1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why can't I just write?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by OurJud, Jul 24, 2016.

    I don't really know why I write, aside from being the creative sort and the urge occasionally takes me.

    A massive, massive part of me desperately wants to write and finish a novel - I don't care if it gets published, and probably wouldn't even submit it to anyone. I want to write it for myself.

    But I have to face the fact that I probably never will because I don't have what it takes. My writing urges come in spurts that last a couple of months at best, but when that urge has been exhausted, it's gone. I don't miss it, I don't think about it. Life is easier when I have no desire to write.

    These spells, however, ultimately come to nothing and I actually write very little, if anything at all. More often than not I feed my desires by thinking about the writing process. I'll compose opening lines in my head, picture scenes and how I might write them. I read snippets from novels I have lying about the house and gain massive inspiration because of how easy it looks. I come here on the pretence it's productive to my writing, when in reality it's to do nothing more than feed off like-minded people.

    I also have huge barriers that stop me writing - silly ones such as refusing to write short stories because I have my heart set on writing a novel, and I would see it as a waste of time (because of course sitting here writing nothing at all can't be construed as a waste of time). I won't let myself just write because I fear it will only lead down cul-de-sacs. I kid myself I'm a pants writer, but only because I can't be bothered doing the leg work of planning.

    Any advice or encouragement very welcome.
     
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  2. U.G. Ridley
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    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid Supporter

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    The very first time I started writing, I wrote 80k words in just a few weeks because it was a passion that had been in inside me for very long but I'd never explored it before. What I wrote was shit obviously, but at least I was writing a lot, and it was fun. Then the inspiration that had been inside me for all those years dried out, and I no longer found the actual writing part fun, and so for two years I was very on-and-off on writing, getting little spurts of inspiration here and there. During those two years, I wrote about 60k words in total. Compare that to the 80k I wrote in a few weeks and you can tell I was pretty uninspired...

    However, this year, I've written a crap ton in a short amount of time again, and the reason is quite simply that I force myself to write even when I really don't want to. The result has been that the inspiration often comes to me while I'm in the middle of writing, rather than before. Instead of waiting for inspiration, I find it. I have a schedule that I treat almost religiously. I have a certain time of day in which I have to write, no matter how little I want to, and my writing has never been better.

    Writing is a discipline, just like working out or going to a "normal job" that you don't particularly like. There will be a lot of low points, but if you are truly passionate about writing, you'll have to force yourself through those low points and just write, because that's what you do.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2016
  3. BWriter
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    BWriter Member

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    Writing a novel is a big commitment if you are serious about it. It sounds to me like you would be more suited to short stories, at least at first. At the moment I only write shorts and it saddens me that people consider them a waste of time. I would like to write something bigger eventually but going straight to a novel seems like trying to be usain bolt before I can crawl.

    As far as advice goes you could try set yourself word count goals, start on say 500 words a session and increase over time. Most of all I think you need to decide whether this is something you are serious about or not. There is nothing wrong with stopping and starting when you write either, it will just take you longer and I would find continuity more difficult. If you have the ideas in your head just start writing it and go back when you can.
     
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  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel like your post is kind of self-contradictory...

    a massive, massive part of you desperately wants... but it comes and goes?

    If you want it, want it. That's honestly about all I've got. I don't think it's necessarily a problem to want to write in short bursts, but it sounds like you're not writing much even then? So... maybe you don't really want it that much.
     
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  5. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suppose this pretty much sums it up. Not sure where I find the strength to force myself, though.

    But that's my point. I don't want to write short stories. I appreciate the benefits and I was in no way suggesting short stories are a waste of time. If that's what a given writer does (and there are countless successful ones who do) then great, but I'd see it as a compromise, because I really want to write a novel.

    So why does my heart tell me I do? Are you saying it's possible to only think you want to write?

    It's all become a kind of game now, with the part of me that still has some belief, arguing with the rest. "I'll show you, you bastard! I'll write that novel one day." It's like an internal battle.
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's possible to want to have written. I think most people, if given the chance, would like to have written a novel with all their best ideas in it.

    But do they actually want it enough to do the work? For most people, no.
     
  7. BWriter
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    BWriter Member

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    Can I ask why a novel? I don't want to sound harsh or condescening but in my experience any one serious about writing can't get enough. On a personal level, I have times when I don't write to much. Time, lack of ideas and just plain laziness play a part but the desire never goes away and I am usually thinking about stories.
     
  8. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    In all honestly, I don't know. I think I probably see it as the pinnacle of writing achievement.

    It's so hard to explain and stress how my wanting to write a novel manifests itself. I think part of the problem is the belief that I can do it. If there was no belief it wouldn't bother me. But because there is, it kind of eats away at me that I've not done it.

    But that's just it, I can't get enough. I don't think the fact that my desire comes in spurts, suggests I want it any less than someone who writes feverishly for 52 weeks of the year.
     
  9. BWriter
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    BWriter Member

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    Isn't it strange to go from nothing to the pinnacle right away. If its what you want thats fair enough though. Nobody can tell you its wrong. Perhaps desire is the wrong word, the will would be better. I have had the desire to go traveling since I was young but I have done nothing about it so I started to wonder how much I really wanted it. Everyones got different ways of thinking though and if it's something you really want just start doing it.
     
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  10. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't say nothing - I've written shedloads of short stories, and while I'm no way suggesting I'm a master of the format, I do feel like I've at least explored the area.

    I also think it's fair to say there have been people who, out of nowhere, decide they want to write a novel, set about it and end up finding a publisher. I know those instances will be few and far between, but it does happen.
     
  11. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    But those people start and then finish their novel. So what's getting in the way of you doing that?
     
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  12. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Begin with something very easy - romance aimed at the YA market @ 80 000 words?

    Sheila works at the bakery, kneads dough, but requires cash to fulfill ambition to run at the Olympics 2016, she is Russian. There's a pet shop on one side, a jewellers over the street. You see it?

    Add a couple of guys in the writing mixture, for muscle and structure. I started you off, just finish.
     
  13. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I think @BayView may've hit the nail on the head, honestly. It sounds like you want to've written a novel more than you want to actually write one. That doesn't mean you don't 'really' want to write at all, just that the prospect of having already finished a novel and successfully gotten your thoughts/stories out there is more appealing than buckling down and making it happen. Which I get, because I mean - writing well is difficult and time-consuming and there tends to be a lot of second-guessing and redoing, and it's often going to end up being thankless.

    But if you want to do it, you do it. You put in the work. You make yourself write when you'd rather be watching netflix and playing video games (er, maybe that's just me). You can't rely on inspiration - you have to do it when it's tedious too or you'll never get anywhere. You set yourself goals, you compromise your goals just to get something done, you inevitably hit stumbling blocks, but if it's important to you, you stick to it.

    Frankly, it seems like you think writing should be easy. You should be able to knock out a novel - the pinnacle of the written word - on your first try because it's not like it's hard, right? So you get frustrated when it is hard, and that makes it difficult to maintain any prolonged interest.

    I'd consider whether you actually like writing, or like thinking about stories and how cool it'd be to have a novel someday. If it's not actual writing that you like, why do it? There's nothing wrong with just enjoying stories. God knows if I didn't desperately want to write, I wouldn't have stuck to it, because unfortunately it's not easy - whether you're a planner or a pantser.
     
  14. BWriter
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    BWriter Member

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    Of course it can happen and I wouldn't tell anyone they can't do it. I can only talk about my views on it. You seem to be contradicting yourself a little though. You said you would see writing shorts as a waste of time, which implies you havent written them. That's why I said from nothing. Without knowing you and going off what you have said, it seems like all your obstacles are internal and if you really want to do it you have to ignore them and get it done. Even if it is very stop start.
     
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  15. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Fear of losing my current enthusiasm... I think.

    :D Thank you, Mat, but can you please start me off with something that isn't a romance aimed at the YA market. I couldn't write romance if my life depended on it. A gritty sci-fi, or something about a dying earth... something along those lines.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2016
  16. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have no doubt whatsoever that I like writing. I wouldn't keep coming back to it if I didn't.

     
  17. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    @OurJud - it was for @BayView really, really, part of my fan post series.

    If I recall you wrote that sci-fi - guys in a car? That was good writing, get back on it. It is as simple as 'very difficult,' or a 'put up or shut up,' I am afraid...

    Write a 1000 words to amuse yourself, I do that every day I can, it makes me feel better, in the game, all the best OJ.


    ...and if you are stuck, use my template, subvert it, write terrible jokes...and edit...
     
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  18. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    You know, what the hell? Why don't I just pick that one up? That's 20,000 + words out of the way already. Thanks, Mat.

    Thanks to everyone for their posts.
     
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  19. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    :write:
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2016
  20. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Yes! I liked that one, too :)
     
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  21. Imaginarily
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    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

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    I miss both of you across-the-pond people, Tendie and @OurJud . *huffs*
     
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  22. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sounds like giving yourself a reason to enjoy outlining first would work better than trying to jump into enjoying writing.

    My best tip: Don't start by outlining an entire story. Start by just jotting down the ideas you have for what could be put into a story at some future point, commit them to memory, and save them for later.

    If you find that you can't save your ideas for later because you love them so much right now that you have to use them right this second, then you know that it's a good idea that you should use. If you are able to stop yourself from using an idea, then it's probably not a good enough idea yet, and you should probably wait until it turns into a better idea.

    That started out as me getting addicted to the series (as proper fanfiction should ;) ), not being able to stop myself from coming up with other things that could've happened in the same fictional universe that I knew and loved so well (still on track), but at first I didn't came up with any stories around the scenes, characters, and lines of dialogue that I'd come up with, it was all just daydreaming about one disjointed thing after another.

    Then I started thinking about how my two Time Lord characters (brother and sister) met the rest of my cast (I didn't actually have any details about the human characters, just the sentient ship that they lived in/with), even though the show had made it clear that The Doctor was the only Time Lord left in the universe. I came up with the idea that the brother and sister were created in a mad science laboratory, broke out, and my others characters ran into them and decided to bring them along, but I didn't exactly like this - how exactly did two schmucks break out of advanced military security, why would they tell this to the first people they happened to run into instead of trying to keep their identity secret - yet I didn't have any other reason why two Time Lords would be part of my daydreams when the series was clear The Doctor was the only one left.

    Until I realized "maybe the rest of my cast find the facility first and they break the Time Lords out of captivity." This one random thought changed my entire daydream into an actual story, and just seeing that there would be a beginning (the humans and the ship discover the facility), a middle (they find out about the Time Lords), and an end (they escape) was enough to make me want to fill in the rest.

    When you do have a story that you love as much as I love this one, then you will want to outline more details than just the most basic beginning-middle-end because you will want to know what happens "next" as much as a reader will.

    Albeit from a different chronology:

    Readers who know what happened in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd parts on the narrative will want to know what will happen in the 4th part

    A writer who knows what happened in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th parts of the narrative will want to know what will happen in the 3rd part​
     
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  23. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've more than once argued that writing fiction is fundamentally different from writing non-fiction. It's not like, oh, playing the piano versus playing the organ. It's more like playing the violin versus singing.

    We all speak in nonfiction, and have all of our lives. We put words together into phrases and sentences that express ideas. We quite often also think that way. Writing nonfiction is a process of translation, putting those words and phrases into letters on a page or screen, and making them more formal and structured. We naturally create the raw material, and the activity of writing just polishes it up. Similar to the way that singing takes the raw material of speech and polishes it up.

    (Edited to add: The above should not be taken as saying that writing nonfiction is EASY. In many many ways it's much harder. I'm just saying that dragging the immediate thoughts of the moment from brain to page may be easier.)

    We rarely speak in fiction. Oh, we'll tell our friends what somebody said at work, or summarize the plot of a movie, but our society no longer has much of an oral storyteller tradition. And while we do think in fiction, those thoughts are usually in the form of images and movement and sounds, not in words, except maybe for the words of dialogue.

    So when you start writing fiction, it's rather like picking up the violin and the bow and having not the faintest clue how to make those tools reflect the music that's in your head.

    You have to LEARN to play the violin. You have to learn to write fiction. It takes countless hours of practice to get past the equivalent of howling screeching cat-like sounds, to something even passable.

    So it's too early to work on the novel. Would you START your effort to learn the violin with an effort to play a complex piece to a quality level suitable for publishing as a CD? No, you'd start with the simplest of basics.

    And would you expect your starting, cat-screeching efforts to satisfy your desire to produce music? No; those early efforts are going to be pure, exhausting, laborious skill-building.

    ---

    You're doing the equivalent of trying over and over and over to play that beautiful piece as a new violin student. I say this in part because I'm doing the same thing. I may be at the point where I can play a passable "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" with only an occasional discordant screech, but I'm no further.

    I need to write fiction. Hundreds of thousands of words of fiction. Regularly, as a disciplined habit. It's not going to be happy fun inspiration, it's going to be a long laborious slog. And there's no guarantee that at the end of it I'll find out that, yep, I can write fiction.

    I know this, and so far I haven't done it. I'm trying to maintain my story-a-day habit, and so far I'm getting a story done less often than once every three days, and those are little bitty stories.

    I need to break through that resistance to doing the work. Right now, I'm reading the book Grit, by Angela Duckworth, in the hope that the burst of enthusiasm that I often get for a concept when I've just read a book on it, might push me to form a habit that then sticks.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2016
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  24. Laurin Kelly
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    Laurin Kelly Active Member

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    I cut my teeth on fanfiction. I know it's not very well thought of by many authors, but it helped me learn the fundamentals of writing while not having the overwhelming task of coming up with everything from scratch. I already knew what the characters names were, how they dressed, what kind of family they had, etc. The more I wrote, the more comfortable I became with creating original characters, diverting from cannon, and maintaining a story's arc over many chapters. I refer to it as my "writing with training wheels" phase, and it was a crucial part of my journey to become a novelist of original fiction. In one of the reviews for my first original novel (from a reviewer at USA Today's website, no less!!!), the reviewer states "you won’t believe she isn’t a seasoned author without an extensive backlist." The reason for that is that I wrote nearly 40 fanfiction works (a few novella to novel length) before I started Under the Knife. I'm not saying every writer should start out that way, but it is a way to not have to go from zero to sixty overnight.

    In regards to @BayView's excellent point that wanting to write and wanting to have written are two different things, I can relate in a different way. I love the idea of running half marathons and trying out for American Ninja Warrior, when in reality I struggle to run a 5K and the beginner's obstacle course mud run I did last summer nearly killed me. I could get there if I was willing to put in the work - spend much of my free time working out, watch my diet carefully, stop drinking so much damn wine, etc. But I don't really want to do any of those things, so I'll continue to putter along in my little local events and comfort myself that what I am doing is still better for my health (especially as I get older) than sitting on the couch.
     
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  25. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Add another voice to the fanfiction recommendation - I always wrote total alternate universe stuff, so I don't think I got all that much help from pre-established settings, etc., but what was really helpful was getting immediate feedback. Instead of waiting for, in many cases, years to have the fun of sharing my work and having someone respond to my ideas, I could write a chapter a day, post it, and get feedback five minutes after. It was a really, really useful way to build confidence for the longer slogs.
     

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