An Author’s Confessional: 15 Authors Talk About The Biggest Obstacle In Their Writing Life

Sometimes we writers get this wild idea that we are the only ones facing adversity. When you find yourself face first in the keys of your laptop or avoiding it all together, it can feel like no one else on the planet can possibly understand.

That little voice (we all have it) starts chiming all kinds of things in your ear. Here’s a list. See how many you’ve heard.

  1. This MS sucks eggs.
  2. I will never finish.
  3. I’m just not good enough.
  4. I really need to be cleaning house.
  5. I really need to be playing with my kids.
  6. I think I have a husband.
  7. I don’t have enough time.
  8. I’m going to be rejected.
  9. I can write later. Other things are more important.
  10. I can’t do this.
I could go on and on. We all have self doubts and stress and worry and LIFE. All of us. I highly doubt there is a single writer in existence that will tell you they’ve never struggled. They have. They do. They will. It’s part of the process. Every individual writer has their own Giant Hurdle, that Mountain of an Obstacle that they have to learn to overcome or at the very least cope with.

I’ve been facing my own obstacle lately. I lovingly call it The Mountain of Over-Thinking. I can find a million and one problems in a single sentence. I’ll take a perfectly decent arced plot and twist that sucker into a pretzel. It causes problems in my manuscripts that weren’t even there and it stunts my ability to move forward. I finally came to that magical point where I realized…I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE TO EVER GO THROUGH THIS. To cope with it I have 1) asked my crit partner to chew my ass out when I start texting her questions about things that don’t matter in my MS and 2) decided to JUST WRITE and turn off the Think Machine while I’m drafting. So far it’s working. And I’m greatly relieved. 

But the experience left me wanting to share a little of the hope I’ve experienced with others. So I decided to get some writerly peeps involved, find out what struggles they battle and roll it all up in a blog post. And let me say, I feel so privileged to know these ladies. They might not know it, but each one of them has done something that has affected the course of my writing life in one way or another, and I’m truly thankful for them.

So here goes. And remember. You’re not alone.

My biggest hurdle was accepting judgement. I’ve been an introvert my entire life. A lot of the reason I hate to go into the world has to do with how others will judge me, so to put my heart and soul on paper, then have others read it was the most painful/rewarding thing I’ve ever done. 
It was hard not to take the criticism personally in the beginning because every word I wrote was as much a child to me as one of my actual children. Like all new writers, I had a LOT of growing to do. I had to remind myself of the lesson my dad instilled in me early on: You can only learn and grow from making mistakes. So, I put my big-girl panties on and learned from what I did wrong, turning the judgement into a clinical situation. I want to create perfection, and will only get damn close when those pages are bleeding. I look forward to them now, which sounds demented, but I get excited when I see tons of comments and strike-thrus on my pages. It means someone else cared enough about my story to help me make it as perfect as I want it to be.
Misty is represented by Jennifer Weltz of JVNLA Literary Agency.  Follow her here: @mistydwaters ~ Author Facebook Page 

For me, the biggest hurdle was overcoming my lack of patience.  To illustrate, I’ll quote comedian Jim Gaffigan.

Jim: “I’ll have the hamburger.”
Waiter: How would you like that, Sir?
Jim: “Now. Where is it?”

There’s no Insta-Publish button on my keyboard, or on the internet for that matter. I was sure my first novel (which is currently under the bed somewhere) would be published. I learned very quickly that I needed to adjust my expectations. What did I do when the First Book I Ever Finished got rejected? I WROTE.  I wrote my way through learning how to pants, then plot. I wrote my way through character, story, and conflict. And, finally, I wrote myself right into finding my voice.

Even now I can be a tad impatient. My book’s been out for two weeks and already I’m eyeing the slots on the bestseller lists with envy.  But I know how to get there. All I gotta do is write. 🙂

Jessica is the author of Tempting the Billionaire, her January  debut release from Grand Central Publishing. You can follow her here: @lemmony ~ Author Facebook Page

I’d have to say my biggest hurdle came about a year and a half ago when the book I adored was rejected for the last time. At least it was the last rejection I saw.  My agent dropped me while the manuscript was still out on submission.  To say I was crushed is an understatement, and as much as I knew I could write, I wondered if I would ever be “good enough.”  I did keep writing, though. It may have only been a couple of hundred words a day, but I kept trying.  At the same time, my father was diagnosed with Leukemia and his health deteriorated rapidly.  However, my dad was always a big cheerleader and on his last lucid day he made me promise to go to a writer’s event that I was probably going to skip because I knew we were getting close to the end.  I did go, as I’d promised, and received multiple requests for my manuscript.  Three days later my father died.  A week later, right before I was going to go back to work, I sent off chapters to two agents who requested material.  Within three weeks I had two offers of representation. I signed with my wonderful agent and two months later I was offered a three book contract with InterMix.  My promise to my father to keep working toward my dream ended up being a turning point for me, and I firmly believe he was at my back, pushing, when things started to happen.

Jeannie’s debut novel A Temporary Wife is scheduled for release by Intermix in May 2013. Follow her here: @jeannie_moon ~ Author Facebook Page

For me, the biggest challenge was and even after publication, continues to be that nagging inner editor who insists every thing I write is total crap. 

What. A. Bitch.

I almost deleted SEND one night when I.E. got particularly loud. But a twitter plea resulted in a kind soul named Kelly Breakey offering to beta read. That made all the difference. 

I’m surrounded by well meaning family and friends who love every word I put to paper, but can’t always help me fix the plot holes and the weak character development. 

I sought help (no, not mental help, though that couldn’t hurt) of the professional variety. I joined my local RWA chapter and met other writers in various stages of their careers. I seek beta reads as often as possible because I truly believe writing flaws are a symptom of that old forest/trees adage. Sometimes, a fresh set of eyes who knows how to critique honestly instead of just wrinkling the nose helps me overcome I.E.’s persistent nagging.

My mom died last year close to the deadline for my second novel. Forcing myself to write when I didn’t want to get out of bed was tough, but excellent therapy. I.E. was all but screeching back then. 

But I continued to talk to my editor, my chapter mates, and the writer friends I’ve made online to help me beat that voice back into a dark corner of my mind — far, far away from the nerves that control any urges to click the Delete key. 

Patty Blount is the author of the YA novel SEND.  Her next release, TMI, is due out in Fall 2013. Follow her here: @PattyBlount ~ Author Facebook Page

The biggest obstacle I’ve faced is time. Time for brainstorming, time for writing that first draft, time for editing, time for family, time for work, time for social media, etc. As writers, we tend to get so absorbed in the worlds we’ve built that all we want to do is spend more time there. And if we could, I’m sure most of us would spend ten to twelve hours a day doing nothing but writing. But we can’t because there are other obligations that need our attention (gotta pay the light bill to keep writing, right?). Back in May I realized that there were some techniques I apply during my day job that I don’t apply to my writing life. Techniques such as time management. Duh, right? How else am I getting 10 projects completed in eight hours? And why can’t I do that at home with my writing? So I took the tips I’d given my colleagues at work during a presentation, and applied them to my writing life by setting a schedule for my writing. This way, I’ve got nights where I spend time relaxing and watching TV with the hubs, and nights where I go straight to my computer after dinner and work until bedtime. I even scheduled out the nights I’m working on my writing career: a half-hour for social media, an hour for blog writing, if needed, specific times for editing, and specific times for drafting/re-writing.
I’m not saying that I don’t, or haven’t fallen off the wagon recently by drafting when I should’ve
been editing, or editing when I should’ve been watching TV with my husband. But with that said, just the simple fact that I have a plan, and post-it note reminders throughout the house to remind me of that plan, I’ve definitely been able to get back on track a lot easier than I had before giving my writing life some structure.

Melinda is a Fantasy and Paranormal Author on the journey to publication. Follow her here: @LurchzPrincess ~

I wasn’t one of those people who knew from the age of five that I wanted to be a writer, so I didn’t pay attention to writing skills in school. Er, that might not have been the best idea. Back in 2007, when my muse first started yelling at me to write, I had a lot of catch-up learning to do. I’ve struggled with–and overcome–grammar issues, over-writing, lack of sensory details, and capturing emotions on the page. But my true nemesis remains: query letters.

I won’t let them get the best of me though. Even if I decide to self-publish, I still need to be able to write a query-like back cover blurb. As part of my determination to clear this hurdle, I’ve started a query/blurb exchange club so writers can help each other with their query letters or blurbs. I will beat this problem. Someday. Somehow. *hears “Rocky” soundtrack in her head*

Jami is a paranormal author on her journey to publication. Follow her here: @JamiGold ~ Author Facebook Page

Angela Ackerman

The biggest mental roadblock I had to get past was realizing there was no magical moment. What I mean by that is when I decided to go down this path, I would write, read and learn, all with the destination in mind of finally “being good enough.” It seemed to take forever. The more I figured out about writing, the more I realized I still had so far to go. It was so frustrating. Heartbreaking.
Then one day I realized I was missing the point entirely, waiting to hit this magical point. There is no “good enough.” There is only “better” because as writers, we never stop learning or growing! It’s the journey and the determinations to always reach higher and try harder that is so important.
Angela is repped by Jill Corcoran of the Herman Agency and is the co-author of the fabulous Emotion Thesaurus. Follow her here: @AngelaAckerman ~ The Bookshelf Muse

Picking my BIGGEST struggle in writing is difficult; there have been so many. I’d say the biggest would not be one most people think of: motivation, determination, or finding an agent. My biggest struggle was and is letting go. I can revise, tweak, delete, and start over a million times. I’ve been known to send an ms to a crit partner and email *cough* several times with changes. It just never seems quiiiite right. We all know those words that sound awesome in our heads rarely hit the page in the same order and never read back as perfect as we had envisioned. It’s hard for me to read something in print because I STILL want to make changes. To me, it can always be better. But I’m learning to let…it…go. At some point, we have to call it done. We have to say we are doing more harm than good. And this year, I had to make that final sacrifice and shelve a novel I love. I had to say it was time. Wow, that was tough, to admit no amount of tweaking or revising would change that it was simply time to move on. I cried a few tears, but hurdle jumped. I’m still alive, finishing up something new, and (occasionally) allowing a small sigh for my buried book. I couldn’t let it paralyze me, and I’m glad I pushed forward, because I’m hopeful that the best is yet to come.   

Michele Shaw writes YA Romantic Suspense, Short Stories, and Poetry with representation by Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary. Her short story  A Shot In the Dark is featured in Mystery Times Nine, available on Amazon
Follow her here: @veertothewrite and at her website

There are SO MANY obstacles in writing! But mine is simple, and it’s all my fault. Procrastination. I am continually amazed at my abilities in this area! I can put off anything, even stuff that I love (aka…writing), because it is hard and scary, and what if I don’t do it good enough and then people hate my writing and I fail before I really get out of the gate?!?!?! Yeah, I have some issues.

But when I realize that I’m letting my skills with this talent once again take over (and they always do get in the way), I remind myself of one thing. I can either procrastinate, risk not getting the book done, and thus definitely fail. Or I can get MY JOB done, and take one step closer to fulfilling all my dreams. I choose my dreams. Every time. So that’s when I lock myself in my room (or sometimes a hotel room), tell my husband that I’ve been bad and must be in “writing time out” (again!!!) until I get done, and I do not let myself do anything else until I get the work done. Because I want it. Badly. I want it all! And I’m not going to be the one to get in my own way!

Kim is the author of Caught on Camera and Sugar Springs. Follow her here: @kim_law ~ Author Facebook Page

The biggest obstacle to writing for me can be summed up in three little words: “Not Enough Time”. I’m not talking about daily writing time, though that can be an issue as well. But the most frustrating thing in the world for me is that I have all these ideas racing around in my head, characters telling me stories, situations requiring explanations…and I can only write so many drafts at once. It’s a personal limitation that drives me crazy on a regular basis. I want to write everything! Right now! Or yesterday!
I deal with it the way I deal with most things – by organizing. I write down each plot and/or character as it comes to me, and put it in an “ideas” folder where everything is grouped by genre/pen name. Then I tentatively schedule it on a calendar – even if it’s years away, I assign it a year and month to potentially start drafting, based on what I’m working on now and any other ideas ahead of that one. Whether I actually get to it on time is not the point – the point is, having notes written and a schedule for starting enables me to set it aside so I can work on my current drafts without so much distraction in my head. It also provides motivation to finish my current stories, so I can move on to the next one more quickly.
Jamie writes steamy, romantic suspense for Brazen Snake Books and is the author of many novels/novellas. For a listing of her available books, click here. You can follow her here: @JamieDebree ~ Author Facebook Page

When Charissa asked my thoughts on the biggest obstacle in my writing life, I jumped at the chance to discuss because I think most writers have a common difficulty: Balance.
Let’s face it, writing doesn’t pay the bills. At least not right away, so most writers maintain full or part-time jobs. Some of us don’t figure out we even enjoy writing until our second or third kid and by that time we’ve lost some of our marbles and most of our scruples. This might make for epic storytelling but that becomes difficult when there are bills to pay, homework to finish and dinner to make. It’s dinnertime AGAIN??
For a full year, we write, we tweet, we Facebook our way up the social media hill trying to build our platform. We race home from work, slap food on the table, rush through homework, find lost socks and kiss skinned knees before sitting down to manuscripts. It’s at this point we: A.) Discover spouse has something he/she’s been saving for a month until we aren’t so busy. B.) Discover spouse needs to know we still care enough to sit next to them on the couch. C.) Fall face first into the keyboard and wake up toeight pages of rrrrrrrrrrrr’s.
If we’re lucky, we land a publishing deal and PR becomes a happy problem to have. Blog tours, book signings and conferences now steal our time. However, the kids are still hungry and those bills glare at us from the organizer. Exercise and a nutritious diet took a hike last spring and got lost in the woods.
Balance is a dirty word in my household. Luckily, I have the squat, stout body of a gymnast, a head made of purest titanium, and a stubborn streak that shames the Grand Canyon. I juggle each of these glass balls carefully and with precision. I’ve not yet mastered it, but I’m much better at focusing my time and effort. I’m a much better person when I do what I love and my children see how hard work pays off. They’ve been taught by example how to chase their dreams and make them a reality. And if in the process, I write a New York Times bestseller, well…that would be okay too.

Valerie is the author of Happenstance, her debut novel releases by Turquoise Morning Press. You can follow her here: @Valeriebrbr ~ Author Facebook Page

Cathy Yardley

The biggest writing obstacle I’ve faced is one that’s closest to my heart. That would be my six year old son, 
a.k.a. The Boy.
When I was writing two or three books a year, while holding down a full time job, people asked me how I did it and I used to half-joke: “Easy! I don’t have kids!” But having The Boy, while more than worth it, changed my writing in ways I didn’t expect. For one thing, my attention span was cut in half. The first year of his life, I was psychotic with lack of sleep. (My poor husband kept eyeing me warily, like I was going to suddenly whip out a tire iron if he woke the napping infant.) When sleep slowly and grudgingly returned, the damage turned out to be irreparable. The days of merrily producing thirty pages or so in an evening? Gone.
It took some getting used to, but I adapted. Rather than panicking over what I’ve lost, I’m happy with what I’ve gained. For one thing, I’m able to do more in an hour than I used to, because I know sometimes, an hour’s all I’ve got. For another thing, I don’t obsess over things like reviews and jockeying for publishing position the way I used to. Thanks to The Boy, I’m able to let the things that don’t ultimately matter truly slide.
He’s the best conflict a heroine could ever face. And he’s been totally, wonderfully, magically worth it.

Cathy is a multi-pubbed author with Avon and Harlequin. For a listing of her books, click here. You can follow her here: @cathyyardley ~ Author Facebook Page

My biggest challenge as a writer has always been trusting myself and my own voice. It sounds so easy, but it’s not. I used to be terrible at second guessing myself when I sat down to write, now I’m just really bad at it. There’s always a little voice in the back of my head saying things like, “Don’t write that!” or “Are you sure, she said that?” and the ever present, ”You can do better.” It’s really easy to listen to that voice and doubt every single word I write down and there are some days where I still do that. Those are the days where I have to turn the computer off, walk away and take a break. And when I go back (because I always go back) I realize that more often then not, there was a reason I wrote what I wrote, and I have to let it go and leave it for the second pass. 
It’s the second pass where things really start to come together for me; where I can see what my sub-conscious wrote without me even realizing it—the magical bits of dialogue, the emotional connection between characters, the little details that make up my voice. The voice I have come to trust.  Everyday that I sit down at my keyboard, my trust grows because every writer has their own unique voice and the more time I spend with it, the more I like mine.

Elena is the author of several contemporary women’s fiction novels. To see a listing of her books, click here. You can follow her here: @elenaaitken ~ Author Facebook Page

My biggest obstacle? Over confidence. Yeah, bet you haven’t heard that one! I’m someone with healthy self esteem (according to my husband, “teflon-coated” and a cheerful and upbeat personality. I go into the world, liking people and expecting people to like me, and love my work. Alas, like a golden retriever getting smacked with a newspaper, I am winded with astonishment and blindsided by grief. Again, and again.

The road to publication has been riddled with potholes, dead ends and setbacks, and finally, after years of rejection followed by astonishment/grief, followed by tears, etc, I’ve moved on to self publishing.

 But I persevere, and torture myself still, with the hope of badly-paid traditional publishing deal. Just this weekend I was pitching my books to editors at a writing conference, and running into the bathroom to cry into a pile of toilet paper when they declined to read, their faces cold at the mention of “self publishing success.” 
Rave reviews from readers, getting to quit my job, making lots of money and having over 200,000 downloads have still not cured me of trying for that brass ring of validation, like a neuveau-riche upstart with a big diamond ring trying to get into the country club.
Over confidence. It’s my big, bad hair, my boob job, my belly button ring with the lucky diamond horseshoe. 
I really think I belong in that country club, and I’m not going to stop breaking nails on the gate until I get in. 

Toby is a therapist and Hawaii-based author of the bestselling Lei Crime Series. You can follow her here:@tobywneal ~ Author Facebook Page

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  1. What a fabulous group of women! I'm honored to be among them. And a what a list…good to know I'm not the only one with that damn annoying little voice. 🙂
    Thanks, Charissa.

  2. What a fun idea and lineup. Thanks so much for asking me, Charissa, I love the diversity of answers. It's comforting to know we all struggle.

  3. LOVE THIS SOOOO MUCH!!! Hugs for you all, every friggin one of you who have ever encouraged me in any way. I appreciate every ounce of steam I get from posts like this one. I'm so fired up and charged from this!!! See–> I did my own post about THIS post!

    You all rock and I wish you all MUCH success and happiness. MWAAAAAAH! *o/* WOOOO To The HOOOO!

    Power to the writers!! (and yes…if you're wondering…I got excited and forgot the link :D)

  4. Thank you so much for bringing all of these fabulous ladies together for this post! And thank you for asking me to be a part of it! I read through everyone's obstacles, and I nodded, nodded, nodded. Then I wept a little bit. LOL! It's so comforting and heart warming to know that we are definitely not alone in our struggles throughout this writing journey.

    I also posted about this particular post on my blog today too… just a way to direct traffic to get over here and read about these amazing women! 🙂

    Thank you again!

  5. Thank you, Charissa, for including me! I'm sorry I'm a day late–yesterday I had to bring out my Digital Wonder Woman Lasso of Truth against a plagiarist (tomorrow's blog topic 🙂 ) and I was a bit buried. But thank you!

    Like others have mentioned, it's great to know that we're not alone. 🙂

  6. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS!!!! I read each one while nodding my head, thinking yep, yep, yep, yep. Thanks to ALL of you for this amazing post.