1. ecanusia16
    Offline

    ecanusia16 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2008
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    0

    Planning too much

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ecanusia16, Sep 22, 2008.

    Okay so you have this idea that will KNOCK the pants off the Literature community (or maybe just the readers of your monthly SF magazine). It's been prodding at you for so long that you just have to turn on the night light and type it in your laptop. This is gonna be great! Awesome plot, great characters...

    It HAS to be great...

    And then FLOP... I give it a week, or maybe a month. The story gets a BIT too big on the foreshadowing, the character's back stories take up more than the background and you're in a waist-level (still rising) pile of unresolved plot-lines, once-interesting characters, profundity as a cup of tea and... and... ARGH.

    It doesn't matter what length. It can be a short story or a novel but it's like everything has its danger of blowing up into monstrosities. Funny thing is, you've written nothing but a paragraph. Maybe two. And the two paragraphs stay as two paragraphs for a LONG time because

    a) The plot (accrdg to you) needs more planning
    b) You don't know HOW TO END IT

    What to do??
     
  2. Ungood
    Offline

    Ungood Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Messages:
    790
    Likes Received:
    6
    First.

    If you don't know how to end it, then treat it like a road trip or spring break gathering.

    "You will figure out what you will do when you get there, when you get there."

    As for the plot lines. Those will kill you. Too much back story and all these plot twists just drives you nuts.

    I heard one person say "Now is good time for a walk", let your mind settle and let the idea come to form. Take written notes, draw diagrams, start a time chart and what have you until you have the whole thing smoothed out (or at least figured out enough to make you happy)
     
  3. jazz_sue
    Offline

    jazz_sue Member

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2008
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Surrey/Sussex borders, UK (near Gatwick)
    This looks like a reply to my last post, in which I went into wayyyy too much detail about the book I've just returned to! I'm afraid I'm very guilty of doing this, but I'm trying to 'cure' my compulsion! These are my tips, based on my own experiences; it sounds as if our writing problems are very similar.

    It also sounds as if, like me, you are a stickler for getting facts right and writing detailed and descriptive narrative that is free from loopholes. Remember, This Is A Good Thing. It means you can answer awkward questions at booksignings, for a start (Well, we can all dream ...)

    1) The chances are, most of your 'overwriting' is done near the start of your book or story. As you go on, you may find facts repeating themselves, but new facts will become rarer as you leave the beginning behind. Certainly, by the mid-point there should be no new sub-plots or important new characters (it's permissable to introduce new characters even quite late in the narrative, so long as they've at least been mentioned earlier on - a signature on a letter, or a voice on the radio, for example) Anyone who isn't an essential part of the story - gas attendants, shop assistants etc - merit no more than a brief, one line description, if that.

    2)Accept that what you are writing now is only the first draft. If this is your 2nd, 3rd etc draft, and you still can't see a light at the end of the tunnel, then call it your 1st draft anyway. Accept it is, at present, anything between 2 - 20X the length the finished article will be.

    2) Don't be tempted to edit out all the back story 'spoilers' and uneccessary repetitions, until you can type the words 'The End' to this draft. Remember to number the pages - it makes editing a lot easier (see below) Remember to make a back up copy of this draft - you will need a copy of the original to compare edits, and to return to if the edits don't work.

    3) Go away. Give it up as a lost cause. Take up hang gliding or Macrame. Whatever, put it on the backburner for now. When you reread and edit, it will be with fresh, unbiased eyes.

    4) When you are ready to return to your masterpiece, download a hard copy, i.e. print it off. This is optional, but I find it far easier to 'red pen' my hard copy than to do an on screen edit. This is where the numbered pages are essential.

    5) Read it through as you would another author's book, making changes as you do so. Remember, every word that's written must adance the story, not hold it up. Also remember 'show, don't tell.' For example, the first few opening lines of chapter 1 - have you told us the MC's name, exact age, eye colour etc? It isn't necessary right then - these facts can be fed into the book as it progresses. Remember, you are introducing the readers to a 'real' 3 dimensional world, but it's the one inside your head. You want the story to come alive for your readers, so it's as real to them as it is to you, but they can only do this if you allow them some leeway with their imagination. In a run of a thousand copies, sold to a thousand people, no two MC's will look or sound the same! Ditto their homes, offices, girlfriends etc. This is doubly true of the bad guys!

    Okay, having said all that, of course there must be plenty of backstory or your plot won't make any sense. Try this: as you read through, cut all the backstory narrative, character descriptions etc and paste into a new file called 'outtakes' or something. It can be done manually or on the screen. (I confess to the scissors and sellotape approach!) As you begin to enter the less cluttered part of your story (see 2 above) look for ways of inserting the bits you've cut out. Use the movies as a guide. In any action film, there are always quieter passages where the MC's have a chat over coffee and learn more about each other. You can do the same. Say, for example, your hero has to lay low for a while. If he has a companion, they could kick off by saying something like 'I can't believe I'm sharing a hotel room with a guy I know absolutely nothing about!' If he's on his own, he might see something in the room that takes him back to a key moment of his childhood, etc - this could become a flashback sequence.

    As far as descriptive narrative goes, instead of telling us, for example, that Phil is a prematurely aging, blue eyed 40 year old in para 1 ch 1, you could have him observing his reflection in a shaving mirror - brushing a hand through his greying hair, or his fingers momentarily tracing the deep lines etched on his face, for example. Add a few shadows, a dripping tap, and bloodshot eyes - you've got a world-weary MC, a seedy appartment or hotel room, and a picture forming in your reader's mind that they can then flesh out themselves. Show, don't tell. Much less boring than a clinical description that stems the flow and does nothing to advance the action.

    One more thing - Writers Forum magazine covered the subject of not knowing how to end a story a few months back. Usually, you have an ending in mind but just no concept of how to put it into words. Best advice I read was, once you are stuck, jump forward and type up a concluding paragraph (anything will do) plus the words 'The End.' Now, start working backwards ...
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. tehuti88
    Offline

    tehuti88 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 13, 2008
    Messages:
    642
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Michigan
    Not helpful, I know, but almost everything I wrote blows up into a monstrosity. But I like it that way, because I write things long, with lots of characters and subplots, and that's just me. It's normal for me to have a story with over a hundred chapters. One reason why I'm not seeking publication.

    I don't even usually plan it this way--I think about the plot for quite a while, but during the writing I honestly make it all up as I go along--so maybe planning too much isn't your problem? Because as I've just shown, something can blow up into a monstrosity whether you plan it or not.
     
  5. Ungood
    Offline

    Ungood Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Messages:
    790
    Likes Received:
    6
    jazz_sue very good post and very informative.

    Thank you.
     
  6. dirtybird
    Offline

    dirtybird New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2007
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0
    In all honesty, I'm one of those writers that just think of a word, I guess (just for the sake of an example, "committment") then I just build a story around that single word, I don't plan at all, I just write and see where I go, then I polish it with drafting and what not. Hope that helped, I really don't plan at all.
     
  7. ecanusia16
    Offline

    ecanusia16 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2008
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    0
    This must be my favorite advice ever. Thanks!

    **

    @tehuti: Quite true... It's keeping them controllable that's my problem.

    **

    @dirtybird: I've written some stories where I was both spectator and writer (I just wrote without a care in the world). And I might say I enjoyed writing those as well. But sometimes I feel like those were 'flings' in my part, while the stories I really plan on are/is THE ONE/s. Well... *ehem* that came out just a little bit weird huh? (I hope people get what I mean)
     
  8. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    I usually have a general idea of the beginning, middle, and end of any story I write. I don't know all the details though. I like to day dream about the story before I begin writing. Imagine it playing out in my mind, like a movie.

    The thing is once I start writing, it takes on a life of its own, and often is not what I planned. However the original seed remains. A lot of my day dreaming does end up in the final version. Often times the ending completely changes though.

    If you get stuck, stop, relax, and day dream, dream, dream . . .
     
  9. cadence
    Offline

    cadence New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2008
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks so much for all of your posts. I've had similar experiences, only that the stories didn't blow out of proportion. Instead, during the planning phase they became lackluster and dull. I can't remember how many "brilliant" ideas I have thrown away because of it. Maybe I should use some more patience and let the stories reveal themselves bit by bit.
     
  10. ParanormalWriter
    Offline

    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2008
    Messages:
    217
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    USA
    I usually lie awake at night and plan out my work for the next day. I don't go to sleep until I've decided where I'm going with the next chapter or two. If all that daydreaming (nightdreaming?) eventually also turns up a good ending to the story, so much the better.
     

Share This Page