The Hardest Thing for me in Writing Fiction

There are actually two things that are very difficult for me when I write fiction.  I’m a big picture thinker, which means I’m also the opposite — bad at details.  I’m the one people yell at because I missed what looks like an obvious detail because I didn’t see it.

I don’t process details in the same way as other people. I can go out to the woods, notice all kinds of things, but when I come back to write a scene in the woods, all I have is “There are trees.”  The details of smell, hearing, sounds, and specifics of that forest disappear up into the big picture.  The only success I’ve had is to physical write down my observations while I am there and then draw on that (Evernote is very helpful for keeping a reference list like this).

But the result also is that I have trouble connecting to the details as I write.  People say, “It’s what your character notices.”  I don’t notice anything, so this doesn’t help me much.  Instead, I have to do the details backwards.  It’s “What can I add to this scene so I can use the sense of smell?” or “They’re outside a house.  What sounds would this area have?”  As a result, I’m constantly having to switch from right brain to left brain, which is makes for a slow process at times.

The second problem relates to me being a big picture thinker.  I tend to try to think in terms of the entire novel, rather than just the scene I’m working.  That has a history of derailing me because I’m trying to do too much at once, and I end too focused on the end point of a scene to make it fit into the big picture rather than on writing the scene.  I’m having to train myself to stop doing that as I write my new mystery novel.  I think that one will be a lot easier than the details!

Writers, what’s the hardest thing for you?