1. AllThingsMagical
    Offline

    AllThingsMagical Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2011
    Messages:
    69
    Likes Received:
    1

    when to give up on an idea?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by AllThingsMagical, Sep 13, 2011.

    I've had this story idea floating around my head for the past few years. Each time I come back to it I think it sounds stupid so I change the storyline and do another rough outline of it and then leave it for a few months or longer to see what I think then. The thing is though while I love the characters and the setting I can just never quite figure out what to do with them. The genre seems to have gradually morphed as well from action packed fantasy to comical romance with just a hint of mystery. The storyline I had originally seems to no longer exist. So my question to all of you is how do you know when an idea is a lost cause and should just be given up on and how do you know when it just needs a little more work on it? Any thoughts and comments would be much appreciated. Thanks :)
     
  2. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    First of all, when you say "each time I come back to it", does that mean each time you sit down to write it? Have you actually written any of it? Lots of new writers worry so much about how something might come out that they never actually get it down on paper. Your post reads a lot like that. Don't worry about what genre it might be, just sit down and write. Let the characters interact and take you where they want to go.

    True story: Years (and years!) ago, I planned on writing a historical novel. It was going to run from colonial times to present day. But, of course, there was a tremendous amount of research to do, and I did it whenever I had the chance. In the meantime, two characters popped into my head. I thought about them a lot. They would come of age during the Depression and would be the main characters of the modern segment of my historical. Then I read Richard Ketchum's marvelous book, "The Borrowed Years" about the years just before the US entry into WW-II, and all of a sudden I realized I had everything I needed for background of the world of these two characters. I started thinking a lot about her. She'd be a little different, not quite fitting in, too many opinions. Then I read a book on the old Brooklyn Dodgers and decided she'd be rebellious in her own way from the start - a Brooklyn fan while her father and brother were NY Giants fans. I thought about him a lot, too. He'd be a quiet kid, the oldest of three brothers, all sons of a widowed mother, dirt poor. He'd be an outcast among his peers.

    I decided at this point that I had too much good stuff not to start writing it down. I justified it as writing the last segment first and assumed I'd be able to tie it back to whatever came before. Well, before long I realized that this was going to be too long just to be a segment, it was going to be its own novel, and my two characters were going to be the main characters. At one point, I took a week off from work so I could write full time, and it's still on record as the best week of my life. And when I was finished, I had a novel of 440,000 words. Of course it was too long! But an agent liked it enough to look over a few chapters and gave me some really great ideas in editing it down, and I eventually got it down to 140,000. It still isn't good enough to publish, but it was a good first effort and I learned a tremendous amount from it.

    The thing is, if I'd never let myself write it, nothing ever would have happened.

    I've written three more novels since, and just finished a first draft on another. Nothing published yet, but I'm still working on it. Oh, and I still haven't written the historical, yet.
     
  3. Banzai
    Offline

    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2007
    Messages:
    12,871
    Likes Received:
    150
    Location:
    Reading, UK
    I'd agree with this. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet, and start writing.

    Not to say that there aren't times where you just can't get an idea to watch. I have more than a few ideas I've given up on, for reasons of I don't see a way to work around a particular problem, I've lost passion with the story, or I just don't think it's working as I imagined.

    What I do do, though, is keep my ideas (whether they be notes, half-finished drafts, or even completed drafts I'm not happy with), so that I can have another go somewhere down the line. One of the early stories I successfully got published was a rewrite of the second short story I ever wrote.
     
  4. AllThingsMagical
    Offline

    AllThingsMagical Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2011
    Messages:
    69
    Likes Received:
    1
    It's not that I don't start writing it. I get a good 4-5 chapters in and then think 'this isn't right'. It's like the story does fit the characters and I can just feel it's not working but don't know how to fix it. I understand when people say just start writing and see where it takes you and more often than not like in your case there's a good story to be found even if it's not the one you intended to write. I guess I was just wondering when do you get to the point where you know you've got everything you can out of an idea and just need to move on? Every so often I'll get a new way of looking at this particular idea and then try it - write it - and for some reason it never seems to work. So I'll start working on another story - which is fine but I don't know whether to give up on the first idea completely. I think I was just wondering how other writers tell when they've got a good idea that needs some work instead of a bad idea that's never going to work. Sorry if I phrased it badly.
     
  5. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    Force yourself to finish, allowing it to evolve in whatever ways it may, then at the end go back and fix the parts that don't work.

    Once you finish the initial write-though, you can fix it however you want, and really have something to work with. There are too many excuses to not write - don't let this hold you back.
     
  6. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Definitely.

    I just finished a first draft, and I knew coming down the stretch that there was going to be a lot I'd have to correct in editing (including fleshing out at least one complete subplot). The temptation to go back and start correcting and rewriting before I finished the first draft was strong, but I resisted it and decided to push through to the finish. I'm glad I did. Now, when I go back to it, I'll be working with a complete idea, not one in which I still haven't figured out where it's all going.
     
  7. The-Joker
    Offline

    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2008
    Messages:
    742
    Likes Received:
    35
    Location:
    Africa
    Here's the thing. Every idea is workable. Some require more thought, moulding and restructuring than others, but every idea with enough time and consideration can be nurtured into a novel. As the idea develops more problems surface. You can fix them now or save it for the editing. As the problems stack up you get a better insight as to just how much work bringing this story idea to life entails. The question is do you still have the passion to persist in the face of those obstacles? If the obstacles outweigh your passion, then perhaps you should stop. It's not a harsh outlook. It simply means you didn't have the required willpower and passion for the idea to begin with. If you really love an idea and the characters, you WILL see it through to the end, and you'll make all the modifications required to make it work.
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. Toreshi_Tobin
    Offline

    Toreshi_Tobin New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0
    It's my personal opinion that you should never give up on any idea that you think has potential. I've been writing this one story now for six years or more. It's changed a dozen times from little things like the main character's name, to huge, plot-demolishing changes that make it a totally different story. I still think that its a great idea, I just keep finding ways to make it better.

    If I were you, I'd just WRITE. If things change, so be it. If you get to the end of the draft and find its a huge pile of nonsense that will never work unless you change 90% of it...well welcome to the life of an author. Most things don't make sense in the first draft, and lots of writers find themselves constantly changing (if not hating) things they wrote because their ideas are constantly changing. That's part of the deal. :) Just write for now, see what comes out, and worry about it being GOOD later.
     
  9. Quezacotl
    Offline

    Quezacotl Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2011
    Messages:
    342
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    Ponyville
    When you or when it dies.
    Write the story, you'll eventually figure out what you want to say.
     
  10. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    I was wondering that same thing just yesterday, because after two chapters of my new novel it suddenly didn't seem as interesting anymore, even though I've been really eager to sit down and write it. It sounded so good when outlining, but when I sat down to write it ...well, it just didn't looked the way I had imagined. I have the same problem with another story that I have almost finished a first draft of: it's some kind of chic-lit, but there are several problems with it:
    1. the basics are too similar to the one I just finished (actually I did write it to somehow substitute the first one when I was in some kind of crisis with it)
    2. it feels a little silly even though I really like parts of it and especially the characters a lot!
    3. I don't know what to change about it to make it more different from the first one plus less silly. when I took away some of the similar parts it suddenly took away even the conflict... I was actually about to write a post about this yesterday. I guess I'll take eds and mals advice and just finish this new one but the other one I really don't know what to do with. It's so fun to write that I don't want to throw it away either... Help!
     
  11. Yoshiko
    Offline

    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2009
    Messages:
    758
    Likes Received:
    27
    I get that feeling every single time I start a new project. The only thing you can do is work through it because you can't edit and improve something that doesn't exist yet. If you geniunely enjoy writing the story then write out the draft in full and then take the time to read through and criticise it. You might find it works when it's in full or you might be able to work out exactly why it doesn't come across right (wrong POV or tone, perhaps?). Maybe it really doesn't work - if so, then it wouldn't be a waste of time because you would have had fun writing it, right?
     
  12. Ashleigh
    Offline

    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2008
    Messages:
    4,186
    Likes Received:
    143
    Location:
    In the comfort of my stubborn little mind.
    Any story you leave hanging around for too long will turn sour in your own mind. We writers are very good at convincing ourselves that every idea is a pile of rubbish, once the initial excitement has worn off. The best thing you can do is write up a general plan and start writing. You'll find yourself deviating from the plan - adding additional features, subtracting others- whilst still working confidently from the initial idea you had. Change doesn't necessarily mean starting over, and it certainly doesn't mean you have to stop half way through. Just trust your instincts and keep on writing.

    The moral is: don't overthink it. Just go ahead and write it, or else, like milk left out too long, it'll go off. If I gave up every time I had doubts, I would've scrapped my current novel a thousand times over.
     
    1 person likes this.
  13. AllThingsMagical
    Offline

    AllThingsMagical Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2011
    Messages:
    69
    Likes Received:
    1
    Thanks everyone for all the advice it's been really helpful. I think I'll start again and just see where it takes me until I've got something close resembling a story.
     
  14. Reggie
    Offline

    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2010
    Messages:
    680
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    USA
    I have completed my first draft of the novel I just mentionated on another thread today. I gave up writing on it because the people didn't like it. Even my brother didn't like it. So I didn't know what to do. I never actually took the time to start on a second draft after I stopped reading the first draft for a while. Lucky for me, I still have the first draft on file and don't even know if I should do it. I can tell it is a bad draft because I have not read it in a while. Fortunately, I am working on a new idea, which is a shorter premise, so that I will get the whole picture of what my book is about.

    From my experience, I have noticed that the reason why my first draft (even though I think the idea is good) sucks because I don't know why I was writing just yet, even though I was writing "something" to fufill my story idea. Then once I was done with the first draft, I already knew what my story was about and don't have to go "searching" for what it was really supposed to be about in the second draft.
     
  15. LostInFiction
    Offline

    LostInFiction Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2011
    Messages:
    138
    Likes Received:
    2
    When you no longer think about it and feel anything for it. All the time it sticks with you and makes you feel like you need to go back to it then there's still something of a spark in it. Perhaps it will take a long while to find the spark and maybe it isn't really in the work itself but in the process or even just the desire... it doesn't really matter because as long as you keep thinking around your ideas you are giving yourself the opportunity to continue with your writing. Also, having a 'stubborn' idea doesn't mean you can't work on other projects. Maybe the point is that you need to tear yourself away from the current idea and try something new. One day the original idea you had may make more sense?
     
    1 person likes this.
  16. Bodhisattva
    Offline

    Bodhisattva Member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2011
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    A City in the North
    Just WRITE IT.

    When you've already written something and you find yourself thinking "it's crap", REWRITE IT. Nothing revitalises a story like a rewrite.

    This is from personal experience. You wont get anything done if you aren't confidant enought to put your brains down on paper.
     

Share This Page