1. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    Writing a story in one sitting?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by drifter265, Jun 25, 2015.

    I'm not talking about writing a 100k, or even 30k, book in one day. I'm talking about maybe 5-10k words of an outline at most, something that shows the causes and effects of all the events. I feel that if one really knows their story that this should be easy. But then why isn't it?

    I truly believe that it's possible that if you just sit down and write, that you can churn out an entire outline of your story in just a few hours. But I've only been able to do this once and it was years ago and it was the same story but now the story has changed so much and I'm finding it difficult to write an outline like that again but I want to and just don't know or something.
     
  2. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    Technically, this is how your first draft is supposed to be -- just getting the skeletal structure built on paper. However, a lot of people find it difficult to do this because of various reasons, such as lack of planning, or being too self critical to the point were they have to revise every other sentence before they can move on. This is why a lot of people say that your second draft should take as long as your first, because you're essentially rewriting most things. I am aware that there are no rules to the writing process, though, and lots of people have their own method.

    I saw an old documentary on Stephen King and he apparently -- or used to at least -- grind out around eight pages a day, which I really struggle to do because I'm super self critical. I'll be lucky to get one or two pages a day, and some days I just can't write at all.

    I'm going to experiment with unrestricted (forcing myself to write) writing soon, and see how it goes for me. I get the impression that the better you become, the easier it is to grind out a higher quality first draft.

    Edit: here is the documentary if you're interested. It's from 1989 so beware of bad haircuts. :)

     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is there a reason to be so 'prolific'? Sometimes I can write a ton in one day; sometimes if I get one good page, I'm ecstatic. Eventually the story is finished - and that's my goal.
     
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  4. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    A couple days ago i wrote 20 pages, but usually my average is around 4-6 pages a day. Sometimes i'll write 10 or 12.
     
  5. VirtuallyRealistic
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    VirtuallyRealistic Active Member

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    When motivation hits me I can easily sit down to write 5-10k words, but when it doesn't I struggle to get out a few hundred. Since I've become more interested in improving my writing I've found I write a lot less per sitting. This is because I'm being much more critical about every word written, where I used to just write; anything was good enough.

    I've never written an outline before as I prefer to jump into the first chapter and go from there; discovery writing as some would call it. I keep the basic overarching plot in my head -- anywhere from 5-15 major plot points -- but besides that I'm writing whatever scene is on my mind that day. Some times those major plot points change drastically by time the story comes to a close, which is why I don't like having an outline. I feel, for me, it's a waste of time as the final product will be so far removed that the outline will hardly be the same story. However, if I sat down to write an outline with those plot points I think I could easily churn out those 5-10k in a single sitting. I just don't bother since it's already in my head.
     
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  6. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't understand why it has to be done in a day... there's nothing "better" about words that are written down in a short amount of time, no one is going to be impressed by that fact if the quality isn't good.
     
  7. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    Nobody said they were better for it.. we're just talking about how much we accomplish in a day...
     
  8. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    Being a pantser I find this outlining thing awfully confining. I mean, who knows where the story and the characters will take you? :) I never outline anything myself, I simply write from point A to the unknown or to some vague idea of point B, which can easily become a point C or D during the process.
    But sure, I think it is possible to write a short story in one sitting, so I guess the same goes for the outline.
     
  9. Tim3232
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    Tim3232 Active Member

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    The first draft of 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' is alleged to have been written in 2.5 days.

    Meanwhile I'm amazed how many people write 50 or 60k or more during Nano and then are surprised and dismayed that it looks like rubbish.
     
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  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think there is an advantage to writing fast, or at least writing in intense bursts. It keeps the ideas coherent and flowing together well, without the need to have to go back and figure out what you wrote two months earlier in order to match it to what you're writing now.

    If it can't be done, it can't be done. But for me at least, my best writing comes when I have a string of days off in a row and can immerse myself in the project and get a big chunk of it done quickly.

    As to why it can't be done? I don't know, @drifter265 - you tell us! What was different between the time you were able to do this and the times you weren't?
     
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  11. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    Thanks everyone.

    I guess I just imagine it to be something like a wikipedia page where it's just a summary of all of the events; something to look back on while I'm writing the first draft so that while I'm writing it I don't forget what the endgame is or the theme or what I'm trying to write towards.

    Right now I'm thinking my story may just be extremely character-driven and that there is no "arc" like most stories have; like catching the villain, saving the world, or robbing a bank. I guess what one of my arcs can be is getting money. Every character is going to need food to eat, right? And that costs money. So maybe my story can just be them trying to get money while still the story remains character-driven. I think I like that.

    I think I just know these characters so well that I don't just want it to be about that a goal like saving the world anymore and I just want it to show how unhappy these are, that they don't know why, and they try to change but nothing works. You know, like life, until you die? Lol. That sounds depressing but there's happy moments in the story too. I think life is depressing as well but that doesn't mean everyone just has to mope; you have to find your own way to your own happiness.

    I imagine that if I was writing something more plot-driven that I wouldn't be having such a hard time with this; writing out a summary or an outline in one sitting. You know, like a police detective story or something. But if I feel my story is something more like Mad Men, and there is no arc to the story other than the characters, I feel that that would be something quite difficult to write out, even in a summary, in one sitting. What would be anchoring them together? What goal? I don't know. Maybe the money thing. Because the characters all start out separated in the beginning and come together at the end.

    I mentioned I had done this once before; written out a summary in one sitting. That I want to do it again. That story was very much plot-driven and there was no heart in it and it felt like it was cardboard characters running around a track I had built for them. They were still my characters but there was no deeper feeling in them and I want there to be.

    Maybe I'll have more to say later. Right now, I'm burnt out. Question to leave on:

    How does one structure a completely character-driven story?
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2015
  12. rasmanisar
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    rasmanisar Active Member

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    Personally I find the idea of bashing out 10k in a sitting absolutely monstrous. 5k, much the same. Granted everybody writes at different paces, but even so. Yesterday I spent the best part of my day writing 1000 words. Easily 3 1/2 - 4 hours - but damn, I was pleased with them. They'll be edited, obviously, but a hell of a lot less than if I tried write 3k or more.

    Focus on QUALITY. Consider every word, every phrase. Plan, plan, plan. Every story needs a plot! We, as readers, need to see a progression from one place to another. You are using writing to communicate a journey, a progression of people (personified by characters).

    Build your setting. Create your characters, and understand them. How they would react, who they are, what they want, what they need. Shortcomings, misgivings. Then, find a focus. A drive. Something that will move them, motivate them, from one place to the next. Make it exciting, or sad, or anger-inducing. Give us something to feel.

    Then, you write.
     
  13. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh my. If I did all that before writing, I'd never have one page of actual story. Probably would have given up writing all together... ;)
     
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  14. rasmanisar
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    rasmanisar Active Member

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    Eh, depends! If I'm writing short stories, I like to write freely. If its a longer project, planning is essential for me. I feel too many burgeoning writers make the mistake of just going all out without planning, and then end up with an unwealdy mess or lose track of where they want the story to go.

    Again, just my personal experience.
     
  15. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    And I've probably seen just as many get so involved in planning they forget they have to write the actual story :D

    This is why I try to stay away from directives (or "shoulds") when offering advice. ;)
     
  16. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    As I understand it, Michael Moorcock wrote some or all of the Elric novels in half that time, and they're considered classics of the genre. There's nothing bad about writing fast; the reason most Nano books are crap is because most of the writers haven't yet learned to tell a good story.
     
  17. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    So, as you know, I'm trying to write this five-book series and I haven't got any of it down in three years. It's all just been outlines and notes and multiple failed first drafts. I've never actually written anything down that I felt was good enough to make a second draft of.

    The entire thing is just kind of stuck in my head.

    Ultimately, the story is just about these group of characters that go on this save-the-world, lord-of-the-rings type plot. This whole time I've just been trying to use that plot and make it something it's not because how can I write a story about dread and the pointlessness of life if the story is about saving this world that the characters don't even think is worth saving?

    It can't be done. This whole time, I've been trying not to write the typical fantasy story while writing a typical fantasy story. You can't do it and I think that's why it's been so difficult for me and the reason why it's never felt "right."

    So I'm thinking of just skipping these five books and just starting on book six. Where they've already saved the world. I can just use all that stuff I had from the five books as backstory and just start on this sixth book and go wherever I want and have it be completely character driven which is what I want.

    I watched the pilot of Mad Men for the sixth time just now (over a few years) and I've been obsessed with this show and learning its structure, writing, and how it's done and trying to figure out why it's so good and so acclaimed. Well I was watching the pilot just now and I think I discovered something.

    During Don's Lucky Strike pitch, he says, "You have six identical companies, selling six identical products. How do you stand out?" Since Mad Men is one of the greatest shows ever, in my opinion, I imagine Matthew Weiner - the creator - saying this as an analogy for how his show is compared to all the other "formulaic" shows that are out there.

    The next thing Don says is something like, "You have six companies that can't say anything; they can't say health and cigarettes; that this is the greatest advertising opportunity since cereal." I think what this can be an analogy for in television and stories is that there are a bunch of tv shows out there that suck and that they all follow the same formula and none of them are working; none of them are acclaimed like Mad Men. What Mad Men does is it goes against all formulas and genres and cliches and just tells its own story. The show is making fun of every show out there and is completely aware of itself. It's like when Pete says, "Gosh, you must think I'm a creep," or when Peggy tries to hit on Don and Don says, "I'm your boss, not your boyfriend." The show is not using these things as plot points like every other show would to be exciting, it's purposefully going against them because all of the other shows on TV have done that and we discovered that that wasn't exciting and so the show is going against it to be exciting, to be different, to be the acclaimed show that no other show has the balls to do because it's afraid of being boring.

    How I feel this applies to my own story is that for these last three years I've been trying really hard not to write a fantasy story about saving the world when I totally was and I never wanted it to be. It's really hard to write a story like that.

    I just wanted the story to be about these characters that knew each other and were really depressed and lonely. But it still had to have structure somehow, it couldn't just be about seven random characters running around doing shit; something had to connect them. And because when I looked at their backgrounds, I always felt fantasy was the best way to bring them together and I still feel it is but then how do you not make it a fantasy story like everyone's already seen a million times and which I know is going to be called cliche and sucky? How do we put these characters together somehow and not make it some big fantasy adventure like what every other story out there is?

    And I think I figured it out.

    I'm just going to write the story AFTER they save the world and how they still have to go through life living like everyone else now. The seven characters then already know each other and have this immediate connection between that I now don't have to try so hard to create anymore like I've been doing for the last three years. It will already be there.

    And I've already started "book six" and writing this story has never been easier. I feel I can just let it "all spill out" and not leave anything. It's amazing.

    I figured this out before I watched the Mad Men pilot. Then Don said those words and it immediately clicked: "there's six identical companies, selling six identical products and they all can't say one thing: that cigarettes don't kill you." I see that as Matthew Weiner telling the me, "there's a million tv shows, doing the same million things, and they all suck - you can do whatever you want." That these fantasy-adventure stories, romance movies, sci-fi shows, all the dramas have all been done before and all of them suck and very few are ever met with acclaim and I think there's a reason for that.

    It's because they're all just the same. So how do you stand out? How do you not just write some typical genre story that everyone's already seen before?

    You have to write, "whatever you want." Start with just a seed of something and let it grow. Don't try to control it. Let it take you where it wants. Don't make it a fantasy story or a romance. Make it whatever it wants to be. Just like ourselves I guess.

    We'll see how I feel about this in a week but I feel good about this. Like I'm learning something about writing a story here. I'll never watch an episode of Mad Men the same way. I feel that watching that episode just confirmed something to me I already knew or had just found out. Like I'm on the same page now with Matthew Weiner or one of the other great writers.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2015

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