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I Am So Lost Right Now

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by srebak, Jul 5, 2014.

  1. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    For me, I pantsed my first novel. I outlined my second, and I found there's a nice middle point between the two. I outline loosely.

    First, I plan my plot lines loosely, getting enough to know in broad strokes where each of them is headed. I do this in Excel columns.

    Second, any lore and very specific details get organized and are read over once and only once before I start into my first draft. I generally don't read them again until the first draft is finished.

    Third, I sketch out a list of my scenes, planning out roughly what plot lines get dealt with in each scene using scene sequel format. This list of scenes is constantly in flux, with scenes getting added or dropped on the fly.

    And finally, I start writing using the list of scenes as a rough road map. I only know roughly what's going to happen before I start into a scene, details and specifics get pantsed into the scene. Only the lore that I can remember gets put into the story in the first draft. This helps in eliminating information overload. And generally, if I don't remember it, it probably wasn't that important and I usually find something else that's better any ways. Once I finish a scene, I take note of if I was able to fit in all the plot threads I had originally planned originally to be in the scene. If I wasn't able to the scene list gets altered to accommodate the change.

    I find this is a very flexible and organized way to work. Even though the outline for the story is continually changing, I always have a map of the general direction of where I'm headed. Since I have a road map, I can see how unexpected deviations in the plot will affect the story as a whole, and I can make an educated decision on if a deviation from the plan is a direction I want to go.

    Any ways that's how I work. I find that having a plan of any sort helps me keep on moving ahead.

    When I do run into rough patches I always fall back and focus in on three simple questions that I should know the answer for. Thinking about the answers to these questions and how they apply to the point in the story where I'm stuck is a great help in finding my way again when I'm lost.

    The questions are as follows.

    1 -What does my POV character(s) want, physically and emotionally?

    2- What's preventing my POV character(s) from achieving their physical goal and their emotional goal?

    3 - Does the character achieve their goals, and if they do what happens?
    Terry Greer and Jabrosky like this.
  2. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

    The thing that helped me progress was to build an excel chart for the daily word count. Seeing it rise (or not rise) was an incentive to do more.

    Of course it doesn't affect the quality of what you're writing - but it does encourage you to do something every day.

    The other thing that I find essential is visualizing the beginning. middle and end first. everything else is then just points along the way.

    I find I need to have an end to aim at and a number of images as to what key events I want to occur along the way - otherwise I don't know where I'm going.
  3. hunter830

    hunter830 Dreamer

    I suppose I'll share my own tools and hope they help; I also fully agree with trying to discipline yourself to sitting down every once in a while even if it's just to read over what you have, I've come up with some of my favorite things when expecting just to edit.

    However, if I'm really stuck I'll step away from my writing put on a playlist of my favorite 'writing music' and just day dream. Just letting my mind wander to wherever it wants has helped me immensely in the past.
  4. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    Tracking goals and productivity is essential, in my opinion.
  5. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    okay, so time for a little confession...

    I spend minimal time on my challenge entries. Every time I involve myself in a writing challenge, I begin writing two days before the deadline. Sometimes I begin the day of. So what, right? Well..... I've found that the less thought I give to something, sometimes the more cohesive it is. Not that every challenge entry was a show-stopper, but there's something to be said about keeping it simple. One focused plot, rather than a novel's meandering ways. A character with a clear goal, versus a twisting romp through a fantasy world that's too much fun to explore.

    My point is,that sometimes, a novel can actually MAKE you want to give up on it, because every little change or progression to the story, can contradict an earlier thought, concept, or plot. IN fact, in one novel, I have a pretty hard-nosed character who was in her fifties... who I then softened toward and by the end of the book, my entire concept of her changed. She's now 43, emotionally scarred and slipping into a state of delusional paranoia, but she's so much more complete than my original concept. It took MONTHS to repair the damage I'd caused. I know how intimidating that can be.

    The more writing you do, the easier it'll be to "get it right the first time." Until you're a pro though, try taking a step back once in a while, simplifying, and maybe doing a short story or something that's not so emotionally draining. Juggling three novels and a challenge entry and an anthology entry can be exhausting. It's counterproductive, to have so many irons in the fire.

    AND... most of my inspiration comes AS I'm writing. [SUP]Or from friends I call in the midst of a dilemma. They usually set me back on the right path :)[/SUP]
    Legendary Sidekick and Jabrosky like this.
  6. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

    @Caged Maiden,

    I actually find this to be the case for me as well, and the challenges being competitive or not makes no difference. I don't wait until the deadline, though, but what I do is effectively similar. I write for the challenge as soon as I can, and without any thought of winning, word count, or anything BUT what the prompt says. (Oh, and once I feel like it's time to wrap up my story, I try to have an unexpected twist that I like, in the hope that the reader will like it too.)

    I feel like when I put too much thought into the craft of writing, I hurt my own story.
  7. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Useful in composition, yes. Not so useful for editing and rewriting. Rewriting the same paragraph or passage four or five times has a good shot of reducing your total word count, especially when you get into things like unneeded speech tags and adverb extermination.

    I put in a good three hours last night rewriting two short sections. Total word count might have increased by fifty. Now I have to do another partial rewrite on one of those scenes today.

    This is pretty much what I do.

    It used to be I'd start with a 'wow neato' idea (yes, I'm that old) and take off from there...only to have a head on collision with a dead end. I've since dusted off some of those old fragments and turned them into actual stories, but it usually means cutting a bunch of stuff and splicing in a fair bit of new material.

    Anymore, I do not start a new work unless I have at least semi-solid ideas for the beginning, middle, and end. No written outlines, just a few rough notes for the highlights, along the lines of 'this is how to solve X.'

    My 'Challenge' stories, with a few exceptions, are all set in my world. When I see the prompts, I start looking for places and situations on my world where those prompts would best fit, and devise the tale accordingly. But again, I won't start a Challenge story without a fair idea of the beginning, middle, and end.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2014
  8. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    Agreed. I don't mark word counts on my trackers during revisions & editing. I do annotate those days being spent on editing though. That way, when I go back and review progress, I can see each day's production and/or efforts. It's important for reassessing goals, which I do regularly.
  9. srebak

    srebak Troubadour

    Well, inspiration suddenly hit me today, now i have two new ideas for a fantasy story i'm writing

    1. I was originally going to have this particular story end in this book, but now i'm considering having this book end on a cliffhanger, with the next book picking up where it left off, sort of like what J.K. Rowling and Cressida Cowell did with their books, as i've been told. However, not only does this feel like i'm ripping off the former, but after hearing about how the latter intends to end her book series (which is also how the movies will go as well), i'm not sure i feel comfortable about this.

    2. My story involves an archipelago that is home to a variety of magical creatures. Originally, the idea was that the magical creatures just found islands of their own at random, but now, i'm leaning towards the idea that Merlin the wizard created it somehow and the magical beings that inhabit it now were drawn there by his magic. I'm worried that that might seem a bit derivative and i'm also not sure how well Arthurian legend will mix with the Greek, Egyptian and Norse mythology elements i've started to use already.
  10. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    @srebak: that doesn't sound derivative at all, and the idea of each island having distinct magical creatures sounds interesting. As for splitting across volumes, I say don't worry about that at this point. Just write. Chances are very high you'll have a different opinion about how the story ends by the time you get to it.

    That said, what you describe isn't a story. It's world building. A story isn't description, it's narrative. It takes one or more characters from one place (physical or spiritual) to another. I don't see anything in your posts that is about anyone. It's all setting.

    To return to your OP, this may be one reason why you are feeling a bit lost. You are lost amid ideas, but you aren't telling a story. Perhaps if you concentrate more on characters (people), on getting a character from one place in his life to another, you will be better able to focus. Fair warning, it's possible to get lost in character creation as well. At some point, one simply has to pick up the standard and carry it to the end of the battle, win or lose. That is to say, one has to write a story, from beginning to end, ignoring all those alluring ideas that dance around at the edges.
  11. srebak

    srebak Troubadour

    If i may turn the "I feel so lost" subject towards something else, there's always been a bit of a writer's issue with me in regards to the holidays:

    Around Halloween, i usually hope to get more written down, especially since two stories i'm writing at the moment fit right in with the theme of Halloween; One's a fanfic about a tv show with a magical theme to it (its main character is a dragon living in a city where Magical creatures live alongside humans in secret), while the other is a novel about magical creatures. Both of these stories go well with Halloween, since the aforementioned holiday is pretty much about the supernatural. However, in four years in a row, every October, i never get any further than where i was before, and it's the same for a WWII book i'm writing on Memorial Day.
  12. Bansidhe

    Bansidhe Minstrel

    It sounds a little like you need to get organized (believe me--I've been there).

    First of all, know that Perfect is the enemy of Done. Writing isn't just an art--it's a craft, and there are several steps to any crafting process. Once you have a first draft in hand, you're going to do several revision passes anyway--that's where you make the story really shine. A first draft is just a raw product until that point.

    There a few things I do to keep on track. I draw a plot map, noting just the bare plot points (or destinations) of where I need to get to. I also write lists of characters, locations, and objects that are important to the story. I dig into what my characters want, and come up with impediments and complications to those wants.

    Here comes the best bit: I use a screenwriting technique called "Spinning Down The Page" to brainstorm my way through the story from beginning to end by just using snippets of Action, Images, and Dialogue, leaving lots of white space. I hone up my plot map, make some notes. Then Spin again, deeper, from plot point to plot point, to get all the information out. It may take a few times, but before I know it, my mind is clear of all the clutter and I can FOCUS.

    Probably the best thing I did, though, was come up with a Production Schedule. I built a story queue of all the stories I wanted to write, and when I plan to write them. Knowing I'm not going to forget all those ideas, and when I'm going to develop and write them, also helps with the mental clutter. I keep a little black book of all the ideas, and when I have any moments of inspiration for those ideas, I simply write it down on the appropriate page. Done and done.
    Jabrosky likes this.

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