Writing Fiction

When I was a kid I used to dream of being a writer. My favourite class was English, and my favourite part of English class was creative writing. And spelling. I am a ridiculously good speller.

Anyhow, I remember being able to whip off a story in the space of an hour. In that hour I would think of an idea, write the story, proofread it, and sometimes even read it out loud to the class. It came easily to me and I loved it. In grade eight we were given an assignment to write a real and proper short story, and we had several weeks to do it. Weeks. I dug right into that homework, writing and writing and editing and re-writing, and finally with the help of my Mom (Hi Mom!), it was typed up and looked beautiful. I was proud of that story, and I am still proud of it today. Yes, I still have it. The marking scheme was from 1-5 with 1 being the best, and I got a 1+ with this comment: “Excellent Finola. You have mastered your writing skills very well. A pleasure to read. I especially enjoyed the shifting and intermingling of the plot locations and narrators!”

Now. What the #$%^ happened??

Once I started high school, there were few opportunities to write creatively. During and since high school I would occasionally and half-heartedly start writing a story, but the ideas would never flow, and my writing was, quite frankly, cringe-inducing. Writing always stayed in the back of my mind though, and after I started reading and studying blogs, I thought that maybe just maybe I had something to say in a blog, and that it could lead to sharpening my writing pencil once again. I also thought that blogging could maybe just maybe lead to me doing some real fiction writing. Those writing skills I mastered when I was thirteen must still be in there somewhere, right? On top of all that, blogging allowed the introverted me to express what must be my formerly hidden narcissistic self (but that is another post).

So a little more than a year after I started blogging, my fiction writing is frustrating me to all heck. Through blogging I practiced writing, and I met the three other lovely members of my writing group, and still everything (fiction) that I write makes me cringe. I have three different stories on the go at the moment, and I am thinking of sending all three out to my writing group with the caveat that these are not edited yet, but help – where do I focus my efforts because I am completely scattered and lost. The ideas don’t flow and writing dialogue makes me want to stick needles in my eyes.

Mostly though, I seem to be able to start a story, but then I get completely bogged down with where it should go next. I was talking to one member of my writing group a little while ago, and she suggested that I write something small but complete, with a beginning, middle and end. So I tried that, and that is how I ended up with the third unfinished story.

I’m feeling frustrated and discouraged. My next writing group meeting is Tuesday, and I am hoping to take some time between now and then to move forward just a little. We will see. I will let you know.

About Finola

I am an Ottawa area Mom, writer-want-to-be and coffee legend in the making.
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12 Responses to Writing Fiction

  1. Eileen says:

    Persevere, Finola. You are a very good writer. In the early stages of your book, don't worry too much about the dialogue. Very few books are published in the form submitted by the author. A good editor will make suggestions for changes and improvements. If the subject of your story is interesting it has a good chance.

    I remember your story well, and I'm glad you still have it. I also remember a lovely, nostalgic poem you wrote called “Say Goodbye to Summer”. I kept it for years, and I think I gave it to you some time ago.

    Paul is a very good writer too. He wrote an excellent story in Grade 7 or 8, for which he got 100%. He also wrote a great satirical poem about how Americans see Canadians.

    Keep trying.

  2. XUP says:

    I think what happened to you between 13 and now is that you developed self-consciousness about your writing. Back in the day you just wrote because you loved it; your ideas were spontaneous and uncensored. Then you became an adult and with adulthood comes all that second-guessing:(not just about writing, but every aspect of your life) — is this good enough? what will people think? does this make sense? does it flow? will anyone want to read it? is it believable? are my characters strong enough? etc., etc. There are many published writers whose self-consciousness shows through their work and it makes their work unpalatable. You can't be watching yourself write, worrying about how it will be received. It's very difficult to do and that's one of the reasons why there aren't a zillion good writers in the world. A useful exercise might be to just block yourself an hour or two every day to just sit at your computer and write — anything that comes into your head. It doesn't have to have any form or structure — just stream of consciousness. Make the connection between your pure thoughts/ideas and the page. Babble. Let go. Spew. You will be surprised at what will result.

  3. Lynn says:

    I could have written this post. I'm trying to get back into writing fiction after years away and it's so awkward and uncomfortable. Do you think any courses, online or in person, might help? Writing doesn't seem to me like a learned thing, it seems organic. But that's just my history talking – maybe it really does need to be learned.

    I also have a very small writers group and it's a godsend. I was a member for at least a year before I let them read anything at all. In the meantime I learned how to be a very good critical reader and editor – and also that it's okay to show them things that are completely not done, not good, and they will help me find the way. It's best to just jump in – at first you'll panic, but it'll all be worth it when you get used to sharing your stuff and trusting others to actually help the process, not judge.

    One thing that has really helped me is writing for contests. I do so much better with a) a given theme, b) a given word count, and c) a deadline. I have entered a few in the past six months that are super short – stories that are 1000 words long. It doesn't seem like such a huge mountain to climb when it's just a little thing. If you want some links to easy contests, I can send you some.

    In the meantime you may enjoy reading my friend Tudor's blog, it's inspirational:


    I've also considered taking a class from Alison Gresik, she's a writer's coach:


    Haven't had the guts yet – but I'll sign up if you will!

  4. Laura says:

    I'm supposed to be writing my fiction for Tuesday too…and nothing is working. Instead, I'm surfing my favourite blogs. lol I like the sound of XUP's suggestion. Maybe we should give it a try and discuss on Tuesday? Good luck. 🙂 I think you are a talented writer Finola.

  5. Rebecca says:

    You are an excellent writer. Don't give up. Keep writing. And push through this. It is hard with work and families etc to stop and write, especially if inspiration strikes at an odd time. But keep doing it 😉

  6. Anonymous says:

    I'll read them, Fin.

  7. Sasha says:

    I have to echo what XUP said about self-consciousness. Do the other members of your writing group want to stick needles anywhere when they read your writing?

    And forgive me if this is tried (or trite), but what about trying to forget it's fiction? I always enjoy reading your blog posts, maybe try writing in that voice, but without having to tie yourself down with fact?

    I don't know if that makes any sense, but hope it helps.

  8. Capital Mom says:

    I am struggling too. Mostly I am struggling because I am so tired from my own life that it seems impossible to inhabit the lives of others.

    All we can do is keep trying. We'll get there.

  9. Sara says:

    What XUP said 🙂
    It's what I lovingly refer to as word vomit. It's oftentimes ugly but hidden amongst the blargh are moments of brillance.
    And at least you're trying and practicing and doing…that's more than half the battle 😉

  10. Pauline says:

    I used to write short stories with ease when I was a child as well. And then I went to high school and met a few horrible teachers and ever since then, it's been tough to finish anything!

    But I'm going to keep writing and let others read it and hopefully things will improve from there. I'm also considering attending some writing workshops in the future. Have you ever been to one of those?

  11. Finola says:

    Eileen – Thanks Mom!! And I remember Paul's poem too and I hope he still has it because it was excellent.

    Xup – I think you are right about the reasons why writing has changed. I am going to take your suggestion and just try writing with no editing and I wills see where it takes me.

    Lynn – I would love to take some courses but for now I just can't see myself fitting anything new into my schedule. I think writing group is so helpful, and I like the idea of trying some contests too. Thanks for the link to Tudor's blog…I believe our children went to the same nursery school at the same time, so maybe I will get in touch with her too.

    Laura – I told you last night and I'll say it here again. I love your story and I think you are a great writer!!

    Rebecca – Thank you for the encouragement. It means a lot!!

    C – Thanks! Maybe I will bring a draft with me next month.

    Sasha – Well, they haven't told me specifically that they want to stick needles in their eyes, but who really knows? And I will try to forget I'm writing fiction and see how that goes. Great suggestion.

    Capital Mom – We will get there, especially now that we have our goals. Thanks for all the encouragement, both here and last night.

    Sara – What you said here makes sense and goes well with what we all talked about last night at writing group. I will do my best to vomit some words before next meeting!

    Pauline – Great to hear you are writing too. I haven't really thought about workshops but something like that could be really interesting. Thanks for the suggestion.

  12. Finola, all writers – ALL OF THEM – struggle with this same thing. You are such a great writer, and though fiction is different from blogging, the same tools are used. So many commenters have great points here so I won't revisit them all. My advice (which I struggle to follow myself) is to write every day (set a rational word limit), and not to be a perfectionist (in other words, resist the desire to edit as you go). I write a lot of short stories and poetry now – just for the satisfaction of having the time to draft, rewrite, edit and FINISH something. And keep up the writing group. Keeps you motivated. Good luck with it.

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