Eight Major Blind Spots in Story-telling for Writers

I want to highlight some typical blind spots I’ve noticed that writers have when they begin. We all have at least a couple of these, because we’re all living through the context of our own lens and cognition styles. There are simply some elements of writing that will take us a lot more work to adapt, because nobody is perfect. Usually these weaknesses are ironed over in the editing process, since many writers like to churn out their first draft very quickly. Still, it would make the editing process even easier if you had rough understanding of your weaknesses ahead of time.

There are different kinds of writers, but if you can gain an understanding of your weaknesses and strengths, you can transcend yourself as an artist. I’m not saying we have to be perfectly balanced and representative of every element, because that would definitely lead our stories to reading…. Pretty much the same. I don’t believe in formulaic writing, as it’s the uniqueness of our voices that makes art…. Beautiful. Still, you might want to know where you could add a little more.

  1. Some writers are stuck on world building and the big picture.
    Their imagination is out of this world, with unique concepts that strike you with wonder. They continually polish the essence and backstory, as if it’s a series of musical notes. They’re the writers that have a thousand ideas, but can’t get the story written. They have no believable characters or drama to begin revealing all this amazing backstory to the audience. People may enjoy epics like the Odyssey for its grandiose imagination…but they also need substantiated characters through whom to view and experience these awe-inspiring worlds.
  2. Some writers have a hard time adding emotional color to their stories.
    Maybe they’re overly technical and their word choice is purely functional. In this case, you might not be expressive by default and you’re stretching to find the abstractions so you can write artistically. You’re the one I’ll have the most trouble coaching. It’s a matter of thinking in terms of the essence, implications, and the layers of something, rather than the surface level. Try to look at something from more than one angle, write several sentences about it until you find a parallel truth that hits home, or strikes an emotional chord deep within.
    Or maybe, they’re writers who won’t allow their characters struggle with weakness. To them, characters are supposed to be perfectly rational and badass. Anything less than that is obviously annoying and whiny, right? Not necessarily… It’s probably even more annoying to read about a character that always triumphs; who is always seen in a good light; who always outsmarts everyone around them. If you have a character that is perfectly rational and badass, make that their weakness which takes them down hard. Humble them. Throw something at them that makes them feel human. Otherwise, you don’t have a relatable story. You have a Mary Sue or a robot. Dive deep into your emotional bank and think about your most vulnerable moments, especially the ones where there were conflicting elements. Values vs. desire. Ego vs. compassion. Self-preservation vs. needs of others. Cognitive dissonance is a special enemy we all have to deal with.
  3. Some writers can’t write about characters that aren’t like them.
    What you’re writing is not literary if you can’t step out of your own shoes. Sure, it’s still creative writing, but it’s not literary. You will be limited as a writer and creator, and you’ll probably face a lot of harsh criticism. If you want to know what it’s like to be inside the mind of a 60 year old professor, go and talk to one. Interview them. Pay attention to the way they express themselves. Don’t just detail their opinions, also pay respects to the experiences behind those opinions: their background, their context, the ones who mentored them. Read journals and diaries of people who have been through things. All characters exist within context of their own experiences, and then they in the context of your character’s experience.
  4. Some writers follow stereotyped relationships too closely.
    Depending on the age group you’re writing for, these can be especially corny in parent-child or best friend relationships, like in Disney movies with overly tender friendships and filial relationships that are romanticized in an unrealistic, idealistic way. Live-action Cinderella, anyone? (Cringe). That was a movie written for children, of course, so if your dialogue has a similar feel though intended to target the “New Adults” age group, this advice is especially for you.
    The reason people of all ages loved even a children’s story like Harry Potter was because the characters were real. So were their relationships. Harry, Ron, and Hermione weren’t overly gooey with sentiment with each other. They had beef and called each other out often. They annoyed each other. But they valued each other for what each person added to their pack, and depth of relationship grew over time.
    Established social roles matter to certain types of people, but then don’t matter to others. Hierarchy of age or social class (or even gender for some cultures). Do they matter to your characters? Then, take this a step further by looking at socionics too. How do social roles affect the socionics relationship? Does it make it awkward? Strained? Hostile? Smooth? Chemical? Deep? Telepathic? Friendly? THIS is where the drama comes between people and characters.
  5. Some writers talk to themselves, they’re so good at dialogue, but ignore the big picture.
    These writers are funny. They build electric chemistry between their characters. Their dialogue sounds like something you may have heard on your bus commute, it’s so real. But what makes this dramatic moment particularly special in the big picture? What are the consequences of all these character interactions? How does what they do impact the world around them? How does the larger world around them impact the characters? Moments suspended in time with no outcome will frustrate readers. Writers who focus only on relationships with no big-world message will be confined to a particular genre and audience, such as romance, family, or comedy. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that sticking to one genre, if you’re comfortable with that and enjoy it. But genres such as fantasy, sci-fi, adventure, period, mystery, or war will need loads more consequence than character moments to make your story resonate.
  6. Some writers have worked out everything except plotting.
    There’s a lot of layered meaning, interesting details, and emotional drama. But the pacing of the story drags because nothing is happening. The story doesn’t move. It’s inundated by talented prose, which becomes the master of the story. This renders planning very difficult. Once you’ve written some beautiful bits of prose, you find it hard to move them around. They’re anchored to a particular moment, which… isn’t tied to a plot point. These are the types of stories that end up as saved files on a computer that go nowhere. However, these can be wonderful later, once you’ve drawn up a story plan. If the moments do add something to the plot, they can easily be added back in, even trimmed and tweaked to match the context. Free-writing can still be a great thing. Plots need goals, methods, conflicts, twists, disasters, and resolutions. The moments we write are in response to these events.
  7. Some writers fail to keep their stories logically consistent.
    Fiction isn’t real. Especially in fantasy, it’s okay to break some of the rules of established science if you’re using some sort of magic system. But if you aren’t keeping the logic within your story consistent throughout, the readers can’t come to find a sequence of patterns that helps them work out where your story is headed. Stories that leave trails of clues and follow a logical, consistent progression are addicting because they are satisfying when a reader figures something out and then sees it fulfilled. This is a matter of logical integrity. If you don’t have this, you end up with a story like LOST, which didn’t tie up nicely or satisfyingly. It felt like cheating. **This is more important with plot and systems than it is with human will and relationships, which are all dramatic and unpredictable by nature. It’s 100% necessary to throw a wrench in a reader’s expectations when it deals with human nature . For instance, the reveal about Rey from Star Wars being the child of junk traders instead of someone important. This was an example of drama; therefore, it does not fit into this category (side note: I found this reveal to be so much more moving than finding out she belonged to another dynasty, which would have been melodramatic).
  8. Some writers have a hard time rooting the story into a place and time, because they don’t add fine details or subtlety.
    Stuff is really moving in the story with smooth pacing. The characters have zinger dialogue. But where are small, contextual details that draw you into the moment, engaging the five senses? References to the past? Tangible objects that draw an image of the room around you? Spatial patterns? All of these things are engrossing, lifting your story from a reading to an experience.

Now that we’ve discussed eight blind spots in storytelling, we should keep in mind that there are more than that in writing: prose, voice, vocabulary, humor, irony, consistent narrating, pacing, formatting… Most of these, though, can be ironed out during the second draft and editing. Let me know in the comments what else might constitute a blind spot in storytelling.


Navigating the Self-Publishing Writer’s Life with 14 Goals

I’ll tell you a secret: I’ve been writing a book for a while. Bits and pieces of freehand turned into extensive world-building, which then needed a skeleton to hold it up. After engineering the plot, I’m filling in the gaps – essentially, molding a book from a pile of raw creative material. Once complete, it will then require a rewrite and then an edit. It’s a learning process. It’s a long process. It’s intimidating.

Hundreds of books exist on the craft: which ones should I buy? Should I actually follow stylistic trends that make books read like movies? What if I love wordplay, metaphor, and bookishness?

While I learn the ins and outs of what makes a novel publishable, I’ll be sharing my discoveries and roadblocks. Like any starting author, I’ll need to clear my writing process of mistakes that muddle manuscripts until it gleams like Cinderella. The rule is that the final draft must maintain its intended ambiance and message; there is no option to sell out. That said, every writer desires to reach an audience, and that takes research.

Self-publishing is a thing many writers are opting for these days, I quickly discovered. The benefit is, you’re guaranteed to be in print. But to be successful at this, it takes more than just writing a great book that shines through all the toxic waste on Amazon – it also takes HUSTLING marketing.

But what the hell is marketing, anyway? I wondered.

Don’t markets want to slap labels on you and shelve you, until you land in the warehouse with all other boxes of outdated trends? Well… that is what targeting the masses would require. What you as an artist want is to be un-boxable, a unique curiosity that won’t be contained in generic packaging, and that is exactly what you should do. Marketing simply means reaching your target audience.

All these savvy, self-publishing authors, with their Twitter and Tumblr empires! Do I really have to put myself on a YouTube channel? If you’re anything like me – and I have a suspicion that most compulsive writers are – you probably don’t love verbal communication. That’s why you turned to compulsive writing in the first place. Maybe you even hate attention. I know I do. Look, I’ve been allergic to these microscopes for many years now. I don’t want to put myself out there – I just want my story out there. It’s like a minefield, and I’m going to try to navigate through with you on my blog without injury.

To start, I’d like to share a few of my writer-y goals with any of you other aspiring authors, so that it may help you build your roadmap to success:

  1. Finish the entire first draft of the book.
    Books must be completed to be rewritten and edited. I have enough backstory and characters to make at least three books. At this point, there really is no need to spend an hour brainstorming about the background information. We’ve all done this, jumping into the rabbit hole of backstory until it’s so inflated that you don’t have enough room in your book to keep it all. Do yourself a favor: move the plot. Get the chapters written.
  2. Pick up paid freelance gigs from various sources.
    Yes, the goal is to sell a finished novel, but there are really no guarantees that the book will be a bestseller. And even if its fate is to be an Amazon bestseller, that doesn’t always make authors huge royalties. But that’s not even the point of writing. You’re writing because you love it. The second you start banking on it becoming your income, it becomes a labor, instead of a labor of love. There are ways to haul in good money freelance writing online.
  3. Post weekly articles to your website revealing tips in writing & editing and self-publishing.
    The way you get freelance gigs is by building a solid portfolio – one that really showcases your writing style and variability. Every article you write is part of that process, so vary the style some. But also, make the content valuable to gain followers, which shows potential clients that you can reach people.
  4. Build a solid base of articles.
    Consistent & quality content are the main ingredients to getting followers. When followers see that you’re consistently providing them valuable information, they look forward to stopping by your site. Sometimes, other bloggers may visit and share your content with their followers. It’s a snowball effect: you just have to get rolling.
  5. Share these to platforms like Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.
    There are several social media sources where people repost information constantly. They reblog on Tumblr; they retweet on Twitter. The good thing about these is that they are already set up in the form of information share. These sites are designed specifically for reblogging and to reach readers of different styles. Tumblr is helpful in enhancing curiosity with the share of content-relevant images. This calls out to those with even the shortest attention spans.  I find that Tumblr and Twitter are great if you’re actively trying not to be under the lens of people from your hometown, high school, family, cults you’ve escaped – you get the picture.
  6. Update your photo-editing software.
    Since you’re going to need to post photos to your blog, to have a complete and engaging article, it’s not going to work well if you simply upload an image from your smartphone. I need a program that will allow me to create and intriguing graphics for announcements and newsletters with popular fonts. These are not cheap programs, so you’ll need to budget them in.
  7. Get a video camera that is not a smartphone.
    Your smartphone may have a great camera, but real cameras are better, especially if you have any experience with different lenses. There’s a limit to how directed your smartphone photographs can get. If you’re a photo enthusiast, you’ll probably want accurate lenses and to play with shutter speeds at some point.
  8. Get a great video-editing program.
    The best YouTube videos always have visual effects and intros added in by the author. Sometimes authors even create book trailers with sound & visual effects showcasing their story pitch as they’re working on their manuscript.
  9. Create a YouTube channel for connecting with writers, readers, and kindred spirits.
    This is a great way to network online, particularly with entrepreneurs, authors, book reviewers, Gen Z’ers, and generally other internet junkies. It creates a personal connection to an audience. If you do this, be sure to take extensive privacy measures before amassing followers – otherwise, you open yourself up to vulnerabilities like you’ve never had before. I’ve heard some of the threats my favorite YouTubers have gotten, and, well…. Let’s not let that happen.
  10. Post videos that are valuable and interesting.
    A vlog is a vlog. A blog is a blog. But you can turn these things into platforms and small communities when you offer your audience quality information that helps them in their writing journey. Plus, you can use these videos to connect with like-minded people who take an interest in your personality. This may also make them wonder what sort of story you’ve come up with, which later becomes readers. This goal is the single most daunting of all of them, because I happen to be hella camera shy.
  11. Update the graphics on your website to present a professional & aesthetic portfolio.
    We all know that people do judge books by their covers. The same is true of the layout of your website or blog. Be mindful of your target audience – try to cater to them, but keep it neat and professional. The more appealing & professional the appearance, the more people will subscribe.
  12. Update the HTML / CSS on WordPress website.
    Basic coding will work just fine, but some layouts are just more dated than others. Would you read a book when you could tell the website had been thrown together in only a few minutes? We all know those online businesses still have the aesthetic feel of a 1998 Geocities page – and who really trusts what comes from them?
  13. Commission an artist from DeviantArt to help create a logo.
    This is more just my goal, because there are some amazing artists out there who will freelance a piece of art for you for pretty cheap! This is important for me, since I would like to put an image of myself on the site, but I know I’m not particularly photogenic. A graphic representation is already adding artistic quality to your page.
  14. Actively engage with people online: kindred spirits, other writers, and other readers.
    Since I realize that the content of my book will be best suited for a particular set of personalities, the purpose of my social media engagement will be to attract friends, followers, and relationships of reciprocity among those personality types by engaging with their social media accounts as well as tailoring my content.

With so many literary trends out there, it’s easy to look at what’s hot and worry that a story isn’t going to appeal to a wide audience. But I’m of the mindset that it’s the non-conforming stories that shatter ceilings with artistic integrity. If you write to please anyone other than yourself, you lose that integrity. Any good book will have people who love it and people who hate it. Everyone has something of value to add and others who will relate to their message. The key is to reach those people.

It’s important to maintain a sense of balance, realism, and humor while charting into vulnerable places. As I continue down this path, I’ll share stories from my life.  I’ll tell only the truth, about me & about the process. I’ll let you know when I’ve checked off a goal and how long it took. I’ll tell you when I’m proud of an accomplishment and when I’ve failed miserably. I’ll do what I can to illuminate and demystify the process so that others may find the courage to embark on their creative journeys.