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  1. thiefacrobat286

    thiefacrobat286 Member

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    I keep starting my 1st draft over and over again :(

    Discussion in 'Novels' started by thiefacrobat286, Nov 16, 2019.

    This is a weird problem, I've been trying to finish a novel these last several years but I haven't completed the first draft. I've started it countless times, but I keep re-doing it, and I have countless versions of it on my desktop saved. I've tried outlining it, and that's helped a bit, little by little.

    My question is if there is anyway of measuring progress when I keep trying different versions of the same story out. Word count is never really all that consistent with me, some days are good, but most are not. Usually I have spurts of activity followed by dry periods where nothing is forthcoming.

    EDIT: I'll be a little more descriptive, I wrote this while I was tired X_X

    I didn't begin writing short fiction until a few years ago, in addition to poetry, and when I began this epic fantasy cycle I was in other my head, and I learned that later. I'm under the impression that filling in all the scenes subconsciously is what's taking a lot of time, however there are also a lot of moments where I just can't type, I kind of just stare at the screen and think without writing anything.

    Word counts are very inconsistent with me, and what usually helps is just sitting on a scene thinking it through some more, and switching to smaller projects, lately short fiction.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2019
  2. Hammer

    Hammer Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds familiar...

    I have finished two manuscripts in the same portal-world, I set myself a goal of getting half-way through the third before (probably self-) publishing the first, but I cannot get to that halfway point. In numbers of words I have more than written the third but all false starts. I keep going back to other WIPs, procrastinating, then starting again.

    Sorry I can only share your pain and not offer any great advice, all I can suggest is tenacity. I know that I can get there in the end, I have done it twice over, and - if it helps - both of those did stumble along a bit and then take off with a Eureka moment. Sounds like we both need to find that moment

    Good luck!
     
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  3. The_Joker

    The_Joker Banned

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    I'm in the same boat, I haven't finished a manuscript in, god, four years I think. I bought into the pantser propaganda though, lol, when I'm simply not one. I'm committing to a detailed outline now, which seems to greatly increase my productivity.
     
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  4. thiefacrobat286

    thiefacrobat286 Member

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    Ever since I started outlining it's been easier on me, I might commit more time to sketching a plan
     
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  5. The_Joker

    The_Joker Banned

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    It's what I'm doing at the moment, but it really sucks when there's a hundred possibilities and your brain refuses to pick one.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2019
  6. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

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    Don't do that. Don't edit. Don't stop. Just write. Don't stop writing until you're done, no matter how terrible it is.
     
  7. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

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    I think so much of being successful is having the right mindset. I see a lot of people who never go anywhere thinking writing has to be "fun" all the time. They're writing to have fun. Not to finish anything. Not to produce worthwhile stories, just to have fun. But as anyone who has ever written knows, writing isn't always fun. It's a lot of hard work. It's when the going gets tough that a lot of people just give up and that's why they fail. Also, a lot of people don't recognize the difference between being a writer and being a reader. They want to be surprised by their writing. Sorry, that's a reader trait, not a writer one. The writer can surprise the reader, but the writer has to know what they're doing to produce a decent surprise. It's why I can almost always predict the style of a writer who complains they never succeed. They're a pantster who doesn't understand what being a writer is. That's not intended as an insult to pantsers, but most people who do it never get anywhere, it takes much longer and results in much more frustration. It all comes down to an aversion to hard work, untenable goals and not realizing which side of the screen you're supposed to be on.

    But if you say that, people get mad at you. Imagine that.
     
  8. Edward M. Grant

    Edward M. Grant Contributor Contributor

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    Unless you are a pantser, in which case edit-as-you-go is probably the way you should be writing.

    Every writer is a mix of pantser and outliner, but the mix is different for each of us. It's important to figure out what your optimal mix is, so you can be the most productive.
     
  9. Edward M. Grant

    Edward M. Grant Contributor Contributor

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    Many of the most popular writers are pantsers. Many of the fastest writers are pantsers. Many others are outliners, particularly in genres like romance where the most successful writers often try to produce a novel a month and the basic plot and tropes are fairly standardized.

    Lee Child, for example, is a pantser. James Patterson is an outliner. Stephen King is somewhere in between.

    There's no one true writing method. Every writer has to find what works best for them.
     
  10. thiefacrobat286

    thiefacrobat286 Member

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    I've had some time to think my material though. I'm spending the entire week outlining the story arc (it's a six novel epic fantasy series) with Smart Edit, which is a free Scrivener program. I also have 2 urban fantasy stand alone novel ideas and a sword and sorcery trilogy, but they're still in inception phase. This epic fantasy cycle I've been on since forever. I spend a lot of time puzzling over the plot pieces. I'm under the impression that whether I'm a pantser or a plotter is more of a matter of what literary genre I'm writing.

    But really, the other part of the equation is there's sometimes suffering involved in drafting, and I put it off at times, I admit. Even though if you don't draft you don't really have a way of measuring your progress materially.

    I'm gonna try and force myself to work on the project a bit more often, and I have the earlier drafts saved. I'm more organized now.

    But yeah, sometimes there's pain involved, and it's kind of the opposite of fun, and it's easy to repeat cycles of "Oh, I'm just gonna think things through" and act like you're outlining when you're really not when you don't want to suffer and row the boat yourself. I've been learning that.
     
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  11. thiefacrobat286

    thiefacrobat286 Member

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    The fantasy cycles I'm working on are kind of just Sword and Sorcery books inspired by Greek Mythology. One of them is a trilogy and the other is 2 trilogies, 6 books. The urban fantasy projects are stand alone. I'm also working on poetry and short fiction and novellas. Just a few more details.
     
  12. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    It sounds like your problem is trying to write too many things at once. If I had a plan to write all the stuff you do, I probably would have a hard time with it and fail to make too much progress on finishing any of it. Sure, it's okay to joule a few things, but we can only write one thing at a time. And it's very common for writers to get new ideas which can end up being just more of a distraction when you've got so many other things you're hoping to finish. And with all your ambitious pursuits I can see why you're having trouble finishing things.

    That being said I think it can be a good thing to restart when needed. Our gut usually knows when something's not right. I restarted my novel several times. I know I could have pushed through and finished my first draft much quicker than I did, but than it wouldn't have really been the exact story it came to be. With each restart the charters and how they were revealed shifted a bit. The events unfolded differently. The writing itself was different. And I think I needed all those restarts to find the right story.

    I don't think that's a matter of plotting and pantsing. There's still some discovery involved in both when it comes to the writing. For me, that matters more than pushing myself to just bang something out. It wouldn't have been the same story. I would have missed out on the one I did write. Recently, I finished it. I'm in love with it. I know it's still going to need a lot of work, but (for now) my own story amazes me. That doesn't happen too often. This version is worth way more false starts than I actually had, and I had a lot.

    But I think telling a good story needs all our attention while it is in front of us. And it should be in front of us fairly often. Even if your plan is to write a series, don't think six books ahead. Be where you're at on the page. I think that's important.

    I do always have more than one thing in the works. I'm a short story writer and essayist. I dabble in poetry. I'm totally poor. Hunger can be such a motivator when it comes to finishing things. I believe writers should spend as much time reading as they do writing. Reading great stories is the best way to learn great stories. So, find your stories, but maybe allow yourself to find them independent of each other. And follow the story on the page. Take a blank page start if you need it. But be one with the story, or something like that. :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2019
  13. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I can see why some people might not like what you said—but for some, anyway, it's probably true enough. As soon as writing (or new ideas) dry up or get stuck, it's no longer fun, so they don't want to continue and go off to find something else that is fun again.

    I am not writing for a living, so for me, writing MUST be fun or I won't do it. However, one of the tricks is to find fun in solving story problems and overcoming writing issues.

    Folks will spend endless time solving puzzles, doing Sudoku, crosswords, and other more complicated problem-solving games. But when it comes to writing, they run a mile when they encounter a problem? Maybe get into the mindset that it's all a game. How do I get this character from A to B without totally destroying my plot? Treat it like a puzzle game. Keep at it, till you figure it out, and slot in that missing piece. Even editing. Presented with a warm pile of badly-written stuff, it's fun to figure out how to make it sleek and shiny and cool.

    I suppose if you're just pouring your heart out in misery and angst, you might struggle to find the process fun. But if you're constructing a story so others will find it un-putdownable, figuring out a way to do that can actually be fun.

    I can tell you what it NOT fun. Getting the danged thing formatted and ready to upload for publication. Now THAT is a chore, at least for me. :eek:
     
  14. Parker101

    Parker101 Member

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    I'd suggest going back over all the different versions you've written, assuming you still have them all saved, and try picking out the best elements of each. Outlining is a great idea and it will definitely help you finish your WIP in the long run, but only if you can settle on a version you are happy with. If you're able to identify the aspects of each draft that you think are strongest and distil them all into one version you may find a more satisfying end product, even if some of the drafts are wildly different from one another. Going back to very early drafts may give you a spark of inspiration that'll help you move forward, even if you've largely abandoned the ideas you were working with that early on.
     
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  15. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, this. Distance makes you see things differently. Good things, bad things ...all can benefit from a change of perspective.
     
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  16. Vaughan Quincey

    Vaughan Quincey Active Member

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    Thank you for sharing your opinion about literary masochism.

    The kind of 'pain' might be of two kinds:
    1. You don't know what you are doing, which is normal for a beginner (your brain is being rewired for learning a new task). If you are very, very lucky this sort of pain will never go away: You will keep learning, changing, growing, evolving... For life, which is ok since you'll keep doing that without the writing anyways.
    2. You struggle between A and B, have no idea what works best, or perhaps you feel conflicted between the reader and the writer in you. What to do? Try both, see what works and then move on. Consider the nuisance of this pain a very good sign. This pain should stay with you forever too.If you don't trust me, ask Hamlet.

    Do not let these feelings, thoughts and sensations to get in the way of enjoying what you do. Not many will ever write a book in their whole lives, let alone a book on Greek Mythology: You might be the one introducing an ancient, beautiful tradition to new readers, you should take some well deserved pride on that, regardless of a self criticism that might or might not be accurate.
     

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