1. dannydevit0
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    dannydevit0 New Member

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    I can't even get past the outlining stage...

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by dannydevit0, Nov 25, 2014.

    I have a bit of a strange problem.

    I've done NaNo the last three years, and I've won each year…but only once have I actually written an actual novel for the duration of the month, rather than scattered notes and short stories and things.

    I've been trying to figure out why I can start off the month with a novel idea firmly in mind…and then have it dissipate entirely by about the end of the first week. I was so excited to write this year's novel! It was set in victorian London, and it was going to be about superheroes and the trials and tribulations they face being minorities (cough cough) in a world entirely unaccepting of who they are. However, as the first week progressed, I realized that I had little more than an idea to go off of, and some abstract ideas for themes. That's seemed to be my problem whenever I come up with a new story idea: oftentimes I'll have a really abstract idea of the plot, maybe one or two characters that I really like, and various theme words that I want to include in the story somehow. Nothing's ever so concrete that I feel confident enough to actually write it, and while I realize the lack of confidence is something I'll have to get over, I find it really frustrating that my stories never take hold enough to develop into anything more than a vague setting, random action scenes, and the same character ideas recycled into the sparse plots that I'm actually able to create. I don't know what to do, but I really want to write! Should I just not worry about not having any idea what I'm doing and write anyway? Or are there tips and things to help me potentially develop my novels even the tiniest bit further?
     
  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ideas are great. Scenes that would be interesting and unique characters are important. But they are only part of the story--they're not the story. And I think that might be part of where you're getting stuck.

    With my first novel the initial thought that sparked Flank Hawk occurred while I was driving home from work. I was thinking about a few of the books I’d recently re-read, Zelazny’s Guns of Avalon and Harry Turtledove’s World War: In the Balance. One of the main turning points in Guns of Avalon occurs when Prince Corwin discovers a way to get gunpowder to function in the magical city of Amber. In the Balance is about an alien invasion during the height of World War II. The disparity in technology between the invaders and humanity is a major element in the novel’s conflict.

    Then I began to ponder, what would happen if a dragon encountered a World War II aircraft? Maybe one can see how the line of thought formed. That was my idea moment. It was something neat and what I thought was unique and what I'd like to explore. From there I began to devise a world where such an encounter could take place.

    Next came the people and creatures that would inhabit the world, how it came to be, and the long-running, multi-layered power struggle that would come to influence events in the plot that I was devising.
    Finally, came Krish and Lilly, Roos and Road Toad—the main characters in the novel.

    Then, after all that I plotted out the storyline. I came up with where I thought it should start and where it should end. Then I put in main points in the plotline.

    Of course, what works for one writer won't necessarily work for another.

    The other thing to consider is that not all ideas are equal, in that some ideas and storylines are 'large' enough for a novel. Others are just right for a short story or maybe a novella at most. The outlining and pondering the storyline will usually reveal this.
     
  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    It is interesting reading @TWErvin2 's creation methodology ...which is akin to my own. Get a kernel of an idea and work on it. However, I think the idea needs to be unique. Notice his was ...what would happen if dragons encountered WW2 aircraft. Okay, that's not been done before, has it? And then his story got built around it. My initial story idea (which has morphed into something completely different) stemmed from reading about the devastating losses that many ranchers experienced during the blizzards of 1886-87 in Montana. So many of them went under. My thought was ...well, what about the ones who didn't? How did they manage to bypass the mistakes the other ranchers made, to not only survive but actually thrive? Was it just luck, or was it something they did, or something in their character?

    I read over your OP, @dannydevit0 , and what struck me was that your story idea isn't unique. The misunderstood superhero plot has kind of been done to death. As you said yourself: "...and the same character ideas recycled into the sparse plots that I'm actually able to create."

    Sounds to me like what is holding you back is simply that you need a much better starter idea. An idea that will set your story apart from everything else that has been written. As it is, you just seem to be recycling other people's ideas as well as very vague ones of your own.

    Take your London superhero, and make him totally unique. Him AND his situation. Turn the accepted notions of superhero stuff on its head. What if, instead of being shunned and persecuted, these superhero groups are revered? Everybody wants to be just like them? To the extent that people jump off buildings because they think they can fly, send their children off to 'learn' the tricks ...which of course they can't because they simply don't possess the genes. But some of the real superheroes see legs in this idea, and start to exploit the situation. They create the impression that superheroism CAN be learned, and if people just do their bidding, they, too, can join the elite ...but your own particular superhero decides to fight against this brainwashing ...and ...and ....

    I'm not saying this is a stellar idea, but I think you need to move away from just re-writing scripts that have already been done (Smallville, Twilight, etc.) and start doing something completely different. You will get excited, ideas will start to come together, your characters will have bite—even the non-vampires. And when you finish, you'll have something that might set the bar for others to jump. At the very least, you'll have created something that's uniquely you.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2014
  4. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would suggest you try more formal outlining, not just random notes about things (yes - this coming from a die-hard pantser! :D). If you're having trouble progressing, an outline could help you solidify your ideas and give you some direction, a firmer foundation to work from.
     
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  5. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    My method for NaNo was:

    1/ Come up with the world, the general idea, the central character.

    2/ Type out a dozen chapter headings.

    3/ Type out a dozen chapter contents (Character A leads the fleet against Villainous group Z, while character B tries to steal his castle)

    4/ Flesh out the idea in 3/

    There's no reason why the "dozen chapter contents" can't be a dozen short stories, as long as they are all in the same world and with the same characters, preferably leading to a logical conclusion in a story arc...see what they do on most TV series?
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Bearing in mind that a novel is not a TV series. Stringing together a bunch of short stories is not a novel. It's a collection of short stories, related or otherwise.
     
  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I love Jannert's advice here. You need to make the story unique - or rather the details unique. You need to take the bones - superhero in Victorian London - and make it special. How does this character/place/situation differ from any other books out there. It's like Zombie fiction, I've read quite a few ( not a lot ) but I'm amazed at the different takes on the genre. One zombie book had all females turning into zombies when they came of age - the hero was a teenage girl who suffered from a disease that stunted her growth. Another had the zombies able to speak and use telekinesis and the setting was a small resort island trapping everyone. The hero was a young mother trying to keep her baby safe.
     
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  8. dannydevit0
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    dannydevit0 New Member

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    Thank you so much, @jannert! You hit the nail on the head. Reflecting back on some of my past novel ideas, I'm realizing they were far less original than I thought. I'm going to try what you and TWErvin2 said and work on creating those kernels of ideas, and seeing where I go from there.
     
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  9. rycbar123
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    rycbar123 Member

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    Foundation? Hyperion? Cloud Atlas?
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Hi @dannydevit0, welcome to the forum. Not many people can sit down and spit a novel out in a month.

    I wrote a two-book draft out for NaNoWriMo three years ago and I've been working on the first of the two books since that time. My most recent estimate is that I'll be finished with book one by the forth year.

    Take what you wrote and get to work. :D
     
  11. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    While one might consider those exceptions to my statement, I'm talking about writing short stories that have a common character, putting them into one book, and calling it a novel, ala TV series. That is not a novel. Now, Foundation, as I understand it, was a series of short stories which were a continuation of the original short story. Hyperion was a frame story, one overall 'anchor' story to relate the short stories (ala Arabian Nights), and Cloud Atlas was a series of nested stories, each one using the previous story as a jumping off place. Short stories, yes, but with much more than just the same characters in the same world.
     
  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think you've gotten TO the outlining stage. I think you've got a premise, not a plot.

    I agree that the premise isn't too original, but I'm not sure I agree that this lack of originality is what's getting in the way of you completing an MS. People complete unoriginal manuscripts all the time.

    The traditional 'rising action leading to a climax and then a denoument' structure is time-tested and should probably be followed. That requires more than a series of vignettes. What is the overarching conflict in your novel? You could still probably use many of the shorts bits you've built, but there should be a thread of something larger running through them. Otherwise you DO have something resembling a TV show, which isn't a structure that usually works for novels. Unless, of course, your TV show is one of the ones with a season-long story-arc. Maybe you can come up with your Big Bad for the novel, adapt some of your vignettes so they contribute to the characters learning more about the Big Bad, developing their powers, or whatever, and then the climax can be the big fight/action that deals with the villain permanently?
     
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