1. Miss Red
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    Miss Red Member

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    Too many ideas - Managing Writer's Log Jam

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Miss Red, Nov 10, 2014.

    Hello, there's going to be a lot of rambling and derailing here, but you'll get the idea soon enough.
    I have too many ideas, and It's frustrating.

    I'm managing two pen names right now, and I might need at least one other in the future.
    I'm writing around 4 to 8 different book series in the first two.

    One pen name deals with family friendly action, adventure and fantasy.
    The other pen name deals with more adult themed romance, drama and fantasy/dark fantasy.

    The third I might need in the future is going to be for traditionally published works, probably for family friendly novels.

    ---

    Right now, I'm struggling very badly with trying to sort out all the stories I want to write into novels. I'm juggling over 10+ novels floating in my head, and I have a hard enough time to sift through them all in order to list them down.
    I adore writing the character themes, sketching out the plot, building the histories and describing the creatures, and other behind the scenes 'dev planning,' but I have not written a single word, or named a single chapter.

    I've been festering with most of these ideas since 2010, and some of my older work has been in the cooker since I was beginning to write, in my early teens. I struggled to come up with good ideas earlier this year, but even those are coming back to haunt the pen.

    I can sometimes focus on one thing at a time. It's easier to talk about them out loud and brainstorm with a friend, like choosing names for characters, naming places and locations, talking about how things work and finalizing the mechanics of certain worlds...

    But as soon as I sit down to write, whether it be on paper or in a text document, I panic. I have to make a huge effort to even decide on which I want to write down. I get the worst head aches trying to cycle through all the rubbish in order to write.
    And this is just to get everything out of my head. It seems like, over the years, my creativity and confidence in writing has degraded slowly over time, ever since after my mid teens. (I'd say around 17.)
    It seems especially worse this year, going through the longest creative slump from June to September.

    I can't finish a chapter. I can write down notes, and I can brainstorm, but it seems painfully impossible to even put a single word down in the actual novels I plan to write.
    I've tried writing 500 words a day to kick start it, but that was always random stuff that had little foundation. I tried giving myself prompts at night and writing them the next day, but I still write other, 'easy' stuff.

    I never tried to outline anything big. I'll try that, but It sounds intimidating.

    I used to write Fanfiction. I had no idea fanfiction was a thing when I began. As such, I wrote fanfiction the way I would usually write, so when I began to uncover the big dirty secrets of fanfiction, (that it was awful, bad, trashy, etc.) I felt excited. I wanted to be the next big indie writer who wrote fanfiction like she would have wrote real books. I wanted to set a new standard and clean up the tarnish on fanfiction's name.

    It was fun and engaging, and it helped me learn a lot about how to manage writing, chapter releases and being active online, but I never actually planned. Now there's around ten 9,000 to 12,000 worded fics out there, rotting from a year ago, and I can't find the spark to revive them, and around 20 smaller fics that are littered through the orphaned works pile.
    And yet, even though they're pretty much dead, they still haunt the back of my mind. They still 'count' as unfinished work. On some subconscious level, I have some mini-editor version of me that says "you'll come back to write on these later."

    So I have 10 fics (and 20 zombie fics) on top of 10+ longer, official work that I'm juggling in my head all day, all the while trying to brainstorm and map out my career. It's exhausting and awful. If I had known how hard writing was, I would have taken better care of my writing a long time ago.
    The feeling I get when I go to write is hard to describe. Sometimes it's just not knowing what to do, sometimes it's a vast feeling of a chasm falling away, between where I am now and where 'finished' is, sometimes it's a small room where all the characters are metal-rock-yelling. Other times, while I'm waiting for the writing to begin, I just look back at the past week/month/year, and realize how little I accomplished. I could have done so much more.

    It's a frustrating problem to have. I hate that everything isn't organized or neatly planned out, and that I can't keep to a schedule. It seems like there's a magic trick to writing that I can't master, or I was a writer before, when I was young, but I lost what made me a writer, and it took my clarity and focus with it.
    Sometimes I don't mind. Sometimes It's alright, and I still have a fun and engaging day, but every once in a while, this bleak listlessness can be a struggle to deal with. I want to write more. I want to 'finish' something, in the hopes of relaxing the tension this stress has on my brain.

    In the meantime, I'm glad I vented all that out. It really helps some. If you've taken the time to read all that, thank you.
    I deeply appreciate it, and I'd be glad for any help. Advice, tips, warnings, recommendations, anything.

    ---

    TL;DR

    - How to manage multiple stories/book series? How to choose which stories to work on, and which to save for later?
    -Writing scheduling tips? I write best from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM, then again at 10:30 PM to 12:00 AM, on weekdays. (Considering if I don't play games on the computer during that time.)
    On weekends, everyone is at the house and making noise and parading through all the rooms. >__<

    - Opinion on multiple pen names?

    - Writing partners/co-authors; something that I should look into? The large, official projects are going to be seperate, multi-booked series, ranging from 3 to maybe 6 books per series, and some will have extensive backgrounds, histories and world mechanics that I'm writing from scratch.

    - Should I stay dedicated to my fanfiction? Should I just start new fanfictions?
    - Think it'd be best to put off/quit fanfiction for a while, or can I try to manage fanfiction while I work on my official projects? I like it, because It can give readers a free and fun place to 'test drive' how I write and to judge how well I write.

    (My fanfictions are going to be considerably smaller than my official works.
    Fanfiction: between 2,000 and 11,000 words, up to 16,000.
    Official works: between 30,000 and 180,000 words.)

    - Biggest projects first, smallest projects first or most relevant projects first?
    - Should I try to publish a project as soon as I deem it finished?

    - Any tips at all on how to combat this phenomenon?
     
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    You say you've got two pen-names...does this mean that you've had stuff published? Because, if you have, how did you finish that stuff? What's changed? Change it back.

    I'm guessing, from what you said about how you've got lots of half-finished stuff, that you haven't been published...neither have I...and I've only finished one novel, and that was pretty awful - and a long time ago. But, I don't have a log-jam.

    I've just started NaNoWriMo.

    1/ Come up with a plot, create a dozen "things" to happen. Create a cast of characters that they happen to. Some are major, some are bit-part actors. One page summary.
    2/ Write "Chapter 1" to "Chapter 12" on a new WP document. Write the dozen things, one to each chapter.
    3/ Start writing. As I put some flesh on character's bones, I update the one-page summary. As I come up with some sub-plot stuff, I add that to the "things" on the chapter.

    I'm so far behind on word-count already that I know that I won't make NaNo, but it does feel that I can finish a first draft. And then comes the edit. And the hard work.

    Discipline has got to come from you. If you'd rather be playing Solitaire, or posting a blog, or researching firearms in the 18th century because you've just come up with a story set in the 18th century, than writing your novel, is writing really what you'd rather do?

    As far as two pen-names is concerned, this sounds a little pretentious if you've had nothing published. A pen-name to protect your anonymity is well and good, but I'm not even thinking about that until I've got something to send to a publisher. A second pen-name? Maybe, for my second book, but probably not...does George R.R. Martin need a second pen-name? It's hard enough getting published once without having to make your name twice!
     
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  3. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    My advice is to treat writing like a muscle. There are guys who can run over 100 miles straight, and then are guy guys who are out of breath after literally 30 seconds. Genetics and talent aside, that sort of difference is at least in large part something you build.

    You might not be able to write more than a word today, but in a year from now, you could find yourself commonly doing six hour writing sessions. Look, I hate spitting out the same advice other people do here, but in this case, just force yourself to write no matter what, because you will build "muscle" and it will get easier. When things bother you, try to address them, go for a walk or drive, listen to music, or skip the part and move on, but you should try to see if you can't get thirty to ninety thousand words of a first draft onto a page in say, three months. It doesn't have to be good.
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Write whatever inspires you most right now - that's the short answer :)
     
  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    As I was reading your OP, @Miss Red, I had this thought. She is like a person who has a huge collection of knitting patterns but has never learned to knit.

    You aren't a writer because you think up ideas and construct plots and create characters. You're a writer because you write. There isn't any shortcut. You really must discipline yourself to actually write something and get it finished.

    Forget all the millions of ideas floating around in your head. Start with a scene from one story you've been thinking about. By scene, I mean sit down in a quiet place WITHOUT your computer to hand, and get a good vision going of what this scene is all about. Who is in it? What do they look like? What are their surroundings like? What are they doing in this scene? What are they saying to each other, if they are speaking. What are their feelings? How can you tell what they are feeling? Is it because you are one of them yourself, or are you just watching these people and figuring out their emotions from what you see them do and hear them say.

    Wait till you have this scene in your head as clearly as if you were watching a movie. If you need to jot down a few lines of dialogue while you're envisioning this scene, do so. But don't sit down to actually write until you have this scene firmly in your head and you can hear and see your characters and setting very clearly. Don't worry about ironing out a plot at this stage. Just get a scene in your head, and get it to happen for you.

    Then sit down and write it, as fast as you can. Be as detailed as you can. Get everything in your head ABOUT THAT SCENE written down. When you've finished, give it a day or so, read what you've written, and see what you've got. If you did this thoroughly enough, you'll have lots of ideas of where this story can go next. You can back up and start at the beginning and work towards this scene. Or, if this scene is the beginning of your story you can move on.

    It really is that simple. Start ...and finish. Something. It doesn't have to be perfect, in fact I'd resist the urge to start editing at this point. Let your story assume a shape. You'll find as you write that new ideas will come to you. But you MUST discipline yourself to stick to this one story till you get it done. If you go batting off in new directions and starting to think up new stories every time an idea pops into your head, you will never get a grip on this.

    If you simply want to entertain yourself by thinking stuff up, that's fine, nothing wrong with it. But if you want to be a writer, you actually have to write. And finish what you write. There is no way around it. Just like if you want to become a knitter, you actually have to knit, and not just collect patterns.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2014
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    The only thing I'd add to @jannert's excellent advice above is: forget the pen names. They're just adding to the confusion.
     
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  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Another thing I'll add to what @jannert said is to pick one to three stories and complete them to the end. Don't wander off to another story entirely, sit down and complete the ones you've decided you'd finish. The others can wait. Also, Mckk has the right idea as well, write what inspires you the most. Just be sure you finish it before you jump off to do something else.
     
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  8. Miss Red
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    Miss Red Member

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    Thanks for all the great replies, everyone!

    Hi Shadowfax. :D
    I don't have anything published, not in digital stores or traditionally, but I do have 'easy' practice work (between 100 and 1,900 words) posted in my fanfictions collection and in my tumblr blog.
    I chose two pen names because the first one I chose stuck with me since my early teens. I'm using it for adult themed content that won't mix well at all with the other stories I want to do.
    Most of my projects will be family friendly and exposed to kids, but the other handful of projects I want to explore is definitely adult themed.

    I really like your suggestions. I think way too logically, and making a 'check list' to follow should really help out with early-in-the-day-I-want-caffeine exercises. I like mapping out the business part of my career, since a lot of what I want to do will be on my own.

    But is writing what I want to do? ^3^
    I'd like to think so. Otherwise I spent the last five years doing the wrong thing! xD

    But good luck with Nanowrimo!

    ------------------

    Hey there, 1283395, thanks for posting. : )
    Looking back, it helped to vent. I got great advice from here and from some friends.
    After complaining about my problems, I started to feel a tad better. Discipline is definitely an important exercise to master while trying to write, and I hope to get there some day. But I read this advice everywhere. "Sit down and force yourself to write."

    Is it easy to force oneself to sort through a jumbled mess of hundreds, if not thousands of different playing cards? From different name brands? And they all had to be sorted out by color, house and name brand? And they could all talk in the voices of book characters, and they were all yelling?

    I like the advice. It's sound advice and simple advice. But it doesn't exactly work for me for that long, not unless I set aside everything that I've worked on and only focus on short, small, new projects.
    But thank you, I'll try and treat writing like exercise. See where I can go with it.

    ------

    This made me laugh. :D
    That sounds exactly like my mom, but instead, all she does is pump out scarves/mittens/hats every week. Even in summer. Half of the one shelf we have in the house is choked to death in knitting and crocheting magazines.

    Thanks for the insights, Jannert, I appreciate it. I'll most definitely try this method.
    But I do write. I have been writing. Most of the past three years have been writing. But sometimes there are weeks, or even months, when it's too much. There isn't enough focus. There's so much I want to get done and so much responsibility to these projects that I have to live up too, that I don't feel adequate. I feel burnt out, and this is what I want to remedy. I know that people need rest, and maybe this 'recovery spell' is just what I do. But it does get annoying, and there's still a lot more that I'd like to get done.

    But yes, I will definitely try this. Spend some time alone just thinking about only one scene in one project, and see where I can go from there. And once I do have something to write with, I'll adapt what you suggest to my writing sessions. I don't think I tried this before.

    -----------------
     
  9. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    1/ "Write something every day..."

    That's what they say, isn't it?

    I was reading an interview with one of the great Kenyan middle-distance runners. After a hard summer of racing, he goes home, puts his feet up, plays with the kids. For a month. THEN he starts building up his mileage until he's running a hundred miles a week, and training for NEXT summer.

    2/ Is writing a muscle?

    I run a bit. I DON'T run every day, I intersperse my training with a rest day. Unless you're an elite runner, you need that rest day.

    3/ Research has shown that studying is best done in twenty-minute bursts, then take a break and chill. Why would writing be any different? So, unless it's going well and the words are just flowing out of my brain faster than I can type, I'll go and play Solitaire for quarter of an hour. And then get back to it. But it should be a joy, not a chore.
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, total good luck. I think maybe you're just trying to do too much at once. It's like life, really. It doesn't matter how much work you do, there is always more piling up! If you let the pile overwhelm you, you'd never get anything done.

    You need to focus on one task, get it finished, move on. Maybe if you're really good at multitasking, you could do two or three tasks at once. (Some people work on more than one story at one time, shifting back and forth as the mood takes them.) But beware of that. New research just published last month suggests that people who are good at multitasking aren't actually all that good, and that the jobs they do tend to be sloppy and superficial. That doesn't mean that multitasking isn't a good skill to master, because sometimes you need it. But it's not always the best solution to writing problems.

    I wonder if maybe what you need to do is not abandon a story when you lose interest in it, or it becomes a problem. Instead, focus on figuring out what would make it interesting, and SOLVE the problem. It's too easy to make a habit of walking away from something that's not perfect. Take something that's not perfect and make it perfect. And don't give up until you do?

    Anyway, good luck.
     
  11. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Amen to that! I've long maintained that multitasking is a way to do several things badly.

    When you think about it, even if you're good at it, your brain will take time to adjust to the new task ("Ah, yes, where was I") so that the time to complete two tasks will now have the extra "adjustment" time included.
     
  12. Miss Red
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    Miss Red Member

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    This made me laugh. :D

    I really dislike multitasking. I'm awful at it. I end up getting headaches and the feeling of "What was I doing here" when I switch to something. (Not necessarily writing.)

    Thanks for the good luck. And you're right, I am feeling over whelmed.
    That's a good point on the solving the problem part. I have a bad habit of shying away from starting a writing task when I hit a road block. "I didn't get that far yet in this story, I'll do it later" kind of things. Maybe sitting down and fixing the road blocks might help.

    --

    Thanks for all the neat perspectives.
    I've been sorting through my folder and file structure, and I'm cleaning up some stuff. At the moment, I'm hopeful this rearranging will help me get some things done.

    Currently, I split two folders, dedicated to each pen name I have. In these, I have folders for misc-online projects (social media, patreon brain storming, maybe artwork or something,) and a novels folder.
    I have a folder for each novel I want to write, and a dev file, journal file, world building file and a first draft file in each. I never really went about making text files for any of my ideas!

    It's fun, and it's really helping me out.
     
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  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well it's good to get organised, isn't it? But just make sure your zeal for organising doesn't mean not writing or digging into your writing problems.

    I've got umpteen folders (online and paper) and bits and bobs of organisational things for my novel as well. But I can honestly say the ONLY one I refer to is my timeline, which I've built up doing research. I refer to that to make sure that my characters can actually do what I want them to do in the time period I've set my story in. And to keep their ages and fictional events straight. Most of my other well-constructed folders never (or hardly ever) get looked at.

    The most important thing to do is write, keep writing, and finish what you write. All the organising may help at first, but don't let it become an end in itself.
     
  14. Miss Red
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    Miss Red Member

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    That's true.
    -
    I really got a lot of great feedback and advice from this thread, I appreciate it.
     
  15. Miss Red
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    Miss Red Member

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    A dozen or so weeks later, I figured it out.

    I was hoarding too many stories. I'm so stupid.

    After shoving all my work to the "Ignoring it exists" folder on google drive, and focusing on one, I feel cured.

    Sorry for the trouble to previous readers in the conversation.

    I learned a lot though, and it was fun during the discussion.

    Maybe this year, I'll be better at managing my stuff.
     

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