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So I'm stuck somehwere I didn't expect to be.

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Jtn46, Jan 18, 2015.

  1. Jtn46

    Jtn46 Dreamer

    When I started brainstorming and planning, coming up with ideas for characters and the story itself, I was worried I wouldn't have any good ideas or strong characters. I was afraid I was going to start writing, and realize I have nothing good to write about. Now that I'm starting, I now face the real problem. I have no idea where to start. I know what my story is about, but I'm having a really hard time pondering ifs, ands, and buts. I have a million things going on in my head about the story, characters, how to introduce it all.

    I have all of this information to put out and I just can't figure out how to execute it. One of my biggest problems I've run into is when and how to introduce the main story. And then when I'm trying to get it into motion, I end up explaining way too much. But, then again, I don't know what is too much. I'm really lost here, I'm even confused about explaining exactly the problem I'm having... I'm just saying bits and pieces hoping someone has had a similar experience in the past and can lend some advice. Any of which is much appreciated!
    Ruby likes this.
  2. 2WayParadox

    2WayParadox Sage

    Well, I would say that if you don't know where to start and the time to begin writing has come, you should start writing.
    Give some thought to which scenes you want which characters to have for sure. Once you get a bunch of scenes, gather up all your one line summaries and sort them out. Creating that kind of flow of events will give you an idea for what is missing and what is still to come. The start of the story should pop up naturally.

    You don't need a beginning to start putting your story down. If I were to guess, the beginning is something that many writers tweak a lot. So don't worry about it. You're putting off your work.
    Jtn46 likes this.
  3. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    I think most of us have been there. It's hard to give you specific advice without knowing the specifics of your story. But know this, it's a normal thing when you haven't written, what I'm assuming is supposed to be a novel, before.

    At the core of every story, when you strip everything away, the story is simply about a person who has a problem. The problem is they want something and something stands in their way of getting that thing. And the story is about their struggles to get that thing.

    What the character wants, what the problem is, and what stands in their way, well, that's all decided by you, the writer.

    As for where to start, I design a scene that is representative of the main character's everyday normal life. This scene has to introduce their problems, their desires, and what stands in their way. I don't necessarily get in deep with any of these things. I just introduce them sometimes in a very vague manner. Basically you're giving the reader a taste of what the story overall is going to be about.

    I don't know how much experience you have writing, but if you've never really written anything before and you just don't know where to start, I'd suggest maybe writing a short story or two to get your feet wet.

    I could go on and on, but here are some things you can do to help yourself. Get a hold of some writing books and try learning about story structure. (I recommend Elements of Fiction: Scene & Structure and a script writing book called Save the Cat) Google up the term "Scene and Sequel". This is very helpful in learning how to design your scenes.

    A novel is a huge amount of work and can sometimes feel overwhelming. One of the keys is knowing how to organize your thoughts, and that starts with knowing a little about story structure.

    With my first novel, I was pretty much where you are, but I dove in. The end result was a mess, but I learned a lot the hard way. Now, would I have done better if I'd read up on structure and stuff? I'm not sure. I'd like to think I would have, but in a lot of ways writing is about trying and failing, which is a lot like the flow of a story.

    The main character wants something. They try, and they fail to get it. They try and fail again. They do this until they succeed.

    This is what it's like to write. You want to write a story about X. You try and fail to get the results you want. You try with a different story or the same one. You do this until you succeed.
    Jtn46 and Ruby like this.
  4. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

    I'd say don't worry about where to start - just have a good idea for a scene in your mind (no matter where it comes in the story) and write that. Don't worry if not everything is explained in it. You just need to write so that you get used to it.

    I have similar issues - but I find thinking about the story as a series of scenes - which i can tackle in any order - helps enormously.
    Every scene has a function in a story (as with screenwriting) its to put some information across, to further the plot and to show some aspect of one or more characters. It could be a couple of characters first encounter. It could be a character finding something, it could be conflict (either physical or emotional) with another character or with a decision that the protagonist has to make. It could be arriving somewhere. It could be anything - but it will help solidify your world and characters and help you decide what should come before and after it.

    Then when you have a few scenes together you can start to order them and decide how everything fits together in detail.

    The first intent is to just get it down - worry about getting it right in the second draft (and there will be a second draft).
    The aim is to finish first - then fix things up.
    Jtn46 and Ruby like this.
  5. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    I want to make sure I understand this. At first, I thought you meant that there were a bunch of ways you could start the story, and you got lost when you tried to decide on one. (That's a common problem, to which folks often respond by suggesting that you write one and see how it works.) But it sounds like you've already written more than one beginning, then thrown it out because it didn't work. If that's true, the problem is likely much more specific, tied directly to your premise or structure.

    In other words, if you've already given it a try or two, you might need to explain more about your story.
    Jtn46 likes this.
  6. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

    With any story, there's usually some trigger point that sets a chain of events in motion. Some people call it the inciting incident. I call it the tipping point - the event that tips the main character out of his/her normal life and starts on the journey to the climax. What changes? That's the place to start (for now, anyway; you can always come back and write a different opening later).

    Once you've identified a starting point, just write what happens. Don't explain everything, keep descriptions to a bare minimum (you can expand later if need be), just focus on that character, what's happening to him/her and what he/she feels about that. And take it from there.

    It sounds as if you may have a complicated plot with many different characters and sub-plots. If so, I'd suggest narrowing the focus initially to stay just with a single character, until you find your feet. You can weave the rest in later.

    Good luck!
    Jtn46 and Ruby like this.
  7. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

    I would suggest making an outline. Establish what are the most important events in the story and the order in which they happen. Then think of ways to link the events together. Finally think of where you want your characters to be at the end of the story both mentally and physically. For the start perhaps think of where your characters would be and what they would be doing as part of their regular life. If they are a cook then start with them in a kitchen, if a knight then on guard at a castle, etc. It this is very generic, but you can create a more unique situation whenever it comes to you. Then guide them towards whatever you want to happen.
    For me the trick to dealing with not knowing what to write is to write something/anything. Once I get my head into having the characters being active it is like they come alive in my head and what they're doing and where they're going happens on its own. Hope this helps.
    Jtn46 and Ruby like this.
  8. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    As someone who also has trouble figuring out where to begin the story, I suggest just not worrying about it. Just write and keep writing and worry about what the right place to begin the story is on the second draft. You don't need to know what the right beginning is to start writing the story. Just pick any place and go from there. Likely you need to write enough to get a better feel for the structure of your story. Possibly you won't know what the right beginning place is until you've written the ending. Then you just go back and revise your beginning. There's a good chance you'll end up just chopping off a lot of what you write at the start and that's ok. Some writers just need to write themselves into the story.
    LadyofKaos, Jtn46 and Ruby like this.
  9. Ruby

    Ruby Auror

    Hi Jtn46,

    Here is a famous quote from Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll:

    “Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

    My advice would be to just sit down and write. Usually, your characters will tell you the plot once you've written a few chapters. If you try to intellectualise your story too much, you will lose the creative flow.

    You can always change the sequence of events once you reach the second draft stage.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2015
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  10. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    My standard advice is to start as close to the story's end as possible.

    Look at your story plans. What is the latest point where you think, right now, you can begin the story without losing anything for the reader? That's a good point to begin drafting. You might discover even that point is too early, but you won't waste as much writing it you determine your draft's starting point in this manner.

    Often, with inexperienced writers, one of the biggest issues I see is the idea the reader needs in-depth knowledge of backstory & loads of information before the "Key Event" if they're to understand the story and characters. They don't.

    Further, there are a few concepts you need to understand before you know where to begin a story.

    Inciting Event
    Key Event

    The Inciting Event is the cause of your story. It is the happening that puts everything into motion.

    The Key Event is the happening that draws your character, irrevocably into the consequences of the Inciting Event.

    It is important to note the Inciting Event and the Key Event may happen together, but the Inciting Event could occur long before the Key Event.

    The Hook is your opening. A successful hook should perform the following:
    1) Raise questions for the reader
    2) Introduce character
    3) Introduce setting
    4) Establish tone

    If you know your Inciting Event, Key Event, and latest possible point to begin your story, then plan your Hook. That's your beginning.
    Jtn46 likes this.
  11. cupiscent

    cupiscent Sage

    I almost never start writing anything in the right place. Not novels, not chapters, not scenes. Sometimes I woffle around for a thousand words on a scene and then realise that NOW I've reached the point where the scene should start, and then I start over - but all of those thousand words have been useful in helping me realise the right starting point AND I reuse a lot of them in shaping the scene properly (descriptions, backstory, worldbuilding elements, even dialogue). Same applies on a novel-wide scale. When I finish the entire first draft, I have a much better idea of where it should start, and can recut the first third of the novel accordingly. (I've actually just finished doing this - I have 50k words of revised novel, and I've only just now reached chapters where I'm at 90% old material with 10% tweaking. Before this, I was mostly writing new stuff and doing major rewriting of old stuff.)

    Start throwing spaghetti at the wall. You can put a frame on it later. ;)

    And in throwing your spaghetti, you've got a heap of great advice in this thread. Use all or none of it as it seems useful to you and your writing style!
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  12. Jtn46

    Jtn46 Dreamer

    I am always surprised with just how awesome this site's users are and how helpful their info is. You have all helped tremendously, giving me new invaluable info and tips, as well as reminding me of some things I forgot in the excitement and chaos of diving into what I would like to be a novel eventually. Thank you all so much!
  13. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Do start writing. You can't go wrong with that.


    I don't want to mislead you. Starting in the wrong place is going to mean you write a whole bunch of stuff that never winds up in the finished product. Try not to let this get you down. You're taking practice swings. It's training. But I'm not going to kid you, it can be dispiriting to think that all this stuff you're writing may be "wasted" motion.

    It was that way for me with my WIP. I wrote a novella and that one had a pretty clear beginning, once I had thrown out the wrong beginning. But the WIP could have started in any number of places. It *still* could be started in any number of places, but I'm so far into it now that the last major change I made with the beginning seems to be sticking. Since I'm close to 100k down the road, I sure hope so! But there were times I despaired, I really did. I had *no clue* which of a dozen starting points was the right one. Worse, I had no clue which might be a wrong one either! But I kept writing (not the beginning, but other scenes), trusting that somehow it would all work out.

    Outlining didn't help me. All I did was outline all the equally possible possibilities.

    My characters did not guide me. They sat on stage like surly actors waiting for me to feed them lines.

    All I could do was to keep writing, just me alone in the jungle with my machete, carving paths. I have miles of paths now. I'm trying to learn to love the tropics.
    2WayParadox and cupiscent like this.
  14. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

    Don't worry about the hook when you first start writing. The hook you have at the wrong beginning won't help where the real beginning is.
    If you don't know where to start, just jump in and begin. The right starting point will make itself known.
    I started one book at the beginning of the day, boring but it got me started. Then when the action started, I dumped the stuff before as pre-story setup and continued on.
    once you figure out where to begin, find the hook then. You also will need to reintroduce the character at the new beginning, rather then at the boring(false) starting point.

    Try to know where your going after you start, rambing around for several pages won't sell the book. When you know where your going, its harder to write yourself in the corner. Most of the time I find myself with no place to go, I got there because I didn't have a place in mind for a destination or forgot where I was going.
    Have a purpose for every encounter. Don't send a character to the bar just to waste time. Meet someone, do something, hear something to throw the reader off or hint at something in the future. Bored character might need a brawl or might find some clue they didn't know they needed to find.

    If your a planner, plan it out, if your a farmer let it grow, if it withers, prune it, if not follow it where ever it goes.

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