Have you ever felt like something was missing? You sit down to write, but fear seizes hold, shuts down your creativity. Or maybe you’ve sent out query after query, only to receive a stream of rejection. Beta readers praise your story, but then comes that ominous pause. “But….”
Maybe the culprit is stilted wording. Lackluster characters. A confusing plot. Sometimes it’s something as simple as grammar and syntax.
It’s the one thing holding your story back.
For me, it’s that my plots stink. They shift direction like a sheet of paper caught in the wind.
For a long time I didn’t believe it. My pages were packed with action and emotion and my characters brought readers to tears. Enough emotional highs that the obvious flaws were hidden on the first reading.
And then the questions began.
“Wait… Wouldn’t it make more sense if he [fill in the blank]?”
“I don’t understand why she did that, when earlier in the book….”
Little things. Slowly building.
And I was sinking.
Deeper and deeper into confusion. How could my plots stink? Everyone told me I was a great writer. They loved my prose. I began to hate this story because it was nothing like the story I had originally envisioned, and I had no idea how to bring it back to that vision.
I floundered. Cried when I wrote because it felt like it was a waste. Something was missing, and it was digging a hole inside me. I wanted to be free to be what I was created to be — a writer. Not the hollow imitation I now considered myself.
On the outside, everything was normal. Friends saw me writing, thought I was conquering yet another manuscript, and congratulated me.
I was broken inside.
The day came when I couldn’t take any more. I sat down, opened the manuscript, and began to outline what I had written, chapter by chapter. Page after page after page.
And then a pattern began to emerge.
There was no plot.
No solid, powerful reason for the story and the characters to keep going.
I realized I was trying to spin a story out of random fragments. On their own, the scenes were fascinating, but they were out of place, did nothing for the story. The story didn’t rise to a satisfactory climax. Lacked probability. Left the characters’ arcs flat.
I was so dependent on “following” the story that the plot didn’t make sense.
Now that I’ve identified what’s lacking, I’m studying books on plot and character arcs, studying so I can learn to build a solid plot without dividing myself from the spontaneity of creation.
There are great things to be found when you have courage.
Courage to see things as they really are.
Without knowing our writing weaknesses, we’ll never learn how to fix it, and we —and our writing —won’t grow. Ignore or excuse them, and it’s like pretending you’re OK when you have the flu. Eventually the symptoms will drag you down. Our stories would become stagnant. Easily forgettable work instead of a gem waiting to be uncovered.
Instead, sit down and look at your writing with honest eyes. What’s holding you back? How can you change it?
And never stop writing.
After all, a good writer is one who’s unafraid to confront their weakness — and turn it into their strength.
What about you? What part of the writing process do you struggle with?