1. RLJ
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    RLJ Member

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    Year long writer's block...

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by RLJ, Mar 26, 2013.

    I know that every write experiences writer's block at one time or another, but my condition seems to only become progressively worse. I plan on writing what I call an epic historical fiction novel--a novel that follows one family and the subsequent generations over about 20 or 30 years--this is a hard thing to tackle as it would be very labor-intensive and call for dedication, both things that I am willing to do. I spent about three years creating a lexicon of the time period (1870-1900) so that I could refer to it throughout writing I have everything from old newspapers, letters, society columns, biographies of famous people from the time as well as lesser-known people who I may or may not be basing my characters of of--culminating to a 500+ page notebook, a messy office full of file folders and countless late-night flipping through books late into the night. All these things I was willing to do...

    BUT the hangup is, when I finally felt confident enough to sit down and begin writing I had nothing. I had painted a picture of this lavish period in US history but I couldn't take it anywhere. I created all my characters, made family trees, and wrote up some backgrounds on them so I was organized and knew where I was taking it. This was a year ago, almost to the day, and now on March 26th, 2013 I'm still sitting here and I can barely get past 30,000 words because after making introductions and establishing characters I have absolutely nowhere to take the story. Has anyone else had problems like this? Any suggestions for a solution? HELP ME!
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There is a stickied thread under General Writing about Writer's block.
     
  3. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    Sounds like a major amount of reserach here, perhaps too much at the start. You might have lost some of the mistique by diving in with so many facts and figures as it were and it's left you without the drive to push forward and discover the characters (instead you have model characters and environments ready to insert.) Bit like a jigsaw, you need the lid to see where the piecesgo, but you dont need to be told in which order they go in. It much more fun to fathom that out yourself.

    Also with all the facts jumbled in your head and on paper trying to stuff it all in at once might be like trying to get a car through a funnel. I would chop it up start with some small insignifgant section to get the feel and move on once you happy. You screw this bit up its not going to effect your confidence.

    Hope it helps I know the feeling all to well. :)
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    This is not writers block. It's a matter of having misunderstood the nature of historical fiction, or, to be more exact, the manner in which historical fictional stories need to come to be. This is a road I have traveled myself.

    You can know everything there is to know about a particular period of history in a particular place, but that does not mean you have a compelling story to tell. In order for historical fiction to be compelling, there must be a link to the present. Why does a reader NOW want to know about your historical material? It can't just be the history - they could read the history themselves. There has to be something that resonates with the reader in the present. The key to your historical novel (and I am working on one myself right now) is to write the story of the present first, then link it back to the past.

    My favorite historical novelist was James A. Michener. Two of his novels, in particular, contained devices that I found worked really well. In The Source, the story in the present was an archaeological dig in Israel, and each artifact that was found was the touchstone for a historical chapter. In Mexico, an American writer with Spanish, Indian and American roots in Mexico is sent there to cover a festival, and in so doing he discusses his ancestry and links it to the present. In fact, far more of the novel takes place in the present than in the past (and, as it happens, Mexico is one of my two favorite Michener novels; the other, The Novel, isn't even a historical).

    Good luck.
     
  5. RLJ
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    RLJ Member

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    Thank you both, those are things I'll have to keep in mind. I'm anxious to write but I can't do that without a plot, so I'm just going to sit down, spit out some ideas and when I find what I like I can apply that to my time period. I knew this would be a process when I first started researching so it's all about patience.
     
  6. musicgirl87
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    musicgirl87 Member

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    I just wanted to chime in to say that EdFromNY just made me understand why my own historical fiction project failed. It was my first serious attempt to write a story since my high school days when they kind of forced us to. It's the project that lead me into wanting to be a writer in the first place. I abandoned it after almost a year of research and planning that never lead to anything. Now I understand: I had no plot so I had no story. I can't believe I didn't figure it out by myself.

    So thank you sir! I might be able to do something about it in the future after I'm done with more urgent projects and ideas.
     
  7. La_Donna
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    La_Donna Member

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    It sounds like if it's a family story, stuff can just happen. I would just write something; anything. A great place to start is your family holding a party; it forces them to interact and suddenly you can discover stuff about them you didn't know before. It could lead you down a path you didn't know you could travel down. One example is in my current story, my antagonist went from being the protagonists boss and social superior, to his valet. That caused SO much more tension.

    Alternatively, you could make a list of bullet points in no particular order of what stuff you want to happen in your book. It can be scenes, dialogue, themes, whatever you want. Then, once you've got them written down, find a way to link them together that makes sense. Then just start writing something; it could all change but a least you have a rough idea of what you want.
     
  8. Sanjuricus
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    Sanjuricus Active Member

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    This.
    Just write. Even if it's the most rubbish arrangement of words ever to be put together by a human in the entire history of language, DO IT! Write your first draft as quickly and heedlessly as you possibly can.

    Leave it for at least a fortnight, don't even peek.

    Then start by reading what you wrote. You'll find that your inner critic will be shouting obscenities in your ear (and probably has been for some time). NOW is the time to listen to that critic. The scene that you just dismissed as being unfettered tat: How could it be improved? What was missing? What was there too much of? Where did it flow and not flow? How could the characters or dialogue be made more believable?
     
  9. richardclayton53
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    richardclayton53 Member

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    I totally agree with La_Donna and Sanjericus, you need to start writing. No matter what you begin writing, as long as you ARE writing, it will become easier. I've had bouts of writers block, and often found myself putting off the actual writing to mess with things like character profiles, place history, in fact anything just so long as i didnt have to write the story!! There is no other way then just jumping in with both feet! Good luck!! :)
     

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