1. FictionAddict
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    FictionAddict Senior Member

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    Writing methods

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by FictionAddict, Feb 7, 2011.

    I need help with your experience writing. What's the method you use?

    When you have a plot idea (beggining, middle and end of story), you write it down, then work on your characters, then start writing down the novel/story?

    Or are you intuitive and just start writing everything that comes in your mind so that the story and the characters begin unfolding by themselves?

    I'm currently writing my first novel and it started like this. First came the idea for the MC, appearence, mood, nationality, etc. Then the plot came to me, but it was really rough. I started to write the novel then, compelled by the first scene that began unfolding in my mind. Then came the other characters around the MC.

    The problem is, I've writen 11 chapters until now. Every time I read one of them, I start reviewing, changing words, adding and cutting phrases. Sometimes, in the middle of this, I have an idea and start writing another chapter, not necessarily in order (sometimes is something that will happen far in the future) and than I go back. I've changed the plot by now and keep being annoyed by things I've already written. It's like if I don't fix what had passed, I won't be able to go on.

    I really got lost in the middle of this. I havent finished the novel and keep having ideas of how to improve what I have already written.

    I need help with method, people! I feel like if I continue like this I'll never finish.

    Thank you in advance for your help and for reading this.
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    1. Come up with a main character, an end goal, and a motivation. Do not get stuck on MC development or working out details. This should be as broad as "A hobbit named Frodo needs to bring the evil ring of power to the only volcano that can destroy it. If he does not, his entire world will be enslaved." Two sentences or less.

    2. Who is the bad guy, and what is his/her motivation? The bad guy could be a person, a group, whatever, but keep it simple -- you're in the early stage and can deal with details later.

    3. What makes your MC tick? What scares him, enrages him, makes him indignant, embarrasses him, motivates him, drives him, gets him up and going?

    4. Use the answers to these questions to further develop the MC's motivations and obstacles.

    5. Break the goal up into smaller goals, or objectives. For example, in LOTR, Frodo's ultimate goal is to put the ring in Mount Doom. But first, he has to leave the Shire, then escape the ringwraiths, then fight orcs, then get safely out of the Mines of Moria...you get the idea. Each scene should have its own goal and obstacle, even if it's not huge or drastic.

    6. Who (or what) will be the antagonist for each of these smaller goals?

    7. Who assists your MC, holds him/her back or affects the course of the story?
    Start simple, then develop further -- these are your other characters.
     
  3. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay, first of all don't worry yourself unnecessarily. It's not worth it.

    I would work out the main plot, main characters & ideas for possible sub-plots. I've found some of the latter in particular can be subject to change. What used to help me was jotting down notes, making bulletpoints or just noting down very short overviews for what will happen in chapter xx.

    I would advise you to write in order, so that there is a natural progression character-wise and story-wise. It's easier to keep track of things that way overall.

    As for the editing - I would get rid of the mindset that you can't carry on writing until the previous section/chapter is 'perfect', as it were. It's better to move forward and write. Make it the best you can, but don't stress! Once you have a first draft of the novel, then is the time to go back and edit your work.

    If you get new ideas for previous chapters as you continue writing, by all means make a note of them and incorporate them when you have a moment.

    This is just the way I work and what works for me.

    Hope some of it helps.
     
  4. FictionAddict
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    FictionAddict Senior Member

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    Thank you Mallory and VM80 for your time. :p

    Thank you so much for the LOTR examples, Mallory. Now I totally get what people mean when they say "sketch the plot".

    I really try to do that, VM80. The thing is, when I seat to write the idea I had for the future of the character, it usually comes in a scene. I really try to keep it simple and write just a few sentences, but most of times it slips and I end up writing pages.

    I think I function best when I'm feeling in the same 'zone' as the character when something happens. For example: the character is experiencing something really good, he's excited and happy. If I'm in a bad mood or sad that day, the scene just won't go forward. Frequently, I have other ideas for when he's bad or being mistreated... I don't really lose track of the progression of the story, but I feel I'm advancing slower than I should.

    I'm trying! LOL:D
     
  5. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    To be honest I start with something vague and a character. For example:

    First novel I knew I wanted the rebellious son of a king to become a seventeen year old king.

    Second novel - I knew I wanted the brother of the son in my first novel to be the MC and POV character, and the Queen got kidnapped.

    Third novel - I had a vague idea involving time travel, my MC from my second book had like an elite school and his partner was 'dead' but not really dead. I also wanted to write a woman so introduced what was then the Crown Princess Anya (Now Alice)

    I then just sit down to write a draft that I may start a hundred times, have no idea where it is going, will have massive plot holes, no attention to SPaG, too much sex, magic and talking to dead people etc Its easier after I have finished it to just rewrite it, taking out characters, putting others in, reordering the plot etc.

    After the rewrite then the editing starts and that for me is the longest process.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    just bang it out and finish the thing, before you get tangled up in trying to make everything perfect...

    once you get to the end of the rough draft, you can then fiddle with it for as many drafts as it takes...
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I agree. My first novel was filled with plot holes but I plowed through and wrote the end anyway because I have 20-something unfinished novels lying around as it is. Then I came up with a new plot premise and cut the latter two-thirds of the novel and am rewriting it; it is plot-hole-free now and coming along nicely, and I know exactly what will happen.
     
  8. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    Douglas Preston compares a novel's rough draft with the first rope of a suspension bridge. Once you get that first rope across, the real building begins.
     
  9. FictionAddict
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    FictionAddict Senior Member

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    Yeah, that's exactly what I'm afraid.
     
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is where for me recognising that writing fluff and filler does not have to a waste of time, effort or space. It keeps you going, your story moving forward, can help you discover plot ideas, or things about characters. Thing is nothing in your book is unfixable - it can be edited, rewritten, deleted, added to etc we now have wordprocessors it is easy.

    The filler and fluff also allows me to keep working on a project until the first draft is complete. Works through the blocks. What I do is timetable and work out an order of work - it can be flexible and if an opportunity comes along then I will change it, for example the British Writers Award came along so I dropped what I was working on to rewrite my first book and get it ready for submission, (it was completed to a point where it may have stood a chance of finding an agent or publisher but not to the point I was happy putting it into a national writing contest), and I will also be submitting it to Angry Robot for their open submissions.

    Then I have 2 weeks set aside to get my website up and running, short stories edited for it and work out how I am going to serialise things. Also to send the book off to a few agents.

    I will then be working on my first Gus and Iris book before coming back to Socrates Children, I would like to leave that and pick it up when my writing ability has improved a bit.

    I constantly evaluate and timetable what I am going to write and then just do it and focus on that work until it is a completed first draft.
     
  11. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    So use it as a motivator. As Elg and I have noted, just plowing through and forcing yourself to finish is best way to go, even if it sucks and makes no sense. You can fix it. On the other hand, if you sit around waiting for the ending to come together perfectly BEFORE you write it, it won't get written. Ever.
     
  12. FictionAddict
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    FictionAddict Senior Member

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    Really? I was just doing that.:(

    No, I'm kidding.

    I reached a point where I know how I want it to end, but not how get there.

    You know when you're reading a book and the character is just screwed and you think 'man, there's no way he can get out of this now' and the author just baffles you getting the character right out of the situation? That's where I'm in. And I just can't find a good way around the situation. So, what do I do? I go back and keep fixing holes and changing sentences and words and... argh! :mad: And the more I do it, the more I want to change. What began with rephrasing, is turning to replotting, changing characters personality and this unfolds to the entire novel and I'm beggining to think I'm rewriting it...:eek:

    Lol.:D

    I think I'm just obssessed with doing things the very best I can. Maybe I have some kind of obssessive compulsive disorder. Lol

    Anyway... I'm trying hard to do what you guys are saying. Keep going. Fix the draft later. I think I'm going to erase the files I've already written from my laptop and keep them only in the other computer. Maybe this way I'm not tempted to rewrite and just go forward with what I'm writing.

    How do you refrain yourselves from reviewing after finishing the draft?
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Let the characters tell the story and be willing to change instead of fixing it. I find if my characters need to go in a certain direction they are usually right.
     
  14. amateurvoice
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    amateurvoice Senior Member

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    That is the best advice for writing in a nut shell. It took me nearly a year of unnecessary worrying and being undecided how I wanted to approach my story until I just said "Screw it," and started writing the main concept down. It really helped get me decided on how I wanted the story to end, and how to go about doing it better.
     
  15. katica
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    katica Senior Member

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    My writing comes out smoothly, I have to edit less, I have less writer's block, my characters, plot, and sub-plots turn out better when I use this method (not all, but some other writers do this too):

    1. I spend a month (or however long I need) just jotting down random ideas. I ask constant questions about everything I come up with so my ideas become more detailed. Like: "Idea: I want an evil ghost in my story. Questions: Why is she evil? What is she trying to accomplish by hurting people?" Etc., etc. Until I have so many details that I can't think of any other questions to ask.

    2. I make character profiles for all my characters. I use them as reference. You'd be surprised how easily you can forget a characters age or appearance or background if you don't have it written down. Once I referred to the same character as being different ages in different chapters and I've also mixed up eye color before.

    3. I write down, in detail, a description of the entire setting, even details that will never make it to my story. It actually makes your setting more real and less generic to focus on it like this. If you come up with local diners for the town you are in and other special locations like that, it just adds something to the setting and makes it unique.

    4. I take all my ideas and everything and organize them. I start with chapter one and use the ideas I think would be good for chapter one and write a few paragraphs about what will happen in that chapter. Then I move on to chapter 2 and do the same thing, etc., etc., until all my ideas are placed somewhere. This gives you an easy guide to follow on what should happen in which chapter and helps with the pacing and foreshadowing you may want to do. Also, it can point you to some holes you still had in your plot that you didn't even know were there.

    5. I quickly write out every single chapter of my whole story. I just keep writing even if they are turning out nothing like how I want them to be. I can always fix that later.

    6. Then I edit as much as I can, sometimes in order and sometimes out of order. Sometimes when I am re-writing one chapter, I will realize there is a problem with another chapter, so I will quickly jump to that chapter and write a few notes on it of what I need to change or correct so I don't forget it.

    7. Get people to proofread for you and edit more.
     
  16. Silver_Dragon
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    Silver_Dragon Senior Member

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    That's my problem, too. I'm never really satisfied. But at least I've decided to stop making major structural changes to my series outline, so I'm not required to rewrite whole books.
     

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