1. Thank you all for your patience with our technical errors. We think we've fixed it, but please do report anything that's not working right, by posting on the 'minor bugs' thread in Support and Feedback, which can be found here.
    Dismiss Notice
  1. Rohan89

    Rohan89 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2017
    Messages:
    79
    Likes Received:
    45

    Novel Writing: How to want to pick up where I left off?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Rohan89, Oct 11, 2017.

    I am writing a first draft of a novel, and am trying to tell myself to write a few hundred words a day.

    If the words were just random, sporadic pieces every day, I'd feel it would be easy to write 500+ words a day.

    The problem with Novels is the words have to follow the previous words. Ie I have to "pick up where I left off" the day before in terms of the plot, and write about what was meant to come next.

    Sometimes I don't feel like writing that particular scene, and I don't know how to get myself to be psyched up for the scene/part I have to write.

    I wonder if the skill I have to develop is similar to that of an actor, ie take my inner world (whatever is going on at that moment), and either 1) learn how to change my state to fit the mood the character is meant to be in, or
    2) just use that state in the chapter, take it in a different direction.


    Does anybody have any thoughts on this?
     
  2. Surcruxum

    Surcruxum Member

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2017
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    39
    Well for me, sometimes I would rather write a different scene rather than to write the one I'm supposed to be writing right now. I was just thinking about a scene that is supposed to be for book 3, even though i haven't even finished book 1 yet :p

    If I force myself to write a particular scene it would come out badly, like it is rushed, forced, or lacking in one way or another as I'm not completely invested in it.

    What i would do is to write a different scene. Focus on a scene that suits your mood and write it. In the end you will have a bunch of scenes from different times and all that's left is to link it together in a way that it makes sense.

    If you are someone who makes things up as they go, you can synchronize your mood to your character's, but personally i think it's better to listen to someone who writes spontaneously to get their take on this as I'm more of a planner kind of guy.
     
    jannert likes this.
  3. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    17,534
    Likes Received:
    19,548
    Location:
    Scotland
    Hi thre, and welcome to the forum!

    I suspect you're going through what lots of us who write novels go through. You have that need to keep a story on track and take the readers along on the journey. It's probably more difficult to write a novel if you're used to writing shorter pieces. That is a different skill. So, essentially, you're teaching yourself a new skill.

    There are a couple of ways to tackle the problem that I can think of. (Probably many others as well.)

    First of all, I'd say worry less about achieving a daily word count. Instead, take time every day to focus on your story via thinking time, and think it through. Spend some time envisioning the scene you want to write, and make sure you can see and hear the characters in your own mind. Also ask yourself why. Why do I need this scene? What is it supposed to accomplish? If you are clearly focused on what each scene is supposed to do for your story, I think you'll find it easier to write. It will keep you moving along, and will make you think about where your story is going as well.

    Secondly, I wouldn't be too fixed on needing to write in chronological order. If a scene that happens near the end of your story comes to you in full technicolor, then go ahead and write it. I'm a big fan of writing scenes out of order. Once you get the important scenes written, it's a lot easier to link them together with transitional scenes, because you know exactly what you need. I found I did this a lot when I first started writing my novel, and many of my important scenes were written out of order. However, as the story took shape, I found it was easier to carry on writing in chronological order. I expect to be able to write my next novel in chronological order, so maybe that just comes with practice.

    If I were you, I'd focus on creating scenes rather than word count or chapters—unless your chapters contain only one scene or are very short. And concentrate on making your scenes come alive. Don't worry about over-writing at this stage. You can always cut stuff out later on. But don't just spit out the story as if you were writing Cliff's Notes. It's not a race to get to the end of the story. It's a journey. So make the journey as interesting and full of variety as you can.
     
  4. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2016
    Messages:
    289
    Likes Received:
    159
    Location:
    England, UK
    First of all, congratulations for trying to write every day. That is a really useful habit to get into because it means that you should finish the projects you start. :)

    If I'm struggling with a scene, I take the time to imagine it like a film. I move away from the keyboard and try to picture it playing out in front of me. Whatever my imaginative decides to give me, I run wild with it. This usually goes a lot better than trying to put it into words first, and once I've seen it, I feel excited to write it.

    For example, this morning I was thinking about a scene I'll need to write later and feeling very unmotivated to do it. I knew that my MC was going to attack a convoy of moving carriages and get them to stop, but I wasn't sure how to jump into that scene. I tried to see it, remembering what the weather will be like and the time of day, and I watched the first ideas that sprung into my head. Now I know where the scene will open and what exactly my MC will do to stop the carriages, almost movement for movement. In my head, it was a very atmospheric scene. Now I just need to get off here and put it on paper. ;)
     
    jannert likes this.
  5. Rohan89

    Rohan89 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2017
    Messages:
    79
    Likes Received:
    45
    Thanks for the replies guys, they have stimulated my thinking about this and helped me. Had a good day today- 1000+ words of the novel (although I agree with the above poster that worrying about word count can be unhelpful!)

    I'll reply directly to the posts later when I have some time.
     
    jannert and Seren like this.
  6. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2015
    Messages:
    1,650
    Likes Received:
    1,497
    @Seren, I do exactly the same thing. It takes me about an hour of open country driving to get to work, and an hour back, and that was an opportunity to visualize my scenes and dialogue, and sometimes motivations for my characters, so that I couldn't wait to get home to capture them on paper. @Rohan89, I write sequentially, but that is just me, the essential linear thinker. Many others on this site write whatever scene most excites them at the moment, and weave them together afterwaards. Martha Mitchell started with the last chapter of Gone with the Wind, and the other chapters in no particular order, so whatever works best for you, go for it. And congratulations on the self-discipline toward writing, it is the key to success.
     
  7. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    4,464
    Likes Received:
    3,476
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Here's what I did this year. In March I got back on track with a book idea and started writing scenes out of order and by June I was not only finished but sorted them out in some reasonable sequence. From June to now I've been writing the first draft and including those scenes and a lot of new scenes.
    This way I never feel as though I don't know where to take the story. Best -- it's still fresh. Because the pre-written scenes aren't written in blood I can use them or dismiss them for something better. I've abandoned characters that I thought were necessary, I've moved up the introduction of a character to create more suspense, I've taken smaller character and given them larger parts, I've explored new twists, and shifted around some things so I still have that magic feeling that I'm continuously creating.

    I'm now more than half way through and though I don't relish the thought of editing (it's gown to epic proportions) I haven't lost momentum.
     
    jannert likes this.
  8. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    7,868
    Likes Received:
    8,156
    Location:
    England
    One of the best tips I heard was to stop in the middle of a scene that you feel is flowing well; one of those scenes you can't type out quickly enough because your thoughts are running on ahead of you.

    I'm not suggesting you stop mid sentence (although that is a technique I've employed) but the idea is to stop when the next scene or exchange of dialogue (or whatever) has already written itself in your head.

    This way, there's little risk that you'll sit down the next day, re-read the last page, and then slump in your chair thinking, "So, what do I write next?"

    In other words, stop when you're on a roll.
     
    xanadu, Shenanigator and jannert like this.
  9. archer88i

    archer88i Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2008
    Messages:
    839
    Likes Received:
    429
    My thoughts: the words don't have to be written in order. You just have to put them in order before you print it off.
     
    Laurus likes this.
  10. archer88i

    archer88i Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2008
    Messages:
    839
    Likes Received:
    429
    Oh, also, when I don't want to pick up where I left off, that's a big hint to me that the next part of the story will be boring for the reader as well as me and that I need to skip forward a bit.
     
  11. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    17,740
    Likes Received:
    26,796
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Go back and read what you have previously written to keep the
    narrative flowing from the point you are writing at.
    Reading and rereading keeps the narrative fresh in your mind,
    and will also help you keep the continuity straight as well. :)
     
  12. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2017
    Messages:
    4,890
    Likes Received:
    8,757
    This. Leave something in the tank.

    I also agree with the person who said not to focus on word count per day. When I do that I always end up scrapping a lot of it, because it's just writing to fill pages. That's what a journal is for.
     
    OurJud likes this.
  13. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    15,344
    Likes Received:
    13,070
    You don't have to. I certainly don't. It's possible that your process demands it, but if you're just assuming that's how it must be done, I want to suggest that it's optional.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  14. Rohan89

    Rohan89 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2017
    Messages:
    79
    Likes Received:
    45
    Wow what great feedback, this place is a goldmine for writers looking to understand the craft better.

    @jannert you're right, I've been writing shorter pieces all my life (essays, poetry, short stories, non fiction articles) and it's absolutely true that novel writing is a SKILL in itself separate from shorter fiction.

    I personally would prefer to write it in chronological order, so therefore the skill of psyching myself up to write that scene is something I will work on.

    Aa @Seren said, visualizing the scenes might be a good idea.

    Either way, sitting and being still in the morning, rather than stressing about word count, makes sense

    @Lew haha yes, I do a lot of driving too!
     
    Seren and jannert like this.
  15. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    17,534
    Likes Received:
    19,548
    Location:
    Scotland
    I would underline what @Seren suggested, and say that visualizing scenes is necessary. It's better than a good idea. It means your scenes will be infused with depth of feeling and awareness of detail. Detail includes what people look like, how they sound, the kinds of things they say, what they are doing while they are saying them, as well as the details of the environment around them and perhaps the underpinnings of the scene as well. By underpinnings I mean vibes from the past, motivations, the political situation at present, etc.

    If you just say to yourself, "Right, this scene is about my main character who decides doesn't love his girlfriend any more," (because that has to be part of the plot) and sit down to write it without any real understanding of your character, his girlfriend, the kinds of personalities they have, or what the emotional and physical consequences of this realization will be, you're going to struggle to give the scene any life.

    Is he going to split with the girlfriend and move on to something else, or somebody else whom he actually does love? Or carry on with her despite his lack of love because he doesn't want to hurt her feelings, because he knows how badly she's been treated in the past? Or maybe her brother, who is the main character's boss, will retaliate by firing him from his job if he splits up with her...so he has to decide if splitting is worth it, financially? Is your scene going to contain a confrontation between your main character and somebody else, or will it be a moment of solitary realization for him? Does he feel relief at having made a decision (if he has made one) or guilt, or a combination of the two? Is he happier because he's realized he doesn't love her any more, or does it make him sad? Is he horrified by his lack of feeling for this girlfriend? Or does he think 'serves her right, the bitch.' If they break up, are his words going to be kind, or curt, or dismissive? Will he be doing the breakup in public or in private? Will it be a quiet moment between them, or will some other thing be happening at the same time? And etc.

    If you can see all these things happening in your head, as if you were watching a movie or participating yourself, you will be able to create those same sensations in your readers. They are watching this happen. OR it is happening to them.

    If you just tell us what happens in the scene, without feeling or seeing it yourself, that disconnection will show. The scene will be flat, and the reader will be thinking 'okay, next?' That's not really going to motivate them to keep reading for very long. It certainly won't make your book 'unputdownable.'

    I've always maintained there is more to writing than writing, if that makes sense. :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
    Shenanigator and Seren like this.
  16. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    7,868
    Likes Received:
    8,156
    Location:
    England
    I personally find it interesting that you have this difficulty writing chronologically. I honestly don't think I could do it any other way. My brain wouldn't allow it.
     
    jannert likes this.
  17. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    17,534
    Likes Received:
    19,548
    Location:
    Scotland
    I think the benefit of not being fixed on writing chronologically CAN mean you won't get stuck. In other words, if you're not sure how the story begins, or hit a glitch, just keep writing it further along. If you're not sure what a character is like, write a scene which you can imagine strongly, that will help you shape the personality. Once you see how things go, you can go back and envision how they got that way. It works for lots of people, including me.

    Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with writing chronologically, either. It certainly has its benefits, as long as you're sure of the path you'll be taking during the story.

    I would suggest that if one method isn't working for you, and you get 'stuck,' then try another method. If your method works well, however, then keep on with it.
     
    OurJud likes this.
  18. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    7,868
    Likes Received:
    8,156
    Location:
    England
    @jannert - I can certainly see the benefits and wish is was something I did instinctively. If I could get into the habit of doing this it would, as you say, help avoid those infuriating spells where I grind to a halt and then sit for ages writing nothing while I try to think what needs to happen next.
     
    jannert likes this.
  19. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    17,534
    Likes Received:
    19,548
    Location:
    Scotland
    Well, your system works for you, and a lot of other people as well. Me? I sit for ages trying to figure out how to link unconnected scenes or chapters. I suppose we both get Eureka moments, though. :)
     
    OurJud likes this.
  20. alanzie

    alanzie Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2013
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    32
    You stated:
    The problem with Novels is the words have to follow the previous words. Ie I have to "pick up where I left off" the day before in terms of the plot, and write about what was meant to come next.

    I don't agree with that statement. There is nothing that states that writing a longer piece has to be linear. Many times, I have a great scene for the middle of a story long before I have the beginning fully fleshed out. If I get that middle scene written, I now have a better beginning, a journey that takes the reader to that middle scene.

    Modern software (inexpensive, also) allows you to write scenes and chapters in any order you want then 'drag and drop' them where they should be. This allows a writer to 'strike while the iron is hot' and write the later scenes while they are fresh in the writer's mind, not bogged down by how many words, scenes, chapters are necessary before you get to that scene.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  21. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    3,414
    Likes Received:
    2,924
    That's how I wrote my 63k word Doctor Who fanfic on Microsoft Word. It took me over 2 and a half years because when I was excited to write a scene, I still had to slog through the scenes before it, and after losing energy forcing myself through the earlier scenes, I didn't have the same excitement to write the scene I'd originally wanted to.

    I did it this way because every time I wanted to write a scene that would've required I jump ahead, then come back to fill in the blanks later, I worried that I wouldn't be able to find my place easily.

    Is that why you prefer to write chronologically too?

    If so:

    when I started experimenting with Scrivener (fun-fact: the 30-day free trial is 30 days of use, so if you use it one day a week, then you have 7 months before you have to pay to keep it), I fell in love immediately with the having icons on the left side of the screen for looking at one chapter at a time (which makes scrolling within a chapter far easier) or for looking at the entire manuscript, and being able to mark Notes with icons on the right side of the screen. If I wanted to work on a chapter, I would click the icon for that chapter, and I would see all of the Notes that I had made in that chapter, and I could click to jump to any of them.​

    I haven't looked at 90% of Scrivener's features because just that ability to go back and forth whenever I wanted allowed me to write 34,000 words for my WIP in just over 5 months :)
     
    ChickenFreak likes this.
  22. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    15,344
    Likes Received:
    13,070
    Yup. I'm making a point of not forcing myself to "earn" the scenes I want to write. I'm just writing them. (Which reminds me, hmm, that I am insisting on cleaning up a scene that precedes the one that excites me at the moment...forget that; I'm going to start the one that excites me at lunch today.)

    Another reason, related to but not identical to what you've said, is that often a scene is driven by the emotions of recent events in my life. Writing the scene that is best fueled by my current mindset is IMO worth some rewriting and glue later.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice