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What Personality Traits Are Hindering Your Writing Effectiveness?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by BWFoster78, Nov 3, 2013.

  1. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    My approach to getting better at writing is to relentlessly examine my work for anything I'm doing wrong. I constantly ask myself, "How can I make this better?" When I find a mistake, I ask, "Why did I make it and how can I prevent it from happening again?"

    Recently, I realized that a couple of personality traits were hindering me. Not sure how to overcome them, but identifying them is the first step:

    1. Those of you who I've critiqued may not believe this, but I'm a nice guy.

    It's like how my wife and I view parenting. "No" is her default answer to Little Man unless she has a reason to say "yes." I'm the opposite. Unless I can think of a reason to deny him, I'd rather give him what he wants.

    It's the same with my characters. I'd rather they be happy. I get that, in the big things, I have to deny them until late in the story. In the small things, however...

    Take Brant. He's competitive and values strength. As one of the best young swordsmen in the duchy, he likes that he's dangerous. When both his bookworm friend and the little sister of the group suddenly become mages, become more dangerous than him, he wants to become a strong mage.

    Poof. I make him a strong mage.

    Good for him. Weak for the story. And it took me a long time to realize that it was a mistake.

    Instead, I'm going to make him struggle to become a mage, and, when he does, he'll be the weakest of the mages.

    2. I'm way too sedentary.

    My favorite activities are reading, watching football, and playing board games. These preferences translate all too well to my characters.

    When I think up conflict, I tend to have them sit around arguing about it instead of doing something. As I'm going through what I hope is the final draft of my book, I'm making a concerted effort to ask, "Can I have them do something instead?"

    In one recent scene, instead of showing my mages learning by sitting around the fire practicing magic, I have them being forced to use it to delay the people pursuing them.

    What about you? Any personality traits that are holding you back? What are they and what are you doing about it?


    T.Allen.Smith likes this.
  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    I think my main issues at the moment are uncertainty and stubbornness.

    I've decided that after I finish my current scene I will redo the outline for the rest of my book to try and straighten it up along the lines of feedback I've received (more tension, less fluff). This however, is causing me to put off finishing the scene. I can't make up my mind if I should rewrite it from scratch or if I should continue on from the point I'm at and follow the original idea.
    I'm also hesitant to put down the effort of finishing the scene in my current style when I know I'll probably need/have to rewrite it later anyway.
    In turn, this also leads me to uncertainty in the entire project. I originally picked what I thought would be a simple and easy story that'd be easy to write. If I knew at the start what I know now I would have picked something completely different (and probably shorter).
    So at the moment I'm wrestling with doubt; should I stick with what I started and get it done no matter what or should I give this up for lost and start over on something else.

    This leads on to stubbornness.
    Of course I won't give up on my project. "Giving up is to fail and to fail is to die" is a quote that is a bit over the top even for me, but I really don't like giving up before there's no other option.
    Stubbornness is also why it may seem as if I'm not picking up on some of the advice I'm given on how to improve my writing. I've got this feeling for how I want my story to read and how I want to write. A lot of the advice I get here (not just you Brian) seems to indicate that this style is, if not bad, then at least dull and boring. Logically, I understand these arguments, but I have a hard time letting go of what I feel is my style - of doing things my way.
    This in itself is a bit stupid as I'm coming here to get advice. I feel I ought to try and be a bit more receptive to it even if it's not what I want to hear. I want to write the book to be the best it can be, but I want it to be because that's how I like writing it and not because it's how I'm told to write.
    Changing my attitude towards my writing it a lot harder than accepting the advice on how to write and the explanations for why to do it.

    Don't worry, it's stung a bit now and then, but I get that you've got good intentions and give the best advice you can.
  3. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    As I said in another recent thread, I struggle with understanding that other people have thoughts, opinions, and mindsets different from my own. In most people this is intuitive (the concept is called "theory of mind" in psychology), but it isn't for me. For this reason I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that perfectly good, rational people can come to different conclusions from myself without some kind of character or mental flaw. I believe this could negatively affect my characterization because I could project too much of myself onto my heroes and make my villains (whose beliefs are supposed to contrast sharply from my own) too one-dimensionally evil.

    In addition I've had people tell me I fixate too much on the physical attributes of my characters, especially the women, and less on their inner psychology. I am not sure where that would come from though.
  4. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    I get scared of trying to write closely about things I haven't felt. I wind up backing away from them and only mentioning them briefly, even when they need to be portrayed in detail in order to give the story weight. (This happens a lot when I try to write about religion--I think I'm portraying a character who is religious, and then I look back at what I actually wrote, and all I wrote was a character who is stated to be religious, because when it came time to actually write how it feels to worship something, I got scared I was writing it wrong and backed off. To a lesser extent, this also happens when I try to write jealousy--I have the self-esteem of a dried kumquat, so I have a hard time portraying a mindset in which someone feels entitled to something and angry that someone else got it instead.)
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2013
  5. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    Maybe one personality trait that I believe hinders me, may also be my strength. My mind is very active. I don't think I have ADHD or anything, it just tend to want to cram a lot of things into stories that I think are awesome. People who have read a lot of my stories may see I'm always trying to make things awesome at all times. I worry that if characters are just hanging out and talking, it's perceived as boring even if they're talking about important things prevalent to the plot. I think dialogue is truly the heart of most stories anyway, so my writing tends to be more dialogue heavy than other fantasy I read.

    I've been told I'm very good at descriptions, but I tend to shy away from describing things too much because I'm a minimalist in a lot of regards. I find that when I'm reading, I may picture a character looking a certain way early on, only to find that they look completely different. I don't mind that, but it does kind of bug me sometimes.

    So I guess my problem is mostly pacing because I want things to be so awesome and all times I may not give the story a chance to digest. Then the reader may get frustrated because the pace is too frenetic. To compensate, I try to stay with other scenes longer, then those overstay their welcome. I'm trying to find the balance.

    As far as the OP, I look at giving characters what they want to be the opposite of what should happen. Maybe a small victory now and again, but then jerk the rug out from under them again. Some of the greatest characters in fiction are great because the plots dictated that they had to struggle to get what they wanted. For instance, if Frodo could just walk down the street and drop the ring in Mt. Doom, there's no story. However, if you let Frodo have a quick beer before all hell breaks loose, that's often pretty fun for the reader. The "so close, but so far" rule. I like doing that myself time and again.
  6. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    An interesting thread....

    Overconfidence, for me, doubles as a gift & a curse.

    On the one hand, confidence lends focus and determination. It helps to keep my writing moving forward, continuing work, recognizing growth, and believing that I can be as good as any other. It drowns the inner critic, for the most part. Confidence helps me stretch myself by accepting new challenges and continually experimenting. Confidence lends a pervasive "Can do" attitude. I find that invaluable in any endeavor. I don't doubt my abilities.

    On the flip side, it can give me artistic tunnel vision. I have an issue turning off my writerly mind and suppressing my strong, personal opinions on craft. Those also derive from overconfidence. It may even come off as arrogance at times, but it isn't intended as such because I truly want to help others. I've been working on this for quite awhile by broadening my reading, working directly with other writers, and being a contributing member of Mythic Scribes. Seriously, interacting with other scribes has taught me so much about other opinions on craft. I maintain my own views on style & voice but I'm more open to alternate ways of viewing writing...much more than I was before Mythic Scribes. The only tenets I now hold onto with an iron-clad grip are:

    1) Is the writing interesting?
    2) Does the writing invoke emotion?
    3) Does the scene advance story or develop character?

    I still struggle with turning off the writer's mind, but I'm getting better.
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2013
  7. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    The things I struggle with can be good and thing. I tend to have hyper-focus when I'm really into things. This makes me work extremely hard at something, throwing everything I have at it. BUT, just because I'm working extremely hard doesn't mean I'm working smart. This leads me to being extremely stubborn, and I pound my head against problems trying to solve them all when I should be walking away and come at them fresh later.

    Another thing I that can be good and bad for me is sometimes I don't pay attention to my limitations and plan accordingly. I sometimes bite of way more than I can chew. My first novel I decided to write a huge 270k epic, and I just wasn't ready to handle something so large. My second book I did a standard 100k book that was simpler, played towards my strengths in some areas, and pushed them in others. Much better results.

    Something I've struggled with for a long while, but have come out of is trusting myself more. Combine this issue with stubbornness and there have been times where I have over worked the prose. Basically editing the life out of it.

    Again, I find that all these things have their positives and negatives. Being stubborn has lead me to study writing and learning everything I can. Biting off more than I can chew put off the fear of failure. And the intense scrutiny I put on my prose has made me better at editing.
  8. Daeldalus

    Daeldalus Dreamer

    For me I think that ADD is going to be a problem when it comes to trying to finish my story. When I create my stories I tend to move quickly from one to the next without finishing the first one, every time I get a good idea I just want to make something from it and my older stuff I tend to quickly lose interest in. One of the biggest reasons I decided to write a short story was because I felt it may be easier to finish(I just finished the first chapter, I estimate it will be 20k-25k words)

    Also I have no real confidence in my writing so I am a little afraid to put my work out there.(when I put some of it out to be critiqued don't worry about being hard on me. The only reliable way to get better is to have your flaws pointed out.)
  9. Sam Evren

    Sam Evren Troubadour

    I can be easily dissuaded, by others or by myself.

    I can gather up good ideas. I can formulate a great plan. I can start working on it readily–and be halted completely by doubt.

    Back in the 60's someone developed a pistol called the GyroJet, I believe it was. It was a rocket-firing pistol, as opposed to a bullet. So while a bullet is launched via explosion, the GyroJet fired a rocket–a little engine actually went with the projectile. One of the failures of the design was that the projectile didn't reach an effective velocity until it was well away from the barrel.

    In other words, it could be stopped, easily, at close range. The farther the projectile traveled, the more effective it was. At close range, I believe you could probably stop it with your hand. Once it was so stopped, it never achieved an effective velocity.

    I'm more than a bit like that with writing. Experience in other areas of my life has made me better about it, found me ways to circumvent it, but it's still the greatest impediment to my writing.

    I find an idea, fall in love with the idea, and self-doubt tells me it's foolish, it's been done, it's not interesting.

    About the only way I've found past it is to shut out doubt. If I start doubting myself, I try to "change the channel" of my thought, just think of something different. If I have to distract myself with bright, shiny objects, so be it. My brain is a mercurial beast, even a moment's distraction is enough to make it find something other than doubt to ponder.

    I just need to disctract doubt long enough to reach an effective writing velocity. Surprisingly (though it probably shouldn't be), as I get older, that gets easier.
  10. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    My two biggest issues are a tendency to assume the reader knows what I'm talking about - after all, it's perfectly clear in my head, why shouldn't it be the same in theirs? And my writing speed - not my typing speed which is actually very fast, but my speed of composition. I work so hard at being a faster writer, and no matter what I do I feel like my speed is somewhere between GRRM and a sloth. The writing I produce is fine, just maddeningly slow until I hit these strange, magical days where I suddenly blow out 20 pages in a single sitting with no idea how it happens. *sigh*
  11. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    Personality wise, my biggest problem is probably being a procrastinator. I honestly don't know why I do it. I like writing. I enjoy creating the story, but sometimes it's so hard to make myself sit down and get started.
  12. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    Seems to me that there are a couple of things you can do to help this:

    1. Understand that you should write what and how you think you should write. In the end, the only one responsible for your success is you. I and others are quite opinionated in what you should do. If you feel strongly that you should do it another way, you should go a different route.

    2. Try to figure out exactly what you like about your "style." Can you incorporate suggestions that you feel make your work better while still keeping the elements that make your writing yours?

    3. Write a scene the best you can your way. Have T.Allen and I critique it. Follow all our suggestions. After a week or two, go back and read both versions of the scene. See which you like best.

    Hope this helps!

  13. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    This is definitely the biggest "ouch" I've seen on this thread. I feel for you.

    I agree completely that this could negatively affect your characterization. Definitely something you should watch out for. A possible suggestion: how about finding a political forum or something where you can go and argue passionately for the side opposite what you actually believe? Maybe that would help?
  14. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    This is a really cool idea. I'll have a think about it and see what I can come up with.
  15. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

    I've always been a procrastinator and someone who is used to being good at things fairly quickly. With writing, these two personality traits are incredibly ill-suited to finishing a novel, as I would like to do. Writing is so difficult, and the only way to really become good at it is to keep at it, which I've tried to the best of my abilities *cough*, but the procrastination lifts its ugly head when it comes down to writing something beyond 10k words. Just have to keep hacking away at it, I suppose.

    Great thread btw, I think this line of questioning will help more aspiring authors than any other.
  16. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    I feel this is the hardest part about writing. Sitting down each day and just getting going is hard. I think it's because writing well is such hard work. There's a natural trepidation, and since it's hard work you don't really have to do, meaning you're only accountable to yourself, it's easy to procrastinate.

    Forcing myself into writing the first paragraph always makes the session flow. For some reason it can be difficult to remember that, even though it happens so often.
  17. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    I often compare writing to exercise. You like the finished result, but the actual process can be exhausting.

    For instance, if I say, "OK, time to write" I get excited but also wonder what I'm going to write. Pre-writing helps this or outlines, but sometimes I veer off course when I shouldn't. I sometimes dread sitting down to write, but once I did it, I'm happy I did.

    Compare this to exercise. I often dread doing this as well. It hurts, it takes too long, it's boring, etc. However, once I do it I say, "Wow, I feel a lot better now."

    So for many writing is like anything else, you want to do it right and to the best of your ability. When I exercise, I want to sweat and get ripped, but I just have to deal with being sore and cranky for now. Writing is the same thing. There may get a point where it just comes easily to you and the process doesn't seem like a chore. I've been feeling that way recently, but that's mostly because I know where my story is going. I don't get that apprehension or worry that it's not good enough. It'll get there, I just need to lay down the foundation first and foremost. Making it as good as I can at my skill level is all I can do. It's up to critique partners and beta readers to let me know if what I've done works.
    Guy likes this.
  18. Ddruid

    Ddruid Minstrel

    Guy, I know exactly how you feel. Laziness is the most problematic trait I have. And not just in writing, though that is the main sphere of my life where I just love to show it off. Couple that with my perpetual absent-mindedness and what do you get? Don't even ask. Let's just say that I've resolved myself to work on my absent-mindedness and and it seems to be improving a teensy bit. And as for laziness... well, I'll get around to fixing that too.... someday.

    I have to say I expected procrastination to be the general problem among most of the writers here but I was surprised by the number of diverse and interesting replies on this thread. Really an eye-opener. Lots of problems which I've never imagined. Of course I haven't had much experience in writing yet, therefore, not many chances to discover my weaknesses and strengths. I agree that this thread could be very inspiring and encouraging to other aspiring writers. It inspired me. Maybe it's time to get back to my works and discover more about my writing and, more importantly, about myself. :)

    By the way, Guy, love the avatar. Agent Smith is so cool.
    Guy likes this.
  19. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    Yeah, once I get started, I usually get some kind of momentum going. Sticking with Phil's example, I experience the same thing with exercise.

    Then I get going with my writing and I run into the problem of making myself stop because I have to go to bed so I can get up in the morning for my day job.
  20. My challenge is similar to some of the other posts here. Procrastination. And lack of motivation. The only one it would impact if I never wrote a word would be myself. Writing then becomes a form of entertainment, and let's face it, there are many, many other forms of entertainment that are easier to find, less involved, and require little to no effort.

    I fight this by realizing that I grew up reading amazing stories, and some of the fictional characters I met in novels and comic books were my best friends at the time. They taught me a great deal and kept me acceptably sane. Now I have a chance to possibly create something that could do that, be that for someone else. That debt is now my motivation. I owe it to that one person that might make it another day because of the stories I can write.

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