1. Billy Joseph Ethridge
    Offline

    Billy Joseph Ethridge Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2014
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    4

    Writing a book

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Billy Joseph Ethridge, Jun 12, 2014.

    Just curious to see if I am the only writer here with at least 15 unfinished books. I go through spurts where I write furiously on a book for days, creating several pages (Some even 200+ pages and nowhere near the climax) then another idea hits and I can't push it away long enough to finish the previous story. Do any of you have these issues, and if you have managed to overcome it can you offer any advice? Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.
     
  2. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    I have a lot of unfinished work (though nothing close to 15 book-length works). I think most writers do because not all ideas can be turned into a finished product. But if you want to publish, you'll have to find a way to finish them.

    Maybe you're just too ambitious. My advice is to start with short stories; they're relatively short pieces and thus easier to finish in my opinion.
     
  3. Bryan Romer
    Offline

    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    381
    Serious writing is work, just like flipping hamburgers. You don't abandon a burger on the grill and move on to another one just because it catches your fancy. You start a job and you finish it. You can't tell your boss that "I just couldn't finish frying that burger because the second one was calling to me." Only in this case you are also the boss.

    If you have a new idea for a story, make notes, put them away, and go back to the WIP.
     
  4. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    I currently have three novels that I consider complete drafts, two of which I may well go back and try to make publishable. I have one other completed a first draft that I shelved during the editing process because I realized I never did have a really good handle on what I wanted to do with it. I have one that is a partially completed draft that I just decided wasn't a worthwhile project after all. These all predated my current project, which I am in the midst of editing and for which I have already lined up some beta readers. In the midst of this project, an idea occurred to me for something very different for me. I took a short break from my current project to sketch it out and actually write some initial chapters, but then I tucked it away for future reference.

    And that, I think, is the best thing to do. New ideas pop up all the time. You need to make some notes on them or else you just won't retain it, and even a chapter or two just to give the idea some substance is good. But if you drop a project every time a new idea occurs to you and go chasing the new one, you'll never finish anything.

    Good luck.
     
    jannert likes this.
  5. Billy Joseph Ethridge
    Offline

    Billy Joseph Ethridge Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2014
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    4
    Yeah I am putting together a collection of short stories for publication now. Probably at least half of these book ideas can be shortened with no problem. My problem is the next idea won't go away so I can continue with the story. It eats away at me until I finally have to stop and start jotting down the new one.
     
  6. Billy Joseph Ethridge
    Offline

    Billy Joseph Ethridge Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2014
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    4
    That's all fine and good if you are capable, but my ideas come with a vengeance and will not relent until I submit.
     
  7. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,828
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    I've got about five or so unfinished novels. I get anxious towards the end of my work. Finishing it means I could actually see that's it awful so not finishing means I can always say well, I'm still working on it. That thinking I've had to overcome and say - first draft doesn't mean finished anyway, it's only the bones.

    Plus, I've done what you've done - got 1/3 in and then, wham, another idea hits to distract me. Lately, what I do is write the idea down in full and set it aside and go back to working on the novel. It's tempting to get sidetracked because the idea is fresh and you could be a little bored with what you're working on but the fact is the battle is in the mind. Your mind wants to start going over new scenes, new plots, new puzzles, new characters. You've got to stop the daydreaming on the new project and stay in contact with the current project. A good way to freshen up the current project is to dream up a fresh twist. Or compile some images from the internet on objects, places, clothing - anything that would spark ideas for your current story. When I was working on a horror screenplay I scoured the internet for some good spooky settings and found some new twists for my
    story including an old brick factory I used to incorporate in a chase scene.
     
    sunsplash likes this.
  8. Bryan Romer
    Offline

    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    381
    Your ideas are not living things or even automatons. It is not the ideas that stop you from writing. It is a choice you make. You cannot "submit" to yourself.

    What makes you think that ideas do not come in never ending streams to me or any other writer? A critical part of the creative process is the determination and mental stamina to see a piece of work through. If you just wave your hands and say "I can't do it" then what you are really saying is you can't or won't write.

    Not to finish anything is just the same as not starting it at all.
     
  9. Billy Joseph Ethridge
    Offline

    Billy Joseph Ethridge Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2014
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    4
    Thats where you are wrong my ideas to me are living things. I am sorry, but I am not a robot who writes his ideas in a pretty little outline to follow. My ideas are born in my head, they take physical form in my writing, they consume as they grow maturing towards a climax before fading away and dying (sounds like they are alive to me). I just need to find a way to kill them off in just the right way.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2014
  10. Billy Joseph Ethridge
    Offline

    Billy Joseph Ethridge Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2014
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    4
    By the way I will not force the ideas to come though, I have read way too many books and stories where you can tell the author forced their way through a particular part of a story. I prefer it to have a natural consistent flow from beginning to end. Forcing it would be stifling its growth and you end up with a piece of work that you aren't happy with.
     
  11. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    We all get attached to our ideas and our stories, but this is, if I may say so, just a tad overly dramatic. We are the creators of our stories and our characters and our worlds. Whatever our characters do when they appear to take on lives of their own are simply the manifestations of our own imaginations, seeing new possibilities. To pretend otherwise is romantic nonsense.
     
    Cogito and sunsplash like this.
  12. Billy Joseph Ethridge
    Offline

    Billy Joseph Ethridge Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2014
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    4
    Isn't that what we are as writers? Romantics? Isn't it our jobs to dramatize things and make them interesting to read? Do you guys write textbooks? I myself am a fiction writer and poet by nature so yes, I dramatize things. My writing is driven by emotion, and is intended to provoke emotions in my readers, which is why I simply refuse to force the ideas when the emotion just isn't there.
     
  13. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Dramatizing in our writing is fine. You're right, that's what we do. But if we aim to be successful in selling our work to others, we need to be cold and practical about our romanticism (sort of like Pete Rose's great statement that baseball is a game of "relaxed tension"). I am currently editing a historical novel for which I have high hopes. Despite the fact that I have invested a great deal of time, energy and passion in the project, I have had to be coldly calculating about how to shape that story into something that an agent and a publisher will want to work with. And I've had to stay disciplined in my approach to the work.
     
    Andrae Smith likes this.
  14. Billy Joseph Ethridge
    Offline

    Billy Joseph Ethridge Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2014
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    4
    I haven't had much experience dealing with publishers yet. I guess that will come next.
     
  15. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,828
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    You can't work with bits and pieces of stories. At some point you have to finish things. Plow through. I've forced scenes. They're not always a compromise or awful. Sometimes in the long run I discover they work. But then again sometimes they don't make the second draft.

    That's what is so amazing about the writing process. The first draft doesn't have to be perfect but it's something you can work with to perfect and shape. But if you don't have that first draft it's very hard to take the next step in your writing. Don't look for a seamless, bump-free first draft it's not going to happen. Take a chance and write some garbage scenes. Get the story out and then go back and see what you've got. I remember some writer had wrote a scene in which he thought was filler about peeling an apple or something and it became this big symbol for his novel. One of the major scenes.
     
    jannert likes this.
  16. Renee J
    Offline

    Renee J Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2013
    Messages:
    463
    Likes Received:
    214
    Location:
    Reston, VA
    When I get ideas for another book, I just type them in a document for later. Then, I get back to the book I'm writing.
     
  17. Keitsumah
    Offline

    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2012
    Messages:
    3,279
    Likes Received:
    285
    Location:
    Nebraska
    I have written quite a few short stories (note: those are definetly not my strong suit) and even gotten one or two published. (one for sure, as for the other one the contest didn't notify me as to how far it had gone -though the last time i heard it was in nationals).

    I can say i know what you mean when the stories "come alive" in your head. But if you ever plan on finishing any of them you have got to learn self-control. And don't go telling me that the character just start screaming in your head for you to tell their story. They do that for me too, but there's a time and a place. I decided that i will finish the first major book i came up with, learn how to write better, so that when i do go back to those stories I can write them so that the character's will be proud of the way I told their story.

    Think about that -do you want passionate, but sloppy writing, or clean, neat works that make sense and give you so much more?
     
  18. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,210
    Likes Received:
    4,222
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    The gist I'm getting here is 'finish that novel'. Pick a story you want to write, and finish it. Don't abandon it for another story. A vet doesn't abandon his/her present duty of operating on a dog because he/she finds giving a new puppy its first checkup much more endearing. They have to complete the job. After all, that dog and its owners are counting on them.

    Same with writing. You and your story are counting on you. You can't just hop willy-nilly back and forth. This is what I'm doing now. I hop back and forth, abandoning entire stories because they're 'just too hard'.

    That said, it's OK if stories just don't work, or you learn that's not the story you're really into. I remember attempting to write my sci-fi, and I was half-way through my first chapter when I discovered I actually couldn't see myself writing a sci-fi period. Sometimes stories don't work, so time to move on.

    However, if the story can work, and you're thinking about quitting it because it's too hard, don't. Keep going.
     
  19. Billy Joseph Ethridge
    Offline

    Billy Joseph Ethridge Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2014
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    4
    I guess I may be suffering from slight ADD, oh loook shiny!
     
  20. BookLover
    Offline

    BookLover Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2014
    Messages:
    291
    Likes Received:
    186
    Three. I have three unfinished novels. I also have a million ideas for stories that I've jotted down, but only three that I've made significant progress on. One is about halfway finished. I've been wanting to finish that one for a long, long time, but like you, I have trouble buckling down and sticking to that one story. I guess I just don't always feel inspired by that one story or those specific characters. I did when I first started writing them, but now they're ingrained in my psyche and not as interesting to me as new plots and new characters.

    Sorry, no advice, but I can commiserate.
     
  21. Billy Joseph Ethridge
    Offline

    Billy Joseph Ethridge Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2014
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    4
    I disagree Ed, I find that most if not all successful writers say that their stories and characters take on a life of their own, and they feel like someone else is writing the story and they are just channeling it. Stephen King is probably the most successful writer in our time, and he will tell you that his stories and characters take on a life of their own over which he has no control. I want to see you tell him that he is full of romantic nonsense.
     
  22. Andrae Smith
    Offline

    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2012
    Messages:
    2,506
    Likes Received:
    1,404
    Location:
    Wandering
    I'm sure Ed's too polite to call him full of romantic nonsense in casual conversation. But I bet if Stephen King were here and said that, Ed would hold his position. I find myself leaning more toward his point of view as well, not because I don't think it's possible to channel a story (it could be) or that stories and characters don't seem to develop their own momentum and personalities (they can). It's just that nothing happens if we don't write it. If we don't like it, we can change it. We have to be responsible for the work we produce, or we risk never being able to take the story in the direction it needs to go.

    For instance, say I become attached to a character and plot line, and an editor says it doesn't seem to make much sense or is unbelievable, that it's taking up too much time, or that I simply don't need it. What can I do if I excuse it by saying the characters and stories take on lives of their own and that I can't control it? I won't be in the mindset to make the necessary edits to take the story or character in a new direction because I've invested so much imaginative "power" in them. I've allowed too much "freedom" in my mind to grow.

    There is a point, in most writers minds, where the story just seems to unfold and the characters appear to act on their own, but that is, more often than not, a manifestation of our ability to fully understand the character's psychologies and envision both where we want the story to go and what seems natural given the world you've been building and have subconsciously expanded with every word. If anything, this phenomenon may be attributable to the subconscious taking more control during writing sessions. :p
     
    jannert likes this.
  23. Amanda_Geisler
    Offline

    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2014
    Messages:
    320
    Likes Received:
    105
    Location:
    Australia
    In this point I agree with you. Most of the time I don't feel like I'm writing my novels, I always feel like I'm reading somebody else's book that I have picked up from the store. My books are real to me now, but that could be because I've been working with them for six years.

    However with regards to multiple projects. I currently have about twelve projects ready and waiting to be written, these are broken up into three different series of novels and a single book (which I a new idea so I haven't worked out if will become a series). Out of all of these projects one of them is finished and I have one WIP, the rest of them are waiting until I finish my current trilogy, which still has a full novel to write.

    I don't know if anyone else noticed but some of these posts came off a little rude to me, I won't name usernames. But in retrospect of these posts I agree that you should organise your notes when you have an idea, you take a break to flesh the idea out and see if you can make something out of it, but don't abandon your current project, there were times where I couldn't continue writing the previous drafts of my novel, it was a sign that I had to start again, or go back and change something @Annalise_Azevedo can tell you how many times I re-wrote The Stray, but she can also tell you how much it has improved, she has read every single draft/version.

    If you have trouble focusing on a project, I suggest reading the whole thing cover to cover, I usually find that it brings back the writing lure for that WIP, it also gives you a chance to review what you have written so far and change things if you need to, which sometimes is why you can't continue. I won't allow my mind to work on other projects until I finish the one I'm working on, but I am hoping to finish this trilogy by the end of the year, so I will have a hard decision to make about my next series project, do I go for my newer idea or do I go for the series idea that has been waiting to be written for five years, I suppose it will depend on how I feel at the time, and I may just start writing my chosen WIP and realise that my writing lure is with the other idea.

    I hope you at least go something out of my post

    Amanda
     
  24. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,528
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    While you may disagree with Ed, Billy Joseph Ethridge, and cite Stephen King as your reasoning, remember that Stephen King finishes novels. It's something you're struggling with, and Ed was providing what he believes to be useful advice.

    I am also not a writer that simply chronicles the doings and happenings of my characters, as they have a 'life of their own.'

    The characters you devise and the stories you create are drawn from your imagination. So are mine and Ed's and Stephen King's--unless we steal someone else's story ;)

    Allowing your imagination to continually redirect your efforts, causing you not to progress and complete a novel, or two, while maybe not a problem now, will certainly become one if you hope to ever become a successful author (however you want to define that).

    You've not yet completed a first draft. Once that is finished (which is an important step), that is just the beginning. There is revision and editing (multiple times), possibly getting input from beta readers, and after setting it aside, going at it again to revise and edit and improve the story. Once it's ready for submission to a publisher, and it's accepted (assuming this will be the result of your labor), then you'll have the novel read/edited by an editor at your publisher, and it'll be sent back to you to revise. Then, you'll end up proofing the galley, before it reaches print.

    The point is, if you're struggling to get a first draft finished, you'll need to buckle down, and select the story you most want to finish and do what it takes. You'll have to tame your writing related ADD, or the imagined characters in your head that are distracting you from moving forward on a concentrated front.

    Set aside 1 hour a day, for example, to press ahead with one project--the focus project. Work on it first, then go to something else. Or keep files of ideas for other stories, so that they won't be forgotten or bounding around in your head, but focus on one novel, pressing forward. There are other ways...but in the end, you'll have to find a way that works for you--one that allows you to finish works so that they can be published (traditional, self, or whatever).

    Good luck as you move forward.
     
  25. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,339
    Likes Received:
    3,086
    You need to use this as motivation to finish what you're already starting. Your new thought process could look something like this.

    1. I have a new idea I want to write
    2. If I abandon my current idea for my new one, the same thing is bound to happen again next time item 1 occurs
    3. Therefore, the only way to write my new idea is to first finish the old one
     
    jannert likes this.

Share This Page