Why Do I Have So Much Trouble With It?

For the Critters workshop and writing SF/F/H in general.
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Re: Why Do I Have So Much Trouble With It?

Postby crit32856 » Fri Oct 28, 2016 1:10 pm

Perhaps your methodology isn't one that works for you. All I can offer as a suggestion is to let you know how I write, which I enjoy immensely.

As a qualifier, although I do intend to get my writing published by a publishing house someday, I'm not in a hurry, and it's not for the money, I earn enough of that. I'm at 110,000 words after about a year. Read on and you'll understand why.

My wife and I are writing a story that will probably more than 200,000 words when it. It's set in a larger context - there's two other novel length stories we are already planning as well, whose major character weave in and out of the current one. At 200,000 words, it will be two books; fortunately there's a good point to split it.

We've had the story plotted out for a while, and the characters sketched. Given that framework, I'm writing it randomly. I'll choose to think about a point in the story and if inspiration strikes me I'll write the scene. I've written the beginning, I've written the final scene. I've written a lot of the key events of the middle.

Sounds like a recipe for a mess, doesn't it? Yes, but it's only the first step.

There's nothing I haven't rewritten to take into account changes in the story. This can be very innefficient. I've tossed entire chapters into the "OBSOLETE" subdirectory, sometimes only managing to repurpose a few hundred words of them. Does it sound frustrating? Not to me, I love it.

I love it because it's amazing to watch, because it usually happens because the characters make it happen. For example, I had a time set for two secondary characters to get engaged. But they didn't let it happen. The events in the story brought them to a point when it was finally time, so they did. Given who they were, the relationship they had, it was impossible for them not to. So they did:

Romana was wearing the wings she’d worn two years ago, but Nic had given his away. The demand for the wings had far outstripped the supply, and when he discovered that Marietta Xavier, ‘Dancer,’ had been unable to procure a pair, he’d immediately given her his. She’d been thrilled to get a professional model, rather than the simpler and easier to control model most people had.
He didn’t need the distraction of having to control the wings. Romana was happier than he had ever seen her, happier than he had ever seen anyone, and she was all he wanted to think about. She held his arm beside him, dressed in the outfit she’d danced in two years ago, quietly beaming as she waited for Lily to arrive.
Nic knew it was finally time. He stepped in front of her. “Romy, wrap your wings around us. Give us a little privacy for a moment.”
She nodded, and worked the controls on her fingers, a little clumsily, until the wings formed a curtain around then.
He held her hands low between them. “Your parents will be here next winter, and they’ll be heading off to their last tour the following spring. Let’s get married before they go.”
Romana, in response, pressed herself up against him, and for the first time kissed his lips. Her kiss was soft and warm, and they held it for a long time, immersing themselves in it, and in the first step of the journey they’d long desired to take together.
Then she stepped back a little, and their eyes met, sparkling. “New Year’s Day, then,” Romana said quietly, and Nic nodded.
She returned her wings to their folded position, and he returned to her side. She took his arm again, more firmly than before, and stood a little closer, her hips touching his.

Fortunately that change required only a minor amount of rewrite. But it was so much fun to write that scene, it was worth it.

Back to it being a mess - I plan to address that when every chapter has a first (highly polished) draft. We'll start at the beginning, and review until the end, checking tonal and factual consistency, flow, levels of tension, and so on. And we'll look to add a little foreshadowing and misdirection of course. And after that, we'll print out the second full draft and go over it with red pens, and then revise again. Rinse and repeat.

It will take a horribly long time, we do not doubt. We don't care. We're enjoying the journey, enjoying our characters as they live and grow and push us around. I am in no rush to see it end. I'd probably be sad about it, except there's the other stories to write after.
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Re: Why Do I Have So Much Trouble With It?

Postby crit33321 » Tue Jul 11, 2017 7:42 pm

When I first started writing, I somehow got it into my head that all I had to do was sit down at my laptop and out would flow the next Best-Selling Novel. I loved to read, had lots of great ideas of my own, tons of excitement, and discovered I really liked what I was cranking out. I banged away on that first "novel" for several months, then it was like hitting a brick wall: I ran out of steam, the story began to bore me, and I gave up on it. I sense this is also happening to you.

I had a few problems I had to overcome. First, I assumed that writing a compelling story -- one that people would actually pay me to write -- was easy. After all, it looked easy in all those NYT Bestselling books I was reading! Some wise author once said, "Easy reading is hard writing," and that's totally true. Good writing is very hard and, contrary to what some people might think, not everyone can do it.

Another problem was my lack of technique. I knew how to attribute dialogue, and I knew what constituted a sentence and a paragraph. Maintaining consistent points of view? Story tense? Effective beginnings, middles, and ends? Try/fail cycles? What the hell? Strunk and White who? It came to a point where my skills as a writer were holding up my ability to tell the story I wanted, which led to heaping spoonfuls of frustration and cringing at the very thought of opening my laptop.

Another problem was the sheer discipline and endurance it takes to write something as massive as a novel when I had no idea what the hell I was doing, like signing up to run a marathon when the furthest I'd ever walked was the couch to the fridge for a beer and a box of Twinkies. Needless to say it didn't take long before I burned myself out.

I suggest you start small until your abilities and habits as a writer improve. Write some flash fiction or short stories, something you can begin and finish over a weekend, or within several days. And limit the amount of time you write during the day, or set small, attainable word count limits for yourself. You can gradually increase those limits as your endurance and skills as a writer improve.

Those ideas might help with finishing what you start. As for the boredom aspect, I have to agree with some of the other comments above. For me, writing is its own reward. The world of the story creates its own passion, a place I love escaping to for an hour or two every single day to get away from all the craziness that is my life. Stephen King says talent is cheaper than table salt, and I agree with him; anyone who wants to write can write. But anyone who wants to write for a living has to find passion in it, and that has to come from within -- you won't find it on the Internet or in a writing craft book. People write for lots of reasons. Many get caught up in the romance of the idea, or they think it'll make them famous or rich, or they think it just sounds cool to tell their family and friends they're writing a novel. But you won't find passion in any of those things. Mr. King also says, "If you can do it for joy, you can do it forever," and I agree with that also.

Technique and craft comes to those who pursue it with passion. If you have no passion for it though, there are lots of other ways you can spend your time. Maybe you can train for a marathon instead.

Hope that helps,
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Re: Why Do I Have So Much Trouble With It?

Postby shahw1 » Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:00 am

crit32715 wrote:Figure out what the standard length is for what you write. For example do you average 10 pages? Is that the maximum you can write before the boredom or lack of enthusiasm kicks in?

No problem. Don't write a short story. Write a small mini story. 5 pages. That's it. Half the length of whatever bores you. Beginning, middle, and end.

Once completed you can go back later and revise or write another mini story. But eventually it will expand. You'll want to write more.

Its like the first person to ever break the four minute mile run. For years no one had done it. Then it was broken and others soon followed. But when folks asked the person who did it how he had done it he said "I did not start out trying to break the four minute mile. I started by practicing until I could break the one minute quarter mile. Then I worked on the two minute half mile. Then the three minute three quarter mile, etc."

Small steps might help you break the barrier. Otherwise you may wish to delve into poetry or some other easier hobby if none of the various suggestions in this thread work for you. Good luck.

I agree with this entirely. Perhaps also try beginning in the middle or working non-linearly. This apparently works well for lots of writing problems, like saggy middles, procrastination and writers block. Ultimately, the desire to take your characters through to the end of the story compels writers to write, so maybe your character work needs looking at? If you're not interested in them your readers won't be.
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Re: Why Do I Have So Much Trouble With It?

Postby crit30320 » Tue Aug 15, 2017 11:15 am

When you (or your characters) get bored, throw in an alligator. That is, confront them with a new impossible challenge from left field. Seriously.
Perhaps you're getting bored with the story BECAUSE you have it all worked out in your head already. So surprise yourself (and the characters, and the readers) by randomly tossing in a plot complication.
Brainstorm a list of possibilities, then choose one at random. Or open any book at hand at a random page and choose an idea based on what you find there.
Imagine: What's the craziest thing that could possibly happen now? Keep yourself guessing.

Alternatively, what does your character want at this particular moment? (not necessarily the end goal of the book, but at this moment in the scene he's in) What tools does he have and how could go about getting what he wants? Now, what's the craziest obstacle he could face in trying to satisfy that want?

When I find myself sagging in the middle of a story, or getting bored with a piece, this is how I reignite the spark.

Mary Elizabeth Thompson

"From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent." H. P. Lovecraft in "The Shunned House"
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Re: Why Do I Have So Much Trouble With It?

Postby crit33427 » Sat Sep 23, 2017 5:38 pm

My advice is to try and find a root cause to your challenge.

Here is a simple tool to try out:
1. Write a list of all the things that you personally wish to gain from or achieve in life;
2. Write a list of all the things that you personally hope to gain from writing;
3. Compare the lists;

If at least a few things match up then take those things and write yourself a mission statement that includes them:

'I need to finish each writing project so that I can afford to buy more donuts!'

This is obviously a silly example but I hope it conveys the point. Apart from anything else it is such a short piece of writing that you should be able to finish it easily. Then you have your first finished work right in front of you. If you have a favourite desk to write at then hang it up right in front of your face so you can't not see it when you look up. Make it your PC wallpaper and screen saver. Subsequently, every time you feel your attention is lagging look at it and remind yourself what you are doing this all for. If you then say 'Sure but I don't know HOW to write the next bit' Then that is when you need to start reading up about writing skills, methods and techniques.

If actually nothing matches up on the two lists then a fundamental mismatch has been identified. Writing is never going to give you what you are looking for in life. You keep dropping it BECAUSE it is getting in the way of true fulfillment. Move one, forget writing, and find some other more relevant activity.
Charles Gull
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Re: Why Do I Have So Much Trouble With It?

Postby crit33888 » Sun Oct 15, 2017 5:42 pm

What I would say is that to be a pro, you have to be willing to work. This means different things for different people. Some people love starting and struggle to finish. Some finish easily but struggle to edit. Some struggle to start and outline endlessly. There's usually some part of the process that is difficult (or more difficult than others) and you just need to power through it if you want to be legit.
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