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Where am I going?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Chaingun Samurai, Oct 17, 2019.

  1. Chaingun Samurai

    Chaingun Samurai Dreamer

    When I write, I just sit down and let the story flow out of me, and I'm often surprised at where it takes me, because I have zero plan.
    That's my problem. Not knowing where the end is and where to take it.
    How do you set up your stories in a way that you know what the end goal or destination is? Because I have no clue.
    Night Gardener likes this.
  2. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

    Hi Chaingun SamuraiChaingun Samurai! Welcome to the Forum!
    If you're asking for preferences and techniques, you've come to the right place.

    As you've asked, I identify myself (mostly) as a waypoint writer. Which also means you could say I'm a "waypoint ender". So, when I am writing my outlines and drafts, I will literally write multiple endings. Sometimes they really work, sometimes as I continue the story I come up with something even better to consider as an option. As of now, I have about 5 options that are all acceptable and compatible with my current outlines and drafts. I may dream up another 5, and scatch 8 of them. My point is, I don't try to shoehorn the entirety of the work into an ending that no longer fits or feels correct.

    As a waypointer, I try to plan out the really important scenes and major plot occurances, and then let myself go spontaneously and unscripted from point to point. I write on loose leaf paper and work in binders, so I can readily move entire sections around as a form of editing or plot restructuring. I don't throw away anything if it doesn't work as well as intended, it just gets stapled and put in the binder pocket. Ok, honestly at this point, the "pocket" is now a seperate binder. These ideas may never see the light of day again, they might get reworked.

    I guess (totally aging myself ) that in my mind, it's almost like writing a 'choose your own adventure' story structure. Remember those? I have a few ideas how to 'end' a story before I begin, but they're not set in stone. That way, I get all the benefits of spontaneous creativity, but it all has someplace it will need to land ( thereabouts ) when the freefall is over. If some of the randomness sticks to the target area, that works for me. I will warn you that my personal style hinges on absolutely ruthless editing to help streamline some of the creative chaos into something cohesive.

    In the earliest forms of my brainstorming, I wrote out beginnings, middles, key events and endings on index cards and spent a while shuffling them around until I got something that I thought had some potential. Then, on the back of the card, wrote the 1-whatever sequences of the potential combination draft. To simplify the idea:

    1. Character wakes up.
    2. Character takes bath
    3. Character eats breakfast.
    4. Character goes to combat training
    5. Character eats another meal with friend.
    6. Character goes to tournament.
    7. Character wins tournament.

    In my index card drafting system, the only cards that (logically) shouldn't move is 1, 6, and 7. That means cards 2 through 5 could, theoretically, move just about anywhere and not change the fundamentals of the plot, with the possible exception of eating breakfast directly before eating another meal. So, for each new draft sequence, I just add the corresponding sequential events I'm desiring in the narrative.

    So, if I change the draft, the back of the cards might look something like this: 1-1, 2-3, 3-4, 4-2, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7. With the numbered shorthand, the new draft is: character wakes up, eats breakfast, goes to combat training, takes a bath, eats a meal with a friend, goes to the tournament and wins the tournament.
    Now, if you can imagine entire chapters developed on cards, acts of the books, or main events/ character development that leads up to the ending, you can keep a lot of the ideas you like and keep changing it around as many times as you want.

    I find it very useful in that it's both rudimentary (simple, can't get bogged down in tiny details) but infinitely adaptable. Maybe, try this index card idea to draft out ideas for the ending of your book? Each card really only needs notes, maybe a few sentences, if that. The key is to sequentially re-number all the cards each time you make any changes. ( And you can add in new cards if you want, too. I usually just add it in with a letter or * next to the number if it is going to be really out of whack, like 1, 4, 5, 227*, 9, 6, 3, etc. just so I know it's not a type-o on my part, but an idea that popped into my head way after the fact. And, I use an X to signify a skip if for some reason I want the card to be totally omitted in a resequenced version. )

    It's weird because after a while of shuffling things around, sometimes the solution just appears. It's a great visualization tool. Eventually, you'll settle into something draft-worthy and get to the expansion of these note card ideas.

    Others on the forum, MalikMalik I believe, actually writes the ending first and then retro-engineers the entire narrative backwards to the beginning. So, he writes not knowing exactly how the book will begin. Which is a rather fascinating prospect.
    blondie.k and Malik like this.
  3. Chaingun Samurai

    Chaingun Samurai Dreamer

    That's part of my problem. I don't have an outline and I don't have drafts.
    Most of the time, my rough draft is my final draft. (with the possibility of smoothing out choppy sentencing.)
    Most of my writing is stream of consciousness, but the characters are the ones that are writing, I'm just along for the ride, most of the time.
  4. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

    Maybe set a strict time limit on your stream of conciousness sessions, and rework or draft from there? Alternate between writing and analyzing sessions?

    Your obviously recognizing that you are encountering a "problem". If your characters are the ones writing the story, What is "their" story so far? Go back over what is already written, and try dissecting it. If you analyze what has already emerged, you might recognize a pattern, a theme, a plot structure or some ideas you can conciously (and methodically ) develop through your next sessions. If you end up conciously rejecting an idea, it's a great exercise to ask "why did this get rejected?"

    Also, I do not attempt to write the first draft as a near-final draft... haven't done that since nightly homework assignments from the way-before times. In the long, long ago. It's far too restrictive and tedious for me. Actually, it's anxiety-inducing to think about it. I managed, it wasn't totally devoid of joy but it was not a satisfactory experience worth repeating. Hard pass.

    Don't get me wrong, I enjoy stream of conciousness writing sessions, I utilize them frequently in my way-writing... But, at some point random thoughts need to coalesce into something reasonably coherent to another reader, if that's your goal. And, as you are wondering how to "end" a book, it sounds like you're looking for some kind of recognizeable story structure: beginning, middle, conclusion.

    I say, if you like stream of conciousness writing, keep utilizing it. Clearly, your characters are taking you for a journey, so don't worry about a clear destination just yet. But be prepared to recognize that you might get really lost and need to send up emergency flares. Or, you can go the adventure expedition route, and start bringing tools and maps to help make more sense of things ...eventually. Or, at least, be able to trek back through everything you've written to then navigate a clear narrative if one isn't already apparent.

    As a RL gardener, I can offer you this adage: ' A garden is never ever really "finished", but you can put an end to it.' I feel that is much like stream of conciousness writing. There will come a point where you will find yourself just wanting to put a stop to it. But, then, What is it that you've actually created? You might be happy with the results of the "I'm done writing" point you reach. You might not be happy with it at all. But, it will be your choice to develop or restructure what you've written as you so will. Either the technique you're currently using will be satisfactory and yeild desired results, or it won't. You might need to try other methods or exercises to get out of your comfort zone to reach your goals and initiatives.
  5. Chaingun Samurai

    Chaingun Samurai Dreamer

    Okay, now that I'm out of work, I can respond in a more lengthy manner...
    Right now, I guess I'm in the framework of character development, although I'm not entirely sure whether or not I'm taking too much time on that, as a by-product of having no real idea where the long range goal is for these characters. I'm enjoying writing them and developing them, which is nice; but I don't want to bore the audience.
    I don't really attempt to write the first draft as the final draft, it kinda just happens that way. I work long hours at night, and I'll slowly develop a scene and go over it in my head, hammering out the fine details as I go, and then, when I get home, I type it out all in a rush and fine tune anything that seems a little iffy and smooth out the corners of the scene. Then, when I go over it by reading it out loud, again, anything that seems choppy or fragmented gets a quick rewrite, after that, I'm pretty much done with it.
    But you're right in that I need to analyze what I want for the long term, so that I have some kind of resolution for the characters. My brain doesn't seem to work that way, though.
    I will be posting two of excerpts of my writing in the Story Showcase momentarily, if you're interested.
    Night Gardener likes this.
  6. blondie.k

    blondie.k Minstrel

    A lot of times I don't start off with a plan either. So, I start off doing a "Netflix" Style of story planning. Basically it goes like this...
    1) Come up with a story prompt. This can be ignited from a character, a tumbler post, a book you read, a crazy idea...
    2) Start to build your story. You can start with the beginning or the end; it doesn't really matter as long as you start.
    3) Every night before you fall asleep (or whenever your set time is), start an "episode". NOTE: You can go back over your episodes as much as you like!
    4) Continue adding episodes that build into a "season". (I use subplots as seasons.)
    5) If your story is keeping you engaged and has about two or three "seasons", then you know it's time to start writing.

    Essentially, the story is writing itself for me. The ending is something that came to me rather than me forcing one of my ideas into it to try and make it fit. I know how the story ends because of a random, and I mean totally random revelation.
    Night Gardener likes this.
  7. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    Waypoint writer. I know the end (in general) and major set pieces (in general) but how the hell the characters get there and the details are often a mystery until the words hit the page.
    Night Gardener likes this.
  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    You say you just sit down and write, and that your rough draft is often your final draft. Then you say you have a problem. I'm not seeing the problem. If you write complete stories and you're satisfied with what you write, where's the problem? Why do you think you should work differently?
    Heliotrope likes this.
  9. Chaingun Samurai

    Chaingun Samurai Dreamer

    Mostly, the problem is that even though I can see where I'm going, I still can't see where I'm headed, even though I seem to be slowly hammering out details that I have to backtrack and edit in... something that I can do because I've thrown in some details that I thought were random at the time, but can be linked into the story cohesively.
    What I've written is good for casual reading, but as something that could be sent to an agent? I need to link everything in a way that makes it seem more like related events, instead of random happens.

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