READER FRIDAY: What’s Your Biggest Challenge?

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

What have you tried for getting through it? Have these changes worked for you?

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About Jordan Dane

Bestselling, critically-acclaimed author Jordan Dane’s gritty thrillers are ripped from the headlines with vivid settings, intrigue, and dark humor. Publishers Weekly compared her intense novels to Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner, and Tami Hoag, naming her debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM as Best Books of 2008. She is the author of young-adult novels written for Harlequin Teen, the Sweet Justice thriller series for HarperCollins., and the Ryker Townsend FBI psychic profiler series, Mercer's War vigilante novellas, and the upcoming Trinity LeDoux bounty hunter novels set in New Orleans. Jordan shares her Texas residence with two lucky rescue dogs. To keep up with new releases & exclusive giveaways, click HERE

29 thoughts on “READER FRIDAY: What’s Your Biggest Challenge?

  1. Somewhere around chapter six I often get derailed by some new story idea. I write down a few general notes to follow up later. I get back to my WIP, but it seems somehow less interesting. The new idea teases me and distracts me. I write more notes. The next thing I know my WIP ends up in a folder where I know there’s little chance it will again see the light of day. Reminds me of the Island of Misfit Toys from the old Rudolph film.

    This is unprofessional behavior. I know this. Somehow this realization doesn’t much help.

    • That happens to me too, but I think it’s OK. When I’m writing, I get new ideas all the time. I tinker with them for a bit, maybe write a page or two, but then I go back to what I was doing, refreshed.

      Maybe you should set a time limit. Say I new idea pops up-work on it for thirty minutes and then force yourself to get back to work on what you started on. Take James Scott Bell’s advice and set a weekly word count. That helps light a fire under me to keep me on track.

      Besides, doesn’t Santa come for the misfit toys at the end?

      Happy writing!

    • Do you plot before you start writing? It could be that your brain is losing steam on the story you’re writing because you’ve hit a wall and are coming to the ending your initial story idea.

      I’m not a plotter, but I’m a finisher. I like the challenge of plowing through a “where do I go from here” plot roadblock. It takes discipline to finish.

      In your case, I would recommend you plot ahead of time & set daily wordcount goals until you finish. Finishing a novel will feel so much better than a lot of starts.

      Thanks for kickstarting our discussion, Carl.

  2. Distilling an 80-100K word novel into a one-sentence log line or one-paragraph blurb. I can do such summaries easily for the works of other authors, but not for my own.

    How to get through it? I ask critique friends for their help since they’re more objective than I am. Then I cobble together three or four of their best thoughts.

    Thank goodness for supportive writing pals. They help me, I help them, we all come out ahead.

    • Those teasers are tough. I try to break down each story into a log line, a book jacket summary, and a tag line for the cover and promotion. Each poses its own challenge. I hear ya, Debbie. Amen.

  3. For me it’s the brainstorming/research for my historicals. I almost never think in terms of stand alone stories, and the ideas I get for series are broad in scope–there’s both the personal issues for the protag and the wider scope of the story. Given what I like to write, that means not just understanding/researching a certain situation or incident but understanding local, regional, and national politics and economic dynamics that all directly impact the story (and to a small degree involves understanding of international aspects as well). And the novel series I’m dying to write, I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate a spy element into the historical–but things like how long it took communications (and people) to travel factor heavily into plotting out such a series.

    At times I want to throw up my hands and give up. But the darn idea just won’t let me go. Have I found a solution? No. Mostly because I get overwhelmed by the massiveness of the project. I’m still trying to teach myself what “breaking a project down into small chunks” really means in a practical, doable sense.

    • Holy cow, BK. Your issue sounds daunting yet intriguing.

      My first impulse is to say breakdown the main story thread first, the human story structure. But I can see how an historical idea (a good twistory) can blossom into a high concept first, then you’re off to the races with your research.

      Your mind is setting up the plausibility of a series as you research.

      I wonder if you might alter how your mind works if you write a standalone between series. Or if you research a series world (to insure you have a solid basis) but write individual story characters operating in that world.

  4. The most difficult part of my artistic process is getting past doubts: I’m too old, I’m not educated enough, I’m not creative enough, and all those other doubts probably every new writer has.

    I come with a background in the sports industry. One of the things a successful coach does is give athletes permission to fail spectacularly. (Spectacular fails only follow outrageous efforts despite obstacles.) Well, I’ve finally given myself permission to fail spectacularly. Without that permission, I wouldn’t be able to get past my doubts.

    • Great tip, Priscilla. Yes, we’ve all had to grant ourselves permission to write badly & we strive to improve with every new story we finish. Even big name authors have doubts when they take risks with their writing.

      One of my favorite authors, Robert Crais, shared how terrified he was when he wrote LA Requiem, one of his huge hits. He was afraid his fans wouldn’t accept the change in his popular PI series, but he finally took comfort when he “trusted the talent” that got him where he was.

      As human beings, it’s in our nature to deal with doubt, but the passion to tell a story and the talent we develop over time will stay with us. Trust your talent, Priscilla. Nurture it, like deep roots.

  5. The book description is a nightmare for me. I’d rather write a one-sentence logline than three paragraphs of description. Book reviewers boil down the story so well. I wish my mind worked that way.

  6. By far, the first draft. Since I don’t outline, I am quite literally flying by the seat of my pants with only the vaguest idea of how to get to my destination, which I am sure exists. On the other hand, it’s often an exhilarating ride but sometimes frustrating as hell.

    • Amen, brother. I’m a pantser too, but I’ve found that as my deadlines increased, I needed a hybrid plotting process. It’s my compromise between panting & plotting.

      On my website at http://www.Jordan , my FOR WRITERS tab has a post on my Plotting Bucket List “W” method. When I identify 7 key points to my story (like writing on a cocktail napkin), it’s enough to provide a framework to keep me writing transition moves through the 7 major turns. It’s helped me stay true to my pantser work method, while keeping a few guideposts in sight.

  7. Describing the setting. I find myself having to pinpoint every detail and then going back to published books and trying to find out how many details they put in. I’m pretty good now at writing an indoor scene, but outdoor scenes are daunting. Do roads really diverge at that angle? How long can a character ride past rolling hills or pastures before it becomes unrealistic? And can a mountain, forest and lake really reside so close to each other?

    And the worst problem is lighting. How far can a person see at twilight vs dawn vs midnight?

    • Details on setting can be overdone and can pull the reader from the story when their mind skims. I choose essential glimpses that create a mood or add to the emotion/tension of a scene. The objective is to trigger relatable images in the reader’s mind without forcing them to see YOUR version. Their minds will fill in the gaps, no matter what you write. You want to put them there, without forcing it with every detail. My .02.

  8. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to coordinate sub-plot with main plot. I’m pretty clear about JSB’s “doors” and midpoint for my main plot. But I’m not clear whether the same structure requirements would apply to subplots and how they should relate in the book’s chronology to the plot points of the main plot. Any good references would be appreciated.

    • JSB will probably weigh in with his sage advice. I tend to escalate subplots in a similar fashion to the main plot, but as the main plot ebbs, I ramp up mystery elements to keep up pace or reinforce the middle.

      In relationships, I may keep a man and woman on the run until they need quality romance time, but I make them pay for their romantic interlude by putting them in more danger BECAUSE they have feelings for each other. They’re vulnerable and I make them pay for it.

      In other words, if you can isolate or take out your subplot (or the romance) and your main plot still makes sense, then you don’t have the subplot & main plot integrated enough. They must work in tandem for plot AND pace.

      • “if you can isolate or take out your subplot (or the romance) and your main plot still makes sense, then you don’t have the subplot & main plot integrated enough.”

        I agree. And it applies to my story. But then my mind expands beyond my story, and I’m not sure it applies to some mysteries. Connelly, whom I’m reading lately, tends to have two investigations going. They may bump up against each other, perhaps interfere with each other, but my sense is that one of the investigations could be removed without having the plot line that runs through the other investigation, or the novel as a whole, crumble. E.g., _The Burning Room_. I’d have to go back and read it with this question in mind to be sure.

        • Connelly is amazing at creating a very realistic world for readers to step into. I can see him masterfully writing two parallel stories, just to show the wear on a department or a cop’s life.

  9. My biggest problem: I wrote non-fiction for ~20 years before tackling fiction and just can;pt get out of a non-fiction mindset – I’m aiming for historical thrillers/mysteries and have great “true crime” incidents for inspiration, but my story tacks too closely to the the real thing – I am an avid historical fiction reader, and I have some great models in favorite writers – Louis Bayard, Lyndsay Faye, Matthew Pearl, David Liss, Stephen Gallagher…but I’m having trouble just using the original incident as a springboard…that said, I’ve submitted two historical First Page Critiques to KZB this year and got such great feedback and encouragement, I’m determined to find my way through my challenge! Many thanks to everyone who participates on the blog! Happy Holidays!

    • David Loss lives in San Antonio as I do. I see him at different writer functions. I’m a fan of his writing.

      Sounds like you have deep roots in true crime or factual work. Maybe writing a novella length story in fiction might help you. Or take a historical period but apply a modern take on a story, to set it during that time period, that might help separate the two for you.

      You’re searching for that comfort zone of the familiar and maybe not trusting your ability to tell a fictional story, but once you get it, your brain will navigate you through the puzzle.

  10. The saggy middle! The first 20,000 words and the last 20,000 words are not a problem, but it’s that big chunk in the middle where I lose steam and things seem to meander. You probably guessed correctly that I’m a pantser… I am now trying to brainstorm a few chapters ahead and that helps give me direction, but I will definitely check out your link above Jordan to your plotting method on your website – thanks.

    • I think you’ll benefit from that “W” plotting method, Linda. It’s a way to add a hybrid approach to your toolkit. Weaving in a subplot could bolster your sagging middle too. Good luck.

  11. Pretty much everything is a challenge but I’m finding the idea of root canal more appealing than seeking beta readers. I don’t entirely trust the concept. I’ve used two readers. One was a pleasant experience, the other not so much. I know everyone says you have to have them, but I often wonder if the wrong one is worse than none at all.

    • Finding a good beta reader is a process and not every good one is capable of everything you might need or want. One of the key qualities to a good beta is honesty. You don’t need someone who’ll sing your praises to get a free read.

      Some have strengths in line edits (with a keen eye for grammar, punctuation, and catching typos & missing words). A rare unicorn-type beta can see your story at a higher level to bring up plot, twists, and character motivation. You need a combination of effective betas to get the job done.

      If your betas are not helping, get mercenary about it and quit sending them your draft. Find another volunteer and keep searching for keepers. Once you find a good group, keep them happy with plenty of appreciation and the occasional gift card.

      Good luck hunting, Barbara.

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