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Too many ideas,too few braincells

I'm finally getting out of what's probably the worst writer's block I've ever had: haven't written more than two paragraphs at a time for the past ten months, and most of them end up getting deleted anyway. Writing again has been great, but I've also had to deal with a problem I've been avoiding for a while. You know those writers that constantly come up with new ideas (singular plot points, characters, character arcs, etc.) and start to write them but end up getting carried away, try to flesh all of them out into whole stories, and effectively end up finishing none? Yeah, I'm one of those. It doesn't help that I'm a pantser and write without any kinda foresight whatsoever. I've decided to write out lists of any new ideas I come up with, set most aside for later, and incorporate any others into my already ongoing works, and it's worked out for the most part. Still, I always get kind of disappointed whenever I come up with an interesting idea that just ends up wilting in my computer because it couldn't fit in anywhere. I think that's a reasonable reaction as a writer, though. Every idea is important, especially when you're trying to create something.

So, to anyone else who also has the impulse to write every little idea into a full-fledged story: how do you work around it?
 

pmmg

Istar
Of course.

I have a new strategy.

It goes like this:

1) I set to write only one sentence for per day. More are better, but one is all I commit to.
2) No editing, just endless forward motion
3) no research.
4) if I dont know what something is named, use a stand in.

And doing that, I finished a story that sat for about 10 years.


I have started to see further ahead.


I dont outline, but If I see the order of the scenes upcoming, I tend to write down their headings.
 

Mad Swede

Maester
I don't try to develop every little idea into a story, but I do write those little text bits down in my random text file. Some find their way into what ever I am writing, and some get used later in other stories. I've learnt over the years that the important thing is to write when I sit down to write, so even when I can't think what to write on the current story I do write something - and that something is often an idea that has come to me, which then goes into the random text file.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
First I would say, don't feel bad. Ideas are *way* easier than story telling, so it's perfectly natural to come up with bunches of them. Just recognize that an idea isn't a story. It's barely even a place to start.

Second, at least consider the possibility that you're a lousy editor. You don't say explicitly so I'm making a leap here; tell me if I stick the landing. Many new writers (by which I mean a writer who has yet to finish and publish a story) are extremely critical of their own work, and give up on a story because the writing isn't "good enough." Another chunk of writers give up because the story simply doesn't engage them any more. It feels dreary, unfocused, or they just run out of any idea of where to go in the next paragraph. Especially because they have lots of ideas, the temptation to switch over to something else, in the hope it will turn out better, is strong.

All that could be true. It could be a dead-end story. It could be the writing is bad. But it's at least possible that you are the last person to make such a judgment. If you're willing to consider that, consider simply pushing on. Yeah, easier said than done. However.

The "good enough" argument is just plain bogus. Keep writing and keep writing badly. Your aim in this case is to finish a story (a short story, if you can manage it) that is at least finished enough to show to someone else. Several someones, if you can. Get their feedback and make it specific--characters, pacing, plot concept, prose and readability, setting. Ask them specific questions. The better your questions, the better will be the feedback. And then you will see that "it's not good enough" is not only probably wrong, it's also so vague it's useless. All it does is drag you down.

The "it's not interesting" line is bogus, too. Of course it isn't interesting. Now, I'm aware there are writers around who talk enthusiastically about how much they love the process of writing, how it brings them joy and all that. That ain't me babe, to quote the poet. Judging by your post, it ain't you either, so we're allies in this.

Here again, the advice is keep writing. I assure you, there will come passages, moments however fleeting, when you feel like you delivered. You nailed a scene. It can even just be a good line here or there. None of it will match the naive enthusiasm of those first moments, but it will come to feel better, over time, because you'll start to recognize that as your personal form of good writing. That's worth striving for, worth the other times of dreary slog and discouraging trooping.

As for out of ideas, seen next part.

Third, you might try a different starting point. Don't start with ideas. Start with people. Characters. Get to know someone. Here's a dwarf. Oh really? Where does he live. Scratch that, where does she live? Not in the mountains, let's not start with stereotypes too soon. A city dwarf! Do all dwarves live in cities or is this person odd? Well, odd's better, right? So, what brought her here? What does she want to do here? Move here? Is she on a mission? Just wandering.

And so on. I said before an idea isn't a story, and here's one reason why. *People* have stories. Why, character, are you here? What do you want? What is keeping you from it--a villain? A force of nature? Yourself? And you start to move toward story.

I hope something in the above helps spark something. And don't worry, you're going to be stuck plenty times more!
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
I used to just jump behind the keyboard and start tapping away whenever an idea struck my fancy - no outlining, no planning, nothing. Wrote myself into more than a few corners that way.

Anymore, though I have 'rules.'

First, barring short experimental pieces for worldbuilding or some such, I do not begin a tale without a clear notion of the beginning, middle, and end. For longer stories - novella length and up - I put together short outlines. Each chapter gets a sentence or three that describes the key scenes in that chapter. This outline includes another section which is nothing more than the list of characters and a few words to describe their appearance and role.

Second, one at a time. I do not begin a new story until the current draft of the old one is finished. Instead, what I will do when inspiration strikes is to open a new file and quickly note the highlights, characters, and plot. Sometimes these become stories, sometimes they languish for a long, long while.

That said, when I hit roadblocks on the current project, I will occasionally go and reread prior works, including unfinished ones, tweaking them along the way. I find that solving issues in older stories can provide solutions or inspiration with current ones.
 
Second, at least consider the possibility that you're a lousy editor. You don't say explicitly so I'm making a leap here; tell me if I stick the landing. Many new writers (by which I mean a writer who has yet to finish and publish a story) are extremely critical of their own work, and give up on a story because the writing isn't "good enough."
This is exactly it! I haven't properly finished a story in ages, so I've become so hyper-critical of anything I write that I just end up stopping a writing session altogether. It's true, a lot of new writers are bad at seeing past what *they* think is bad about their work, and it ends up screwing up most of what they write as a whole.
The "it's not interesting" line is bogus, too. Of course it isn't interesting. Now, I'm aware there are writers around who talk enthusiastically about how much they love the process of writing, how it brings them joy and all that. That ain't me babe, to quote the poet. Judging by your post, it ain't you either, so we're allies in this.
This is so spot on that I laughed out loud when I read it.
And so on. I said before an idea isn't a story, and here's one reason why. *People* have stories. Why, character, are you here? What do you want? What is keeping you from it--a villain? A force of nature? Yourself? And you start to move toward story.
This made me realize that a lot of the characters that I've come up with have ended up in my full-fledged works. It's a lot easier to form a world (or at least a piece of it) when you've got a character because they're the ones that interact with it. Thanks for this!
 
I wrote a chapter, let it sit a month+, edited it, let it sit, edited it, let it sit... then added a chapter here and there and rinse and repeat until I was happy with my writing. This culminated in oh, maybe 20k words of my first novel over a couple of lax years of work while fiddling with my world map, then and only then did I finish Eve of Snows. This way, all the writing was basically solid and just needed a little wax on, wax off, and slapped into shape instead of having to go back over tens of thousands of words written the way I didn't like. Basically, I found my voice before finishing the book, which is anathema to the "just finish!" crowd.

Mind, lots of people liked my writing before I did, but as far as I was concerned, I was the only audience that mattered. It's satisfying your worst critic, you, that might just make you a better writer. And, I figured that at least those people sharing my taste would enjoy the book, and so far it's been working out.
 

Penpilot

Staff
Article Team
I'm a natural pantser, but I learned to outline and organize. It was the only way I could write anything longer than a short story without getting lost while trying to chase down each and every new shiny idea.

To make progress, one of the things I did was I stopped worrying about letting ideas sit. If they're really that good, I'll come back around to them. The cream always rises. And if a few ideas get left behind, so be it. It's not like I'm never going to come up with another idea again. There have been times I've come up with an idea, and as I sit down to scribble it into my idea's file, I realize, it's already in the file. I'd thought of it before.

To me, ideas are useless if I don't ever take any of them to completion. So, I just keep writing and keep finishing what I start. As long as I'm making progress, I don't sweat anything else, because I know all I have to do is write 250 words a day and in 365 days, I'll have a 90k+ manuscript. Most of the time I write more. Sometimes I don't, but it all averages out. The only thing that matters is consistently making progress and consistently learning how to do just a little bit better as I'm doing so.

FYI, this post is almost 200+ words in itself.
 
So, to anyone else who also has the impulse to write every little idea into a full-fledged story: how do you work around it?
I write the idea as first comes to me in an 3x4 inches index card.
And write down hour, minutes and the date.
When is more than one card I also start to number them.
Generally, writing one card is not enough.
And I keep writing cards, one after another. Until I feel the whole idea is summarised.
It takes sometimes minimum of under 10 cards.
It had happened before an idea takes a whole night writing cards, say, 113 cards.
At times the idea is just a feeling to write on from the first card, and I've no idea when it will stop -- it happened once I took one week writing 318 cards.
I only stop writing an idea when I strongly feel, and think, that, it's enough; that is, I may pick that idea later on and develop it into "a full-fledged story" whenever I wish, meaning, since I have more challenging and important projects I'm working on, these ideas may never see the light of the day: but I wrote them down, they're out of my mind.
Otherwise I would feel guilty and always regret I haven't kept the idea.

I had as well one idea playing in my mind for about 26 years: I worked around it whenever I felt like to write.
Sometimes I was on it for a few days, other times for a few weeks.
I always stopped working on this idea because I didn't know what to do.
It is fair to say, that, I did not know how to structure the idea or to write a story; at those times I got very disappointed and gave up writing, I was just using whatever I felt would allow me to proceed with the making of a story (I had then a day-job and living with my parents). ...Then, a couples months later I was energized again and wrote more whatever I thought would be a structure for the story.
At those times I had just a general idea of what I wanted to do, like, disconnected ideas such as character names, their roles or jobs, 3th or 2nd person or 1st person point of view, and related them to books, writers or real people, or different arts, e.g. writing and painting and sculpture .
And I used brainstorming, lists, fake synopses, dreams and research.
At that time I wrote in notebooks, A4 and then A5.
In 2008 I moved to Hamburg (Germany) and a few months later I brought home dozens of writing reference books (I was living then in a suburb around Hamburg): from those books I kept bringing home again and again two books.
Finally I bought them -- Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass and The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler.
These books got me finally in track.
And I learnt how to structure my 26 years old idea.
Since then I haven't stopped working on that old idea.
It is the idea (Work-In-Progress) I've been sharing here in the Forums :giggle:.
 
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LunarRat

Acolyte
Personally, as someone who struggles so much trying to outline a plot, any idea I get (that can fit into my current work) will get yeeted quickly into both my phone's note app and then written in my lil idea book and I'll either incorporate it into my plot or decide whether it's better than what I've already got planned and yeet the original, or keep the idea for the next work. But alas, I've also had some of the same works' plot lines going for several years because I can't get through it, so perhaps not my best piece of advice 😂.
 
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