1. bythegods
    Offline

    bythegods Banned

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2014
    Messages:
    82
    Likes Received:
    19
    Location:
    Brisbane

    Well, this is harder than I first thought.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by bythegods, Jul 13, 2014.

    I thought I had a fantastic story idea a few months ago, and set about in a practical way to write down the story. Well, around five chapters into the story I fell out of love with the idea; there were too many problems with it. I felt that I was telling a story that wasn't...me!

    Perhaps I didn't have the utility available to write it the way I wanted to. The genre was fantasy, and I continually made the obvious comparison to the Game of Thrones, always making mental notes to avoid any similarities whatsoever - I think this is really what made me want to abandon this project. Final project remains in first draft, a mere 13,000 words.

    Next, I decided to try a genre I was a little more comfortable with; drama. I also planned to scale back the epic scale and try for a shorter novel. I quite liked the plot but after writing the first page, never engaged with it. I think the idea was too gritty and I was not in that frame of mind so I decided against proceeding. But, perhaps I will revisit it.

    Finally, I had a couple ideas both at once. One, was to be a short mystery/horror story, the other a sci-fi drama. I have been playing them both against each other, when I need a break from one story I go work on the other. So far I have reached 14,000 words (new record) with the sci-fi novel and I was somewhat pleased. That euphoria didn't last too long. When I gave the unfinished first draft to a friend to do a quick editorial feeler - he uncovered a lot of problems with the mechanics of the writing. Nevertheless these were largely tactical errors and I believe I can work these out in the drafting process.

    Overall I am surprised how much work this whole business involves. Whilst it is a creative endeavour I am surprised how much grinding I have to do, even when I finish my first draft there will be many more months of rework. Its not a solitary process either for me, because I need an editor with a different perspective to highlight the problems in my work. Accepting the criticism has been tough as well, in particular throwing out an opening paragraph that I laboured on for hours was difficult, but justified.

    If I can get to 20,000 words I'll be very happy. If I can tell the story and have 40,000 words I think I will have made a significant accomplishment. Of course that will only be the first draft, but I'll be happy if I get there.
     
  2. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,778
    Likes Received:
    7,291
    Location:
    Scotland
    Sounds as if you're feeling your way in, which is fine. It takes a while to know what you're good at and what you're not.

    I'd maybe concentrate on two things at this stage:

    1) Finish what you start. That is pretty much the most important thing a beginning writer can do. Don't start on a whim, though. Spend a lot of time thinking about the story you want to write. While you don't have to do note-taking or outlining, if that's not your thing, I'd say DO have some idea of where you want to go with the story. Then get in there and get it written. Finish your first draft.

    2) Don't spend time trying to achieve the perfect paragraph at this stage. Why? Well, you've just answered the question, really. You may need to throw it away later on. It's far too tempting to hang on to bits you 'love' because you worked so hard on them. Don't make decluttering your manuscript harder than it needs to be!

    Obviously do your best with each paragraph first time, and maybe do a quick once-over to peel off the roughest surface, but don't linger too long. Keep going.

    I suspect there are lots of unfinished masterpieces lying around the world with a couple of perfectly-polished paragraphs in them. Unless all the paragraphs hang together and turn into a fantastic story, it's not worth the effort, though. Perfecting each sentence and each word should come later on.
     
    123456789, Renee J, BookLover and 2 others like this.
  3. JetBlackGT
    Offline

    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    465
    Likes Received:
    158
    Location:
    Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
    If you know where the story is going (what is your final scene?) it makes it a lot easier to get there. As you write, every scene must move you toward that goal. Be it explaining characters, establishing motivation, establishing setting, or whatever. You will know if it is wrong, as you write it and later you will excise that section.

    Think carefully about your finale! If you only have a great story, but no ending, it will just keep writing itself forever or you will peter out and give up in response to this giant, black vacuum which will lie before you, at some point. Nobody wants that.
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  4. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,208
    Likes Received:
    4,217
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    To borrow from Jannert's sig, don't feel like you have to info-dump in the first few paragraphs. You've got an entire book to show the readers what your world looks like. Just focus on the following:

    + Who is this character we're reading about?

    + Where is this character? What is this character doing?

    + Why do we care about this character? Even if this isn't the main character, it helps to use the opening character as a hook to get the readers into the story. Let us experience the world through this character.

    Set a little schedule. Say for thirty minutes you're going to write. If in that thirty minutes, you only came up with twenty words, that's better than nothing. Don't worry about the word count right now. That'll come later, when you've gotten into the habit of writing every day.
     
  5. cutecat22
    Offline

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2014
    Messages:
    2,431
    Likes Received:
    1,060
    Location:
    England
    I echo everything above but the main point is, don't give up!

    If you have a story to tell, tell it.

    Good Luck x
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  6. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    My advice is to start small. Write short stories first, and try to finish them (by the way, "story" refers to a short story; when you're writing a book-length work, "novel" is more appropriate). Once you finish a few of those, you can try tackling a novel.

    You're right about writing being a tough business. Just finishing a novel is a big deal in my eyes. It can take years before the manuscript is of publishable quality. Like the others have said, don't give up. With practice and patience, you will get better.
     
    GoldenGhost, AJC and peachalulu like this.
  7. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,681
    Likes Received:
    2,533
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    To all the great advice given above I would add this - at regular intervals, give your writing a reality check by reading published work and comparing yours with what you most admire when you read. This is not to say that you should copy what others do, but there are techniques that are widely used that you can also use. I would also suggest having an idea before you start of who the main players are going to be, what the central conflict is going to be and how you plan to get there.

    Good luck.
     
    AJC, jannert and peachalulu like this.
  8. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,821
    Likes Received:
    2,379
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Writing is hard. It's probably the hardest art form in the world. I think because it's because it's so multi-dimensional - you're not just crafting a scene your creating characters with motivations and multilayered dialogue, you're also painting mental pictures and stirring emotions and through it all it still must look and sound correct. You're not just being judged on the story but on the actual syntax.

    I wish I had taken Thirdwind's advice when I was younger. The good thing about a short story is it really tests your story telling on a smaller scale. You don't need a magnitude of endurance to finish it ( most of my short stories take a few days ( actual writing - hours - to complete ) and you can polish it endlessly and get some feedback on it - through each draft. Short stories really give you that taste of success to push forward. It's like running a sprint before a marathon. Plus, it teaches you how to put down the best word because each word in a short story counts. ( This is really handy too when you're working with a word limit. )

    I also like Ed's advice of studying writers you like. I have a handful of writer's whose techniques I love and I study them - they've really helped me to shape my voice which has allowed me to improve a lot faster. I improved more in the last four years by studying authors and getting advice on this site than I had in the twenty years I struggled alone reading how-to-write manuals ( most of which didn't discuss voice at all and had me believing it was all myth. )

    One good trick I've used to push through a draft is to keep daydreaming new options for my characters. They can be very absurd and I won't use them but as soon as I know who the character is going to wind up with and what they're going to accomplish and set it too firmly in my heart the writing feels like a journey that's already been taken - I keep options open that way everything feels fresh and subject to change. Whether or not I know deep down that so-and-so is going to wind up with whatshisface.
     
    AJC, cutecat22 and jannert like this.
  9. aikoaiko
    Offline

    aikoaiko Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2013
    Messages:
    285
    Likes Received:
    153
    A published writer I know gave some good advice as well. She said, 'Make your corrections, and move on.' One of the hardest things to learn (I've found) is not to obsess over the details at first. It will be necessary to do it later, but first you have to make the changes and edits very gradually, learning as you go and making better ones as you improve. A more experienced writer doesn't need as much time, but it's important when you're new not to lose your mind over every word, LOL.
     
    AJC, 123456789 and cutecat22 like this.
  10. cutecat22
    Offline

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2014
    Messages:
    2,431
    Likes Received:
    1,060
    Location:
    England
    That is very good advice but equally good is knowing when to stop editing. There are always things that you could and would want to edit, things that you will want to go back to week after week to make changes. One of the hardest parts of writing, is knowing when to stop making those changes.
     
    AJC and JetBlackGT like this.
  11. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,024
    Likes Received:
    1,125
    Location:
    A Place with no History
    Ah, advice for new writers; my area of expertise.

    First and foremost: writing is a ton of work. If anyone could do it, everyone would do it. The world'''s population would eat books, read books, sleep on books, and wear books as clothes. Where the covers and paper come from would be a religious secret.

    Don't give up, just like a musical insrtument, there is no right or wrong time to start learning. No one is born a writer and everyone had to learn every bit of the art piece by piece until they had enough expertise to write something worthwhile.

    First point to tackle, don't think for a second the first thing you write will be your magnum opus. Write stories that are a comfortable length for you (For you, it seems short stories of 10-30k words are it) and use them to learn how to write. There is a lot of things you never learned in school or have never noticed yourself as you read that are done to make a book good.

    Finish the stories you start, even if you don't plan on perfecting them, it's good practice and builds up your endurance. Writers spend hours which turn into literal weeks and months sitting down to write. You need good cushioning for that and the ability to not get distracted or bored during the process.

    Not all ideas are meant to be novels, some need to be shorter and there is nothing wrong with it at all. Every story is different and needs its very own way of being written, no denying it.

    Most new writers will have their work read and find the reader didn't like it or a beta reader took a red inkwell and dumped it all over the page. You never learned how to write fiction and, in my experience, your grammar, sentence structure, and a few basic things most likely need fine tuning. It's depressing but writing fiction takes work like any other profession.

    If you want to learn, first step is to write, post it online, read blogs and articles, participate in forums like WF.org, and buy some books on fiction writing and learn from the very best. It's all useful knowledge that will help and train you to find issues in your work and help you become conscious of these issues while you write so you can instantly correct or stop them from happening in the first place.

    Always write in a genre or way that keeps you engaged. Nothing is worse than drudging through themes and characters you hate and yet are supposed to make others love. It's... an oxymoron, really.

    Another way to earn some free feedback is to either partake in the WF.org bi-weekly contests (Or check out our last annual sci-fi story contest) or perhaps post your stories elsewhere online such as fictionpress (I personally received many comments I found extremely helpful over the years) and start learning from your mistakes.

    Don't take all advice to heart, some well-meaning people or plain old-fashioned ignorant people will lead you astray. Compare the advice you receive and research the subject of the advice to see if it holds true or not. Sometimes, it can be subjective rather objective.

    Becoming a writer is an endeavor, do not try to write an epic trilogy on day one. Use the slow-cooker methord and let it simmer in the back of your mind as you figure things out. Write smaller and simpler things first for practice and for reals, and little by little, you will get closer to writing your magnum opus.

    An architect doesn't get to design a hundred story office on his first day the same way a doctor doesn't get to do brain surgery by himself when fresh out of school. Same goes writers.

    ... I think I talked your ear off, so hope you stick around the forums. This place is the most valuable place to meet other writers and find legit and helpful advice I have ever found on the internet.
     
    peachalulu, AJC, GingerCoffee and 2 others like this.
  12. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,208
    Likes Received:
    4,217
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    To go along with what A.M.P. said:

    #1- Don't put so much pressure on yourself. I remember reading an article somewhere that compared learning a new craft to a baby learning how to talk. We don't expect an infant to recite Shakespeare lines right off the bat, so don't put the pressure of 'gotta be like JK Rowling' on yourself. That'll create anxiety and stress, which kills creativity. Trust me, I've done it before. Not a good idea so early in your career. And even if you do get published, they would want you to be you, not JK Rowling. They'll read her books if they want JK Rowling.

    #2- First drafts are almost always going to suck. That's the point. They exist solely to just have a story thrown at it. Don't write the first draft like your final draft.

    #3- As someone else said, have a basic idea of what the outcome is going to be. The story could literally go on forever if you let it. So where does the story end? Sometimes it helps to write the finale first so you have something to work to.

    #4- While it's true that there's nothing new under the sun, you should still try to be as original as you can, put your own spin on things.

    #5- Remember to have fun with it. Whether you're doing it for a living or for a hobby, it should provide you with fun.

    #6- Don't feel like you have to write about certain things, but don't be afraid of them either. Consider them yet more things in the writer's toolbox that you could use.
     
  13. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,201
    Likes Received:
    1,786
    Location:
    Australia
    If writing was easy everyone would be... doing... it... uh... wait... let me rephrase that:

    If writing well was easy, everyone would be doing it.

    Anyway, try short stories if length is a problem.
     
    JetBlackGT and GingerCoffee like this.
  14. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,602
    Likes Received:
    5,875
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Just a comment about definitions. I wrote out a complete draft of my duology in a month and a half. It was never intended to be the actual book, it was instead more like a 134,000 word plan.

    Sometimes drafts pour out of you but they are really the story plan. For other people the first draft is closer to a finished product. So keep in mind that we may be using different definitions here and elsewhere.
     
    cutecat22 and peachalulu like this.
  15. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,024
    Likes Received:
    1,125
    Location:
    A Place with no History
    Eventually, there is always the possibility of getting so experienced and talented, your first drafts won't be bad and quite good, actually.
    Publishable? Maybe not, but the edits should become less and less with experience.
    Edits might one day consist of typos and scene/story progression issues that are more subjective to the author than having anything actually wrong with them.
     
  16. 123456789
    Online

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,336
    Likes Received:
    3,084
    Something I've noticed is that a lot of the new members on this forum who post threads about having issues continuing their stories, often seem to be working within the fantasy genre.

    Now, it's very possible that this is the case simply because fantasy is so popular, especially among younger people -in fact maybe that's what inspired them to write in the first place.

    However, I think it would be short sighted to rule out the possibility that for at least some new writers, the fantasy genre is actually not best suited for them. This is sort of like how a lot of college students interested in the sciences first want to med school, and then a lot of those students realize later its not for them, and go on to pursue a difference science subject. I'm sure this analogy exists in all sorts of different broad subjects. Something currently popular attracts people into that endeavor, and only later do they realize something different within that broad field is better suited to them.

    One thing I can see stifling some would be fantasy novelists is the lack of grounding their fantasy world might have. If you write a general fiction novel, the grounding is probably set, because there's a good choice you're using good ol' reality. If you read a fantasy novel, the grounding is still set, because the novel is finished and that novelist did all the work for you. However, if you're writing a fantasy novel, that's not a fan fic or a sequel, the world is not established until at least after the first draft. Some writers might find little incentive in working within an unestablished setting, even if they're an avid fantasy fan. So, all I'm saying is keep an open mind to other genres.
     
    TDFuhringer and EdFromNY like this.
  17. bythegods
    Offline

    bythegods Banned

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2014
    Messages:
    82
    Likes Received:
    19
    Location:
    Brisbane
    Its interesting that some people give advice in their posts, rather than commenting/comparing on my observations. Did I imply a question in my post?
     
    jannert likes this.
  18. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,681
    Likes Received:
    2,533
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    We often say that most of the details about an imagined world are only important to the writer and don't have to be included in the story. But that doesn't change the fact that they are important for the writer to know. And that whole "world creation thing" takes a lot of effort before one writes a single sentence, and rushing into the story before getting all the details down in one's own mind makes for a lot of issues later on.

    A belated welcome to the forum. One thing you will discover is that, whatever your intentions for a thread might be, other forum members will likely see it somewhat differently. An observation that suggests that you are or have been struggling will surely be taken as a tacit request for advice.
     
    cutecat22, 123456789 and jannert like this.
  19. JetBlackGT
    Offline

    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    465
    Likes Received:
    158
    Location:
    Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
    That reminds me of a story... ;-)

    I deliberately did not go into detail about the house, in my books. I never say 'She turned left toward the woods." or "He turned right to the creek." because I want my readers to imagine it their own way. I know how I see it but there is no intention to force that on the reader. It is not important to the story, which side of the house has the creek and which side forest.

    For the same reason you don't describe how someone said something, you can let the reader build their own world out of your words. If I need to write ["What?" she said angrily.], I need to go back and arrange the scene so the reader knows she is angry and doesn't need my overt prodding to reinforce it. :)
     
  20. Commandante Lemming
    Offline

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,241
    Likes Received:
    1,000


    Keep at it.

    Writing is a hobby that will make you think you are going stark raving insane - but it's also immensely rewarding when you help people see things differently, or learn things you never would have known otherwise. It's the ultimate challenge, and unlike a lot of other things your could do there's no rule book or instruction manual - but it's a great thing.
     
    Selbbin likes this.
  21. TDFuhringer
    Offline

    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    589
    Likes Received:
    262
    Location:
    Somewhere South of Midnight
    @bythegods The fact that you realized it's more work than you thought is the clearest sign that you may actually have a chance. Too many 'aspiring' writers never reach this critical point, and blunder ahead thinking their first drafts are made of gold and 'How much will they pay me for my ideas?' and ugh and yeesh and cringe...

    Also to second other's comments, fantasy is a monster genre to write in for your first novel. I'm not saying don't do it, I'm saying be aware of how much you've bitten off before you even think about chewing it.

    If fantasy were an easy genre to write in, there would be a lot of really great fantasy books on the market, instead of piles of derivative, unreadable, eye-roll inducing... you get the picture.

    Don't give up!
     
  22. criticalsexualmass
    Offline

    criticalsexualmass Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2013
    Messages:
    131
    Likes Received:
    60
    Location:
    Kentucky
    Chuck Wendig said it best:
    Write as much as you can
    as fast as you can.
    Finish your shit.
    Hit your deadlines.
    Try very hard not to suck.

    That's it. There's no silver bullet, other than persistence. Nobody likes that answer, though. They'd rather think they can get "five minute abs" and lose weight by eating whatever they want and taking a pill. In a world of instant gratification, the writing itself had better be gratifying to you. Otherwise you are in the wrong train station.
     
    JetBlackGT and TDFuhringer like this.
  23. JetBlackGT
    Offline

    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    465
    Likes Received:
    158
    Location:
    Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
    If you thought writing was hard, wait till you get to the editing!

    If you thought editing was hard, wait till you get to finding a publisher!

    It goes on and on from there. :)
     
    cutecat22 likes this.
  24. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,208
    Likes Received:
    4,217
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    @TDFuhringer - I actually thought fantasy was one of the easiest things to write about, you just make up whatever you want. Then I tried to write one yesterday and realized that no, no it is actually not quite so easy when I think about it. :D Same holds true for the sci-fi genre. No wonder I like historic fiction instead. :p
     
    TDFuhringer likes this.
  25. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,778
    Likes Received:
    7,291
    Location:
    Scotland
    That's kinda funny. I just re-read your OP, and you're right. You didn't really ask a question. I guess the fact that you talked about having problems led us to believe the questions was implied, or at least that you wanted feedback on getting around the problems.

    So ...yeah, you're right, writing is a lot harder than you think when you first sit down to it. Or maybe not harder, but different. You think because you can string sentences together in a grammatical fashion that being a creative writer will be a skoosh. No no nonono...it's a lot more complicated than that.

    I find the complications and the learning process is a lot of fun!
     
    JetBlackGT and TDFuhringer like this.

Share This Page