1. wave1345
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    wave1345 Member

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    Overcoming the Writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by wave1345, Aug 31, 2009.

    I don't know about anyone else, but this is my biggest problem when I write.
    It's just bad. It's a first draft, of course, so that's kind of hard to get away
    from. But beyond that, the more I write on it, the more lost I feel. It's like I'm
    living it word to word, and as I go I can't grasp the story as it is unfolding. It
    feels like I'm looking in every direction at once, instead of looking at my story
    moving forward. It's not so much of a problem for me when I do short
    stories, but as soon as I begin working on my current long-running project, it
    kicks in full force, and I just feel overwhelmed, and am soon crushed.

    That's a kind of odd description, I know. But does anyone know what I mean?
    Who else has trouble dealing with feelings like that while writing? A feeling of
    total, flailing blindness? In my experience, the only way that I can get around
    it is to either be drunk (or on the way), or to close my eyes while I write and
    just write, so I can't read what's going on the page.

    Edit: In considering this after posting, I realized that one of my major problems is
    that I've read so many books about writing, read about so many pitfalls and
    mistakes and stylistic no-nos, that I am terrified of making those mistakes
    myself, and so I am constantly anxious while I write. And I'm sure that I'm
    still making all the beginner mistakes anyway. I think my biggest fear is that
    my writing is bad, and will not get better. It's hard for me to write because
    writing makes me stressed and anxious.

    Anyone know where I'm coming from? Advice, techniques, flames or other?
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Do you plan things out in advance? Do you know where you want the story to go? Sounds like maybe you just need a clearer idea yourself of what you need to do and where you need the story to go.
     
  3. wave1345
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    wave1345 Member

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    I have a text document on my computer of some 40,000 words where I have
    brainstormed enough ideas and hacked my way through enough words that I
    have a clear idea of how my story begins and ends and everything in between. :)

    Initially I did have the problem you speak of, which I why I undertook to plot
    everything out beforehand. I know what picture the broad strokes paint, but
    it's the little stuff, the real writing, that I get mucked up in.
     
  4. Nervous1st
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    Nervous1st Senior Member

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    Hi OP,

    I think I know what you mean (sort of), here are some tips that help me with the actual writing.

    Try using visualisation methods. Before I start a descent writing session, I need to spend a few moments 'getting in the mood' of my character. Because it's written in first person and given the nature of the story, I often have to go to a very unhappy place to think as she thinks. I listen to music which inspires emotion or study a few real life example of my character. I often type with my eyes closed (fix typos later) play the story out in your mind as you feel it, not as you see it.

    Reviewing the work of others really is the best way to improve your own writing. This has helped me far more than the writing books that I have purchased. Even if you don't always have time to offer a review (which I don't) I read through the tips others have given and I apply them to my own work.

    Keep reading. Don't just read the story but take note of the areas which you are struggling.

    Stop stressing and realx. This is above all suppose to be enjoyable. Of course you're going to make mistakes and it's all part of learning. You will only learn from writing, reading and reviewing.

    Good luck
     
  5. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Here's a quote from Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird) that might be helpful:

    So allow yourself to write a sh!tty first draft. It's okay. Do it. :)
     
  6. k.little90
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    k.little90 Active Member

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    Oooooo I like that....:eek:. Anyway, a suggestion that might help you, OP, is to make a rough "dashed" outline of your story. Before I start writing anything, be it short story or long story, I ALWAYS do an outline.

    First, I write a paragraph describing what I want to achieve in my story. I'll use my "Why Bullies Don't Like Teddy Bears" piece as an example.

    In this story, I want to illustrate the relationship of a young girl with her older brother. I want to make clear that regardless of age, kinship often overrides any obsticle, including that of physical harm. I want the little girl to be put into a situation in which she can not get out of without her big brother's help. In the end, however, I also want to illustrate that even though blood is thicker than water, we often still have our own agendas, which includes needing a break from family. I would like the ending to be somewhat humorous.

    After that, I make a " dashed list" of important parts I want to include.

    -skipping to park (Teddy bear in hand)
    -intercepted by bully. Pushed down, scraped knees. Teddy taken away.
    -crying
    -big brother sees, asks what's wrong
    -situation explained
    -big brother remedies the bullying the bully. Teddy is returned
    -Elation. Awe. Asks to "go" (Play) with big brother
    -big brother says no way
    -wonders of the oddities of big brothers to her Teddy bear


    After my first dashed list, I begin another, this time including minute details.

    -Skipping to park with Teddy bear in hand
    -jumping over puddles on the way (Rain was the reason for being cooped up inside. Excited to be outdoors.)
    -Bully goes unnoticed until he trips her. She Falls and scrapes her knees, tearing holes in her tights.
    -Bully takes bear and then taunts her, saying stuffed animals are only for babies. He comes to the conclusion that if she is carrying a stuffed bear, than she is a baby. He tells her so.
    -She tries to be brave. Asks for bear back. Quivering lip.
    -He taunts by tucking bear into his (shirt? Pants? Belt?) Leaves her on the ground to return to playing on the playground.
    -She limps to swings, sits down to examine her skinned knees. Sniffling enough to have people recognize something is wrong.
    -Her brother, who has also been playing in the park, sees her and comes over to ask what's wrong.
    -She doesn't want to admit she got picked on by the local bully. Doesn't say anything. Brother figures the situation out by scanning the playground, recognizing he teddy bear with the bully.
    -Get's upset. Red face. Stomps over to confront him.
    -"Fight" ensues. "Little Kid" fighting (Stomped toes? pulled hair? pulled nose? pulled ear? Wedgie? Lougie?)
    - Teddy bear is retreived by big brother, and he proudly returns it to his sister.
    -She is grateful, in awe of her big brother and wants to hang out with him/play with him. Asks him as he starts walking away if she can.
    -He scoffs, rolls his eyes. Says he wouldn't be caught dead playing with his little sis (or something of the like.)
    -She seems to understand this as an acceptable answer from him as she does not act offended.
    -Talks to Teddy, wondering why "brothers are so weird."
    The End

    I hope that helped. It works for me, but that's just the crazy way my mind tends to think :D. I'm sorry if you hear that a lot or if that doesn't help at all..... anyway, good luck with your writing process. I hope you are able to figure it out!
     
  7. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    First drafts are always crap. Thats why they are a first draft.
     
  8. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    You have something in your hands with a 1000 challenging and exciting opportunities for making improvements.

    That's the optimist's way of looking at a 1st draft.
     
  9. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    I love how any 2-bit jerk can write a book about HOW to write, yet only the select few are able to rise above the rabble and turn out a piece of writing genuinely entertaining the read.

    The question is, how many successful authors made it big by selling "How To" books?

    Technical mistakes can be found in abundance, but what matters the most is the flow of your writing. As long as you can keep your audience immersed until the end of the final page then all of the technical problems in the world can jump off a bridge and into an oven.

    Conversely, a written piece can be a flawless diamond from a technical standpoint but read like a lump of stone.
     
  10. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    I think if we all didn't have some piece of that feeling we'd never try to improve.

    I agree with you and others about the unhelpful effects of "how-to-write" books, especially so when it comes to fiction. But I think that's because we'd like to believe there are "rules" written somewhere that'll unlock the secret to excellent writing. Trouble is, there are two aspects to excellent storytelling, only one of which has anything at all to do with following rules someone gives us in the name of clarity or with the expectation that something worth reading will emerge at the end.

    The other has to do with its artistry, which emerges squarely from the writer himself, or it doesn’t emerge at all.

    I think the key is to write in ways that stretch your own imagination, and then use books, book-learning, and pieces of advice to figure out where you've gone wrong and to help craft what you're trying to say in a way your reader can better receive it as you had hoped that he would (if and where that's a problem). After all, “how-to-write” books are only about taking what you alone imagine and converting that into a reading experience. They are NOT about how to choose what particular impact you actually mean to deliver.

    Unshackling those restraints we fear or imagine we can’t face is where I think the excitement of artful writing actually begins; and sometimes a book can also provide you with ways to do a little unshackling. Allowing your characters (instead of yourself) to experience that stress, terror, anxiety, and hopelessness you describe as your own is something I think books can help shape. But until a writer experiences the exhilaration of having released something magical from within his own soul (which often requires some sorting out), none of the rest of it matters.
     
  11. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    This reminds me of something my Creative writing Professor said during one of the classes. As an author of several "how to write" books, he used them in his classes. He would then say, after we read it, "Now that you know what you are doing, forget everything you just learned...and just write."

    I've read countless books and websites on writing. Learning how to write isn't so much the hard part, it's the writing itself that is the hard part.

    Maybe I'm weird, but I hate planning stories. Short or long, I don't make a plan on how something will turn out. I get a general idea of what I would like to see worked out in my head and then start writing. I go from beginning to end and then edit. If during the piece I decide to change a concept, I make a note of it at the end of that page in red, so that when I edit I can go back and fix the previous parts to reflect the idea change.

    I keep an extra page open to make little notes of where I put character descriptions as to not keep repeating them (something I tend to do, because I forget that I already mentioned the MC has brown hair on page 4, but then gave them blond hair on page 36.)

    I don't like giving myself a rigid plot line to follow, because that dampens my creativity. I like to have natural twists and turns that just happen, that surprise me as I am writing them, as I am figuring them out. I might spend an afternoon working out how I am going to finish a scene and move on to the next, but that is about as far as I go with planning.

    As for pitfalls, and other writing mistakes, that is what editing is for. Once the first draft is done then is the time to go in and really chop and hack at what is there, shape it and mold it, add extra descriptions, and flesh it out. I don't worry about that stuff during the first draft, because I know I'll have plenty of time to worry about it while editing. To me the main goal is to get a finished first draft done, no matter how bad it might be, it can always be improved.

    My point is, forget everything you know and write the first draft. Then employ what you know to edit it.
     
  12. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    Your creative writing professor was awesome =)
     
  13. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    Yeah, I took all the classes I could with him. His books were pretty good too. William Nobel is his name. Luckily I've kept in contact with him since my classes and have a professional who will look over a manuscript for me for free. Always a good thing.
     
  14. wave1345
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    wave1345 Member

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    That sums it up about as well as is possible, I think. I think I need to focus
    more on enjoying the process and less on what my final product will be.


    Great advice in this thread - I hope I'm not the only one who found some useful techniques.
     
  15. cinnim0ngirl
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    cinnim0ngirl Member

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    I don't know if this will help but I was completely stuck for a long time with mine. I couldn't write as my character because she was so different from me. I couldn't separate my feelings about something from what I wanted hers to be and threw in the towel. I wanted to write, I had the motivation but just sat there staring at the screen. I finally made a playlist of music and opened a new word document and wrote as my character. I made a journal as if I were her. It was haggard at first and I felt extremely stupid but once it relaxed and didn't think of plot it flew out of me. I wrote crazy unrealistic things that made me laugh and really got to know my character. I even used some of it in my novel. I learned it was definitely all about mood. I don't know if that is good advice or I just sound crazy but hopefully it helps :). I have read a lot of writing help and it can get overwhelming when you so many of these sentences. "For the love of god don't do this."

    One bit of good advice I did receive though was, "Never delete anything. If you are unsure step back and take a break, even a whole day or two. Then go back and reread it. You may be surprised that it doesn't suck as much as you thought. A lot of the time it is just nerves and self consciousness that leads to a heavy finger on delete, not bad writing."
     
  16. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Do you know what the ending of your story is?

    while writing don't pay attention to how good or bad it is. Just write. know that it will suck, and just write. I get the feeling you're talking about sometimes, or something similar. This is how I overcome it. I write one sentences at a time. I think of what happens next, then I write one sentence to get my character toward that goal. Then i write another sentence, getting her closer.

    Let's say I need to get her from the kitchen to the park. I do that one sentence at a time. That is my only goal for that moment. So first I need to get her out of the front door, down the stairs, and then into her car.


    If you dwell too much on style and all the problems you want to avoid, you will feel overwelmed. Don't think about all that crap when writing the first draft.
     
  17. soujiroseta
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    soujiroseta Senior Member Contributor

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    I've always had this problem with my writing. Everytime i look back at what i wrote i feel like i've wasted time and energy writing what i feel is a utter work of crap which a six year old could better. It really is a nasty feeling but i've learned to just try and keep writing. On very rare occasions do i see something and say, "Hey, that's pretty good." First drafts rarely ever look as good as a 8times re-written draft. The thing thing is to keep working.
     
  18. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    From the time you start and finish something the size of a novel, then shelfed if for a few months, you have written maye 100,000 words, maybe read a dozen books, spend a few moths surfing this website and others....in which case you have developed as a writer withut knowing it. When you re-read what you have written sure it may read bad, but you'll have further knowlwdge this time in fixing it (And the same if yo do a third, fourthand firt draft).

    Its impossible not to improve. That said, its always good to be a critic (its a sign of improvement in itself).

    Just write, nerver look over yoyur shoulder, otherwise you procrastinate and your book never gts complete. Let it be crap, and than fix it. There is no point creating something genious in the first draft, becuase that my friend is not possible. Half thefun in writing it seeing the improvement after you have finished something and itis time to patch it up.
     
  19. MumblingSage
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    MumblingSage Contributing Member

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    Oh man. I get this all the time.

    Sometimes the only solution is to write through it, perferably with an outline in hand. And do as people say here--be willing to make mistakes. And hey, there are no 'rules' of writing, only guidelines. If you break one, it might be for the better.
     
  20. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    I'll be honest... I didn't read anyone's posts beyond the original poster's. My apologies if I am repeating everything everyone else has already said.

    I was never taught how to write when it comes to actually writing a novel or a fictional story. I'm serious. No one ever sat me down and told me how to structure a plot, how to define my characters, what sort of font to use, how to set up my manuscript, etc, etc, etc. I just write.

    Perhaps its just me, but I am always saddened by people buying books on how to write. It's no different than buying a book to teach you how to play music. Unless you spend the countless hours building the necessary muscle twitches and blisters (god I hated those damned blisters when I learned how to play bass), you won't ever be able to practice all that stuff that you learned while reading that book. You can read all the how-to books you want, but you wont learn a damned thing about yourself unless you sit down and write.

    In fairness, I am not even that big of a fan of drawing influence from other writers. I find it quite sad that we learn how to write from the greatness of our heroes, emulating everything that they do in hopes of taking an inch of their success one day. Why not make your own greatness? Of course it's hard, if it weren't then why would you bother to do it?

    Do you know what my trick is to writing? I sit down, I get comfortable, and I write. I don't analyze, I don't edit or reread, I don't think, I write. I just write, nothing more and nothing less. Then again, I'm not a published writer. Maybe I should start fretting over every single word before I even spit it out. Unfortunately, I know I would never be a writer then. I would spend too much time on the title. Oh and yeah, alcohol is good too. Sadly when I get drunk I turn into a great narrator, though I also tend to ramble.

    Good luck.

    EDIT: Oh yeah, I forgot about the whole juju thing. That's another big issue, you got to have some flow. Stop being all uptight and rational. Sit back, relax, get some good juju going, and write.
     
  21. wave1345
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    wave1345 Member

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    I buy books about writing for the same reason I'd buy books about music:
    because they can provide information and wisdom from people who know.
    While you can't learn everything secondhand, you can do a lot to avoid bad
    habits, technical issues, poor structure, stale devices, etc.

    That said, there is no substitution for good old fashioned practice!
     

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