Whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do it well; whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely.
— Charles Dickens
People are often surprised to hear the I was a late bloomer. Despite my intentions and intuition of “knowing” I put off writing. I didn’t aim to procrastinate, it just happened. If your in that boat I’m going to insist that you read this so you can get yourself going. You may even get swept off your feet and find your passion.
You don’t know which story to pick
You don’t just have one idea, you have many and writing a book is a big commitment. You want to take time to carefully consider what you’ll be spending the next year or two or five slaving over. No sense rushing in to things, right?
The problem with that logic is that it leads to a stalemate. You like all the ideas you came up with. They’re your ideas, after all. When you start to think about picking one, you realize that would mean giving up on the others. Then you vacillate back and forth.
Remedy: Write the first chapter of each story. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have a better appreciation of which one you like the most. And if you can’t finish a chapter, that’s telling you something. If you feel like you want to go on, then there’s your answer.
Stories are always more awesome in your head than they are on paper
Your hero, Geoffrey, had neglectful and disinterested parents. This made him overwhelmingly driven to excel. He’s the youngest Vice President in the history of his Fortune 500 company. One day, while having dinner with his wise-cracking friend Ryan, he meets Julia. She’s a funny and pretty, but makes a living as a cocktail waitress and is not outwardly “successful.” She’s content to take life easy. Will Geoffrey compromise his obsession with upward mobility to find happiness with Julia?
That’s the idea you had, anyway. But when you tried to write it, you got this:
“Geoffrey first saw Julia at the restaurant. She looked inviting. Ryan was there, too.”
After a few incidents like this, you got gun-shy about writing. You’re reluctant to put it on paper because deep down you know it won’t be as cool as you imagined it.
Remedy: Okay, so it won’t be as great as you thought. But a story in your head isn’t a story. It’s a daydream until you actually write it down. So write it down. What’s the worst that can happen? If it stinks, you can always delete it.
You’ve been telling the story instead of writing it
Admit it. You’ve been telling everyone your story idea. Friends, relatives, the mailman, and anyone else who didn’t edge away while you rambled on. But guess what? That sapped your desire to actually write it.
You want an audience. If you didn’t you wouldn’t be a writer. The biggest motivation to write is the knowledge that someone will read it. But you already told the story to everyone you know and your need for an audience has been sated. So when you stare at that scary blank page, your subconscious begins calculating. “This is hard. Is this worth it? What feedback will I get? I already got opinions from the people I know, so anything beyond that will be from strangers. That’s nice, but I could be watching my favorite sports game or television show right now.”
Remedy: Don’t tell your stories to anyone. You’ll be more motivated knowing it’s a prerequisite to having an audience. Also, your friends will be able to give real feedback instead of vague opinions about your unimplemented concepts. And you won’t have to wonder if the person you’re talking to is genuinely interested in your story, or secretly hoping you’ll stop so they can escape the conversation.
You don’t know how it will end yet
You know that your protagonist will defeat the opposing powers that be, but you haven’t decided how. Will there be a revolt? Will there be an unarmed combat? Or will he use his rugged countenance to seduce? You just can’t make up your mind.
Of course, you’re nowhere near having to write the climax yet. You’re still working on Chapter 2, but you don’t want to write any more until you’ve settled on an ending. After all, everything leads up to that. It will affect how every part of the story is presented.
Remedy: A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. Don’t wait for an inspired ending to come to mind. Work your way to the ending and see what comes up. When you actually write it down, you start to see all the avenues. You’ll finish sooner and you’ll get more ideas for the ending along the way.
Hope that helps. Have I gotten your attention? Are you going to stop calling yourself a writer and actually live up to your title? What are you waiting for?
Share your thoughts, concerns and opinions, whatever they are. They are welcome.