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Writing Fiction - Easy or Hard?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by BWFoster78, Jul 27, 2015.

  1. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    A central tenet to my belief system as a newb trying to learn to write was, "It's okay that my writing sucks because writing fiction is hard."

    These days, I'm not so sure it's as complicated as I thought.

    What say you: assuming your goal is to entertain your reader, is writing fiction -

    A. pretty durn easy once you get the hang of it
    B. really difficult to even become competent and don't anticipate mastering it like ever
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    It's relatively easy to become competent. It's much harder to become a "master" of the craft. It's also harder to be a good storyteller than a competent writer, which is why there are a lot of competent writers who don't find much success.
    PaulineMRoss and BWFoster78 like this.
  3. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    When I started out, my main concern was technique. I worried that my grammar and spelling and readability weren't good enough. I figured that this would be what was most likely to keep them from enjoying my stories. After all, I had these awesome ideas and these awesome characters and these awesome stories to tell.
    As long as my prose was easy enough to read, people would read it.

    Turns out it doesn't quite work that way...

    For me, coming up with the ideas, and the characters, and the concepts, is easy. It's tying them together into a story that I'm interested in telling that's difficult. I really really want to get started on the story about Roy and Alene and how they travel across the world to try and meet up with Roy's teenage flame Toini, who's been presumed dead for well over a decade. That's a story I'm really burning to tell. I'm just not tying all the loose ends together, so I'm writing Emma's Story instead.

    Emma's Story was easy, because it was a really basic idea and I didn't know the character and it was only meant to be a short one anyway. Now it's become difficult, because I've gotten to know the character and she's having a really hard time right now (which is why I'm posting here instead).

    I seem to be drifting off topic...

    The point I'm slowly trying to make is that writing (including storytelling) can be a lot harder than you ever expected it to be. That said, it does seem to get easier with time and practice.
    BWFoster78 likes this.
  4. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver


    Any thoughts on how to become a successful storyteller? There are tons of advice about writing technique, but advice about storytelling seems much more lacking once you get beyond basic structure (3 acts, hero's journey, etc.).

    I've noticed that the following have garnered some positive responses for my writing:

    1. Tie everything together. If the hero has a problem at the start of the story, the resolution to that problem should be reflected at the end of the story.

    2. Layer conflicts. I like to focus chapters around a single source of tension (goal/opposition/consequence) but the more sources of conflict you can keep simmering, the better.

    3. Interesting dilemmas. Put your character in a situation where the choice he abhors is the only realistic alternative.
  5. Russ

    Russ Istar

    Writing is one of those things that is as hard as you want it to be.

    It is like golf. Getting a 110 score is no biggy. Breaking 100, harder, and so on, until becoming a teaching pro or a PGA golfer is very, very hard.

    Or mountain climbing. Do you want to hike Mt. Kenya, or do Everest without oxygen?

    Also depends on your audience.

    But the difficulty level really varies.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2015
    Philip Overby and Penpilot like this.
  6. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    I agree, Russ. The more I refine style, the more skill I attain, the more I know, the harder it becomes. As a beginner I was unaware of the how many angles were involved in the writing craft. Now that I'm aware, I realize how much I still have to learn, let alone master.

    However, I'm always trying to challenge myself with different narrative styles, or attempts to include humor, or any number of other growth areas.
    Penpilot and Russ like this.
  7. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    Writing stories is surprisingly easy if you accept alternate paths. Just start at the beginning, then write what would logically happen next, even if it's not what you intended. The hardest part, at least to teach, is flow. Some people have a tin ear, and they let sentences and paragraphs run way too long, or give so little description that everything seems rushed.

    Edit: I just realized this is the reverse of the common issue. I think stories are relatively easy to kludge or steal, but there's no shortcut to good writing.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2015
  8. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    I think the basics of good writing are confidence, practice, and imagination. Confidence is the toughest to earn, because you have to feel good about what you are doing, but can't be haughty, or you just become a self-important idiot no one has respect for. Practice is the hardest to maintain, because you have to actually do the work. I mean...there's no cheating--either you put in the hours or you didn't. Imagination is the hardest to hold in check. The new writer wants to "imagine" his way out of everything--including good writing. When I think of imagination, I think about applying real-world things to stories in new and interesting ways, not making up some pile of useless shit to whirl around a reader's head and look cool.

    Practice is trying new things, getting feedback, applying the feedback, changing things, trying something else, attempting a new style, writing a story backwards, trying a piece of 100-word flash, and so on and so forth. It's flexing muscles you didn't know you had. It's copying someone else's style and trying to make it your own, until you have a real handle of what your own style for a particular work is. It's also knowing when to put the work away and start something new, writing something you never even desired to write, reading other people's works/ blogs/ books on writing.

    Confidence comes when you genuinely have a good amount of practice and you begin to feel some level of success. Maybe you win a contest, or get a rave review from a critter. Maybe you just edit a story and KNOW it's really coming together. Confidence is based on your pace, your output, your quality, your satisfaction in your work, hell, maybe it's just hitting a hundred stories. Whatever it is, confidence is earned by sweat and tears, not writing your first piece and telling everyone who will listen, how brilliant you are. That's just haughtiness.

    Imagination is what I think comes form within. It's the soul of writing. It's your individual way of telling a story uniquely and coming up with the right pieces for the puzzle, not just jamming any old thing in there to fill the gap. Imagination shows in great descriptions, realistic characters, settings that come alive. It infects your work and rivets your readers. Anyone with a pen and half a brain can fashion words into readable sentences, but only a person with a great imagination can turn that sentence into a quote-worthy snippet. Imagination takes a "cold wind" and turns it into a "dueling opponent, scoring nick after nick, to inflict maximum discomfort". Imagination is the heart of what we do, and the only way to get the right kind of imagination to properly inspire a reader, is to work hard to hone your skill (through practice) and confidently write your real observations (and imagined experiences) into creative applications within the story you're trying to tell.

    So...I vote for easy...now. But it wasn't easy getting here, and I still have a long way to go.
  9. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

    I'm a column B kind of guy. I find pretty much everything about it to be difficult. I need improvement in every area of writing, from brain-storming to editing, from composing sentences to tackling themes. It has taken me about 25 years of dabbling to reach a point where I like my own stuff just enough to justify working more on it. Just barely.

    I'm focosed much more on the 'art' side of things than on the 'wide-appeal' side, assuming there is such a division. So that's probably a factor. I don't foresee a day where I would consider writing to be easy.
  10. Helen

    Helen Inkling

    A. Writing jobs are never easy
    B. You can get to a stage where you know how to do things, but I'd say one is always learning.
  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Art is not easy. Music, sculpture, painting, none of it.

    That said, some people are more adept than others. It comes more readily to them. And far more people think they can write than think they can paint.

    Also, what's writing? Are you talking about the whole process all the way through the final edit? That's what I call writing. Anything less doesn't count, in my book. And that's work. A lot of work. Parts of that may come more easily than others, but it's not done until all the parts are done, and at least some of those parts are going to be hard. Every time.

    I also don't think I can say much about my writing one way or the other until I have written at least three books all the way through publication and marketing. It's sort of like playing the guitar in my basement and saying I'm good (or bad). Not until I perform or record, multiple times, can I really make a judgment.
    Ronald T. likes this.
  12. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    Hard work to improve your writing, even if it's easy to come up with story concepts.
  13. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    There is no universal nature of writing fiction. It's something that everyone experiences differently.

    There are people who find the act of writing fiction to be easy and fun most of the time. There are people who find it a struggle most of the time. And there are people at every step in between.

    Personally, I find getting ideas incredibly easy, but the act of actually writing them down into a coherent story, of making the words do what my mind wants them to do... that does not come easy to me. It's a huge struggle.
  14. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

    Only two options? Brian, you do like to reduce things to black and white. :)

    I'd like a third option: yeah, it's really hard, and there's a lot to get your head round, but it really does get easier with practice (and with confidence, as has been mentioned upthread). The first book is horrible to write, because you're working in the dark and you have no idea whether it's OK or just drivel. But once you put that one out in the world and let people read it and you find that, actually, they quite enjoy it, it's much easier to do the next one and the one after that. It never exactly gets easy, I'd say, but certainly a lot easier that at the start.

    And the craft aspects become automatic after a while. At first, you need every extraneous adverb pointed out to you. Then you learn to spot them while you're editing. Then you learn to spot them and correct them at the first draft stage. Maybe eventually you get to the point where you excise them before they even get written down (I wouldn't know; still working on my Adverb Problem).

    All of this is going by your stated goal of entertaining your reader. If the objective is Art - sorry, can't help with that.
  15. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner Scribe

    Writing is easy. After all, it's nothing more than stringing two words or more together.

    Writing commercial-standard fiction is bloody hard. Learning to to write at that level, IMO, is equivalent to doing a Masters degree at university - though you won't realise it at the time. And trying to write something beyond competent? PhD!
    Ronald T. likes this.

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