1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    What element of writing do you struggle with most?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by OurJud, Aug 3, 2016.

    If this has been done, feel feel free to close it and link to the other, but I'm hoping it has the potential to help us all.

    The idea is we each outline what element of fiction writing we struggle with most (this is not a thread for specific plot/character problems) but for declaring the one area you always struggle with. Then, if anyone happens to have any advice on any of these, they can do so.

    Mine has always been, and still is, the use of effective padding, not only to achieve a novel-length word-count, but also for pacing purposes. I've always claimed that if I were given the basic outline of a plot, I could probably tell it in about 8,000 words. This, of course, would be little more than a glorified synopsis, but I could still give you the beginning, middle and end.

    We're constantly reminded that every single sentence has to serve a purpose, or that fillers and padding should be avoided, but it is a complete and utter mystery to me how this is achieved. We can't simply write one eventful scene after another - it would be relentless, not to mention unrealistic - so what is the secret to bridging these scenes and pacing the novel without using filler?

    I've read a lot of fiction, and I still don't understand how it's done.

    As I say, I'm not demanding any answers to this - this is a thread for others to share the element they most struggle with.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
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  2. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    Just because something isnt a filler it doesnt mean it has to be action packed and exciting. You can bridge scenes with narrative that allows the reader to learn more about the main characters or more about the environment the characters are in. I'm not writing expert though. I find writing in first person to be easier to get into the MC's head therefore I can get more words out but it can be hard writing first person, you have to make sure you build a really good character.

    The most difficult thing for me is that I lack patience, thus i can rush through at times. Also description can be tough in draft one. Its easier to edit in better description in subsequent drafts though so if I am having a hard time i generalize it and then when it's time to edit I make it better then.
     
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  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Plot. The traditional rising action to a climax and then a denoument structure always feels so artificial to me. I know it's a good way to craft fiction that will be satisfying to readers, but... how often in life are things that tidy?
     
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  4. U.G. Ridley
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    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid Supporter

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    I'm not sure if I'm struggling or not, because I don't know if it'll actually be a problem, but I have this growing anxiety that some people won't like the way my story is structured. It has a huge plot element that takes up most of the book, which is basically that the main characters end up in the middle of a psychopath billionaire's manhunt on his private island, but I'm 50 000 words into the book and have only now gotten to the part where they actually go to the island... The story isn't actually about the manhunt, it's about the main character and her life of abuse, but I feel like a lot of people will see it as bad pacing if I don't just immediately throw the characters into the island before the first few chapters are over.
     
  5. Laurin Kelly
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    Laurin Kelly Active Member

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    OMG, me too! I have an author friend who can crank out the most amazing "three act play" stories with super tight plots and I'm just in awe of her. I feel like I stumble across my plots instead of weaving the story from them, and it's sooooo frustrating!
     
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  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Mine is usually pacing. I struggle with controlling the amount of space I give to setups versus payoffs, set pieces, climaxes, and so on. Especially climaxes. I have a strong tendency to gloss over a climax in as little as three lines, when it deserves five or more pages (depending on the length of the story, of course). I'd write, "Suddenly, Indiana Jones chose the cup that was the real Holy Grail, saved his father with it, defeated the Nazis, and rode off with his friends into the sunset. The End." It would take me about ten subsequent read-throughs for me to realize that this kind of thing just won't cut it. It's terribly embarrassing! :eek: o_O :oops:
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Plot.

    I feel like I should say more, but that's about it. Scenes, dialogue, characters, settings, situations, all that, no problem. I'm sure that I should improve in every one of those areas, but I feel reasonably confident about how to march down that improvement path. Plot? Ergh.
     
  8. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    I have two big struggling points.

    1. I never know how to start a story. I've heard time and time again that once I get going, it works really well. The problem is the exposition/opening is always stilted.

    2. Describing the setting. This one isn't as bad for me, but I definitely have to put more effort into it than other aspects of the craft.
     
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  9. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Satisfaction.
     
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  10. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    How often in life are things that interesting/entertaining? And if they are, is it only in retrospect, with people's minds editing out all the boring filler, connecting dots that weren't evident at the time, embellishing the interesting points, etc? (If your answers are 'often' and 'no' respectively, please don't tell me :( ;)) I reckon embrace the artifice.

    My main problem isn't writing specific: perfectionism (--> lack of confidence/faith/self-belief/whatever). I don't mean perfectionism in the hackneyed 'I'm so good at everything' way that gets bandied around CVs, but as a genuine problem of setting my expectations too high, and assuming they weren't high enough if I ever actually meet them --> frustration, avoiding tasks for fear of failure, etc. In writing, this means that I get too adherent to planning to ever draft anything (or even procrastinate because I don't think my plan will be good enough).
     
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  11. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I hear ya!
     
  12. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Keeping my ass in the chair.

    Seriously. When it comes to writing, there are so many other things I'd rather do. Number one on the list is to look back on a completed novel. Now, I know that sounds like I'd rather be working at finishing the damned thing, but that's not the case. I'd rather it was done, finished, over with and sitting in a box over there in the corner. (Well, if I'm honest, it'd be on a pedestal in the middle of the living room where everyone is constantly reminded of its existence.) That way, I can point at it and say, "I did that."

    And that's why I tend to rush drafts. I start off fine, with the most honourable intentions of honing that sucker within an inch of its life until every word is a melody, each sentence a cadence and every chapter a concerto.

    I don't want to write. I'd much rather have written.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2016
  13. Sal Boxford
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    Sal Boxford Active Member

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    @BayView @Laurin Kelly @ChickenFreak Plot is definitely the trickiest thing for me too. Somehow, I only realised in these last 12 months (writing course) that this is something I really do need. My instinct when I started writing was: I paint a picture, it is what it is, make of it what you will. But that doesn't really cut it. Writing a story with a plot is much more satisfying, but also massively more challenging.

    My writing process still goes: idea that interests me - setting and characters that encapsulate elements of the idea - write a dozen jokey sketches about the characters in the setting - drown in my own laughter - sit around for a month wondering which if any of the sketches could actually be a story, not just a bad joke - work out what that story is 'about' - plot the bastard thing - realise it's all wrong - plot if again - have a better idea - plot it again...

    I get this too. I enjoy writing once I make a start, but making myself start is a hell of as task. I'm like that with most things though. I'll avoid the washing up for days, then decide I really do need at least to wash a fork to eat with and end up cleaning the entire house because I can't stop.
     
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  14. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is kind of an antithesis of: for want of a nail, a shoe was lost; for want of a shoe, a horse was lost, etc. For want of a fork, my house got clean. :)
     
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  15. Nightstar99
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    Nightstar99 Contributing Member

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    Can you give an example of filler? In a sense everything in a book is filler, isn't it?

    People won't read things that are boring or that they don't see moving the story along.

    I feel like I am picking on this guy now, but if we look at the subject of the "How not to take rejection" thread, David Benjamin. Here is a sample from his 'A Sunday Kind of Love' book:

    http://www.davidbenjaminwriter.com/a-sunday-kind-of-love/

    "Trish looked around. The scene was so rich, complicated and populous that Trish couldn’t begin to discern the source of this summons, or even if it referred to her. The innermost fringe of the vast Lambeau Field parking lot was arranged like a flea market in serried rows whose only attraction was food and drink—and nothing was for sale. Here was the “tailgate scene” Gary had tried—and failed—to describe to Trish. Each avenue was a string of trucks, vans, hatchbacks, RVs, canteens, tents, awnings, tables, bars, kegs, umbrellas, barbecue pits, portable stoves, spits and rotisseries dense, fragrant and spilling over with beer, wine, sangria, martinis and margaritas, daiquiris, canapés, cold cuts, smoked salmon, dill pickles, beet pickles, watermelon pickles, bread and butter pickles, gherkins, soft cheeses, hard cheeses, blue cheeses, dips, chips, liverwurst, bratwurst, knockwurst, hot dogs, white buns, wheat buns, Kaiser rolls, onion rolls, burgers, chilis, stews, mulligatawneys, fried, oven-fried, Southern-fried, oven-roasted, broiled, grilled, smoked and braised chicken, T-bones, tenderloins, sirloins, rib-eyes, London broils, Wellingtons, chops, sides of beef, legs of lamb, veal birds, pigs-in-a-blanket, whole pigs, Jell-O salads, Caesar salads, Waldorf salads, macaroni salads, potato salads hot and cold, fruit desserts, Dream Whip desserts, devil’s food, angel food, German chocolate, bundt and carrot cakes, apple, pumpkin, peach, cherry, blueberry, rhubarb, lemon meringue, key lime and Boston cream pies, and orange drink, lemonade, grape juice, hot cold or hard cider, root beer, ginger beer, cream soda, Yoo Hoo, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, Seven-Up, Sprite, RC, Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola, Sundrop Golden Cola, buttermilk, and just enough brandy to float the Queen Elizabeth II. Up and down each aisle banners flapped and fluttered, cheering the Packers, boosting Mequon, Fond du Lac, Ashbwaubenon, etc., shouting Support Our Troops, loving Favre, hating Favre and, above all, cheering the Packers. Makeshift flagpoles thrust above the hubbub, abundant and multi-bannered, advertised families, groups, cartoon characters, military units, political candidates, favorite beers, beloved towns, Jolly Rogers, the United States of America, No. 4 Forever and Death to No. 4 and, above all, the Packers. People mingled in mellow multitude, everyone green-clad and greasy-faced with feasting, everyone holding a drink, laughing, shouting, remembering each other, kidding, nudging and toasting one another, asking after families, describing surgeries and falling into embraces.
    So, no, Trish couldn’t quite tell who had called out in her direction."


    Good grief. I see what he's getting at but...
     
  16. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Hmm... good question.

    1. Coming up with ideas. Most writers have too many to put onto paper. It takes me months to get one good one.

    2. Motivation, linked with impatience with how damn slow everything moves in publishing. It's hard to feel motivated writing your third novel when you're still trying to sell the first one. I'm used to a much quicker turnaround in my professional writing, where I usually know within a month if I've succeeded or failed. Waiting up to two years is... hard.

    3. Balancing introspection, action and dialogue. I still have a tendency to avoid introspection, though I'm getting much better.

    My advice? Don't bother. Tell people if the characters' are in in a dark wood, a sunny meadow, a middle-class family's living room, or a concrete office block. You can conjure up an image of all of those places right now just from the couple of words I've provided. Unless it's important to the plot or you write in a particular style where the setting is important (which I don't think you do?) you don't need to say more.
     
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  17. Dr. Mambo
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    Dr. Mambo Active Member

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    Most of the time I jump into writing a story without much of an idea when or how it will conclude or, if I do know how it will conclude, I don't know how to get it there. I do great until I reach the next big event that I have in mind and then... nothing. I don't know how to continue. I've written A, B, and C, but I have no idea how to get to G. I wrote about 70 Word pages of my novel and shelved it for 2 years before I figured out where to go next with it.

    So I guess I'd say "planning" a story is my biggest struggle.

    Perhaps also knowing when to call a story complete. I edit like I have OCD.
     
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  18. Sal Boxford
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    Sal Boxford Active Member

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    Yes. That too.
     
  19. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Somebody once said, "A piece of art is never finished, only abandoned." This is true of stories.
     
  20. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    1 - Sticking to one thing. I have 54 differen't stories outlined in a folder. By outlines, i mean at least 4k words, with all major, and a lot of minor, events spelled out.

    2. - remembering the story. Once i get the words out of my mind and onto paper, I somehow forget most of, almost all in fact, of what I put down. It's almost like they're a dream; all I can do is enjoy them while I'm making them.
     
  21. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    54 :eek:, Jesus H, I thought I was bad with circa 20

    that aside my biggest struggle is sitting town to write - I am an absolute master at procrastination. I'm trying to take to heart the maxim that "if you want to be a writer you have to write" ... but its awfully easy to get side tracked internet/forums/facebook/ interesting sites that I kid myself are 'research' . just 'making a cup of coffee/ getting a cold beer, taking a quick nap , etc
     
  22. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yep. That's mine, too. I can start chapters, no bother, because they follow on from the previous chapters, and I really like doing endings. But the start of the book? Murder. It's one of the main reasons I don't linger over the start in a first draft. I'll always want to change it after I'm finished. It's difficult to know where to begin, isn't it?

    I've got a good friend who is a published writer, and his philosophy is this: "Go back and read the beginning again, and when you get to the first sentence your story can't do without, that's your opening sentence."

    I'm not as focused as he is on wording, so that little trick doesn't work for me. It's the PLACE where the story ought to start that stumps me. I prefer linear storytelling, so it's important to start in the right place. Otherwise it's flashback time.
     
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  23. U.G. Ridley
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    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid Supporter

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    I struggled with that for a while. A good trick is to sit down somewhere where there is no internet. Makes it slightly easier to get started if you are trying to be more consistent. Once you've done it enough times it makes it much easier to not get distracted even when you do have the internet available.
     
  24. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's a good question. I have the opposite problem. I write WAY too much and have to remove a lot during the edits.

    However, I remember reading a bit of advice from somewhere about your issue. The article suggested that you go through your novel (either in the planning stage or the editing of the first draft) and identify the scenes that must be demonstrated or 'shown' in real time in order to have emotional impact, or involve the reader in what is happening. It's okay to make short bridges of the other scenes, but make sure these crucial scenes actually 'act out' for the reader, as fully as possible.

    Perhaps you have your main character and his girlfriend having a terrible fight or disagreement, resulting in him grabbing his car keys, leaving the house and slamming the door. He drives around for a while, then stops at a store to buy a six pack of beer. When he gets back home and goes inside, he's horrified to discover that his girlfriend has cut her wrists and is in the process of bleeding out in the bathtub.

    Unless something really important happens during his cooling-off jaunt in the car, and something incredibly important happens in the store, those can be bridge scenes, taken care of in a few sentences. However, we probably need to see the fight in real time, and we certainly need to be fully inside his head for the duration, when he realises his girlfriend may be about to die and he's losing somebody he really loves and never meant to hurt.

    I'd say don't ever think of any elements of your story as 'filler.' That implies sticking unnecessary stuff in there just to pad it out. It's true that every word should count, but that doesn't mean you have to whiz through the story at top speed. It just means that the less important stuff takes less of your story time. Your goal isn't so much to get to the end ASAP, but to make your reader fully experience the journey. If you work on that as a goal, you might find it easier to make your scenes come to life in 'real time.'
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2016
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  25. Dr. Mambo
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    Dr. Mambo Active Member

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    And how. I often think that I could shelve one of my "finished" stories for a year, revisit it this time next August, and come up with 10 things to change I don't see right now. I could do the same thing every year and always find something else to change.
     

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