Monday, July 22, 2013

Why Each New Book Seems Harder to Write

I never thought the second book I would finish would be harder to write than my first. But now that I've started another draft and it's even more difficult than anything I’ve done before, I often wonder why writing more and more books seems to get harder rather than easier. Of course certain aspects are easier, I know what cliches to avoid, what words to stay away from, how to show not tell and basically how to avoid the "rookie" writing mistakes. But the actual writing of the book, the completion of the draft seems to get increasingly difficult. So I started to think about why that is and came up with the following reasons:

Constantly stretching oneself.

As writers we strive to do better. Our goals get bigger, which means we tend to take on harder more complex concepts as we go. And with those bigger goals the mind often struggles to keep up. We start to wonder if we are reaching too high, if we’ve gone outside the realm of our capabilities. If we are in over our heads. All these questions can cripple the writing process, which leads directly into the next issue…

The more we write, the more the brain starts to catch up. The worry increases. We wonder can I really do this again? What kind of mess have I gotten myself into this time? Even worse, we think the rest of the world will discover the truth about us—that we have no freaking idea what we are doing. How long can we really fake it, and when will someone stand there with their finger pointed at us saying haha I caught you? The whole idea is completely daunting. All the self-doubt then leads to undue…

Naturally the more we write the more we expect ourselves to improve. In fact, so do our critique partners and our readers. Constantly getting better is important but it's also exhausting. And the thoughts that we constantly have to be better creep into the mind when writing that first draft. Which makes it ever so difficult to write and even harder to finish. We as writers have to step back and re-allow ourselves to have shitty first drafts. We are allowed to suck, and once we remember that it relieves some of the pressure. But with that pressure also comes the drive to…

Strive for uniqueness.
They say every person has a book in them. And in many ways that first book is easy because the ideas just flow. Not that finishing is easy, in fact finishing my first book was the most difficult thing I’d ever done. But the more books we write, the more we have to pay attention to what we've done in the past, and continue to strive for something new and different. We don’t want to keep writing the same characters in new settings or new characters in the same situations that we've written about before. We want to write new characters with new stories and our readers want the same. We need to continue to push ourselves, but again it’s exhausting.

The good news is, we as writers aren’t alone. We all go through this. And once we diagnose the issues we are having, we can usually get right back into a draft. We can continue to better ourselves as writers and stretch our limits beyond what we thought possible.

So what are some of the things that make your writing more difficult and what do you do to carry on?


  1. For me, one of the biggest problems is motivation/inspiration. I've known for a long time that a writer can't rely solely on feeling inspired, but when that feeling is missing, it certainly makes the writing process more challenging. I wrote my first novel last summer, 100,000 words in six weeks, in a sustained burst of inspiration and passion, which totally surprised me. Currently I'm working on my 2nd novel, but it's been much slower going because my passion and inspiration have been more uneven and sporadic. I know sometimes you just have to sit down and write, regardless of how you feel, and that I can't expect every novel to be like the first in that way (in fact, perhaps never again), but it does make it more difficult. Besides that, I also relate to everything you said here, with regard to expanding and growing as a writer, self-doubt, etc. I think we all go through that, even the best writers, and it's healthy to do so. Thanks for posting.


    1. I can definitely relate to the lack of motivation. That's another blocker I experience all the time. The inspiration definitely comes and goes. And you're right, sometimes you just have to sit down and write even when you don't want to. I do find that having an outline often helps me when I'm feeling unmotivated. Even if I don't want to write, the outline gives me direction which removes some of the struggle. Even though it isn't always easy, I usually find once I get back into it, things seem to flow easier. And the more I get into a steady schedule the easier it gets.

      Congrats on finishing your first novel and I wish you luck as you continue to work on your second.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  2. The Parable of the Serial Marathon Runner:

    I read an article in the local paper about 18(ish) years ago about a marathon runner who practiced by running three to five marathon distances PER WEEK. Really, the article was about how he needed people to donate a specific size of shoe because he wore out shoes so fast that he could not afford his hobby.

    Three to five marathons PER WEEK??? What??? As a guy who was trying to finish one marathon, that story blew my mind.

    You get where this is going.

    Finishing my first novel was the triumph of finishing a marathon... In 315th place. That novel was god-awful.

    I just finished my ninth novel. My last novel. I haven't queried it yet. Still in revision. So I don't know if I finally finished "in the money" yet. But if I don't get this one published, I'm done. I'm out. It takes too much time away from efforts I should be putting into my family to keep writing novels as a hobby.

    I realize now that the guy who ran three-to-five marathons per week was a guy who was never going to finish in the money. It was merely his obsession.

    There's DRIVE, and then there's TALENT. Mr. Marathons had the drive. I've got the drive. My last novel fell out of my fingertips in three and a half months.

    TALENT? Maybe not. Maybe that's just not me.

    1. You are right. Maintaining that drive is super important to the writing journey. But you also have to want to continue the journey. I wish you the best of luck finding homes for your novels.

      Thanks for your insightful comment!

  3. Oh, BTW... Nice column, Jamie.

  4. I compltely agree. The first book I actually completed rushed out of me. Part of it was that I was like this is it, I'm going to do it, and instead of thinking about its marketability, etc...I just wrote it. Then I "got serious" about writing and BAM, everything became so much harder. I also get distracted easier now yet still, I love writing. I love my stories, worlds, characters, and when I find those blissful moments where I'm able to let go and just write, wonders happen :)

    1. yes shiny new idea syndrome is so much fun! And I know they say everyone has a book in them which is why I think finishing more than one is such a key milestone. I think you are right. The more you write the easier it is to get distracted, but it's always nice to just stop thinking and let the imagination flow onto the page.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!