Five Woes of a Writer

July 5, 2012

I’m writing a book.

I finished the first draft in the fall, and I’m revising it now. But I’m running into a few problems, most of which are rooted in perfectionism. The following are five problems I generally encounter and am specifically encountering in this book venture.

1. I know my characters too well. It’s so weird. It’s like I’m not making them up, but they already exist. I’m not telling them how they are; that IS how they are, and it’s my job to portray them correctly. It’s like trying to describe your best friend to a stranger in five minutes. It’s impossible! I just want to spend pages and pages describing the appearance, history, opinions, thoughts, and ideas of each and every character, and I just know this isn’t that sort of book. But maybe it should be.

2. Too many plot lines. Sure, I’ve got one general plot line. But then there are all these little branches here and there, and I’m kind of obsessed with them. I sit up in bed suddenly with another idea for a subplot, and I can’t sleep until I write it down. It’s like the subplot is already there, and it would just be a lie not to add it in. Too many subplots make for a confusing, poorly constructed story if you’re not careful. It’s like trying to eat a five-inch thick sandwich without spilling it everywhere.

3. Originality paranoia. I spend a great deal of time contemplating originality. What is originality? What makes something really original? The fact alone that I’m writing in English at times makes me feel unoriginal. I’ve written about an old man. THERE ARE OLD PEOPLE IN OTHER STORIES! I AM A PLAGIARIZING FOOL! If any part of my plot is even related to another story I’ve heard of, sometimes I just freak out. I’m obsessed with originality. I admit it.

4. Endings. The end of the book is like a misbehaving child. You really want to be proud of it, but it’s just so unpredictable and usually not at all what you planned. Even if I have the entire ending planned out, those last few pages often spit their lollipop wrappers everywhere and leave gum under the couch for me to find. I’ve determined that the end of this book is going to be so epic that the reader will turn the page again and again, unable to accept the fact that it’s the end. They’ll cry after the fourth or fifth time and probably have to be locked alone in their room for at least a week. Then they’ll probably need therapy until the next book comes out. Totally kidding. But not.

5. My best. I have this mindset sometimes that I’m not good enough or talented enough for whatever writing project I’m working on. My vocabulary isn’t good enough; the pacing of the book isn’t good enough; I don’t know enough about writing. I always seem to return to my finished or unfinished projects several years later and think to myself how terrible it is and how I would rewrite it or do it better. I guess that’s good because it means I’m always improving, but just once I want to write something so good that I won’t want to change anything about it.