1. themadhatterman
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    themadhatterman Member

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    More notes than story

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by themadhatterman, Oct 14, 2014.

    So, I currently have four works in progress (three too many, I know) that just I cant seem to get done. The first project is a novel that I finally decided to put on hold because I'm not experienced enough to do it justice. I put it on the back-burner and decided to turn a few ideas from my notebook into short stories for practice and what-not.

    The problem is my short stories have turned into unmanageable monsters. My "novel" is currently 66 pages and roughly twenty-five thousand words.... of notes. Just notes. In fact it resembles a screenplay more than a novel. My short stories are suffering the same fate. They've become novellas of notes. How this character feels about that, how it will effect this character in the next scene, etc. I even note every single action a character performs in a scene. Its becoming a bit of a problem for my writing because when I sit down to work on a story I end up reading through my bible-size stack of notes to to refresh myself on the plot,character and every other detail I may have saved. By the time I'm ready to start writing again I've lost an hour or so of valuable time. And to make it worse, when I finally do enter "the zone" as I call it I start writing more notes!

    Does anyone else have a similar problem or tips to avoid this? (besides the obvious stop writing notes)
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2014
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  2. A.J. Pruitt
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    A.J. Pruitt Member

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    Hhhhmmmm, you read like a typical writer. Those notes could very easily be considered a rough draft of a future novel.

    When I did the interviews for a well known name's biography, I had 174 pages of notes. From those notes. we ended with 287 pages of published biographical work.

    What is thought to be mindless, gibberish scribble today could be tomorrow's best seller. Keep those notes.
     
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  3. themadhatterman
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    themadhatterman Member

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    Good. I'm not the only overly obsessive one!
     
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  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I've done this. I've got a massive first draft but if you compare it to the notes and character sketches I've done for this behemoth it's small potatoes. Keep the notes they might come in handy, any writing is good writing in my book. And just keep working on a a first draft. It will be easier to work with than the notes alone.
     
  5. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    It wasn't until I had all of the chapters and all scenes in them worked out to the smallest details, that I decided to call my outline a 'first draft'. And about 30-40% of it survived, now I'm writing 'blindly' as I decided to stop wasting time with planning. :)
     
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  6. themadhatterman
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    themadhatterman Member

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    I've tried to write "blindly" as well!Unfortunately after the first few paragraphs it turns into notes/screenplay style again. I guess a person can find any excuse not to write if they really want to. I need to just stick with it the way you've done.
     
  7. themadhatterman
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    themadhatterman Member

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    Thanks for the advice!
     
  8. Howard_B
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    Howard_B Active Member

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    Personally I think this is all about procrastination, fear and perfectionism. It's not a typical writer at all. In my view what you need to do is firstly realise that you are making endless notes in order to avoid writing your book.
    Secondly you need to realise that you should not be expecting to annotate a full book. A full book is an organic product that grows AS you write it and not in your notes.
    Thirdly, a million pages of notes won't make the book any better.

    Abandon the notes now. END. Just start writing the book.
     
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  9. themadhatterman
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    themadhatterman Member

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    A man that tells it how it is! You're actually 100% right. I am procrastinating quite a bit, and I have no clue why. Hell, I should be writing the book right now instead of posting here.
     
  10. Howard_B
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    Howard_B Active Member

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    Good stuff. No more notes. NONE ! Start the book tomorrow first thing and come back and tell us :write:
     
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  11. Gloria Sythe
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    Gloria Sythe Member

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    I think I'll vote Mr. Pruitt's advice.

    I can think of a thousand entries to my story throughout the day but forget them by the time I sit down to actually write. The note taking has become my saving grace. On a bus, sitting in a restaurant, at a meeting, the note pad comes out and my thoughts are jotted down before I forget them. I have even pulled off the road when driving to jot down an idea that pertains to my story. I definitely do not call it procastination. I call it part of the writing process.

    Gloria S
     
  12. jonahmann
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    jonahmann Active Member

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    Inglourious Basterds had a stack of notes I don't remember how big.
     
  13. Gloria Sythe
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    Gloria Sythe Member

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    John Grisham’s writers and editors complain that his research notes usually have more pages than the finished novel. Actually, I think it is every man's/woman's choice as to how she or he wants to construct a novel or a story.
     
  14. Howard_B
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    Howard_B Active Member

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    The fact that some authors had or have humongous amounts of notes has no significance in this situation as far as I can see. Because the author produced a book.
    It is the fact that the OP has not produced any book or any further content is the issue that the OP is experiencing.
     
  15. jonahmann
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    jonahmann Active Member

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    The note taking is part of writing the book, so yes the writer is making progress.
     
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  16. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    It takes some time before you are ready to start writing. I used to trick myself by writing out of order. Usually you'll have either a character, or a few scene ideas that you can 'feel', who come already fully formed, like the reason why you want to write that story in the first place, to incorporate what you can feel into it.

    So write those first. You'll probably find that it's going really slowly and laboriously, you might even have to write something smaller, like a subplot or something unrelated you'll later realise might be a subplot, in any case, work on whatever sparks your interest and eventually you'll be able to fill in the blanks by letting the story guide you, and writing without a plan.
     
  17. themadhatterman
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    themadhatterman Member

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    I appreciate everyone's insight. I do believe the notes I've taken are helpful, as writing is more of a hobby than a career at the moment and therefore I forget a lot of the ideas I come up with. However at some point you just have to get over it and start writing. That's where the magic happens, when the story starts to organically build. It's nice to have a path to follow, but when you do get in that magical zone of creativity your mind/characters can create things you never planned for.

    I actually got about 1500 words of solid material done last night and it happened organically. Go me!
     
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  18. Howard_B
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    Howard_B Active Member

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    BLOODY WELL DONE !!! and keep the momentum up :D
     
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  19. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agree completely with Howard_B - notes are great, often essential, but at some point you've either got to sh*t or get off the pot.
     
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  20. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Stop writing notes!

    Sorry, had to be done :D Your post made me laugh so much, thank you! It sounds like someone cast a comical curse on you and whatever you do you end up churning out notes. Next thing you want to eat some dinner and you'll start writing about what you'll eat instead of actually eating hahahahaha :rofl:

    Btw, one tip - forget about those notes. Yes, save them, don't ditch them. Yes, come back and reference them when you really need to. But the truth is, often the things you actually remember are the most important things - the rest of the details, if they changed, won't matter much. Personally I'd just write from whatever you remember from those notes :) I make notes from time to time and don't remember half of them lol. And then if there really is a detail you want to keep (which means you'll likely remember at least parts of it anyway), then go back for the reference.

    Another tip - perhaps devote a day or so (or a week, perhaps, depending on how much you have) just tidying up your notes. Those notes are good, but if you organised it into a folder, perhaps colour-code the thing, give them some headings, categorised it, it would turn into something useful. You can use it like a dictionary and you wouldn't have to wade through the whole thing just to refresh yourself. You could jump straight into the part you need, read the few bullet points on it, and close the thing and carry on writing. While you're organising it, use that as an opportunity to weed out excess detail or things you don't really think are any good. Put it into an order you can actually work from/with. Perhaps write a 1-page summary of everything you have, so next time if you need a complete refreshment course, you need only read that 1 page and not 500 pages.

    If they're a selection of scenes and events, put the scenes into a folder in chronological order the way you think it would go in the actual novel, give each scene a heading so you remember what it's about without having to read through it every time. Then make a contents page listing all the scenes/events this section includes and one bullet point of what that scene's about.

    All this simply prevents you from having to waste previous time reading notes.

    But in the end, if you won't stop writing notes, none of this is gonna help you lol :crazy:

    You clearly have a need to write, otherwise you wouldn't have so much notes. So next time you're tempted to write a note, why not just write the entire scene as you see it instead? This way, at least you'd have random scenes to reuse rather than just notes lol.
     
  21. Howard_B
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    Howard_B Active Member

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    I know some have taken a different view and I would be the very LAST to claim any basis for knowing better. I am not a successful writer in any way shape or form. However I think that one or two have inferred from my posts something negative about notes. That is not my intention.
    My intention is to tackle what clearly is a blockage, an impediment to writing. Something in the OP's behaviour that is preventing him from actions that he really wants to engage in.
    This is why I came out so strongly for him to stop. As Mckk wisely says above, notes are great ! lots of notes are great ! ... but only as a means to an end.
    If a painter aches to paint great landscapes but has no access to brushes, he must make some brushes first. That's a given. But five years later, he has made 60 brushes and has not painted ANY paintings. This is not good, especially when no one else wants his brushes.
    There comes a time when he has to stop making brushes DESPITE that fact that making brushes is a productive and important task, and not necessarily one to abandon forever.
     
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  22. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Boy, you're organized! I used to be when I was younger one of my birthday presents was a filing cabinet! Now I cram my notes into a grocery store box. I'm the original word quilter with my box of scraps. Lol.
     
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  23. themadhatterman
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    themadhatterman Member

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    I appreciate your advice. Unfortunately you may have aged a bit by the time I reply because every time I try and respond I just keep typing notes about what I'd like to say. Make it stop!

    Seriously though, I tried to make my original post as short and easy to read as possible, which is why I failed to mention the excel spreadsheets as well. I have multiple organized spreadsheets for everything I create. I create a color coded spreadsheet for every character that describes their function, their profile and traits among other things. Then I create a spreadsheet for my terms and meanings to keep track of my magic systems and the rules/science behind them. I also create a spreadsheet that lists every single scene in detail and also includes the inner thoughts of each character present.
     
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  24. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Hahaha! Nah, I'm not that organised. I know well what I must do to be organised and I can be organised, but usually I just flit around files. Now my breadcrumb trail of folders - that's organised. My novel is currently stored under Documents >> Stories >> My Novels >> No One to Save Her (that being the book title). I do have my junk folders like "Other" or "Writing Stuff" where things aren't really categorised. But my important stuff is generally in a specific folder :D Sometimes I have to go through 5 folders just to get to the frigging file lol. (I kinda contradicted my first claim, didn't I...?)
     
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  25. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Hahaha "make it stop!" :D you're funny. It's the curse! The curse of note-making! It sounds like you'd be an excellent secretary!

    But you did manage to come out of the note-making monster's jaws long enough to throw out this post you wrote :) so all hope is not lost yet! Now write that book. Why not write it with an aim to post it to the workshop for critique? Give you some motivation :) What's the book about anyway? It might encourage you to actually write if you know there's a waiting audience/reader.
     

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