Advice, please

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Advice, please

Postby Kafkahead » Sun Jul 18, 2010 1:44 pm

Dear Fellow Webderlanders

I've just had again the same problem writing a story. I end up getting stuck on the same corner. I don't know what exactly is wrong with this: it's not writer's block, since I know what to write for each sequence of actions, but it's something similar. Every time I reach this segment of the story, my mind simply stops. It stops flowing with prowess, and instead, it ends up drying up and leaving me stranded.
This is a bit annoying, seeing this is the first time I'm writing professionally, as I want to send this story to Analog. Any advice to stop this halting of my prose?

Kafka out

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Re: Advice, please

Postby FrankChurch » Mon Jul 19, 2010 4:04 pm

Wait a few years. You have time. Woodshed a bit. Why are you rushing this? The Muse has to latch on. Let it come naturally, if it doesn't, wait tables.

Frank out.

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Re: Advice, please

Postby Kafkahead » Mon Jul 19, 2010 5:33 pm

My mistake, by the way. Intended to post this on "the moving finger".

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Re: Advice, please

Postby Jan » Mon Jul 19, 2010 6:15 pm

As you know, Harlan puts aside stories he can't complete and finishes them later, often years later.
You may also simply need a new WAY IN. Everything loses momentum after a while, and perhaps that's what you sense. Finding a new way in means changing the angle of attack, deviating from your plans, using the back door instead of the front door. The writing mind wants to DISCOVER. Go into the unexplored, less comfortable areas of the story/situation/characters. In any case, good luck.

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Re: Advice, please

Postby FinderDoug » Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:54 am

Kafka - A lot of the time, a story is like a jigsaw puzzle for me: I see the big picture, I don't always know where all the pieces go or how they fit, and sometimes, the piece needs to show me where it goes.

When I run into the narrative roadblocks (and this is my experience, so your mileage may vary) much of the time it's because I've run afoul of my own rules for the piece - I've committed a misstep I'm not consciously aware of yet in what I've written so far, I've taken a shortcut, I've committed something to draft that locks the piece in a direction it doesn't want to go. When I go back, I consider the story, the characters, how it all hangs together and where I intended it to go - and often, there's an a-ha moment where what went wrong becomes obvious. But until I do, it's like the engine is flooded, and I sit there wondering why I'm not moving.

Other times, a piece isn't ready to be written. I'm working on something right now in which, for want of a better set-up, I had a traumatized character in a psychiatric hospital. Ooh, ahh, puke. I had no plan to leave him there - I would put forth that there's nothing much new to be set, described, or otherwise acted out in a psychiatric hospital. But he was a character that had come mentally unglued, and I wasn't sure what to do with him yet, so I put him in the asylum like a bookmark and his part in the story - a pivotal role that spins the next section of the work on its way - remained unwritten for three years. I knew the purpose he served; I knew his function to the plot. But the place, and its function, and him within his surroundings, was dull and familiar and cliche and sucked all the life out of both the scene and the writing of it. The entire project went into the drawer. And it probably would have stayed that way, except I recently read a magazine piece that, once I read it, touched off a flare, and the character informed me "See, I'm not off at Sunnyvale - I'm here, and this is why I stay here, why I chose this place, this is what my abode looks like, and this is what ultimately happens to me (though you don't care about that because you'll be far away when it happens)" - and it not only informed his role in the piece, but the WHY of this place he chose also pulled together several other strands of the tale. Rebirth! So I'm not only ready to write the scene, I'm energized to write it. Three years later. Did a few other things while I was waiting. Like a good yeasty bread, sometimes these things need time to rise before you bake 'em.

Sometimes, an idea that works great in your head becomes the Gordion Knot on the page. Maybe you solve it with time or experience or further insight. Maybe it never quite works as you wanted. Sometimes, it can't. Every writer has fragments/works in progress/unfinished tales/unpublished stories for a reason.

Occasionally, an idea is simply bad as you've envisioned it. Or you write shit. It happens. You get it out of the way, you file, you forget, and make the next story better. Every time you start a new story is a learning experience.

So if it's giving you fits, set it to the side, think about it, and work on something else while it cooks on its own. Ideas do that. And it's stunning when you have that moment where it falls into place. Have faith in your developing instincts. And keep writing. And reading. There's massive value in understanding how others use the tools.

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Re: Advice, please

Postby diane bartels » Tue Jul 20, 2010 11:42 pm

Hey. Doug thank you. My experience with my fiction writing is similar and I think u just inspired me with somerhing I was a pondering.

Kafka, if you are talking about the Sunset Machine, i think I apprehend your dilemma. The rewrite is great, tighter, more interesting. But i sensed a faltering in your plan or how to carry out your plan for this story. I would try the following: an outline of the story, just like for a term paper, with your estimated length and a terse statement to yourself of what you want to say here or what you want the reader to experience reading the story. That may help you to know if you have an addition or subtraction problem, if you know what I mean. Is there more story there or less? My sense is this story is part of a created world that may be the home of future stories featuring other characters and you maybe careening into other story buds that don't really involve Sunset.

Two more concrete suggestions: if you have an idea of what happens after the part that is giving you trouble, write that. It's what i did with my almost finished novel, and it helped. And try reading the story outloud to yourself; I think it can be tighter still and you may discover where and how by hearing the prose spoken. Comic suggestion: tell your folks what you're doing and why so they don't think we've driven you mad. But you do have a good and interesting story there. It may not be your first published one, but then again who knows. And as Frank said you have time. Thanks for helping me with my writing to, which reading yours has done. Would you like to read a story of mine sometime? Diane

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