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Perseverence vs. freedom: Reprise

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Nimue, Feb 5, 2016.

  1. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    I was going to post in Velka's thread of similar title, but this rant got to the point where it might be derailing, and it looks like Velka's come to a decision in that thread anyway, so why not a new discussion. If there is any--I'm not really asking any questions because holy crap, have I made up my mind. This isn't meant to be a rebuttal or anything! I think all of the stuff in that thread was highly valid to V's situation; it's just that I'm over here in a very different situation. Like maybe we could've planned this out as a foil, shedding clearer light on the writing process through contrast... Anyway.

    I know I've whined around the forum before about having difficulties writing Wildwitch, my WIP not-novel. On Monday, Recharge-your-novel February started up, and I dutifully dragged the old witch out of the closet and wrote a respectable amount from wherever I'd left off. And I realized just how much I hated the story. I didn't like the scene I was working on, and I didn't like the one that had come before that. And it didn't seem like there was anything good on the horizon for ages. So on Tuesday, I finally gave up, and decided to stop writing Wildwitch for now, or at least stop considering it my main writing priority. I figured that even if this wasn't a good decision, maybe I'd get scared of trying a new project and come back to it with better appreciation.

    It was a weight off, immediately, and the creative sap started flowing to the brain again. I started thinking about the ideal story for me to write--not next, but now. Shorter, simpler, more tonally consistent, more deeply felt. I took Wildwitch and pared it down to only the things that I love, and tried transplanting it. I went back to the fairy tales and Celtic myth that had originally inspired it. I threw out everything that had bogged it down, pulled the plot from a tangle to a single thread. Characters and conflicts that I'd thought of later and had been relegated to the sidelines became central, because they were more compelling than the original conflict. Wednesday night, I tossed and turned until 3 am because my brain wouldn't rest without nailing down the basic story. Without music, too. Kinda would've been good to get some sleep.

    It's really starting to take shape now. I have the bones of an outline, and I'm hashing out the hows and wherefores and figuring out new characters and the new faces of old characters. And it feels great. It feels like the story Wildwitch was meant to be, and better.

    The thing is, I worked on that WIP for four, almost five years. I'd written 120k, through combined and almost entirely exclusive drafts. But I hadn't finished it--I'd never even gotten halfway through the plot. I was feeling really awful about it, and I blamed myself, blamed my work ethic and my wordy style. But there were also really deep and structural problems. The plot had germinated during a NaNo, and in the following years just collected more and more subplots and characters and front-end exposition baggage. It wasn't well-planned, and in the absence of plotting, my purple-prose vines had really colonized the garden.

    I didn't want to give up on the project. You always hear that finishing things is incredibly valuable, and while that's true...sometimes big projects are going to be learning experiences and not The Story that Goes Somewhere. Maybe when you're starting out, it's okay not to finish things. To let things go when they start turning brown and curling up at the edges.

    (Please don't count the metaphors in here, I know it's an issue. I know.)

    I'm going to be outlining for a while; I'm going to be tuning that plot until it sounds nice when I flick it. I'm going to be focusing on setting the foundation for something good, rather than building haphazardly all over the place in order to get words down. I'm not going to be settling for the first thing I get attached to. I'm also going to try shaking things up and not writing from the beginning to the end in full-render prose, but instead writing some exploratory scenes before everything's nailed down, just to get in on that extra world- and character-building stuff that you can only get from nosing around in the writing.

    Who knows how it'll turn out, really. It feels pretty dumb to be talking about this like I've achieved something, because I haven't even put an in-scene word on the page. I know the initial inspiration will fade and it won't be kick-in-the-stomach exciting anymore, and I know that my work ethic and consistency is a huge issue (to borrow from Velka again, creative ADD is written on my forehead) and my style needs to be pruned constantly. But I'm finally looking forward to writing what's ahead of me.

    Oh Lord, sorry for the massive splurge of personal text. Really needed to vent, because it feels remarkable, like I've made more writing progress this week than I have in the last two years. Alright, that having been said, I'm sure I'll find some way to cock it up. Carry on!
     
    Svrtnsse, A. E. Lowan and Heliotrope like this.
  2. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    You HAVE achieved something. Oh my gosh Nimue, you have no idea.

    I get it. I totally get it.

    I did the same thing. I had one novel (you've seen bits posted in my purple prose challenge, The Looking Glass Gods). It was my first big project. I just kept writing and writing and writing with no clue what I was doing. I put no thought into character, they just magically sprung up as needed. I put no thought into plot, it just magical meandered around in no direction at all. It was a lot of good practice, but it was just that, practice. It was NOT a story. (Or at least, not a very good one).

    I had to put it away. It was too frustrating. I had been doing it too long and I didn't know what I was doing. I was like a toddler trying to build a house with no skills. No foundation. Yeah, a toddler could work for ten years on a house, but if it is not structurally sound it doesn't matter how you dress it up, it is never going to be a good house. At some point you will have to tear the entire thing down and revisit the foundation.

    I scrapped it, and started working on project 2, The Eden Project. This was better. This time I took my time and spent some time really letting it compost before I started into it. I spent some time planning. It still wasn't great, but it was better. It was linear and cohesive and made more sense. I did the first draft of that and knew that again, while it was good practice, it was not something I needed to spend years making perfect.

    Now, I'm on project number 3 and man do I feel good! I took about two years to work on shorts, but mostly to read about craft. I learned about characterization, and developing characters, and planning and story boards, and taking the time to let an idea gestate, and taking the time to really hone in on those solid foundational elements so that the story can stand on its own without fancy siding and pretty wallpaper.

    Blackbeard, while still only in planning stage (yep, I'm plotting chapter 2 as we speak) is already coming together as something way beyond anything I've ever done before. This story is something I know that I want to see through to the end.

    Good luck!
     
    Nimue likes this.
  3. Velka

    Velka Sage

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    Nim, this is the most excited, optimistic, and recharged I've seen (ok, read) you in a long time about writing and that makes me ridiculously happy! Although, I am disappointed that you revealed our grand plans to create a contrasting conversation and viewpoint about the writing process. Remember the first rule of Write Club? YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT WRITE CLUB!

    I've abandoned a tonne of projects because they just weren't working - my current Red Hand WIP included. I first came up with the concept years ago, poked it with pointy sticks and WORDS for years and abandoned it. A year's distance (and some other writing projects in between that were equally awful, but educational) allowed me to dissect it like a high school biology class frog into it's base parts and create something that didn't smell so much like formaldehyde anymore. (You're not the only one who can metaphor - yes, I just verbed a noun)

    I'm sure you'll cock it up, and fix it, and cock it up again, because that's kinda writing in a nutshell, in my personal experience, milage may vary, but you write beautifully, have characters and a vision that transcends words to become emotion and experience, and I'm happy more of your words will be out here in the world.
     
    Nimue likes this.
  4. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    God, in retrospect, it seems so silly that I was hanging on to a story that I created when I was 20 for so long. Man, I put together that opening scene before I could legally drink, and, well, now I've got quite a tolerance and I'm pretty sure I can write better. (Those things are probably unrelated.)

    But that's the funny thing: every time I create something and stop creating for a little while, my brain becomes absolutely certain that that's the best thing I'll ever manage, and I have completely lost the ability to write/draw/paint/think of cool stuff. In college I was real sure that my teenage years were the end of true, rapid progress, and once that was over, it's time to settle down and work with what I've got. I'm sure that'll make anybody in their thirties or forties start chortling uncontrollably...

    Velka, we are always talking about Write Club. You couldn't get writers to not talk about writing if you stapled their mouths shut. But thank you for the kind words, and thanks to both of you for the experiential backup on "it's okay and good to stop working on a project after a certain point".

    I am pretty grateful to this site in general for keeping me thinking about writing, and for windows into the ongoing experiences of other writers. It's been tipping me off for a while that maybe I shouldn't feel trapped in a cellar with my WIP. I'll try to keep my eyes open a little better from now on. Well, back to outlining and trying to grab all the dramatic bits of dialogue that've been flying through my head since seven in the morning! It'd be nice if this story would let me sleep for eight hours.
     
  5. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Hey, making decisions can be a big deal - especially if they've been a long time coming and hard to make. Congratulations and best of luck with the new horizons.
     
    Nimue likes this.
  6. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Hey, the only good thing about getting older is that writing tends to get better, LOL.
     
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  7. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Penpilot posted this a while back and it is really worth a listen, it was helpful for me :)

    Writing Excuses Season 2 Episode 33: How To Not Be Overwhelmed | Writing Excuses

    I know you aren't overwhelmed, per se, but it talks about that "big golden idea" and how, as writers, we have millions of ideas. It is ok to put down that big golden idea and move on to something more exciting than beating a dead horse.
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2016
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  8. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Nimue, I'm so glad for you. It's wonderful that you've reached a new level of understanding for your writing and have refreshed your goals. I bet you feel rejuvenated. :)

    One word of advice, if I may? No matter what happens with Wildwitch, keep writing. Now. Even when you're plotting, write. Something short. Maybe only a few minutes per day. Maybe a scene. Just keep writing because that's the only way your craft will improve. It won't do so by plotting or creating character outlines. Writing gets better by constructing word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page. I wish you the best of luck.
     
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  9. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Nimue, you may not have finished, but from what you've described, I think you did take a step forward, and it sounds very similar to part of my journey.

    My first novel was something I thought about for close to 15 years. I did finish it, but it was crap, and I walked away because it became a convoluted mess, with layers and layers of stuff burying the original concept.

    Though I decided not to rewrite it like you're doing, my approach to my second novel was simplify-simplify-simplify. I decided to write something simple and straightforward, something that would give me the greatest chance for success.

    After dealing with the tangled mess of multiple POVs in my first novel, dealing with one POV became a more fun way to work. It wasn't always cookies and cream with my second book. I actually had to throw out the entire second half of it after the first draft, but with what I learned writing my first book, and the simpler approach, things just seem reachable.

    IMHO, knowing when and how to simplify was a big lesson for me to learn. Though my second book is simple, I think there's some complexity in it too. And I think it's the right kind of complexity. Since then, I've realized that if I can't describe my story simply in one or two sentences, then either I really don't understand the story or it's heading down the convoluted mess road.

    Hopefully, things work out for you.

    Cheers
     
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  10. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    You didn't finish the story. Instead, you made progress. Go, you!
     
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  11. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    I wasn't writing anything consistently on Wildwitch to begin with, so it's not exactly like I'm losing out on writing practice by leaving it behind. But you're right--and I don't want to put off the writing for too long, because I really want to get my teeth into this. I've outlined the first five chapters of the story pretty thoroughly today, and I want to start writing it, then outline the next chapters while I'm doing that. Not only is writing in narrative important for my skills, it's also important for the story--so many things you don't discover until you're in the scene, in the characters' heads.

    Yup, the plot was so buried--and it wasn't that good to begin with, so all those extra layers were almost an attempt at improving it by embellishment. Which really doesn't work. With this, I've gone so far back, beyond the premise into the concept & the imaginative roots, that it's like they share a distant common ancestor. Er, story-evolutionarily-speaking.

    I feel like I haven't seen as much advice to simplify your novel plots--maybe I haven't done my research (true) or maybe it's a symptom of the genre. But it's really something you learn as soon as you're elbow deep in subplot-digression muck. Ironically, I'm actually increasing the number of POV characters, from one to two, but everything else has been so stripped down that it's not a complication at all. Actually makes a number of things easier.


    That's exactly how it feels. I could have pinned another 50k words to my old manuscript overnight and it still wouldn't feel like the leap forward I've made by beginning a new story.
     
  12. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Troubadour

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    It's good you've learned to let go of something that just isn't working. I've always had trouble with that, but maybe that's because a good idea only comes to me every few years. I've recently abandoned my "golden idea" even though, in all honesty I still love it, I've just come to realize I'm not ready to write it yet and I've been trying to find something new to be just as enthusiastic about, but its just not coming. It seems that for me, there are years that consist of nothing but story beginnings that fizzle out within a few pages, until suddenly I get a great idea.

    Anyways, I'm glad you've found a something you're really exited about.
     
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  13. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    Yeah, me too. And I think that's part of why I don't believe I can write anything more/better, and end up clinging to something that's not working. But on the other hand, great ideas don't come from nowhere, and I've found that a lot of the time they spring out of ideas that I didn't much care for at the time. I can think of maybe six conceptual ancestors to this story I'm working on now, though only a couple of them made it into substantial writing. In other words, even if something doesn't go much of anywhere, it's not necessarily wasted time. Still, it's hard to tell how much to invest in something. Gotta go with your gut, I suppose.
     
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