think, feel and behave a certain way until we shut ourselves in. Writing is the space to recapture that sense of adventure you once had as a kid, those long afternoons you spent outside playing and never wanting to come back indoors. You have to find that emotional openness that makes you feel invincible, limitless, that daring sense of achieving the impossible, knowing that you are going to have to defy everyone and everyone until you stop caring what other people think about you, or even what you think about yourself.

    Everyone self-censors. The point about being a writer is breaking the habit of self-censorship until you feel comfortable writing whatever comes in to your head, if only just to experiment, to see how it looks on the page, how it reads.

    So Grab a notebook and promise to yourself that you will fill it with absolute freaking garbage. Anything, Everything. Every single bad idea that comes in to your head. Get the "rage on the page" if you will; promise yourself you will burn this notebook when it's finished, or that no-one should ever see it. Fill it with the deepest, darkest, weirdest stuff in your soul. Write out the dreams and nightmares you've had that day. Odd thoughts you had on the bus, something that bothered you for a day. Write out the things you would never say out loud in public, even amongst friends or family (especially those). Break all the taboos you can think of. Whatever it takes. ...then (assuming it is safe to do so) burn it if you wish or bury it somewhere in your garden or stick it under the bed where it can safely gather dust. Whatever you prefer.

    Then, start a new notebook. Only this time, be a little more selective and decide what you think is a good idea or a bad idea and why. This isn't the sure guarentee that you will come up with a good idea, but it will have started the personal journey that you have with writing to maybe come up with that "one" good idea that is worth dedicating an entire book and months of effort towards.
     
  20. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    Lots of good advice here. But here's something to think about:

    Why is it hard? What's hard about it? If it's because you're stretching out, putting more of yourself and your world-view into the writing even if it's uncomfortable for you to be telling it, then that's a good thing.

    If it's because you're continually disappointed with the finished product, well, that only shows that your critical skills are outstripping your writing skills at the moment. These two things almost never run in perfect parallel. Don't get me wrong: critical skills are important as a type of quality control. But don't let them bog down the creative process. Instead, take some pride in how your critical skills have developed. Then forget that, and remember the joy you had while writing in the first place. (And that joy is always there. It's what got you writing in the first place.)

    That thing about writing notebooks of garbage is actually a good idea, because it's a perfect example of writing while the "critic" isn't in the room marshalling what you write. I did that as an experiment when I was writing my way out of a nervous breakdown. I promised myself that I would write a hundred pages without going back to read a word of it. When I got to that point, I re-read what I wrote, and then make the same promise to myself for the next hundred pages, and so on. I kicked the critic out of the room, so to speak. That technique might work for you.
     
  21. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Why is writing so hard you ask? Same reason playing the guitar is. Because anything that people do well doesn't come easily.
     
  22. Flamenco1

    Flamenco1 Member

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    Which is why enjoying the journey is so important :cool:
     
  23. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Often easier said than done, unfortunately.
     
  24. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

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    It doesn't have to be enjoyable all the time. Writing is work. It's hard work. You don't go to your job because it's a ball of laughs. You go because it has to get done. Writing is like that. Hopefully you get some enjoyment out of it, but there will always be times when it's frustrating and infuriating and you'll hate it. So what? You still have to do it.
     
  25. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    But I don't have to do it.

    I had a line in my head earlier. Don't know where it came from. It was a nothing line. "Will you calm the fuck down!" So I tried to get a scene out of it. I couldn't. So I stopped trying within four sentences. I don't have to write because right now I loath it with all my heart.
     

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