1. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    How do you keep going?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mckk, Feb 2, 2012.

    I'm working on my first novel - as such, I have no experience whatsoever of how it all works. So, I conceived the idea 6 years ago, resurrected the project at the beginning of 2011. I rewrote the existing 44 pages and started again from p.5, expanded it all the way to 230 pages. Unfortunately due to my lack of planning, a lot of the plots and characters had to be dropped and reworked, causing my now 2nd incomplete "draft" to be more or less redundant. I then spent 3 months planning it from beginning to end and have clear direction and goals for my novel now. I started writing just before last Christmas and am now half way through. (34,000+ words)

    And I'm stuck. Not for ideas. I know where it should go. But I've lost all motivation and passion for it. I feel nothing when I read it because I can recite every last line of it. But I fear putting it down and working on something else will cause me to abandon the project altogether, and I wanna finish this. I really do. Just right now, I feel a creeping sense of despair that it's never, ever gonna finish... :(

    So how to get out of this despair? And how to rekindle your passion for your novel?
     
  2. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Many writers have felt the same way as you Mckk. I abandoned my first four novels before finishing them. If you have lost your passion I would consider that either the story itself is not strong enough to keep you motivated or you've burned out on it because you've worked on it too long. I strongly recommend writing something else, for at least a month. Don't look at your novel, don't look at your notes, pretend it doesn't exist. Then when you're ready, go back to it with fresh eyes and a clear head.
     
  3. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    If you can recite every last line of it, not reading it again until you cannot do this would be a good idea.

    I would take a character or two or several from the story you're working on and listen to them for a while. Maybe they'll tell you one of their own personal stories that isn't in the novel, something that happened to them behind the scenes. Write that story for them. Maybe this will keep your passion alive for the characters so that you can get excited about their story again.
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    TDFuhringer, thank you for your kind response - it's good to hear that I'm not alone. I've been telling myself all this time: "I will finish it. It will finish. It's a choice and I will finish it." And I'm just getting so tired. But do you not think if I left it now, I'd never get back to it because the same despair would still be there?
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Joanna, that sounds like a great idea actually. I hadn't thought of that. Yeh maybe I'll spend some time on developing their history more.
     
  6. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you go back to it and just can't do it, then you'll be in the same boat as you are now only you'll KNOW you can't do it. If you go back to it and feel a spark, or it starts to work, then you KNOW you can do it, you know you can finish. Either way, you know for sure.
     
  7. Patrick94
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    Patrick94 Active Member

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    A good way I have noticed to keep going is to... keep going. Yes, that sounds silly, but if you write even one word a day for your story the chances are you won't give up on it as easily. If you take even a short break, say a day, that will quickly turn into two, three, a week, a month... pretty soon all motivation will be lost. What you should do now is start a new project and come back to this one much, much later. I looked back at the work I have in my sig and I was pleasantly surprised by what I read.
     
  8. jc.
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    If despair is what's keeping you from crossing the finishing line, then I would have to agree with Patrick94. Keep going. In the words of a friend of mine, "There ain't nothing to it but to do it." You can't just give up out of hopelessness. Fight it and you'll succeed. :)

    On the other hand, if what's keeping you from completing it is being burnt out then I would take another look at it and find out why. Are you burnt out because it's too planned out and all the structure has snuffed out your creativity? Are you burnt out because there's nothing new or exciting about it anymore? If so, then those are easy to fix. Allow some room for improvisation. If that isn't it either, then I suggest working on another project that inspires you.

    Maybe a burst of creativity and inspiration is all you need for a boost of confidence.
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I have come to the conclusion that writing a novel is a little bit like running a marathon - you have to prepare for it, and the better prepared you are, the easier time you have on race day. But even then, you may encounter unexpected problems along the way, or make tactical mistakes, and finishing becomes much more difficult.

    Sometimes when you start out on a project, you have a very clear idea of what you want to accomplish. In such cases, everything seems to flow, and even edits and rewrites don't seem like such a chore. Other times, you have only a partial grasp on what it is that you're really looking to accomplish, or else you initial concept proves to be flawed and you have to make lots of changes. When that happens, you are more likely to hit the wall, just as marathoners do. When a marathoner hits the wall, (s)he has to slow down, and maybe walk for a while (but don't stop altogether!). It's the same with the creative process.

    A couple of years ago, I came up with an idea for a dystopian novel - very different from the kinds of things I usually write. I sketched out what my new world would look like and how it got to be that way, and then some plot basics. I was really excited by the idea, and so I jumped right into writing before I had sorted a lot of necessary details out. Then I started developing characters, and you know how characters will take on lives of their own, so that pulled me along. I was about 30,000 words in when I realized that I hadn't really paid attention to how characters and relationships had to develop within the context of my story in order for the plot to work, and that I had way too many loose ends to be able to draw it all into a workable novel of, say, 120,000 words. So, I went back and started over. I saved my original draft but archived it, pulling maybe 2,000 or 3,000 words over into the new version. I then wrote the entire first draft and finished it last fall.

    It was only 95,000 words. I write long. Something was wrong. I went back and did some editing, but I wasn't making major changes, so I knew I wasn't seeing the problem. I decided to let it sit for a while. I have an idea of what needs to be done - another entire reworking (not starting from scratch this time, but a very extensive series of edits). I haven't looked at it since sometime in December, and I'm going to let it sit for a while. It'll be there when I'm ready to take it on. In the meantime, I've pulled out another draft novel of mine that I thought I had finished editing, but then the passage of time has allowed me to see things I knew I didn't like but hadn't quite gotten into focus. I'm excited about it and working dilligently, and have recently asked a writer friend of mine to look at the first chapter, just to see how it grabs her.

    I have also recently given more play to other creative pursuits - music, cooking and photgraphy. Like the runner who has hit the wall, I'm not shutting down. I'm changing focus. If I didn't have the other edit project, I would start writing something else, maybe a short story or a play.

    Best of luck.
     
  10. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sometimes you have to take a break from it and do something else before you can stand working with the same text again for another while. Sometimes it has to be done in stages, but at a certain point (the closer I was to the finished state) at least for me it got easier and easier, and now that I have something I actually feel proud of I could work with it forever, I think. It gets easier, until then, hang in there. Some day you will sit there and look at the textdocument knowing it's as good as it can be.
     
  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    When this sort of thing happens to me - and it sometimes does - I deal with it by forgetting the story I'm writing and just focusing on the paragraph I'm writing. Don't think of the whole project; that's what kills your motivation. Just treat the next paragraph as a little writing exercise by itself. Work on it until it's a little jewel of prose, something you're proud of just by itself. Then move on to the next paragraph and treat it the same way. It's a lot easier to be motivated to complete a small task like writing a paragraph than it is to complete a huge task like writing a novel.

    I learned this approach from one of my uncles when I was a young engineer. He's an engineer, too. I had a very large project to do, and it looked intimidating and, frankly, boring to an inexperienced guy like me. So I asked him how to handle it. He said, "Just break it down into a lot of very small tasks, each one of which is easy. Then, don't think of the whole project; just start taking on the little jobs one by one, getting them done and out of the way, and before you know it, the whole project will be done. Or at least chopped down to size, so that you can easily wrap your arms around the rest of it and get it finished."

    The trick to this is to really forget that you're writing a novel while you're working. Just focus on the paragraph. If someone asks you what you're doing, say "I'm writing a paragraph, just as an exercise." Don't let them remind you of the huge project you're really working on. Just keep your focus on the small task you can easily accomplish in a few minutes or so.

    By the end of the writing day, you'll probably have added a page or two or three to your novel without having thought about your novel. And you'll be proud of those pages, and you'll be feeling good about your progress. Your motivation will gradually come back.
     
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  12. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Minstrel that was the best post I've read all week. Thank you so much for reminding about that concept, I'd recently let my writing get overwhelming. Your post is really going to help me get back on track.

    Huge kudoes! :D
     
  13. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    Or Kudos ;)

    In UK English this phonetic spelling error wouldn't occur, because the word is pronounced 'koo-doss'. I see spelling errors like this all the time in American English, with words like 'shown' used instead of 'shone' because they're pronounced the same in American English ('shone' is pronounced 'shon' in UK).

    Ok, just an observation because I'm picky, and love Greek too much to see it misspelled ;)

    Carry on :D
     
  14. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sorry, sometimes I forget I'm on a writing forum. I text a lot and I use a combination of LOLCat Speak, egregious misspellings and nonsense words. I'd been texting just before I made that post and the error slipped in. Thanks for catching it.

    Or as I would say if this were a text mesage...

    Kinks fer catchims. Kbai.
     
  15. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    Haha, I love LOLcats, but prefer LOLbunnies ;)

    http://content.pyzam.com/funnypics/animals/stealinurfoods.jpg

    I just find it interesting the spelling errors that occur because of distinctive accents - I'm sure there are UK English spelling errors that wouldn't occur in the statres either (can't actually think of any at the mo - anyone?)
     
  16. Cosmic Latte
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    Cosmic Latte Member

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    Cat speak ... hmmm ...since you've got your own language developed in the land of Somewhere South of Midnight, will we be reading about it sometime in a book?
    .
    . ***
    .
    There's some really good problem-solving advice here. I've really enjoyed reading this thread.
    .
    Just like Mckk, I finished a manuscript, tried to edit it, waited a couple years and tried to revise it, and it felt like the more I messed with it the more it fought against me - even though I could no longer recite lines by memory. It was frustrating, I was frustrated, and the manuscript continued to linger on a shelf collecting dust for many more years.
    .
    In the interim, I read all I could on writing and editing, and began several other works. I've been playing with one of other those pieces for the past year and it has grown significantly larger than the manuscript I wrestled with for so long, yet I have no anxiety about eventually tidying it up. I absolutely love working on it. Yet I didn't absolutely love the aforementioned manuscript. What was the difference?
    .
    I think as we learn more about our craft - whether it be through studying grammar and style and the details of story construction, writing exercises, or reading for fun - we add to the tools available to us when we write. These skills are not always visible on the surface, but highly intuitive. We grow and change, maturing in our skill and handling of language and the application of the abstract into something logical that can be followed by another.
    .
    My instinct says you still have a passion for this piece. You say you're stuck ... but not for ideas. You've earnestly been working at re-writing it ... and maybe it feels like you are drowning in words of your own making? I think what you're struggling with is not motivation or passion but lack of vision. Unmotivated, dispassionate people don't fret but loose interest. I'm in the set it aside camp - but for a different reason. And if you have a strong visual memory, a month will be much to short to return to it.
    .
    It sounds to me like you are still discovering your story. If you set it aside, I suggest to keep working in a similar context. Take the characters and give them fresh life in side stories. Use the setting to tell a separate short story, one without your usual characters. Miniaturize your major plot into a 10,000 word (or less) short story. At the least, condensing it will show you where it's strengths and weakness lie. Play with it. Play with your ideas. You've got a ton of ideas and they want to get out ... let them out! You are not the same person who conceived of this story idea 6 years ago - why should you get frustrated that it's not coming out the way you first envisioned? Find a new vision. Or, after some time has passed write down from memory that which has really had a hold on you and let the story tell you its own vision. When you are ready, and when your piece is ready, then go ahead and rewrite it.
    .
    Of course, this is just one of many ideas. When you find what works for you it will make your future writing and revising that much easier.
     
  17. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    I keep going by writing 'easy option style' and that is poetry.
    Poetry helps me revamp/go over words I never used in the past and keep up with vocabulary rhythm and metaphors.
    I write poetry everyday as an exercise and I read other poems toget a feel of different styles.
    I also write briskly even if it is a couple of lines and keep a diary type of ideas/concepts/words/images to jot down when I am inspired.
    One starts writing from all sorts of sources like from a word to a sentence to a title to an image or a metaphor.
    All ideas are good ideas.
     

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