1. divided_crown
    Offline

    divided_crown Member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2010
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Aberystwyth, United Kingdom

    'Throwaway ideas' and starting out

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by divided_crown, Aug 25, 2016.

    After spending a shocking amount of time fiddling around without structure on several ideas, I am now sitting on dozens of stories that are unfinished to different degrees. Over this period, the realization has emerged that most of my ideas can be classed into two categories: those I actually want to write about and those that are 'throwaway' ideas.

    However, the latter tend to turn into the former once I work on them enough. I grow attached to ideas, concepts and characters, and actually push myself to do a good job on them. That's when the main problem emerges:

    If I work on a story I am invested in, I at some point start to think "this is such a waste, I should practice with less important projects before I get to one like this.

    If, then, I switch to a less developed, less important idea, my thoughts change to "I should put my creativity and energy into something more worthwhile."

    And so it goes, ad nauseam, until my frustration overtakes me and I go back to reading advice books which I actually detest on principle in the hope of finding something to break the loop.

    I would greatly appreciate any input from both more experienced writers and those just starting out as well: have you experienced this loop? How do you deal/have you dealt with it? Do you think I should 'burn' good ideas for the sake of motivation, or should I work through less innovative ideas for practice and keep my more beloved projects as 'goals' on the horizon?

    Or am I just being stupid, lazy, looking for an excuse and should just get off my rear and work? That's a perfectly fine response as well :)
     
    Malisky and Lifeline like this.
  2. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,685
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Before I wrote the novel I am currently pitching, I wrote four other complete attempts and started two others that I shelved part way through. Each of those projects taught me something about the process of writing, of completing a story and making it compelling. It was a long process because I started when a lot of other things were going on in my life.

    One of my favorite writers, James Michener (Hawaii, Centennial, Space, The Caribbean, The Novel, to name a few), once stopped writing a novel because, in his words, "it lost forward momentum". Thirty years later, he dug it out again and completed it - Mexico. He never regarded the story itself as flawed, or his effort as poor. Just that it had run out of steam.

    I see two potential issues, based on your post. One is that you may be expecting too much at the outset. A good story doesn't just jump out and write itself down. It takes time, effort and craft. What are the conflicts? How does working to overcome obstacles change your character(s)? How do(es) your character(s) change their world (regardless of whether they succeed or fail)? Does each event in the story proceed in believable fashion from what came before? The second is how you approach those craft issues. If you outline, are you being so structured that you don't allow your story and your characters to evolve (because, as you write, subtle nuances will occur to you as your characters change and are changed by the flow of the story), thereby constricting the story itself? And if you don't, are you stopping to consider the fundamental issues of craft I mentioned above? Are you imposing an agenda on your story, or a theme?

    A helpful exercise to identify problems in your own writing is to go back and read a book you hold in high regard and compare how it tackles the issues of craft to how you do it. You will be able to hone your technique and write better stories.

    One other thought - your OP is very negative regarding your work. Ease up. Good writing can't be bullied. You have to have faith in your own voice, realize that you are new at this and that it will take time. Enjoy the process of discovering your voice and the places it takes you. Don't shut out your inner critic, but make sure (s)he remains constructive and polite.

    Good luck.
     
  3. Anna100
    Offline

    Anna100 Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Norway
    Hey. How do you know which story is the more worthwhile and better ones? I have a tendency to jump from story to story as well and never really finishing. I think all writing, even if it is just a simple-not-going-to-finish piece to more 'serious' ones are important for developing. I think you should work on anything that you want to work on and not think much about whether the story is worthwhile or not. It's the process that matters, and that's really the fun part, I think. Don't know if I answered anything of what you were asking. :p
     
  4. deadrats
    Offline

    deadrats Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2016
    Messages:
    641
    Likes Received:
    294
    What all this has taught you is that you can come up with many ideas. You sure don't have a shortage of ideas. But you don't have to try out and test every idea at once. The good ones will stay around somewhere in your mind even if you don't write any part of them out. So, no more ideas. Work with what you've got. From my experience, ideas mean very little. I only look for them on an as-needed basis. The truth is you will probably not do a thing with most of those ideas. By the time you finish one thing and go to move onto the next, you are going to have a dozen more ideas. I write short stories and write often. It's quicker to see something through, but having dozens of ideas and false starts would stress me out and I probably wouldn't use any of them. However, if you want to write some short stories to blow through you idea stash, you should be able to finish one in less than a week. But my advice is to stop collecting ideas. You can even write without any idea or any sense of where a story is going. That's my favorite way to write.
     
    Simpson17866 and Lifeline like this.
  5. tonguetied
    Offline

    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 23, 2014
    Messages:
    548
    Likes Received:
    219
    Location:
    Near Atlanta
    Wow with a place like Aberystwyth I had to look that up and Wikipedia bombarded me with things like: Ceredigion, rivers Ystwyth and Rheidol, Cardiganshire, and Llanbadarn Fawr, I don't know how any one can even talk over there! Just kidding but what tongue twisters those are. I asked a question similar to yours many months ago. I had read so many posts about how bad a member's first works were and how they improved so much over time with practice, etc. that I questioned whether you should start with that 'really big idea' or do some secondary work first instead so you could find your voice before writing that masterpiece. The answers were, as usual, all over the place, which with inspiration from EdFromNY's picnic table writing analogy I developed my desert and binoculars analogy for forum posts: you ask a question which is like standing in the middle of a desert wondering which way to go, the posters hand you binoculars that let you see much further to help you find your way out, but your still in the middle of the desert and have to make your own decision on what advice works for you. I am still trying to figure out where Ed has a picnic table in Queens, he must have a very large balcony! :)

    I think I am jealous of people like Bayview who has her own book of the month club going, she gets an idea then puts it to paper so quickly it never gets a chance to get old and stale to her, IMO. I also have some envy of people like EdFromNY and Jannert, etc. who work on their story for years and see it to fruition, I don't have that kind of determination and grit. You have been on this forum for quite some time, I bet you have written some good stuff but you are just too close to it to fully appreciate it. My particular vote for your case is to work on that big project and see it through, spend time on the other stuff when you get bored but always return to the big one, you most likely already have the skill set needed. Good luck with your writing.
     
  6. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,672
    Likes Received:
    5,165
    I don't think you can waste ideas. You either write it well enough that it gets published, in which case, yay, whole new learning experience plus $$$, or you don't write it well enough to get it published, in which case it'll just sit around waiting for you to come back to it any time you want to.

    Pick one. Finish it. Refine it. Submit it.

    Don't let yourself make excuses!

    (And tonguetied, it's a book-every-three-months club - but I agree, writing fast is the only way I'd ever get anything finished b/c my attention span just isn't there for longer slogs).
     
    izzybot, Shbooblie and tonguetied like this.
  7. izzybot
    Offline

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    868
    Likes Received:
    957
    Location:
    SC, USA
    None of your creative energy is wasted. I used to get caught up in "this idea is too good for me now; I need to improve before I tackle it," but y'know, somehow those stories never actually got done, and the 'throwaway' ideas ended up being pretty damn good because I actually worked on them and improved during the course of writing them. I think you have to forcibly break the cycle - just pick something and work on it. It's all worthwhile as long as you're spending time writing and plotting.

    Anyway, you can always revamp an older project once you've improved, if it still matters to you. I'm in the process of doing that at the moment. You don't get just one crack at a concept.
     
    BayView likes this.
  8. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,685
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    @tonguetied - my picnic table is in my backyard. I don't have a balcony. However, my wife and I will be selling our house in the next year or so and moving into a co-op or condo. Maybe I'll have a balcony, then (but no picnic table).

    And, actually, I do appreciate the value in what I've written in the past. But I also recognize where each effort fell short. Two of these stories, I will probably resurrect at some point in the future.
     
    tonguetied likes this.
  9. Sack-a-Doo!
    Offline

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2015
    Messages:
    2,238
    Likes Received:
    1,513
    Location:
    [unspecified]
    Yes.
    Discipline.

    I decided that the only way I was going to get anywhere was to pick one idea and follow it all the way through, give myself no quarter and stay on-goal until the damned thing was done, polished and submitted.

    Not easy, but I've somehow managed it for eight drafts. The only time I allow myself to even think about other stories is while this one is off in the hands of beta readers.
    Firstly, never burn anything.

    Secondly, pick the idea that you think will satisfy whatever your goal is as a writer (get you closer to publishing, get those voices out of your head so you can do your day job, whatever). Pick it and stick to it.

    That's all I got.
     
  10. big soft moose
    Online

    big soft moose Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    1,484
    Likes Received:
    1,056
    I suffer really badly from the butterfly mind - if you look at my progress journal you'll see i'm looking at about 18 ideas

    I've found that motivators for not doing that are a) progress journal and b) an alpha reading partnership with another writer where we read each others stuff as we go along - this means that if i wander off at a tangent and start writing a short story about a civil war between frogs and newts for control of a pond instead i'll have to explain myself to someone other than me
     
    Sack-a-Doo! likes this.
  11. Simpson17866
    Offline

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    1,758
    Likes Received:
    1,299
    @divided_crown Have you tried combining any of your "throwaway ideas" into new ones? I started a Doctor Who fanfiction a few years ago that became novel-length, I've come up with 4 short stories since then (2 of which are finished, 1 of which I've finished a first draft, 1 of which I have completely outlined but only partially written), but my first foray into a novel-length original story came about not from a new idea, but from combining two that I'd thought I couldn't do anything with:

    I came up with a scene a while back for some bank robbers casing a joint for their next job. Their previous target was blown up by as-yet unidentified terrorists before the robbery could go down, and now the entire state is extra on-edge and the robbers aren't sure they'll be able to work anytime soon.

    The crew decide not to rob the bank yet, but as they're leaving a woman walks in and announces herself as an agent of the FBI with word on the recent bombing. The crew decide to stick around rather than making a run for it, and the agent takes out a manifesto that was sent by the bomber to the FBI, asking everybody to keep an ear out for key phrases that they might recognize from having met the bomber themselves.

    In the manifesto, the bomber claims that the original plan was to do a 30 Minutes or Less scenario where the bomber kidnaps a victim, straps him into a bomb vest, and forces him to rob a bank by informing the tellers that his life is in danger if he doesn't. However, the bomber found that this plan had actually been attempted in real life before the movie came out, and the reason the plan didn't work in real life was because the hostage was told the bomb was on a timer, not on a remote, and so the bank felt safe in calling the police instead of complying. The hostage died, the hostage taker didn't get any money, everybody lost.

    What this bomber did instead was strap a hostage into a bomb vest, trick the into thinking that he would be going into the bank with instructions for the teller, but instead the bomber set of the vest remotely as soon as the hostage walked through the front door. Now that everybody in their right mind would know that the bomber is in complete control, the next bank and hostage would not dare go against the bomber's instructions for 2 duffel bags full of Ben Franklins. "At this point, I should hope that the cleverer among you have pieced together that I am not actually a member of the FBI."

    The fake FBI agent then informs everybody that she has already taken her next hostage, and that if anybody calls the police before she is able to return to her Evil Lair with food and water, then she will commit suicide in prison just so that everybody knows that the wife and mother of a loving family would starve to death freezing, naked, and alone. "Perhaps you think that police interrogators will have a chance at appealing to my humanity and convince me to tell them where my hostage is being kept so they can save her, but the fact that I am bragging about being a megalomaniac right now should give you cause to wonder if I can really be negotiated with, or if I would actually be willing to die just to screw with one last victim. Any questions?"

    One of my bank robbers impulsively asks if she's stalking him and his friends. His boss smacks him in the back of his head, but they have the bomber's attention and she forces him to elaborate. He explains that they'd planned on robbing a bank earlier that week, but it blew up before they could. Now they're at another bank deciding whether to rob it or not, and the same bomber shows up and takes over again.

    The bomber decides that great minds must think alike, then forces the crew to go back with her so she can keep an eye on them, make sure they don't get in each others way the next time.

    ... but then I didn't have a story about what would happen next: would the robbers betray the bomber, would they find themselves pitted against a heroic detective antagonist, I didn't have anything.
    I had an Urban Fantasy concept for how non-human species come into being and how the supernatural is hidden from the mortal world, and I had 3 characters for the world that I really liked: a half-orc hero named Krailik, a "werewolf" (human-psoglav shapeshifter) hero named Rilaina, and a vampire villain who calls herself "Nemesis".

    Krailik and Rilaina are both lesbians, yet not remotely interested in each other romantically (they were such good friends as teenagers that their parents tried to trick them into going on a blind date. Krailik claims to still have nightmares about how awkward it was being set up with her best friend). Both serve in one of the law enforcement agencies that protect the humans of the mortal world from the super-villains of the supernatural, Krailik as the equivalent of a Sergeant and Rilaina as an officer in Krailik's unit. Krailik prefers dual-wielding handguns, Rilaina prefers a shotgun, both are proficient in healing/defense magic.

    Krailik is caustic and unpleasant yet is in a committed loving relationship, whereas Rilaina is so sweet and sensitive that the sentences herself to a life of empty one-night stands rather than risk making another woman fall in love with her and then be devastated when Rilaina comes home from work one night in a body bag.

    Nemesis wants to go down in history as a legendary supervillain, and as such has founded a massive cult of vigilante serial killers. Not because she cares about innocent lives being destroyed by other villains, but because she wants everybody to see her as being the next level of super-predator by preying exclusively on other predators

    ... but I still didn't have any stories about these heroes going against the villain.
    Then I started fiddling around with my vampire's motivation, wondering if vigilante serial murder was really the kind of villainy that she wanted to be remembered for, or if she would want to do something that terrifies everybody (as opposed to vigilante serial killers, who are generally seen as being on the same side as the innocent)

    and then one, single mind-blowing thought crashed into my brain: She's the bomber.

    Putting my bank robbery scene into my Urban Fantasy world, turning my bomber into a vampire, gave me a story about my bank robber protagonists discovering the supernatural for the first time.
    If I'd kept those two ideas separate, then I would not be over 28k words into my first ever original novel right now :p

    Might any of your ideas be able to do the same thing?
     
    izzybot likes this.
  12. big soft moose
    Online

    big soft moose Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    1,484
    Likes Received:
    1,056
    In a similar vein - for a while i had two main wips, the bad guy and after the wave ... I really liked the bad guy s main character but his story wasnt working (hes a bank robber hes done a lot of bad shit in his life but at the same time hes reallt the hero) , and 'after the wave' where I had a really strong story but my main MC ( I guy called "danny sharp" just wasnt working out because he was too good and nice and gentle to be a realistic special forces soldier

    so you can see where this is going - the bad guy is on the back burner because it needs a new Mc and Ben "blade" Gibbon has made his way forward 50 years in time to kick arse as a special forces team leader
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  13. Simpson17866
    Offline

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    1,758
    Likes Received:
    1,299
    Awesome :D
     

Share This Page