The Pains of Novel Writing

Posted January 27, 2015 by Inge in Features, Like A Writing Desk // Writerly Things / 25 Comments


I love writing. Since I’m aesthetically challenged, writing is my only creative outlet. I’ve been writing reviews for about two years, and have been blogging for just over half a year. And for about just as long, I’ve been writing novels. It feels great to finally have the confidence to get my stories out on paper. To shape and polish them until they shine. To meet characters who I grow to love. Writing is amazing.

It’s also a bit of a bitch.

Here’s a list of reasons why writing can be pretty challenging.

Forcing yourself to write

Because if you’re going to wait until you feel inspired to write, that novel is never going to be finished. You need to sit down and make yourself write. It doesn’t matter if it’s shit. You can always make things sound better when you edit. All you need to do is write, and sometimes that’s really hard, because you don’t always feel like writing.

Sitting in the same position for hours

I’m 22. I’m getting old. My back hurts, okay?

The headaches that come from staring at a screen

They’re real. They’re absolutely real. I wish I didn’t have to stare at my computer for so long, but the thing is, I can’t write on paper. My hand can’t keep up with the speed of my working braincell and my handwriting becomes sloppy. Besides, you just have to type it up after that, and you still end up looking at a screen.

The internet

“I’M WRITING. I’M WRITING! I’M… back on Twitter. Fuck.” This is an absolute problem. Someone once told me that writing is 10% talent and 90% not getting distracted by the internet. Writing, for me, is half an hour of writing, and three hours of aimlessly browsing.

Coming back to your work and thinking it’s shit

Overall, I’m usually pretty happy with the story I put on paper. But then I put the story down for a couple months to let it rest, and I come back to my first draft, and it’s complete and utter shit. Then you have to muster up the motivation to take that piece of shit and look at it as though it’s really good fertiliser, with which you can make beautiful flowers of stories. (Thank you Synesthesia @ GR for that analogy)

Getting shiny new ideas for other stories

There is nothing more frustrating than working on a story and suddenly getting ideas for plots and quotes for other stories. This always happens to me during NaNo and it’s the worst. I want to get ideas for my current story, not cheat on it with new ones!

Editing five times and still finding typos

How on Earth did I miss these the first four times?!

That awkward moment when your family & friends ask you what you’re writing about

Completely fine when you’re writing something you’re actually comfortable talking about with them, like, “Oh, I’m writing this really cool crime story”. Having to tell them you’re writing a story about friends with benefits? Kind of awkward. I generally tend to leave that part out.

Telling them that “the age difference is because I’m crushing on middle-aged celebrities” doesn’t help either.

Feeling braindead

I don’t know about you, but after a couple hours of writing/editing, I always feel braindead. Like I will never feel creative ever again.

Reading other people’s works and despairing because they’re better

I still read a lot. Published books, mostly, but I also betaread for some friends. It sometimes makes me feel insecure because their writing is so much better. Then I read a particularly dreadful book *coughFiftyShadescough* and I feel better again.

What about you? Do these sound familiar?

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25 responses to “The Pains of Novel Writing

  1. I usually have the ‘shiny new ideas’ problem, but right now it’s the opposite … None of my current ideas have me hooked enough to commit to them, and I have no new ones! It’s been really hard to get words down when I don’t even have a main project right now.

    The internet is also a HUGE problem, always.

    • That does sound tough. I sometimes have the same thing. I do write down ideas or dreams I had, but that’s just so I don’t forget them. They don’t really call to me right now, and that’s kind of demotivating. I usually get a shiny new idea in the middle of NaNoWriMo >.>

  2. Writing is definitely a pain, but at the same time it’s so much fun. I really don’t understand why we writers torture ourselves like this. I hate the staring-at-a-screen-until-I-get-a-major-headache-and-my-eyes-sting aspect of writing, too. I have to do work on my computer all day at school because my school is completely technology driven, and then all the writing and blogging just adds to that screen time. I plan to write my next novel longhand (unless I chicken out because it’s so daunting) so that when I type it up I can at least subtract some screen time because I’ll know what words will go on the page and I won’t have to stop to think. Also, the Internet is impossible to avoid-especially when you are a blogger. My Bloglovin’ feed literally calls to me. I can always hear it whining in the background incessantly.

    • Oh yeah, a lot of schools are getting more and more technologically driven, and then go you home and stare at a screen some more.. it’s so bad, but there’s so much to do! I honestly sometimes feel like writing is torture, but on the other hand I love it. I admire your goal to write a novel longhand, good luck!

  3. This post is 100% accurate. Nothing describes my feelings about writing as well as this quote: “I hate writing, but I love having written.” I totally understand the braindead thing – I feel totally drained after writing like 400 words. I also get backaches when I sit for too long (old age isn’t for wimps, I tell you), but I bought a ridiculously expensive, ridiculously comfortable desk chair last year, so if I do sit down to write I’m okay for a while. Mostly I just lounge on my bed though. 😀 I feel okay sharing some of what I write with friends, but everything that could potentially get awkward no one is allowed to see.

    • That quote is absolutely perfect. I love the satisfied and accomplished feeling of having had a productive day at “the office” (read: the large chair I’m sitting in), but writing can sometimes be hell. It’s harder for me to share my stuff with people I know IRL. At least when I know them over the internet I don’t have to see their faces!

  4. Wow Inga, you have so summed up all my writing problems! The first one I fixed after years of struggling to get any where with my writing… I found a co-writer, who pushes me hard! When I wake up and see she’s written 2 chapters, I feel obligated to do the same. This has worked wonders! :]
    Back ache, check. Brain dead, check, need to sleep after every word vomit I have. Editing, double check. Thinking my work is crap, tripple check! But, then like you say just read 50 shades and you’ll feel way better about yourself! I have read a bunch of crappy books lately, aka Matched by Ally Condie, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, The Maze Runner by James Dashner… yep, just read these and your self esteem will go up! :]

    • Hey, I happen to like The Maze Runner 😉

      I can imagine how motivating it must be to have a co-writer. And even when you sleep, someone is working on your story, and that’s a pretty good feeling 😀

  5. Felicia (asillygirl)

    I know! Back when I wanted to be a writer, this were all my problems. I think that’s why I finally realized that I didn’t actually want to write. Everytime I wrote, I ended up doing something else – pretty much like when I study.

    Now, making theatre, I can do that for hours without even getting tired. xD

    – Love, Felicia
    ( )

    • Haha, yes, I know all about the procrastination when I’m supposed to be studying… or anything productive, really 😉 it’s a curse! So good that you’ve found something you genuinely love!

  6. Olivia Roach

    Hehe I am a writer as well! I love it, but I feel a lot of pains as well! Internet isn’t a problem because I am rubbish at procrastinating >< But I do have the headaches from the screen and the whole shiny new idea thing… actually, far too many new ideas! I hope I can get round to all of them eventually.

  7. I love this post, Inge! And I definitely agree with it. Especially the typo one! I found a typo in my book recently, and I swear I have read that thing 100 times. And it was the name of one of my characters! How did I not notice that his name was not correct? I think we come to learn the story + the words SO WELL that seeing the little things gets to become really hard. >.<

    My eyes are always killing me after I spend ages writing. They get all sore, and I feel so bad that i did that to them. It's not their fault I chose to do this, haha.

    That picture at the end remains one of my all time favourites, because it's so accurate.

    • I sometimes read self-published books and I get annoyed at the number of typos and grammatical errors and thinking, “How did they not see that?” And then I look at my first draft, or something that I’ve edited a couple of times already, and STILL find stupid mistakes, and I just get mad haha. You’re so focussed on what you’re writing that your eyes fly over the mistakes.

  8. ‘Reading other people’s work’ <<< YES. This x 10000. I'll be so excited about my stuff and then read someone else's writing and be like . . . oh.

    Also, when people ask what I'm writing about! I never really know what to say, like how to explain it. It's a fantasy and I feel like when I talk about the plot they all look at me like I'm insane 😛

    • Haha! “… oh” is exactly my response when I read writing that is a million times better than mine. I think it’s really hard not to compare your writing to others. Fantasy is a difficult one to explain to people who don’t really read!

  9. HAHAHAHAHAH I’m not a writer but I sure could relate to some of these in general. Like the internet one. I ALWAYS GET DISTRACTED. I’m meant to be doing one thing but hey, let me loose and I’m looking up things like “how to tie die shoes o_O”

    • HAHA that is absolutely perfect, I completely feel the same way! A lot of people swear by one of those Site Block thingies that prevent you from accessing certain websites, but then I panic and go all, “But what if I NEED to access that site?!” ;__;

  10. Raquel Gabrielle

    Yes these are all problems I go through as well though to help with getting headaches when staring at a screen to much I switch between writing in a journal and typing it up later, or just typing on the computer. Mostly though I hand write my stuff it just is easier for the word to pour out of me. Hand writing my stuff also keeps me away from the internet and getting distracted. This year I am trying to force myself to write a little each month rather than just write for NaNoWriMo… so far its not working but hopefully I’ll make up for not writing this month.

    • I’m also trying to write outside of NaNo right now. It’s not going so well. 😛 I admire you being able to handwrite everything, I just can’t do it, although it would take away a lot of screen time. Good luck!

  11. YES THESE ARE SO FAMILIAR I MIGHT CRY. But basically, blah. Writing is 99% staying off the internet and 1% talent. -_- I’ve been “editing” for like 1 week now and done two chapters. JUST TWO. So for anyone who claims I’m fast, they can take a load of me being a turtle right now. Editing just zaps my motivation. Actually sitting and writing is really hard right now. I just wanna read and eat chocolate. <— my life.

    • I’ve been editing for the past two weeks or so and I’ve edited four chapters HAHA. Actually I haven’t edited for like five days now, because I don’t really feel like it. Been watching a lot of tv *nods* Someone needs to kick my ass into gear.

      Yes, read and eat chocolate sounds perfect. I can has?

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