1. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    Conception Beyond Basics

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by BrianIff, Jul 11, 2015.

    It's becoming a recurring theme of mine to wait and come up with a pretty good idea for a story. Then it seems to fall apart beyond deciding on minor characters, sub-plots, stuff that would be necessary for a good full-length novel. Is it a matter of reading more? I don't read that much fiction, truth be told, but don't seem to get much inspiration and am more like to end up copying style when I do. If any more experienced writers have an idea of what I'm experiencing, what does it come down to? I aim to write 'literary,' but am sure it's common for all beginners, or so I imagine. Referrals and resource links are good too please. Sorry if this gets asked a lot, but I tried to unearth already in the plot thread.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2015
  2. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    You could focus on the main plot and characters first. Good subplots and minor characters support the main plot, so they might come to you later. If you have a solid plot and main characters, then it's easier to see what sidestories would enhance it.
     
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  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is it possible you're a natural pantser, trying to act like a plotter?

    What do you think would happen if you just started writing, and saw what happened?
     
  4. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I really underestimated how much different fiction writing would be from what I've written since university (op-ed type crap), so I can't comment per se whether I'm a pantser, but my inclination is 'no.'

    Okay, just want to be clear I have realistic expectations about success, but for me it's important to also have "what's there" in terms of what makes quality work these days. Maybe read more reviews in journalism, I don't know. It just feels like there's some invisible phenomena in literature that I should nail down before embarking. It sounds horrible, but I want some sort of checklist for the less apparent qualities of literary successes.
     
  5. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    Have you tried using a kind of brainstorming diagram?

    When I come up with a general idea I tend to develop it step-by-step. Get general stages of your main plot down: where does it start and how does it end. When thinking of sub-plots, try to image your characters or the setting and think, 'what type of things would happen here? What would my characters do? What type of people are they?' Then start noting down ideas of things they would get up to. I feel a sub-plot has to be related to the story in some way otherwise you're essentially just padding your novel -- something Dan Brown is a master of.

    The difficult part -- for me, anyway -- is weaving it into the story. There should be some kind of catalyst and progression involved: you don't want to blow your load in the first engagement, but have it progress along with the main plot.

    Of course, it's all your decision, but I'd recommend just planning more thoroughly.

    Hope this helps. :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2015
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  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is hilarious! The OP has a problem - I read it and think the solution may involve less planning. @The Mad Regent reads the exact same conundrum and think the solution may involve more planning.

    So, OP, the way forward is crystal clear. You need to plan more. Or less. Or... the exact same amount, maybe, but differently...

    Ah, writing advice. Always so helpful!
     
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  7. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    He-he. :p Seems to be a common occurrence on this forum.

    I don't think there is any right or wrong answer, however, because everyone has their own styles and methods, so just do whatever works for you, Brian. Thorough planning has always been a real help for me, but some writers can just make stuff up as they go and somehow manage to make it work.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2015
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  8. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    Something that I'm slowly learning is that writing takes a lot of trying new things.Write a short story with as much planning as possible, then write a short story completely off the cuff. Read both and figure out which was better and easier for you.

    I'm still trying to figure out how much of a pantser vs plotter I am..
     
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  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I strive for literary myself. Actually a kinda- genre/literary straddle thing.
    Possibly cause I like to read authors that straddle ( Vonnegut, Nabokov, Atwood etc ) I've found that for me plot becomes secondary to characters and idea or theme. General themes working towards a clearer/cleaner idea is what I'm going for. I might start with a vague idea about hunger but as the story moves along my ideas about it become more precise as the characters go through events sharpening my feelings about it.

    An idea falls apart when I'm not invested in it or the characters or I've lost sight of my intension. This happened a while back. I think I posted a piece here and managed about 40 pages. It was about a stepfather taking his stepdaughter on a road trip and getting mixed up with a bank robber they found dressed in woman's clothes. I realized I wasn't working the core theme - control/power - right. There was too much humor, a certain vagueness about the story I didn't like.
    No phenomena - but it helps if you're passionate about what your writing about. Choose something you feel passionate about.
    Qualities of literary successes? I'd just be careful with your word choices, better a plain word than a goofy word that doesn't fit. All good literary types have excellent word usage. I think this is one of the main things that new authors get into trouble with - throwing around a lot of words that don't work.

    Just keep reading fiction you like. If you're afraid of copying don't stick with one author, read a mix.
     
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  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you wanted to learn the piano, would you feel that you needed to nail down your style and goals before ever touching a key? What if you had never heard much piano music?

    You say you haven't read much fiction. Nevertheless, you want to nail things down about fiction before you start writing it.

    I don't see how that can possibly work. I think that you need to read tons of fiction, AND write tons of fiction, and accept that you will likely write hundreds of thousands of words of disposable junk before you figure out what you want to write and before you succeed in writing it.

    Learning or doing anything new involves that painful phase where you do shoddy work. Avoiding that phase, IMO, means avoiding any chance of getting past that phase and reaching success.

    I'm not saying that your request for advice is a bad thing. It's just the "before embarking" that worries me.
     
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  11. SydneyHarbour
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    SydneyHarbour New Member

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    I completely understand about wanting everything fleshed out before I begin writing, but I learned to let this go because I never actually got anywhere from doing this. It is much better, I think, to just write and see where things go. In fact, that is how the inception of my current story came about. I was thinking about a quote that I love and just began to write about it and ouila! Story idea. Brainstorming really is a great way of getting ideas. :) Also writing without worrying about getting published really helps because you are not worrying about whether or not you are 'checking all the boxes.' For example, the story I am writing right now is unlikely to ever get published because it takes a somewhat negative stance on religion but I am not writing it to get published, I am writing it because I want to. I also worry a lot about if I am copying someone else's work but I love reading too much to not read fiction. :p

    ===
     
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  12. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    My water broke when I read this! Maybe I'm just an abnormally theoretical thinker, but I don't think reading tons and writing tons is the solution for myself, although it may be for others. Perhaps inadvertently, your post has motivated me to write in spite of not knowing the ins and outs of fiction, and will judge for myself what is effective. Only time will tell if this is a knee-jerk reaction of hubris. I write this sincerely and without any resentment whatsoever.
     
  13. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've played chess to a decent level for a while. A few years ago I was trying to get a chess club up and running, trying to get guys from work to come along and bolster numbers. One guy told me that he was going to study in private until he would be able to beat another of the guys (ha! that'll teach him! Ninja chess player me!) before he came to the club. The guy in question never came to the club (because learning in isolation is SOOOO hard) and the club won the second division in its first season. Moral, you learn by getting out there and doing it, not by sitting alone in your room and preparing for it.
     
  14. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    When you find out can you let me know? I have an idea for a story but want to wait before I begin to write it. I want to write a few other stories first, for practice and experience.

    But for the life of me I cannot see past my current idea. And the current idea seems to be missing all the good stuff you mention above - sub-plots and the like.
     
  15. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    You can also learn by sitting alone in your room and preparing for it. Or sitting alone in your room and playing a computer or a remote player.

    Different people have different learning styles / methods. It's not one size fits all.
     
  16. Viridian
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    Viridian Contributing Member Supporter

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    I usually find research helps me. I originally started out with a teeny tiny idea for a story so I researched a little bit which gave me another idea, so I researched that which led onto something bigger and better, and so on and so on. Its also be said many times before on here but I think just writing is probably the best advice I could give, a load of crap can lead to something really good.
     
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  17. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I don't think I'll ever have an answer that I can give you as second-hand information that would provide confidence to set forth. That's what I was looking for, and now when someone says write with no expectation of any quality for a quarter-million words, all my misgivings about doing anything worthwhile are out the window. Revision is to be expected, no doubt, but I'm just going to crystalize what I want to write about and think about what it will take to get there. I was worried about "well, if I want to tell this kind of story, does it make more sense to write in first or third person. What is the meaning of writing in either one?" That kind of thing. On the flip side of the coin, what does it mean to expect shitty writing and stock up on Creative Writing for Dummies adages that people already wish they never took as gospel once they realize everyone's doing the same thing? Be original, that's all I'll ever have to tell you.

    By the way, as an avid chess player, there's lots of psychological pressures, especially when time is involved, that make up a cornerstone of good play which the Dummies books never broach.
     
  18. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    You can do time pressure online, alone in your bedroom :D

    I am not going to write a bunch of crap and hope for the best. Never has been and never will be my style.

    For now I continue researching idea #1 and read "how to" books to get a handle on the different techniques that have been employed by other authors.

    I forgot: I read something here somewhere that inspired me immensely with regards to the practice novels I wish to write. It went something along the lines of, "write something you'd like to read". So I did start to brainstorm my "perfect novel". I am hoping that will give me inspiration down the track a ways. I am in no hurry. Learning is fricken' awesome :D
     
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  19. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    My own mantra is to write the book I wish my younger self read.
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I'm not saying JUST hope for the best through all several hundreds of thousands of words. But I am saying that it's hard to learn something that you've never tried.

    Analogy: In my day job, I'm a programmer. I'm learning a new technique. I tried reading discussions of that technique before I started, but the reading didn't make much sense. So I dove in and wrote some really bad code, and had Problem A, and Confusion B, and What-The-Heck C. And then I read the discussion of the technique again, and the discussions now made far, far more sense. And I rewrite my code, and it got better, and I ran into issues D, E, and F. And I read some more, and my code got better, and I ran into issues G, H, and I. And so on.

    If I insisted that I understand issues A through I, or A through Z, or A through ZZZ, before I wrote a line of code, I never would have written a line of code. I had to start with really bad code. I had to TEMPORARILY hope for the best, hope that my really bad code would accomplish something in my learning process. And it did.
     
  21. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Whereas in my day job as a programmer, I read A-Z -- even if I do not understand it -- then go back and do just part A until I do, then part B, etc, etc. Not saying my code is really good, mind, but I do prefer to get the first, smallest usable bit completely right working, and then move on to the next bit.

    I have to do things to learn. It's my method for learning. First I read everything, then I do. Works every time. But I do a little bit at a time, and no bragging, it usually works because I understand enough to make it work. It would be interesting to read a concrete example of what your A, B, what-the-heck C is, for curiosity's sake. It's possible we are in fact identical in method and written communication of analogy is hiding that fact.

    When it comes to writing, I want to spend time reading critiques and learning to critique, because I am learning so much doing that. I do very similar things with photography with my photography buddy.
    And reading books on story, learning the patterns, books on dialog and setting and emotion and POV, learning the theory and the techniques. Laying the foundation.

    It will be reinforced and "locked in" when I finally do the doing, but there's the prep phase I go through first. That's as important when I cannot intuit a process.
     
  22. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    As a novice writer, I appreciate the reality of writing that you wish to impart. I'm only beginning to realize how writing fiction is so different from non. There are some personal reasons why I had the reaction that I did which I take responsibility for, but, in a weird way, being told 'no' snaps me out of my neuroticism. I just don't want to leave any uncertainty about that between us. :)
     
  23. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do find it utterly, fundamentally different, and that was a painful speed bump to get past. I'm not sure I'm past it yet. There's some other thread here (not this one, right? I don't think so) where I was recently discussing the fact that when you write nonfiction, you're writing ideas in words, and ideas are, I think, very often formed in our minds as words. It's a lot of work to neaten and organize, but you are to a substantial degree tidying up something that started out as language.

    When you write fiction, you're translating images and movements and emotions INTO language. It is, at least for me, utterly different. And then that language has to create images and movements and emotions in the reader's head.

    I suddenly found myself coming up with another metaphor: Distilling. It's like there's water in your head, and water in the reader's head, but you can't just dip into your head and pour it into his. You have to transform it into something else (steam) which travels from your head to his and then drips into water again.

    OK, that was weird.

    To even get that translation path working, I had to shut off all of my mental editors and all of my caring whether the result was good or bad, and just write sloppy stuttering prose. I participated in NaNoWriMo a few years ago writing fifty thousand words of sloppy stuttering prose in one month. At the end, the distilled-water apparatus was juuuust barely running.
     
  24. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I like that metaphor. I'm all for bringing science into the conversation, perhaps for greater marketability or to learn something myself. Maybe condensation, sublimation, and freezing have roles too, whatever they may be.

    I'm not sure why you say that you wrote in a leap of faith of sorts. My disposition is to think about how to share experience in an indirect way. Maybe something I'm not aware of?

    ETA: I think sublimation is steam, but haven't checked yet :p

    ETAA: Yep, steam. Thought so.
     
  25. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure I follow what you're saying here?
     

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