1. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Stuck

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by jazzabel, Jul 2, 2014.

    I'm stuck. Even though I finished projects before (short stories, essays and a novella) I am bouncing between two stories for several years now, and out of desperation I just started writing a third. These stories have became a part of me, I know them and some of the characters intimately, and I wonder whether my careful outlining ruined it for me. But I just started writing a new one and one of the previous stories asserted itself into it within the second chapter. So I'm back to square one.

    I need to write a full-length novel, no more mucking about with short stories and such. Although, one option is to write a book with two or three 'books' within it, which are related. The stories are as follows:

    1. A detective novel/psychological thriller - this features a female detective and a revenge story based plot, with elements of the occult.
    2. Vampire/sci fi novel which has subplots and backstories rooted in historical times and the world here is quite rich and unique.
    3. Magical realism piece.

    The issue is that they all feel like they could belong to the same world, which is all in my head so it makes sense. So I'm constantly tempted to combine them all into one world and tell them as different stories within it. Since I forever wanted to write about vampires, that is the one motif that keeps intruding into all the non-vampire stories.

    But I can't settle on it, even though I'm working on all of them in turn, and first drafts are plodding along, I know that everything would go much faster if I had a clearer focus. Additional, superficial manifestation of all this is that I have an issue with my protagonist's name, although two of them have names, but I keep changing them, like no name actually fits, even though my characters are quite solid in my mind and I have no trouble knowing how they'd react, what they would think etc.

    Any thoughts and advice are much appreciated :)
     
  2. Amanda_Geisler
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    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

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    I have been in a similar boat. I have always written werewolves/shapeshifters. I have two more projects that I will be writing and I always find myself trying to see if I can put wither of those things into it, but I keep telling myself no... I haven't started either of those projects yet I am going to finish my werewolf series then work on the other projects maybe that will help me close the chapter of my werewolf writing. Who knows maybe that will work for you too.
    Judging by your three stories your plots could work well together in the same worlds, especially if they are all supernatural filled books. It just leaves it as a choice.

    Amanda
     
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  3. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for the feedback @Amanda_Geisler it's a real relief to hear there are others with a similar conundrum. I suppose I feel like I'm slightly failing myself, because of my vampire obsession. As if that is something a twenty five year old would be justified to write, not so much a 39 year old. I could (?should) be writing profound books firmly based in reality, put my most deepest honest symbols and thoughts on the page, explore real and important themes using content firmly rooted in reality rather than dressing it with the supernatural.

    And yet, I love vampires, sci fi, speculative fiction and my writing mind is very dramatic. So as much as I enjoy these perfectly measured, introspective books (Murakami for instance), and wish I could write them, my mind gravitates towards the opposite end of the spectrum.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2014
  4. Amanda_Geisler
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    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Everyone has their guilty pleasures, mine happens to be car racing, a 19 year old girl loving car races enough to go by herself is pretty rare. You need to write what you love, not what everyone thinks you should write.

    Amanda
     
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  5. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I definitely understand your frustration. I've been carrying a novel in my head since I was fourteen - I should take a picture of the first draft so you can see what a whopper that is. ( since I'm *cough-38 ) I've had my story longer than certain friendships - lol.

    Worse the story is a manipulative woo-er - every two years or so I dream about the characters and dive back in attempting another draft. But in the last six years I haven't gone near it. Unfortunately it's spot has been usurped by another demanding project and I'm torn between it - and ...sigh...other novels. The trouble with the tug-o-war is I'm never getting anything done. I try to think through the projects logically - what do I want to work on? The answer is usually - all of them. And then I go through the pro's and cons - well one's got more research and I'm not crazy about research so maybe that one is out. In the end I might have to go the less logical eenie, meenie, miney, moe route.

    I don't think I have any advice persay, cause I'm in the same boat. But if I can take my own advice, it would be to choose one, anyone that you feel most strong about in this moment and write without ceasing. I wish I had continued my Nanowrite project past November and just finished ( I could've had a workable first draft by now. )
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2014
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  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have a similar problem. I've been trying to make any one of Coriolis Effect (semi-surreal, hoarding), Tulips and Butter (kid plots how to get her way against her guardian's influence) and Shuteye (a gimmick plus a gimmick) progress into a possible novel, and am considering how much of them I could combine. And that was all before the characters in Coriolis Effect became self-aware and started plotting how to break out of the novel.
     
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  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    If it makes you feel any better, you're doing a better job than I am. I've been working on the same 5-6 stories for the past few years. (Just typing that made me sad.)
     
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  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    @jazzabel - if it were me, I'd try to determine which endings I could see. If you can only see an ending for one, pick that one (even if you don't stick with that ending). If you can see an ending for two or all three, that should help you pick one (and figure a way to separate them from one another) - go with the one you like the most. And if you still can't pick among them, just pick one by chance.

    You need direction, and that direction has to come from within. I could pick one, but if you don't do the choosing, it won't take.

    Best of luck. I was in your shoes two years ago.
     
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  9. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @peachalulu : Ha, that sums up my situation too, only mine's been in my head since about 2006 so, not quite ten years yet :D I am doing that too, sticking with one and flipping between them, but I think both my stories have an identity crisis. Interestingly, stuff I completed so far, I entered the projects with zero pressure, I expected nothing, and it worked out great. I think I was too scared to do this with something that needs to be twice as long...
    I have a natural resistance to NaNoWriMo for some reason. Just the thought of writing on schedule is soul destroying, but maybe I should try it? I hate ending up with gibberish, though, I prefer something half-decent and that often can't work to a timetable.

    @thirdwind : Aw, it did make me feel better because it made me LOL :friend:I know how you feel though, I hope you finish one soon!

    @ChickenFreak : Maybe the characters escaping the novel means there's something deeper, more personal you need to write about? I had to cut through a think wall of defences to get in touch with the stories I actually needed, not just wanted to, tell. The stuff leading up to it turned out pretty ok, but it didn't truly satisfy me and I was always feeling like I'm building up to something bigger. Now this is it and I guess it's a bit scary.

    @EdFromNY : You are absolutely right Ed, I know and I'm soul-searching. I have both stories worked out, including endings, outlines, and various lengths of text, about 40k. The third one, I know only what is going into the next chapter. But I guess maybe stuff I really want to tie in are my feelings about what happened to my country and my people. The closer I incorporate some of the themes, even if heavily disguised into a vampire/sci fi, I'm starting to feel like I'm on track. But it scares me because I get all kinds of fans, including haters. So I try to avoid trouble, I guess.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2014
  10. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There's this short story collection / novel by Andrzej Zapkowski (I most likely misspelled the name) called The Last Wish which combines several stories into a whole, and that "collection" spurred his Witcher fantasy series, so I'm wondering if indeed it'd work for you to combine what you have, just come up with one unifying thing, an ending that brings together the different stories in a satisfying way.

    Unfortunately sometimes it seems to take a while for stories to "fall in place." :meh:
     
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  11. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's a great suggestion @KaTrian , it'll be a challenge but I will try it :)
     
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  12. FrankieWuh
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    FrankieWuh Active Member

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    To be a writer is not to be universally loved, I'm afraid. There are writers out there I love, who have their share of haters. Being a published author requires a separate philosophy of you as a private individual, and you as the public author. It's the only way to get through that without crippling self-doubt.

    Would it interest you to know that I have four projects on the go? All are different too: a short SF novel, a horror novel, a dystopian epic, and a fantasy set in Ancient Greece.
    What keeps me focused are deadlines (self-imposed). I've given myself until September to get my SF story self-published, and my horror novel has a deadline (no pun intended!) for January next year. Between drafts I tinker with the plots of the other two books, occasionally writing scenes that stand out. I do this to feel less wayward.

    The imagination is an ill-disciplined thing, which it should be, it's all grist for the story in the end.
    However, the writer cannot afford to be so ill-disciplined; you must divorce the two where you can.

    In the absence of settling on one project, I reckon you could combine them. Inspired by your opening post, the idea that immediately came up was a Cloud Atlas-structured story based around vampires; a story that passes through history (18th century, First World War, present day and the future) but an alternative history, to explore immortality, humanity, and touch on subjects such as racism (vampires could be seen as second-class citizens for example, but gain power and respect as history progresses). I actually came up with a two paragraph summary of what might happen, and it looks like it would hang together (PM me if you want me to send it over btw!:))

    So my advice is give it a go, especially if focusing on one idea is proving problematic. Writing is meant to be challenging anyway, for me, that's why I love it. If it was easy, I'd probably do something else.
     
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  13. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    What you're experiencing might also be a symptom of a form of procrastination someone once called 'finishing fear'. Once you've completed your project and submitted it to whomever (publisher, readers), it seems like what you're saying is, "Here it is. This is the best I can do, the limit of my talent." It isn't, of course, but that's the way it feels, and you think that if your writing isn't universally accepted and praised, it's you, not one example of your work, that is without worth. That's a scary thing to anticipate, so we just keep writing and rewriting until nothing is ever completed.

    I have to think every creative person has suffered from this at times. I'd guess that the solution is the same as the solution to most writing problems: sheer self-discipline. Apply butt to chair and fingers to keyboard and force yourself to finish and submit something. Might wrench that particular monkey from your back, anyway.
     
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  14. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    You are right. I had an experience with writing fame when I wrote serialised stories and novels on the blog, it gained lots of following, and I was incredibly naive about fans and fandom. So I made all the classic mistakes of allowing a few haters to get to me, even though vast majority of fans were great people. But I even had a few stalkers, one very serious one, had to involve the police and the rest of it. I now know exactly what 'fame' is like, but the small scale of it was helpful to play out the pitfalls in a more secure environment. The truth is, fans are exhausting, and I'm too nice to be cool and offish like I should be, really. It works for some people to be nurturing to fans, but for me, being approachable tends to turn into a disaster I prefer to avoid, but it's probably an impossible task, an utopian dream, and any fame always comes with a share of the negatives?
    Welcome to the club :) It seems many others are in our position, maybe it's normal? All I know, though, is that every person I know, who successfully published and went onto being a successful author, didn't have this problem for long. Maybe that's what separates the published from unpublished, more than anything else?
    As for discipline, I could not agree more, and I am figuring out ways to improve. My only additional issue is chronic illness, which just leaves me with less good days than an average person, and I just can't work through the bad days, unfortunately. I am improving, so I believe this will be less and less of an issue so I'm not considering it an excuse. There's much discipline improvement I could be doing on my good days too, god knows sometimes I spend them laying about in my garden and chatting on the forum all day :oops:
    That's a lovely offer thank you! I will pm you now. I 'd love to see how you strung it together.
     
  15. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you for the pep talk @stevesh you are absolutely right :) I think my hangup comes from English not being my first language. I speak it fluently, I communicate in it exclusively for 22 years now, but I had to work hard to perfect my emotional and literary expression in it. Now, for all intents and purposes, my English no longer limits me in the slightest, in fact I prefer its simplicity, precision and beautifully rich vocabulary over my mother tongue (which remains superior only in its swearing creativity). But deep down, the insecurity remains. I just have to ignore it, I think.

    Butt to chair, fingers to keyboard, because the damn thing won't write itself :D
     
  16. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    @jazzabel

    "Stuck" is a bad place to be. To me the most important part of any novel isn't the story at all, rather the novelist (their voice, their insight, their technical skills). I'm assuming finishing short stories counts in terms of writer growth, as at least one participant in this thread who claims to be in the same boat (and whom I know has finished many short stories) is a phenomenal writer both technically and in voice. So if you're not finishing novels, finishing short stories is probably fine in terms of that, which you said you're doing.

    Speaking in terms of novels..... As great as finishing a first draft is, I've come to realize it's just one of many skills in writing a novel (this may vary slightly if your one of those perfectionists who tries to get everything perfect on the first draft). In order to grow as a novelist, you need to start finishing drafts whether you like them or not, so that you have lessons learned which you can carry on to the next project.

    I can empathize with your "growing up" issue. I had this myself several years ago, and I think some others are too. It happened slow, but eventually all my old, "popcorn" ideas, just sort of lost their juice and transformed into one dimensional, stale things, while all the new ideas that have materialized (for novels) are generally more serious and grounded in at least some realism. As a side note, I think science fiction novels can be deep, and serious with or without realism (although I do not generally think the same of fantasy, but that's beyond the scope of this thread). I'm not saying any particular idea is "bad," but the story you're writing needs to resonate with you. Just like I encourage growth as a writer, I encourage it as a person also. This means the ideas that struck you ten years ago might not strike you so much anymore. This is not to say you can't come back to a beloved story at some later point, and write it with a different mindset, but ideas that leave you "stuck" are, plain and simply, bad ideas.

    From personal experience, when I get an idea that leaves me stuck, the only thing that gets me unstuck is a different novel, that I then follow to completion. If you're sitting there with a list of three candidate novels, and you genuinely can't choose between any three of them (now where have we heard this logic before), then probably none of them are right for you.

    Keep moving, don't stagnate!
     
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  17. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks @123456789, wise words indeed. I agree with you on all points, and I definitely struggle with perfectionism in my drafts. I think that, more than anything, I'm confused, and that reflects the confusion due to overwhelming changes, both in my ideas and personal life. Maybe the two were one and the same. I think it was very helpful to think it through like this, because I need to get a better grip on the whole thing :)

    I think last completed work I did was just before I got sick (a novella, realism). I think dealing with recovering from major illness after that, together with decision to write fiction in English and having to tackle a newly complex task of coming up with 80k plus of a coherent narrative, not to mention a Marvel-comic level of real life problems with all the business and the recession...all got me 'stuck' in some way, and for prolonged periods of time. For a lot of it, I was too sick (and sick of everything) to think, let alone write, so I focused as much as I could on educating myself about the writing craft, reading and to a degree, on outlining the 'Vampire detective', which I was super excited about, but original world kept drawing me back in, which resulted in that unfinished futuristic vampire story instead.

    I think also, if I'm honest, that coming so close to the novella being published, deciding not to go for it but rather concentrate on writing a proper novel of higher quality, made me a bit greedy so I started thinking with my head rather than the heart. Also, I guess I felt it was important to succeed, because I knew there was no way I could stand the pace of medicine anymore, so I was in desperate need of achieving something. So I became determined to get away from the supernatural, for the sake of saleability, and I started the aforementioned detective novel, incorporating occult themes as a compromise. But I remained on the edge of veering off into the supernatural all the time.

    I love the crime novel plot and characters, it's a book I'd love to read, but in the last couple of years, I started feeling really bummed out with the realistic representations of violence. It never used to bother me before, but now, I don't want to dwell on the autopsies, catching killers, really makes me physically sick, so much so, I couldn't stomach even one episode of 'Breaking Bad'. Interestingly, though, I still greatly enjoy 'True Blood', 'Arrow', 'Penny Dreadful', all of which contain violence but it's symbolic and supernatural, gothic story-based, it really suits me both as a person and a writer. I wouldn't focus on the gore as much as them, instead I like me some science fiction (my other favourite genre) in it instead.

    The third idea came out of the blue, just one character's situation, and two other character's connection. I was ready to turn the new leaf, get un-stuck and all, so I decided to start with no pre-planning at all. Unsurprisingly, as ever, the vampire story just won't leave me alone, I need it, it needs me, in any case, it popped up by chapter 2. I decided to keep writing it, to see where I end up.
     

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