1. MissBee
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    MissBee New Member

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    In need of guidance.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by MissBee, Mar 16, 2015.

    I've got about 15 pieces sitting around unfinished. With so many ideas I become frustrated due to having six or seven sometimes more different story lines and not sure which one to follow through with. I always end up switching to either an old piece or end up writing a new one. I have not been able to complete a piece due to this issue and unsure of how to deal with it.

    I have a piece I am working on right now that I have two different problems with. I've reached the 40 k word mark and I haven't reached the middle yet. I've tried to cut content out or re write it but I still can not cut a large amount of wording out. The second problem I am having is the start of the novel is very action based without much character development. I am currently at a part where the other main characters are introduced and the novel doesn't have the action it once had. I am not sure how I can keep readers interested during this part. I am not sure if I should rewrite it by adding the characters in the beginning and change it so the four main characters each have their own story or leave it with just one and narrating the other three.

    I have really hit a brick wall on how to handle these and any advice is more than welcome.
     
  2. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    Stick to one idea. It's hard enough to write one novel, don't try to write seven... or even two. Just one and work on it. Make sure you love that idea and are comfortable enough with it that you'll be working on it for years. You cannot write a novel - at least a novel worth reading - in less time than that. Being a writer is difficult, it is often torturous how slow and how unrewarding it is. But you come back and everyday you get a little bit better; you work out one more scene, fix one more plot hole, or get inspired by a sudden spontaneous image of what your characters do or say or want. Little by little, it will become more complete. But that won't happen in a day. It will take years. This is why you have to LOVE your idea and this is only just one novel - one idea. If you don't like your idea, watch your favorite shows and movies and make it better. Drink some coffee and wait for inspiration. If you are a writer without any particular idea to follow, then just keep writing until one clicks and stick with it. Really try to understand why it is you like writing. If you do find that one idea, remember it will take a while, but don't give up. This isn't easy, we're all suffering with these same problems doing what we love but hopefully it'll be as rewarding as we think it will be when we finish.
     
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  3. MissBee
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    MissBee New Member

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    Thank you for your advice and I will most definitely take what you said on board. I am very new at writing and my latest piece that I have been working on for about seven months I don't want to give it up but I am worried about my habit of giving it up when I end up with so many ideas on where it should lead and after writing the chapter several times and being unsure which one to go with.
     
  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hi there, @MissBee ! Welcome to the forum. I see you just joined up. Nice to have you.

    Everybody's working method is different from everybody else's, but from what you wrote, I'd say your problem is mostly a lack of focus. As @drifter265 said, you should probably pick the one of your novel ideas that interests you the most and stick to it. Live with it. Think about it all the time (well, except while you're tightrope walking, performing surgery or flying your plane.)

    And above all, don't try to edit it so much as you go. As to whether your start is too fast or too slow, or which characters should be narrating what ...you won't see the total picture till you get the thing finished.

    It's okay to do a bit of editing as you go, but I really do think the trick is to get finished. If you're not sure what to do at any point, stop writing and go away and think about it. Let it cook in your head for a while. Think about it during your quiet times. Take walks away from other people and distractions. It's amazing how walking can sometimes jog the brain into problem-solving.

    If you're bored with a character, don't abandon the character. Figure out a way to make the character more interesting. Do whatever it takes. Break his legs. Give him a new hairdo. Make him act rudely to people instead of being smarmy-nice all the time. Attack him with a virus. Give him a million dollars. Give him a girlfriend he initially can't stand.

    Resist the urge to tinker endlessly with words at this stage. And resist ...really resist ...the temptation to start writing some other story instead. You're building up a bad habit by doing this, as I think you've already recognised. While you don't need to glue yourself to the computer and write endlessly if something isn't working, you DO need to work on it in your head.

    If you really get stuck, try (in your head) turning stuff upside down. Whatever a character is doing or saying, have him suddenly do the opposite. While you may not end up following this new direction, just considering a new direction can often provide the boost to your imagination that you need.

    Also, instead of intellectualising too much (should I use this or that character for POV, is my start too fast or too slow, etc) ...try spending time inside the characters' heads, and inside the story. Take time until you see these people clearly and can feel what they're feeling. It's the emotional connections you make that will draw people in—and keep them in. You don't want the story to read as if you're just moving game pieces around on a storyboard.

    Lots of wee tricks. And one of them is to get hold of a few books and magazines that discuss writing. Look for articles or chapters that address the issues you're struggling with. I'd say to avoid getting hung up on doing things exactly as some other writer tells you to do them, but other writers' problems and solutions can often be inspiring.

    You could do worse than go to the Amazon site and search for Writers' Digest. They publish lots of books on writing, many of which are very useful. I'd choose one that has "Handbook" somewhere in the title, and probably "Novel" as well ...and check inside to make sure the contents are written by a bunch of different authors, not just a single one. These are really good books, and don't promote any one person's point of view on the subject. Overall, they give an excellent picture of what writing a novel entails. Probably best to buy a hardcover or paperback edition, as you'll want to skip back and forth, highlight bits that you want to remember, scribble in the margins, etc.

    I'd say dig deeper into one of your holes, and keep going till you hit treasure. Don't give up and start scratching a million holes elsewhere, hoping to get lucky.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2015
  5. MissBee
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    MissBee New Member

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    Thank you, you both have pretty much hit the nail on the head. I am sticking to the most recent one I have been working on but I was most definitely thinking more about how it would be written instead of just writing. I didn't think of my editing as a problem but it may also be one of those bad habits I had been avoiding. Also thank you Jannert for the idea of checking out a handbook. I hadn't thought about doing that and if it will be helpful then I shall give it go.
     
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  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I find many how-to-write books are inspirational. (Especially the ones that focus on writing a good story, not the ones that tell you how to sell your work in 5 minutes, or whatever.) Insights by other authors get me thinking about how I'm writing. These books don't contain rules that can't be broken, nor is any one of them the Holy Grail. But sometimes they get me thinking along different lines. That's valuable.
     
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  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agatha Christie, Alexandre Dumas, Isaac Asimov, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, Robert Louis Stevenson - tell any of them that it takes years to write a book worth reading. Stevenson apparently wrote Treasure Island in six days.

    I guess if I were inclined to make sweeping generalizations, I'd say that anyone with talent can write a book quickly, and it's just the pretender hacks who take a long time and consider it torturous.

    But that would be stupid. Everyone writes at different speeds, and everyone has a different approach to their work. The same writer might write one book very quickly, and write another very slowly.

    That said, OP, it sounds like the advice in this case makes sense for you. If you're dissatisfied with not being able to finish a single story, then you need to change something. Not because of sweeping generalizations about how long it should take to write a novel, but because in this case what you're doing isn't working for you. So, sure, slow down and really focus on one book for a while, and see how that works. And if it doesn't work for you, try something else. There's more than one right way to write.
     
  8. GalwayGirl
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    GalwayGirl Member

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    It took me 2 years to just write the first draft of a story I got the idea for over 6 years ago, it's been sat in a file ever since waiting for me to sit down to do the second draft. Everyone writes at their own pace but Drifter265 is right, you need to love the story you're telling because you could be writing it for a very long time.
     
  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think this is true, but I also think there's a risk of writers being TOO in love with their stories, so they seem to not want to let go, or are happy to just sit and tinker with it all the time instead of moving forward.

    And I guess that's only a risk if the goal is to move forward. If the writer just wants to enjoy himself and if he enjoys tinkering with the same book for years on end, then it's great for him to keep doing that. But if a writer is hoping to get published and make money from her writing, I think she'd be better off to like her current story, finish it, and move on to the next story she can like.
     
  10. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I haven't read all the replies but just to chime in - yes, the name of the game is to pick one and force yourself to focus on it. Decide you're going to do it and do it. I actually didn't write for a few years because I didn't think I was going to be able to stick to it, and when I did finally start, I had to make the deal with myself that I could only START writing if I promised myself that I would put in the actual effort to finish (and in so doing I joined a writing group and started obsessively studying creative writing materials - a year later I'm now about 60,000 words in).

    The only caveat to "work on one thing" is that, if your "one thing" gets stuck - it's worthwhile to have a second thing that you can work on to keep your creative juices and writing habits flowing while you figure it out, and don't let Thing 2 take over from Thing 1 for more than a few weeks. You have to go back to Thing 1. In my case, I do have a second book started that I only work on when the first one really hits a wall - the second one is actually the harder to construct, so it takes less time to hit it's own wall, and after two weeks of focussing there, I've usually figured out the problem that got me stuck in the first place.

    Another thing I do to not stop is that, while I'm trying to write from the beginning forward, if I get stuck I'll write chunks from later in the book or even later in the planned series (I think too big). So instead of switching between Thing 1 and Thing 2, it's more like switching between Thing 1-Prime and Thing 1-A.

    Either way, the basic point is decide which project is Thing 1, and orient the rest of your writing around the goal of finishing Thing 1.
     
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  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Another little trick if you find yourself hitting a snag, is to do some research. For example, if you're creating a difficult character, do research on antisocial behaviour—or whatever form of difficulty your character presents. These little forays can bring you out of the story, but give you useful ideas. It won't feel like wasting time.

    I know it works for some writers like @Commandante Lemming to have more than one piece going at the same time. It makes sense, because if you get stuck on one, you can go to the other. It works for lots of people, and it might work for you as well.

    However, there can be danger with this approach. What happens if you get stalled on both of the stories at the same time? Do you start a third story? You see how this might all go pear-shaped? I think this approach is excellent for people who get it to work, but if you're the kind who already tends to abandon projects, I'd say this is a dangerous method to choose. I reckon it's better to work out the problem you're having with your main story and get it going again. Being able to solve problems is what will make you a finished writer.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2015
  12. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Totally agree - and while I'm pretty decent at staying at least partially on track (I get distracted more by later parts in my own story that take place AFTER the book I'm currently writing), I still am pretty ironclad on having no more than two pieces going. I have a lot of really interesting ideas, but at least for now, Story #3 cannot exist...at all, no matter what. That and there is value in forcing yourself to solve problems - that's the only way to muscle through hard parts is to sit down and start writing the next scene. I've been doing more of that lately and my definition of "stuck" is getting much harder to reach.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2015
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  13. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is probably good advice for most people - but if you're a research monkey like me, it's poison. I already do enough obsessive research and I can't let the act of researching the story kill the story itself. So for me it's all about continuing the act of writing, preferably about the next thing in my main story, but if not, writing about something else rather than not writing.
     
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  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, I so understand getting sidetracked by research. I LOVE research, and since I write historically-set novels, there is almost no end to it. However, what is great about research is that it throws up stuff I haven't thought of. Little unexpected twists can sometimes create a eureka moment, when my story problem unblocks. I love it when that happens. If that happens.

    If it doesn't happen, I just end up with more of somebody else's books crammed onto my bookshelves, and my photo library gorged with stuff I snaffled from Google. :eek:
     
  15. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    It does present interesting stuff - although staying focussed on the research you need vs. "ooooooh shiny wikipedia object" is a challenge. Then the question becomes when you have enough and then how you get what you need - for instance I'm nailing down a character's biography right now and, for now, I think I know enough that I probably should stop looking for video of a specific city in Northeast India where her family originates...whereas what I need to figure out for the actual story is how to make the family kitchen in near-future California smell not just like India, but specifically like Assam (which is harder than just researching the region itself).
     
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  16. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, I LOVE reading stories by people who care about that kind of detail. It brings a sense to the reader that they are experiencing something new and wonderful. Oh boy. I bet yours is going to be a cracker.

    I just looked up Assamese cooking, to discover it's quite different from other kinds of Indian foods. Less emphasis on spices, more on the scents of the food being cooked. And they don't eat much in the way of beef or pork. Lots of fish and LOTS of vegetables. And fermented stuff. Hmmm. Now I'm hungry....
     
  17. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I'm impressed if you've been able to stick with one idea for 40k words. I for one usually give up around the first few pages of anything I'm working on XD

    Seriously though I would go with Jannert's advice. All I would add onto his advice though is maybe if you easily get bored with sticking on one story switch back and forth from time to time. You have 15 ideas? That should give you a ton to write if you get bored on the story you're currently focused on. The one thing you don't want to do though is get stressed out. It's negative energy that's just holding you back. Stay calm and write on! ;)
     
  18. MissBee
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    MissBee New Member

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    Thank you guys for all the advice it has been really helpful. It has also been very interesting to read how each of you handle writing and your ways to avoid blocks during the progress.
    After reading over my unfinished pieces I have come to the conclusion that I will try to finish them eventually but continue the one I am currently working on first. All of my written work, I still really enjoy and even for my own satisfaction will finish them. I tend to have a process for my writing were I write 5,000 words of each and if it has no life by those 5,000 words I tend to erase them so the 15 pieces I have, I've seen a future for them.
    I am also one of those people that when I get stuck, I start writing future parts for my story. This is how I usually dealt with my blocks until I reach the to many idea's block. I love researching content and I spend a little to much time do it but this was something I done way before writing.
     
  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds as if you're motivated, for sure. Now really do finish the story you've just selected to work on. That's the change you need to make in your writing routine to get you out of the rut.

    If you get stalled, don't just walk away, or start thinking too far ahead. That might work for some folks, but it sounds from what you said, that it's a distracting technique for you. The 'too many ideas' block you mentioned. In order to avoid that, you need to stay with your knotty problem till you solve it.

    By all means, skip a scene or two and write ahead a bit, if that helps to unblock you. But stick with that story, until it's done. Envision (or even write) the end, if you can. That may help fill in the middle. Don't worry, you can change it later if it ends up not fitting. But if you have a goal in mind, you won't be so tempted to go galloping off in all directions.

    As Yoda said : Do. There is no try. When it comes to getting a story finished, he's right.
     

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