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Should you force yourself to write?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Firekeeper, Dec 1, 2013.

  1. Firekeeper

    Firekeeper Troubadour

    Yeah, that's a big thing I'm working on: not working in linear fashion. I get stuck in that rut, feeling like I can't work on a scene in chapter 8 when chapter 3 still needs to be finished up and polished. I have to constantly remind myself of that

    And I think that's what I was meaning here, i.e., the workman's chapter. Kind of a chapter that needs to happen, but yet doesn't really inspire you like the tense confrontation between the protagonist and antagonist in the 3rd act. Because you're right, if it flat out bores you then that's a sure sign it's not going to cut it with a reader either.

    But that's good to know, because my brain is telling me that books are not full of action, suspense and drama at high levels throughout (in fact they'd probably not be very enjoyable if everything was maxed out all the time) but yet my heart want cop out again and play Fable III because I'm not very inspired by the dinner meeting between the royal family which, while it gives valuable insight into how the family interacts and sets up some stuff later on, just doesn't sound very fun to write :)
  2. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    Here's the thing, and I think this is what you need to search for...

    Every scene doesn't need to be action packed or filled with tension. What they do need:
    1) Relevance to the story or characters
    2) Scenes must be interesting

    Interesting doesn't have to keep a reader on the edge of their seat but it does keep them reading.

    Look at these scenes/chapters that you consider a must. Are the really unavoidable? Are there other ways? If they are necessary, how can you portray them in a way that's interesting?
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2013
    FatCat likes this.
  3. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

    I'll second that. In fact, it's bad to try to make every scene crackle with tension.

    People need to relax from time to time. Give them some calmer scenes to allow them to recover from the tension of earlier tense scenes and to get ready for future tense scenes.
  4. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Exactly. I couldn't agree more. Maybe look at your setting and characters. Identify an interesting setting to have the dinner in. Something that expands the world. Dinner doesn't always have to be in a dining room/hall. How about a zoo with monkeys and elephants? Or what ever interesting setting you have in your world.

    See what kinds of great personalities can come out during the dinner. You said royal family. Are there any black sheep in the family that may cause bits of disturbance? Is there a loud mouthed fifth cousin that just can't help airing the families dirty laundry? Dinners and parties are great places to poke the bear, so to speak. Royal family, duty and obligation to be at the dinner, so not everyone will want to be there. Think of it as trapping a bunch of people in the same room that may or may not like one other, each with a knife within reach.
    Firekeeper likes this.
  5. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    I have a saying I trot out often enough there may be folks who will want to beat me with a stick when they see it, but it basically condenses what the guys are saying down to a nice, bite-sized piece.

    Conflict = Story

    Major, minor, crackling with tension or crackling with wit, conflict is what drives your scenes forward, and what keeps your attention. When you run into these scenes that strike you as "boring," this is your signal to sit back and ask yourself where the conflict is. You say,
    I know from personal experience that my family can't get together for dinner without me wondering which of my siblings is going to show up under the influence, and we're not royals. You can have SO much fun with this! The conflict doesn't have to be bloody or negative - it can even be funny. All you have to do is think about your characters, what each of them want, and how, in this case, they keep each other from getting it. (In other cases you just find other ways to keep them from getting what they want. This makes antagonists handy, but don't think antagonists are exempt from being messed with, either.)
  6. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    I forced myself to write last night. It wasn't easy and I didn't get much done, but I got started and that matters too. The short story I'm working on now has one actual starting point and not a whole load of potential starting points. I've got one place to go from instead of several. I know where I am.
    The text I wrote wasn't all that, but there's a lot of content in it, or associated with it. Just from getting to that starting point I now have a plethora of directions to go in - as opposed to having plenty of places to start and only a vague longing to take the story in a specific direction.

    So, yes, forcing myself to write worked out pretty well, even if I didn't really produce anything tangible.
  7. JRFLynn

    JRFLynn Sage

    When I have a serious case of writer's block, but I really want to finish the chapter, what I do is freelance write on a separate document. I make a story outline so I atleast know where I'm going, sometimes I type a few different scenarios. It was absolute murder trying to write my prologue, but some of the best stuff I ever wrote was from exploring other pathways. Also, you could try taking a break from that particular place and jump ahead. That way it's like connect the dots. I used to jump between different projects when bored or out of juice, but sometimes old fashioned rest will do the trick.
    Jabrosky likes this.
  8. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    I've recently taken a sort of weird approach to writing I'd like to mention.

    I'm an avid gamer at times, and I tend to play several games at once. I usually have my "main game," being like a RPG or something that I want to keep working on until I'm done. Then, I have several "casual games" I play when I don't feel like playing the main game. Just something to pass time on the train or play with friends. I never lose sight of the main game, as I want to complete that one the most. So I always go forward with that game until I beat it.

    This may be an approach you take to writing everyday. You have your main project, but sometimes it's just not working out. It's good to have little side projects to work on to keep you writing, but aren't distracting enough to pull you away from your main project. Your WIP should always be the most exciting thing you're working on. That makes it so you'll never give up writing it because you personally want to see how it ends, the same way a reader is supposed to feel when they're reading it.
  9. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    I've hit the point where I've started to lose steam over my newest short story, but I believe I have diagnosed the problem this time. In fact, it's a problem I have run into over and over again whenever I try to write short stories.

    What tends to happen is that I have this one particular scene playing in my head which I write down, but I don't give much thought to the back-story leading up to that scene. I might have a sketchy outline of what comes after this opening, but not so much what comes before. Consequently I typically begin with only vague and one-dimensional ideas of who my main characters are and what they're up to.

    To use my current project as an example, my MCs are an English privateer and a Congolese healer/mage who have paired up in a relationship for some time, and at the moment they're running away from Spanish bounty hunters to hide on a remote island for an indefinite period of time. I know the privateer is a cocky and hot-headed guy whereas his healer girlfriend is compassionate and sensible, but that's the full extent of my fleshing them out. I don't even know how this couple got together in the first place.

    I worry this could negatively impact my story because I've only the foggiest prediction of how these characters will grow and develop over its course. On the other hand, I don't want to get bogged down in filling out their back-stories before advancing the main story. Further compounding the problem is my fear that what I've set up so far is fundamentally implausible and that delving into the back-stories will reveal that.

    In addition, the second scene I need to write doesn't have much happening in it besides some setting description, so far as I have planned it.
  10. Richard Sutton

    Richard Sutton Dreamer

    That sometimes happens to me. My progress from that point, is to write it out. Tell the story completely as I can, then go back in after an absence of a few days and add in situations that reveal the characters' internal conflicts and enough of their backstory to let the reader hook settle in. Especially in a short, I try to avoid a lot of narrative reveals. Thank the gods for dialog!
  11. Helen

    Helen Sage

    When you have a deadline, you can't afford to wait for inspiration.

    Forcing yourself to write gets pages written, inspiration appears and quality doesn't necessarily suffer.
  12. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    I want to respond to an earlier point raised in this thread as it's pertinent to the anxiety I'm feeling over my current project:
    Perhaps there is no such law, but for me scenes build on one another. For example, the beginning sets the foundation for the whole work, so I have a certain need to make it as solid as possible before I can progress to the later chapters. Unfortunately this does tend to mire my projects in development hell.

    I suppose that if you work with detailed scene-by-scene outlines you could pull off non-linear writing though.
  13. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    I actually do work in a linear fashion for precisely the reasons you state. However, there comes a time where you have to progress from point A to B. There's lots in my early chapters that need revision but that's okay, I've been taking notes along the way.

    You can't just constantly revise your starting chapters. The story can't go farther with that approach. How will you find the changes you need if the story never advances & characters don't change?

    Yes, I think it'd be easier to work on pieces if you have detailed outlines. I know authors that do exactly that. For my own writing though, I need a bit of discovery along the way, so my outlines are vague, and they only go about 15 chapters at a time before I have to plan (outline) the next bit.

    However, this thread was geared toward inspiration or the need to push on even when you don't want to write. Are you saying that you lose your motivation early on, after the first few chapters? Does that lead to never finishing? If so, maybe it's time to make yourself try another approach.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2013
  14. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    Yes, that is precisely what I meant. I am still trying to figure out what my problem is. Maybe a short attention span is to blame.
  15. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    I used to be that way. One day I just decided that the next novel length work I sat down to write, I'd finish. That said, finishing doesn't mean it's ready for others, but you'll learn so much by actually completing a large manuscript. The biggest lesson you'll learn is that, with discipline and sustained effort, you can finish. You need to learn how to actually do that, in a way that works for you.

    I'm a little over 80k words into my current solo project. I'll say one thing, once you get a heavy number of words written it helps you push on to completion because not to do so would be such a waste...at least that's how I see it.

    I could be wrong, but I've always had the impression you're a bit of a binge writer...large amounts of writing in a few days time when you feel inspired, but then it inevitably peters out and you leave another unfinished story on the pile. Then, days or weeks may pass until you write again because you've waited for inspiration...but inspiration struck on a fresh idea, not the one you've already begun.

    I could be wrong, but if that is the case, and it's not working, why continue on the same path? Same effort in equals same result out. Why not try an exercise in sustained effort instead of relying on a fickle sense of inspiration?

    "Writing is most of all an exercise in determination." - Tom Clancy
    Jabrosky likes this.
  16. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    Actually you've described me so accurately it's uncanny.

    This evening I will plow on some more with my current manuscript.
  17. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    It wasn't hard. I just described my work habits seven years ago...

    Don't wait as long as I did to change.

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