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When do you give up?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Firekeeper, Dec 22, 2013.

  1. Firekeeper

    Firekeeper Troubadour

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    Is it enough just to know how a story begins and ends? Or should there be a point where you cast it aside because you cannot fill in the middle?

    For example I have a story I've been working on for two years, I know exactly how it begins, and I know exactly how it ends. I've built the world for it, fleshed out the characters so that they are not one dimensional archetypes, yet I cannot fill in the middle of the plot. If the beginning is point A, and the end is point C, well I have had about four different variations of point B and had to cast them all aside because they just felt like useless padding.

    So I am wondering, should one cast aside a story even though they know how it begins and ends, and I don't mean just vague beginning and end, I have about 13,000 words of this thing written, all of which is pretty solid. It's just the middle is missing. If I didn't have to go through "Point B" I could almost submit this thing for publishing now.

    I'm just wondering, have any of you ever had to cast aside a story because you couldn't think of enough plot points to make it work?
     
  2. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    I wish I knew why I can't finish any of my longer projects. Part of it may be a short attention span that causes me to lose steam after an initial burst of obsessive enthusiasm and inspirations. Sometimes, whenever I plot out a story, there turn out to be these huge holes that send the whole thing crashing down and forcing me to start over.
     
    Twook00 likes this.
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Man, I give up just about every day. But I know what you're asking.

    Just as the author is not the best judge of when a story is ready for publication, so likewise he's a poor judge of when it should be abandoned. I don't think there's any sort of rational, objective measure. You just set it aside and somehow never get back to it. I've never really abandoned anything. New stories shoulder in, pushing the others back, until they're so far back I'll never get to them.

    To the question, though: try reading the furthest two scenes. Then, without worrying at all about The End, just throw in a twist, interpose a roadblock, introduce a new character, have existing characters become entangled, somebody gets attacked by a bear, or you hear a scream from the next room.

    Anything. It doesn't have to make sense. It doesn't have to be a keeper. It's just running your characters around the block. Ideally, you set something before them that challenges a skill or a belief, or brings new knowledge.

    It's like a second or third date here. You're finding out if you're really interested or if you were only attracted by the initial glitz. At worst, the thing gets pushed back and you go on to other projects.
     
    Jabrosky likes this.
  4. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I tend to never completely write off a project. I'll always keep it in the back of my mind even if I haven't worked on it in several years. Mostly I do this so I can pull things from the "wreckage" and use them for other projects. I go back and forth between the "finish what you start" and "don't waste time on something you don't love." I guess for me, it really depends on the project. If I feel like it has potential and it's really what I want to write, then I'll finish it regardless if it doesn't turn out how I want it. However, if I'm writing something and completely hate what's coming out, I don't see any point in continuing with it. That said, I err towards finishing something if you start it just so you can get in the habit of finishing things.

    For me, I did freelance writing a bit. I wasn't in love with the work I was doing, but I had to do it to get paid. This taught me a lesson in finishing things on a deadline and pushing through even if I didn't love it. The phrase "treat writing like work" is true in that regard. Even if it's work you love, it's still work.

    My suggestion would be to write shorter novels. I think the tendency is for fantasy writers to write larger novels because that is the standard of the industry in some ways. However, novellas are apparently becoming more popular (at least one article told me so!) It might be worth trying a shorter novella, maybe 40-50,000 words. That way you don't feel obligated to fill in the middle as much.

    After writing two doorstops (in first draft form anyway) for my third novel I plan on writing something in the 70-80K range. Not sure how it'll turn out, but I want to give something a bit more standard for novels (not standard for fantasy novels) a try.
     
    Firekeeper likes this.
  5. AnneL

    AnneL Closed Account

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    When I try time after time to fill something in and it doesn't work, it generally means either that I have too much already and that's muddling things, or that I have left something crucial out in the early framework. The hole I'm trying to fill isn't usually the hole that needs to be filled. Doing a reverse outline or a schematic of the events, the characters, and the themes sometimes clarifies things.

    But some stuff does just wither on the vine.
     
  6. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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  7. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I used to have lots of trouble with middles, but things got a bit better when I started to learn about story structure. Story structure helps you focus your thinking, letting you know what types of key plot points you should trying to think of. One book that really helped me was a screen writing book called Save the Cat.

    Check out my post in this thread that's going on right now about the three act structure. http://mythicscribes.com/forums/writing-questions/10821-three-act-structure.html#post151122
     
    Ruby likes this.
  8. The Dark One

    The Dark One Maester

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    I never give up but I lay projects aside all the time. A project (for me) will always be finished when the time is ripe. All three of my published books were laid aside for long periods while I worked on other projects before I suddenly got a new lease of life and returned to them.
     
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Often surrender, never give up!
     
  10. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Archmage

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    I only give up when I find myself thinking the project is a waste of time and energy. If it can no longer entertain me then I suspect it will not entertain others either.
     
  11. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

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    I have never given up, but many times I put things away. Usually after writing myself into a pit I can't write out of.
    So I put it away and work on something else.
    You may need a rewrite, new characters to get you passed the obstacle. But better to let it lie for a while.
     
  12. Ruby

    Ruby Auror

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    Hi Firekeeper, you shouldn't give up. You could do what I'm doing which is to write the prequel. I know that sounds facetious, but I'm being serious. I was writing a YA fantasy and found I had about 80 characters and loads of plots but if someone asked me what it was about it was too complicated for one book. Then I did NaNoWriMo for which you have to start a new book, so I just started writing the back story of one of the characters and it's sorting out the other book. I can only describe it as being like an enormous jigsaw puzzle where the characters know where all the pieces go. If you read through what you've written, you should find that the characters are giving you clues about the plot!:confused:
     
  13. Xitra_Blud

    Xitra_Blud Sage

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    I have projects I've been working on for years myself. In my opinion, you shouldn't give up, but I don't see anything wrong with setting it aside for some time and coming back to it later (even if it doesn't take a long time). For me, I usually "give up" when I reach a point in my story that I've been anticipating. When I get to far in the story or reach the climate. I like to blame it on intimidation. It's like I'm afraid to keep going out of fear that I will ruin it or won't write it correctly. I am the worst when it comes to procrastination, always saying I'm going to get to something but never do. I'm going to try and change that about me though. Hell, I might make that my New Years resolution.
     
  14. Firekeeper

    Firekeeper Troubadour

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    I know, that's an issue for me. It's so hard to explain, but it's like I'm afraid of the story. I have this fear that I don't have the skill to tell it properly, and you really only get one shot. It's not like an author can publish a story and then rewrite it 20 years later and publish it again. I do feel a certain pressure to get it right
     
    Ireth likes this.
  15. The Dark One

    The Dark One Maester

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    Great point here, leading to a slightly different point. Once the characters become strong enough, they can rip the story out of your hands and take it down paths you never expected.
     
    Ireth likes this.

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