by Ann Marie Williams
Have you noticed that professional, successful, writers — writers whose work has been produced and praised time and time again — often comment they still find writing difficult? And that no matter how many successful stories they’ve written, they frequently question whether the story they are currently penning will amount to anything worthwhile?
Why is this? Shouldn’t, at some point, writing get… easier?
I think the simple (and yet potentially frustrating) answer, is: yes and no.
The “Writing Gets Easier” Part
Like with most things in life, the more we practice, the easier something becomes. And I believe that this is true for aspects of writing.
The more we write, the more we can hone the tools at our disposal so we can most effectively convey a story. Certain standards become second nature (how to start a sentence, how to write a piece of action to generate the most impact, how to hide exposition so it’s revealed naturally, how to write transitions that lead the audience to the conclusion you want without having to spell it out). All those skills (among many others) can become easier with experience.
In other words, the techniques of writing become easier.
The “Writing Doesn’t Get Easier” Part
No matter how excellent a writer’s skills at writing may be, every single story a writer sets out to tell is new. And that means every new story will come with it’s own problems to solve. New plot holes to fill, new concepts to hone, new characters to arc, new dialogue to refine, new pacing to achieve, new structure to build… And these will challenge every writer, no matter how skilled or how many successfully-produced stories he/she has previously written.
So, the takeaway here is that no matter how many stories you’ve written before, each new one starts with a blank page. How you fixed a plot hole in the last story you wrote, probably won’t be what’s needed to fix the plot with the story you’re currently writing because the stories are different. Different plots, different problems, different solutions.
In other words:
Identifying Problems Gets Easier. Finding Solutions Does Not
I think, with experience, it becomes easier to identify what is working in a story and what is not working in a story.
An experienced writer will be able to identify what’s wrong with their story faster than an inexperienced writer. But… figuring out how to fix the problem is always going to be a struggle. Knowing what’s wrong is not the same as knowing how to fix it.
Bottom line: Writing stories gets easier. Creating stories does not.
None of this, by the way, is meant to be a depressing observation. It’s actually meant to be the opposite. Because if you are writing, it’s probably challenging. And it probably should be. My point is: that’s okay. You’re not alone.
Two More Thoughts…
Another reason writing doesn’t get easier is because with increased skill, experience, and maturity, the stories we tell can become more complex, which requires more writing and storytelling skills. We are getting better. But that doesn’t mean it’s getting easier.
And here’s one last aspect of writing that I think gets easier with experience: knowing that a fix is out there.
It is now much easier for me to accept that if I put in the time and effort I can find a way to make a story work. The work isn’t easier by any means. But the emotional fortitude is easier to come by because I know that I’ve faced this before and survived to come out on the other side. So I know I can do it again. It just depends on how hard I’m willing to work to get there.
Screenplay Competitions has received endorsements from Dave Trottier (Author, The Screenwriter’s Bible, www.keepwriting.com), Richard Walter (former Screenwriting Area Head, Associate and Interim Dean UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television), Matt Dy (former Director of Script Competitions at Austin Film Festival), professor Harry M. Cheney (Chapman University Dodge College of Film and Media Arts), script editor Lucy V. Hay (www.bang2write.com) and Emmy-wining writer Ken Levine (Hollywood and Levine).