1. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    How to stay on topic when writing?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by live2write, Jun 2, 2013.

    My mind is like a freight train, passing through one idea after another. I would have one idea that would evolve into another and another to the point where I am finding that after reading back my stories from 4 years ago to now that I have lost touch of what I was writing about.

    You can tell by the way I am typing right now and my posts in the past. I have so much on my mind that I cannot stop and just stick to one concrete idea until I feel it is complete. I believe it is positive because I can think of numerous possibilities with the story line but the main idea gets lost.

    Currently I have a great idea for a character in my story I am writing and I have a general idea of how the character gets from A to Z. I cannot figure out step B, C, D etc. I have the who, what, where, when but not the why. It also does not help that I cannot figure out the intro but I have the middle, climax and the resolution.

    I have read many styles of writing where the why is not revealed until the climax or the writer jumps into the story and reveals the purpose of the story in the beginning and continues on from there. I have to admit that most of my writings are "free writing" and I only use my storyboard as a guide of inspiration.

    What can I do to stick to the main idea of the story and write from there? How do I write a story without looking like I am jumping too fast from one idea to another?

    I find it boring where the MC narrates the story in one continuos line without a moment to tell the writer what is going on or how the character feels or what the character knows.
     
  2. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    Reread the story and ask yourself "Does it make sense that my char went from Point A to Point B by doing Action A?"
     
  3. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    To me it does but to others it is jumpy and all over the place.

    Example would be on the first page:

    The first sentence tells the reader that it has been three years since the MC has been outside of the country she resides.
    Three paragraphs is the action of her metamorphosis from being to creature on her last day outside of her country.
    The last two paragraphs explained in enough detail about why the metamorphosis happened.

    I am told I am writing two difference stories in one page or that I am writing two different ideas that need to be revealed later or earlier.

    What I am overall asking is how do you structure a story to stick to the overall main idea?

    My boyfriend keeps telling me that the best stories are the simplest. When I pitched him an idea and then answered his questions of why, he told me that now I am getting too much into detail that I changed the story.

    I am so confused and it is upsetting me. It is making me feel that I cannot write and my ideas are not worth anybody's time in the world. (Sorry if I am making this a Sob story).

    I was always told more detail, more explanation and when I do it, the story sucks and it is not what I planned on it being.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    On a proofreading pass (don't throttle your creative flow when writing the first draft!), examine each scene and ask yourself how it contributes to the story. If it doesn't materially develop the story (including relevant character development), the remove it. Ruthlessly.
     
  5. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't write with any kind of plan, storyboard, or outline, so I've had to get into specific habits/disciplines. Every time I find myself starting to go in a new direction, I ask myself if that makes sense based on what I've already written. Then I ask myself where it could possibly lead, and which of those routes would make sense based, again, on what I've already written. If you can keep checking yourself to see if this new idea clearly relates to what you've already got, it should help curb those errant excursions. And, of course, you can almost make notes on those you discard, in case you can use them later in this or another story.
     
  6. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    What is interesting is this is what my writing teachers in college tell me not to do.
     
  7. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Teachers have been known to be wrong ;) Every writer needs to discover how they write best and ignore those who tell them they shouldn't do it that way.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Absolutely. Every writer must find a writing process that works best for him or her. One size absolutely does not fit all!
     
  9. ProsonicLive
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    ProsonicLive Senior Member

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    I am a freewriter. I ask what opinion or lesson or deeper meaning I want the reader to see. then I think of a story to over dramatize that point. Then I pick some characters and elements from a notebook that I have just for characters. I adjust them to fit the story then follow the rules I set for them. I then write keeping in mind the story I want to REALLY tell. There are smaller plot points that fill in the emptiness otherwise, just like in real life.

    "I have read many styles of writing where the why is not revealed until the climax or the writer jumps into the story and reveals the purpose of the story in the beginning and continues on from there. I have to admit that most of my writings are "free writing" and I only use my storyboard as a guide of inspiration."

    Keep in mind the "why" can encumber you if a why is ONLY to satisfy the reader, it is not necessary to the story. Life does not always tell us why. Horror can especially suffer when too much "why" is fulfilled in my own opinion. There are times it is needed, other times not.
     
  10. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    You stay on topic (or, don't wander off to far) by writing a one sentence synopsis for each scene as a guide describing what that scene is about. (or for).
     
  11. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm all over the place with my writing too, new ideas popping up all the time (and cos I write with a partner, it's double the ideas) but keeping a check-list of the storyline helps me stay on course. When I get a new idea, I just think how to tie it to the plot naturally, how could it contribute to the characters reaching their end goal. Like I had this idea that I really wanted to show a character bareknuckle box (cos it's supposed to be her thang), but when the story goal is to expose this big conspiracy, it felt superfluous. But in order to reach, say, stage D, the character has to complete stages C, B, and A. One of the stages is getting noticed by a boxing-loving crime boss, so in order to do that she has to show her worth in the ring. Okay, someone may say that's stupid, boring, redundant, blah blah you aren't supposed to do it like that, but so what, that's how I organize the heap of ideas T.Trian and I get.

    Also, judging by what you've written in this topic (and the other topic you started recently) about the feedback you've gotten... has it been uniform enough to alert you to make big changes? You could always get more opinions.
     
  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    My own feeling here is that there is a huge difference between writing and editing.

    I would say, do your creative writing in ANY manner that suits you, even if you're all over the place, off on tangents that don't lead anywhere much, or lead to other stories, whatever. But whatever you do, get it FINISHED.

    Don't worry, at this initial stage, about pleasing anybody. Just get it down there. DON'T show it to anyone else before it's 'done.' This is not the time to be filtering other people's opinions. This is you telling your story, wherever it goes.

    THEN comes the second phase of the fun. Then is when you sit down (preferably after a long break from it, so your eyes are fresh) and have a long look. What have you actually got? If you find you've written two stories, then go through and connect them in some way. Either that, or keep the strongest of the two and ditch the other. (By ditch, I don't mean chuck in the bin, I just mean remove it from the rest and store it somewhere in case you need it again.)

    After you've gone through and pruned your story, ditched the bits that don't develop anything, built bridges between elements that do—THEN is when to bring in the troops. Get a few people whom you trust to read it and give you feedback. If you feel a person understands your story, that's the person to pay the most attention to. This person will be your target audience. Work with them to create a finished product ...and whatever happens after that, happens.

    I think the trick is to stop fretting about what you're doing too early in the process. Just forge ahead and get your story written, even if it, or parts of it, doesn't totally make sense at the time. Don't be afraid of tangents or red herrings. Just get it down there! What you want is something concrete to work with, once you enter the editing half of this venture. Which is, to my mind anyway, just as much fun as the creation half.
     
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  13. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Seconded.

    Before offering the work to betas, it's a good idea to scrub and prune the living daylight out of the manuscript. There're benefits to offering it for criticism earlier, but--at least I'm paranoid about this--then you'll be more easily led by the beta readers' ideas and opinions because the story is still raw. Will it then be your story if its plot twists and story lines come from someone else's head?
     
  14. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    On the other hand, I've always had my betas read stories chapter by chapter as I finish them. I like being alerted of possible problems before it affects the whole story (but I'm also one of those who loathes even the idea of editing/revising a completed story from start to finish). Nothing inherently wrong with either approach - whatever works best for you.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    along with a modicum of talent and good basic writing skills, the other vital requisite for succeeding as a writer is 'self-discipline'... without that, i don't see how anyone can be a successful writer of any kind... or any other breed of artist...
     
  16. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    What is sounds is that I am editing too much as I am writing. The first draft I had competed 1/2 of the story. After reading it back there were areas where my character made choices that the character would not have done or that seems too complicated. I will take these into consideration.

    Also how many topics to books have? Some have one main idea and another sub-idea (or more).
     
  17. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Professors are known for being wrong at times. The only one I had that was right when it came to writing was my newswriting class. (part of my first bachelor's in sports management) Jeff South proved to be spot on with that and something he said everyday in class still rings in my mind anytime I'm writing either a paper or a book. "Cite your sources! Cite your sources! Never take something that you didn't write and claim it's yours!"

    Just keep in mind that professors are just another person doing the same thing you are trying to do. That doesn't mean they have a lock on wisdom or the right way of doing things either. Part of college is to challenge what you are taught and find out for yourself if it's right or not.
     
  18. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is why you have 90k words to put into a novel, so that you can flesh out your ideas and the connections between them.
     

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