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Ideas that seem much too ambitious for beginners

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Yora, May 30, 2018.

  1. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    I've always been struggling with ideas. Not a problem with imagination, but with good ideas that seem like something that a beginner might realistically hope to pull off.
    I have a couple of ideas that I think are really amazing, but they seem like something you need a really good and experienced writer to actually make work. So I keep looking for ideas that are easier, but these never are really good. It took me a long time to come up with the idea I am working on right now, but I still feel that it is only solid and with decent potential, but nothing really that particularly interesting yet.
    But I am having doubt if this is really a good way to approach it. Maybe an idea that starts out only as okay is already at its limit and even with more work put into it it won't get much better.

    How are you dealing with this issue?
     
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  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    The way I see it, there are thousands of ideas in a book. It's not about one big idea, but your ability to generate the ideas you need when you need them. To that end, it's important to be able to let go, and for a while at least, focus less on the work you're producing and more about your skills in producing it. If your story is important to you, you'll get there.
     
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  3. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    I would advise you to reconsider your assessment of ideas. All ideas are good, as they are bad. It boils down to execution.

    What I think more aptly describes your problem is "scope." I've committed the same mistake when I first started writing. I wanted to take a simple revenge/hero's sacrifice story and dress it on the skeleton of Game of Thrones. I failed.

    Don't discard an idea based on complexity. Rather, refine the story to a simpler structure. You'll see that most ideas will become accessible.
     
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Writing is a whole barge load of work. You'll be discouraged, fall into despair, climb back out of it only to find wastelands and moonscapes.

    So, go with the ideas that excite you. You'll need the energy. Don't worry that it's too grand. No idea is so small that you cannot botch it up. And no idea is so grand that it is unattainable. As a new writer, you're a lousy judge of scale anyway.

    I thought my first novel idea was pretty simple, straightforward. I was wrong. I think maybe after four or five novels a person can begin to get a notion about the scope of an idea, but you have to write those first three or four to get there.
     
  5. Foah

    Foah Troubadour

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    Ideas are cheap. Very cheap. An idea is never what makes or breaks a good read, it's all about how it's executed/written. You can write a 500 page story on a person's first day at his/her new job, and you can write a 100 page story that spans millenia of your fantasy world.

    It is definitely not always the case that a more intricate core idea of a story equals a greater chance of your story being good in the end. That being said, you may want to be more familiar with yourself and your writing skills before trying to run too many interwoven plotlines at once. Trying to keep 20 thin red lines running and tied together can be tricky.


    As a last reference to encourage you to keep your ideas simple--the picture below show some sketches of a cow by Picasso. They are in correct chronological order. He, as many other artists of various fields, came to understand the importance of learning to comprehend and master the very simplest of ideas. He didn't fully understand the cow once he had learned to draw one lifelike. He understood it only after he learned the essence of the cow and how he could represent one with as few lines as possible. Take this with you when you ponder your ideas. Simplify your ideas, learn to differentiate your ideas from secondary plots/what-have-you, and dissect that simple idea until you fully understand it, and then write.

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I'm of the school of thought that your ambition should always exceed your grasp.

    Ideas, well... there's no rules that say you can't reuse an idea or take another swing at it if you fall short of exploiting it's potential on the first go around. I've done it plenty of times, and I'll continue to. Each time you take an idea out for a spin, you learn something about it, see that there's more than one angle to approach it from.

    For me, when I wrote my first book, the thing that really really exceeded my grasp was knowing how to deal with multiple POV characters and plot lines. I had 3 major POVs and 3 minor ones, and it was tremendously difficult to keep them all relevant, while setting things up to come together at the end. The book was 275k unwieldy mess that I never did get 'right'.

    But I took what I learned writing that book and applied it to my second. But this time, I simplified things, so I only had 1 POV character and one minor one. Book ended up at 110k, and I was very satisfied with the results.

    With my 3rd book, I went back and tried a 4 POV book, and as I'm going through the 3rd draft, I'm having a better go of it. Was still tricky, and I stumbled a lot, but I feel like I'm in control of things. The book is still probably going to be, at least in my eyes, unsatisfactory when I finish up, but live and learn.

    But as edit my third book, I'm thinking about what book to work on next. A little while ago, I started writing a short story that was based on some of the things I explored in my first book, taking a different slant on it. It's set in the same story universe, and I'm thinking about expanding it out in a novel. If it goes well, I might go back and rewrite my first novel, but well see. I'm leaning towards a newer story idea that only has 1 POV.

    Any way... It's all a big stew pot where things are constantly thrown in and mixed to the bottom only to be stirred back to the top. There's nothing wrong with ambition. IMHO, the trick is knowing when you've taken something as far as your current skill will allow, so you can walk away, with lessons learned, and start something new, instead of getting caught in the eternal edit.

    You learn from failure. But you have to know when to stop and allow yourself to fail.
     
  7. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    OMG! Are you me? Have I been cloned in my sleep?? This is precisely what I always struggle with!

    For myself, I'm drawn to grand, metaphysical, world shaking ideas. But I doubt my ability to do them any justice. So I try to come up with more manageable ideas that I can use to gain skill as a writer. Yet, the smaller ideas don't ever excite me. I can't manage to put my heart into them. And if I can't manage to find them very interesting, how could readers?

    Actually, I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Especially after reading an article about author William Hope Hodgson. Hodgson wrote only 4 novels and it has commonly been believed that he wrote them in the order they were published. The Boats of the Glen Clarrig in 1907, The Ghost Pirates in 1909, The House on the Borderland in 1908 and The Night Land in 1912. Now if you look at the books in this order it appears that Hodgson started out writing basically an adventure/survival story with horror elements but nothing that requires a supernatural explanation. The prose is somewhat archaic (something Hodgson apparently had a serious thing for) and flat, but readable. Going on through The Ghost Pirates and House on the Borderland he begins moving from adventure/horror toward sci fi and cosmic horror. The prose becomes increasingly more stilted by archaism with each novel. And last, comes The Night Land which is a truly epic far future fantasy with strong cosmic horror elements. I would call it easily the most imaginative book I have ever read, but it is fatally flawed by employing a nearly unreadable pseudo-seventeenth century style of prose which, combined with a massive 200,000 word count, makes reading the book nearly unbearable. So Hodgson was seen as starting out more mundane and approachable and then going a bit crazy with highly original but obsessively badly written stories.

    Ok, but recent evidence suggests that he actually wrote the books in reverse of the publishing order. He wrote the Night Land, which was meant to be his great masterpiece, first, throwing all of himself and his tastes into it. But it received hundreds of rejections, and no wonder. So he tried again. Still not good enough for publication. And again, getting better. And finally, he had forced himself to write as plainly as he could for the 4th attempt and finally was accepted. He must have really wanted to get the others published as well because there are no records of him starting any more novels at any time after these were written. Then came the war and Hodgson was killed in 1918 while serving. The Night Land was his last published novel and for all its flaws it is still his most remembered work because it is his most ambitious and imaginative work. We'll never know what else he might have followed it up with.

    When I think of all that, I begin to think that perhaps throwing myself into the crazy ambitious project right away is ultimately the better idea.
     
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  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >When I think of all that, I begin to think that perhaps throwing myself into the crazy ambitious project right away is ultimately the better idea.

    Throwing yourself is absolutely the better idea. No one else can throw you. And you don't throw yourself into something mundane. You throw yourself into the madly ambitious. The mundane you merely undertake.

    Look at your handle. It doesn't say Workman. It doesn't say PunctualAndSafe. It says Mythopoet.

    There's a place for the workmanlike. There's genuine value in writing a few short stories, not least of which you'll get feedback quicker. You can write to market as an exercise. That's not something to be done prior, though; it's to be done all along the way, for we're never so clever that we don't need to sharpen the tools once in a while.

    But for the novel, and especially for early novels, passion is a necessary element. The heart, too, needs its exercise. It's frightfully risky, I know, for it's easy to fail at something when you don't care. Failing at something you are passionate about is awful to contemplate. But it's also the only thing worth the risk.
     
  9. You. Don't. Get. Good. At. Writing. Without. Writing. Things. Out. Of. Your. Comfort. Zone.

    Writing the idea you don't feel like you're ready for is how you GET the experience and skill you need to do it justice. Staying with ideas that feel tame and easy enough to not scare you is how you DON'T grow. It's how you stagnate.

    Write *that* book. Write the book that is in you, deep in you, but the one that scares you the most, the one that feels too big for you. Write the book that is aching in your bones to be written. Listen to it and trust it.

    It'll take many many drafts and lots and lots of time. And you might have to take breaks from it just to keep yourself from frying your brain. But WRITE THE BOOK. *THAT* book. The one you're scared of, the one you're humble enough to realize you're not ready to tackle and yet not quite confident enough to try anyway.

    Do it. Don't settle.
    Good luck.
     
  10. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    A bit off topic, but I do not believe this is true. It might accurately describe some writers. There are people who only grow through challenge and adversity. But there are also many people who don't. There are many, many ways to learn and grow because people are so unique. If you've found that you need to push yourself outside your comfort zone and that works for you, that's great. But please don't assume everyone is like you or that your method is required for writing in general.
     
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  11. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    And you don't become better with practice when you just repeat the same mistakes. There's value in starting with the basics and gradualy building on that.
     
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  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Just to elaborate a bit on Mythopoet's statement, I'm not at all sure what a comfort zone is. In a real sense, everything I write is out of my comfort zone. It's easier to lean back and play video games or have a nice cup of tea. It's not like there's this clear line of demarcation, a line which everyone sees and knows on which side they currently stand.

    Moreover, I'm not at all sure how one moves from the Comfort Zone to the Discomfort Zone. It's not like you can walk there. I suppose one could suggest that when a person says they do not know how to do a thing, or they worry about doing a thing, then they currently stand in the Comfort Zone and that by doing that thing they thereby cross into the Discomfort Zone, but that feels too simple. Also, having done so, are they now in a new Comfort Zone? Must we always be driving ourselves away from comfort?

    I dunno; I'm on the verge of a thread hijack here, so I'll stop. There's just something about the phrase that bugs me. I'll go bug Jack Barron instead.
     
  13. Firefly

    Firefly Troubadour

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    Yeah. That's definitely a problem I have too.
    I think sometimes it is a good idea to do something simpler to start off with, but I also don't think that just because something is simple, it isn't pushing you.
    I'm a newer writer. I would love to go out and write a brilliant novel that perfectly explores one of those brilliant ideas that I'm super passionate about, but at this point I'm happy if I manage to finish a coherent novella. I wouldn't abandon the big ideas just because you don't think you're ready to write them though. You can always use just a piece of it in a smaller story in order to keep you excited about it.
    But you don't have to do that, either. Sometimes the story just is complicated, and you just have to write it that way. It's helpful to keep in mind though that there are ways to make a story more manageable besides just making it shorter. I think the most important thing is to keep practicing. Eventually, your skills will get thete.
     
  14. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    Well executed simplicity is also an art. Tight writing does often get praised as well.
     
  15. Firefly

    Firefly Troubadour

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    That's kind of my point. A story with less elements involved can be great for a new writer, since they can take the time to really learn how to do those parts really well, instead of jumping into a something huge and overwhelming right out the gate.
     
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