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      January Bulletin   12/31/2017

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I recently had a very helpful discussion with a friend around the following prompt:

How can we hold onto the idea of our unique voice as our greatest tool, rather than letting our insecurities stop us before we've even begun?

It can be scary to start a new project and hope that the story will work, that the characters will be genuine, that your voice in the story will emerge as one you like. It feels like a big risk to write, sometimes.

There's a relatively common platitude in writing, "It's already been written, but not by you." To me, this means that your unique voice as a writer is your most valuable tool - but it's also an area where we often doubt ourselves. Our demons sneak in, and we wonder how we ever thought we had any business writing. Obviously, the demons are wrong, but it's easier to say that than to believe it. 

What do you think? Do you struggle with this? How do you get through this specific type of writer's block? How do you trick yourself into feeling confident (or at least getting to the end of the page) when you start to think a story will "fail"?

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We actually had a conversation in my local writing group about voice a few months ago. I've never really worried about that, really. I get blocked because of a whole bunch of other things like I forgot how to words or I can't get this scene to connect well to that one.

To be perfectly fair, my "trick" are the reviews I've gotten on my fics. When someone says they like MY style of writing or how I did something in particular, that tells me that I have a voice and readers recognize it as unique in some way from other stories they've read or similar subject matter. I don't write any differently between fic and original, or at least not that I've noticed, so I like to believe that my voice translates from project to project.

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^I agree that writing fanfiction has fueled my self-confidence in writing OF.  It's also been a fantastic writing exercise, and I feel like I can experiment more with FF to figure out what works and what doesn't work so much.

I really think that just about every writer probably goes through the self-doubt phase.   With the WIP I'm currently writing, I've found myself in a cyclical doubt-and-confidence conundrum that always seems to derail me for a moment.  The first thing I do to talk myself out of the doubt phase is to remind myself that I write for me, first.  I write because I love writing more than I love most things in life.  I write because I need to write to get through the tough times and to celebrate the good times.  I write because I need to write to function properly, just like I need to eat or drink water or sleep (and many times, writing is more important than sleep).  This is usually what breaks me out of the doubt phase.

Writing might not be such a huge part of others' lives, and maybe this won't work.  Either way, I'd say to tell your doubt to go away.  The only way to grow as a writer is to write (and to read), and you can never stop growing (as a writer, just as you can never stop growing as a person) as long as you don't let yourself hold you back.

 

Edited by Rumpelstiltskin
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I've been dealing with a lot of this lately, and I have to agree. Coming back and rereading the reviews I've gotten on my fics has given me a ENORMOUS boost. Now I'm rereading stuff and...it's actually kinda good. I think a lot of us tend to be perfectionists. I've been using that to actually help me. Instead of thinking "Oh, it's not right" and getting stuck, I've been trying to get myself to think "who cares, you're good enough to turn this pile of trash into something usable. Go do it."

I'm still struggling, but it's helping. I'm getting there.

You also have to think about what works for you. I've realized one of the reasons I never finished anything with chapters is that I CAN'T write chronologically. I skip around and then go back to tie everything together. I've beaten myself up about that so much, and now I've finally realized that there was a reason I was struggling. Now I'm actually getting things done with my book planning and scenes, even if they're scattered. It's a lot more than I had beforehand. If you're having confidence issues, try looking at the areas you feel bad about, and think if there might be a reason you're stuck, and if tackling it from a different angle might get you going again. Once you realize that your confidence gets boosted a bit more. :D 

Edited by Shadowkat678
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Writers block - Pfft! :shrugs: I’m going on into my 5th year of it. I got nothing on this, literally.

Self loathing your work is normal, I think. I don’t actually get through it as much as tell myself “just do it anyway”. 

I also don’t think just because it has already been done is an issue. When you look at Harry Potter in its companants, it’s all been done before. Witches and Wizards are nothing new, either is hidden worlds, fairies, pixies, goblins, magic, etc. it’s in how you present it. When you read Harry Potter, it’s like you are discovering all these things for the first time. JKR owns her world, not just in copyright ;)

I also think you need to believe what you are writing. Not just that you are talented or that you know the English language because you studied it. You need to believe the story, the characters, and go on the journey with them. I always know I’m heading in the right direction when the characters fight you. You have one idea in mind, but then once you start writing, the characters make you do something else. Sometimes this may not fit what you are meant to be writing, but it’s when you know the story is coming alive. I have often written scenes, but loved what’s happened - it’s just not suited for the story I’m writing, so it goes into the bunny folder. Other times, the characters build a side plot on their own and I have no choice but to go there. 

The project I’ve been working on since 2009 is huge. It’s a historical fiction based on a true timeline of events, but also based on real towns. So the longer it takes to write, the more the towns change and research has to begin again. Sometimes I feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, but I’m too determined to not write it. I have an editor already waiting for the draft when it’s finally completed. I just need to push through this writers block and get it done.

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I hit major writers block with one of my original fics and I just couldn't push through it so I started rewriting it as a fanfic to convert back and it worked really well for me. I managed three more chapters than before and then I just switched back to OF. I don't think it would work every time and now I have to fix a few things in the characterization department, but it still helped a lot. 

Self doubt is killer. I keep thinking about writing for myself though and that helps a lot. I've gotten to the point where half the time I don't actually post my stories because I keep thinking that I've written them for myself not my readers. Eventually I'll sit on the stories long enough and post them though. 

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self-doubt is entirely normal and exists in basically every aspect of life, not just the creative pursuits.

really the main thing that's kept me writing despite doubt's crushing effects is keeping in mind the idea that I'm writing for myself primarily. when I write with that mentality, I find that I actually get farther in the story then with projects I have to complete for a writing class, etc. having that sort of privacy enables me to follow my instincts more and focus on getting to know the characters, what have you. in time, the story opens up and takes me in directions I hadn't foreseen.

and even if one ends up with something that maybe only they would find interesting or funny or good, it still doesn't hurt to put it out there, because readers could be attracted to what they see as a singular vision. your style/interests may change with every thing that you write. I see writing as an ever-evolving craft, and there will always be new avenues to explore and things to fall back on. 

of course there have been times where I've fallen out of love with writing because it feels like I'm utterly incapable of it. it's important to acknowledge these moments and allow yourself the time and space to just take a break and perhaps focus on other things in your life. you've probably heard this a million times before, but you might have experiences or run into things that will spark the creative drive again. I find that it's a matter of becoming porous, opening yourself up to observation and reflection. there have been plenty of writers who've waited various periods of time before coming into their element, and there's nothing wrong with that. 

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Self-doubt and loathing is one of my biggest bugs.  I hit that wall and was ready to quit my dream that is how paralyzing my doubt was and that was when I 'returned to my roots' and started writing fanfiction after a long hiatus away.  It was writing that I found fun once again and didn't worry about and that showed me the joy of writing with no pressure where I could have fun and learn how to write all over again.  It is what I am using even now with my current block.  I am facing re-writes for two different novels that I haven't finished and I have been stuck and convinced that I can't re-write and pick up where I left off in general until I remembered that it is what I am doing and have done with Not my Own.

So, I guess where I go to is a place of comfort and work from there.  It is as @Rumpelstiltskin has said - got to remember to write for yourself first.  It is something that I kind of forget and am having to remind myself of.

As for writer's block, I've learned that when you stop pushing things will release - sort of like a Chinese finger trap relax to get out rather than pull.  And part of that for me is to go have fun - I immerse myself with fun things like games to help me relax and unwind and then things will come when I least expect it and I feel recharged rather than worn out.

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