If you’re working on becoming a writer (at any level of seriousness), or just considering it, there are countless challenges. Today, I’ll share what I think are the major ones – and why.
Easy step for some, while the hardest for others. I’ve been through several stages of ‘considering it’ and years of ‘maybe one day’ before I got to it. There are many reasons why making the first step can be hard: fear that you won’t be good enough because you don’t know how writing works, knowing all the tough challenges ahead, fitting a time-consuming activity into your schedule, and many more. But if you get there, the first few words (and chapters) can give you a good hint whether writing is something you’ll abandon soon – or stick with it for years (given you overcome the next challenges).
Finishing the first draft
While writing can be enjoyable, it’s not that hard to get stuck with the journey but the destination remains in distance, shrouded in mist. Endlessly revising the first few chapters and thus making very little actual progress is a mistake I made in my beginnings.
More challenges arise: encountering the first writer’s block, realizing your concept is not working the way you imagined it, the challenges of spotting (and fixing) your first plot hole…
The worst mistake one can do is publish the first draft (even worse if with some low-quality doodle as a cover) – I’ve seen people get bad reviews for the state of their book when they published a first (or second) draft with awful cover, and it was probably the end of their writing career.
Finishing the first draft is a major milestone – but there are many more to come (unless you made the abovementioned mistake).
Entering the beta stage is a weaker version of the reality check (more on that later). The story, so far seen only by you (and possibly a small selection of close friends) now needs to brave the hands an eyes of merciless, neutral readers.
And if this stage tells you that while the concept works, the execution is bad… it’s a challenge to not give up. It is in beta stage you start learning the finer points of writing, communicating with other authors, and the importance of honest feedback – as well as dealing with it.
Still, leaving beta stage is a hard move.
This will be a danger on every step. Whether during internal drafting (before beta) or during beta, you might believe that you can make the story better still and thus just one more draft is all you need to move on. Then, one becomes five…
I was there. Two years in alpha and two years in beta stage. Granted, I was making progress, but I wish I was able to spot some issues myself and in bunches instead of fixing them one by one, each meaning 4-6 months for another draft.
No, I’m not talking sweaty keyboard in summer or coffee stains. Computers are just tech and they can fail. Some learned the hard way by losing a chunk of progress (or all of it) due to a sudden power outage or a drive failure.
Being paranoid and saving every few minutes won’t hurt anyone. Regular backups are important.
Fortunately, I’ve learned that before I got to writing, when working on the database file I use to store lists of places I’ve visited, by losing a few hours of work. To the point that I sometimes save after each edited paragraph when writing.
It’s not only about writing
One of the challenges that come at some point or other is to realize you’ll need to deal with things that aren’t just putting story on a virtual paper. There are many touch decisions and many things to consider – and if you want to take writing seriously (no matter if as a hobby or an eventual main source of income), you’ll need to do many things – or outsource some. You’ll need to learn and research those.
Writing is about creativity. Dreaming.
But if you want to be read, you’ll have to get to the hard reality. Some encounter this hurdle early – and may fall long before others even see this hurdle (the mentioned people who publish a first draft). Others may only get here after publishing. Many more get their reality check somewhere in between.
You’ll realize that you’ll start in red – unless you can do a good cover yourself, you’ll need to invest some money into your story. You’ll need to understand the writing world, and the challenges it brings.
And because everyone is different, the ‘reality check’ might be something else for each person. For some, it might be the fact they’ll need to learn many skills or spend a lot of money. For others, it might be dealing with social media (and stage fright). For some, it might be the realization they won’t become an overnight hit.
Making the last step in writing might seem like the end – and it might.
But being a serious writer means going further than that. Being visible is a challenge and you need to be seen to be read. The world is changing, and those who manage to adapt faster will have an advantage. The journey never ends, and you’ll need to keep a sharp edge to have a chance. Nothing is guaranteed and nothing will be given for free – and if it seems so, be very careful.
Keep this in mind – if your story is to be a series, be prepared to face the reality so it won’t discourage you from going on.
Even publishing your book is not the end. The hardest challenge these days – with millions of books that can be delivered into an e-reader in seconds – is to be found. Finding your readers will take time and effort and may feel like an endless circle. But if you made it this far, it’d be a pity to give up, right?
So, that’s how I see the challenges of writing. I’ll welcome your opinions – what was your toughest challenge, or one you did not see coming? How did you overcome it? Do you want to ask me about the challenges I faced? You’re welcome to do so.
I think you really highlighted everything, Tom. The reality check is something I think hits everyone differently, but it definitely comes for every writer at some point.
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