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Old 05-31-2011, 11:27 AM   #1
fleaaaaaa
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Trying to write book or a short story......

I have recently joined a writing group and in that group I have been fairly sucessful at writing things off the cuff. However when I sit down to write an extended piece I really struggle. I started one before I started the writing group, I became uninterested and didn't know where exactly I was taking it. I started a new story, I thought I would try a short story, but it soon fell apart as I saw plot holes a mile off in my own work and the whole world disintigrated under it's own weight. I never know exactly where to take the stories and I guess some people would say "well write a plan" but I just have an idea for something and never know exactly where it's headed. Do you write plans?

Help! I am willing to post the stories if you like, what I have of them anyway but I don't think either will be kept.
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Old 05-31-2011, 12:14 PM   #2
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Try to outline the stories first, it can help keep things cohesive.
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Old 05-31-2011, 01:12 PM   #3
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Also there are other differences between a short story and a novel as well. One is that the plot for a short story is often too thin for a novel. You have to have sub-plots that interact with the main plot. For example if you are writing a murder mystery you might have a sub-plot that deals with past issues between the characters, or maybe two of them are drawn together by romance, which could be a problem if they also suspect each other of being the murderer.
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Old 05-31-2011, 01:52 PM   #4
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I agree with mcrow24--outline, outline, outline. For me writing is always a process of watching the original idea(s) transform into something new--usually something I hadn't even anticipated. I most write nonfiction, but I always sketch an outline before I start and then revise that outline over and over again. The outline gives me a roadmap so that I know what my destination is (although that may change) and can visualize some of the possible roads that will take me there.

I also sometimes brainstorm an idea and that helps me find potential holes in a project.

You could also try thinking about those "holes" in a new way. Perhaps the holes are opportunities for creativity, for different directions the story could take.

Donald Barthelme talked about his writing process as beginning in "not knowing" and of using the writing to help him discover things--he claimed that not knowing where a story was going was essential for his fiction writing.
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Old 05-31-2011, 01:56 PM   #5
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Okay

Never written an outline before lol, I will try but I don't really know where to start.

Would you like to see what I have started? Will not take up much of your time to read as there is not much.
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Old 05-31-2011, 01:58 PM   #6
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he claimed that not knowing where a story was going was essential for his fiction writing
Yes; and for this kind of writer trying to outline may not help....
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Old 05-31-2011, 04:05 PM   #7
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I didn't have a plot when I started writing, in fact I still don't. I just knew what sort of people I wanted to write about and a few of the things that I wanted to happen to them.

So I wrote lots of random scenes with different characters and bits of dialogue. I figured I could always come up with an idea for a story later, then put them into the right order. It was supposed to be one long story, but it ended up being a series of short stories that sort of happen in a more or less chronological order.

I've treated it like a learning exercise, with all my mistakes on view in public for people to laugh at when I'm poor and famous. But while I was writing it I had some other ideas for what to do with a few of the characters, and I've started thinking about plots for those.
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Old 06-03-2011, 03:46 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr ploppy View Post
I didn't have a plot when I started writing, in fact I still don't. I just knew what sort of people I wanted to write about and a few of the things that I wanted to happen to them.
Lots of A-list writers have said something similar - "I just set the characters up and wait to see what they do..." etc.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of outlining - it's easy to end up with a stiff and then, and then, and then story with the author's hand heavy on everything. You have to be ready to re-work the outline over and over again to keep it organic. I often write the beginning and the end first, then feel my way from one to the other.

And of course when you get to the end you have to cut and cut and cut and move things around and try again - that applies whatever approach you take.

If you're good at spontaneous short pieces, why not stick to those for a bit? The best ones are allusive and oblique - there doesn't have to be a plot as such at all.
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Old 06-03-2011, 04:29 PM   #9
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You should only outline of it works for you.

It works for some writers, not for others.

I always outline (very vaguely) for novels. I rarely do it for short stories (it kills the idea).

Try it. If you find it useful, cool. If you don't, no sweat.

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Old 06-03-2011, 04:36 PM   #10
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As others have said, don't outline if it isn't your thing, but realize there is more than just the traditional nested outline format to play with. You could also try mind-mapping for something that's a little more flexible but still helps you get ideas on paper before actually working on the expression of those ideas.

With some quick googling, here are some other methods.
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Old 06-03-2011, 04:49 PM   #11
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Sometimes I find it helpful to do bullet points. Just three or four things. They could be scenes, or themes or character names, anything really.
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Old 06-03-2011, 07:59 PM   #12
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If outlining is not for you then try this, come up with a one sentence story. Like...

The fox chased the happy dog that ate the pig.

Next ask questions. "Why was the fox chasing the dog?" or "Whose pig got eaten?"
Once you hve a good list of questions , work out answers to those. That should give you a skeleton of a story that you just have to flesh out.

Just a suggestion, might not work for you, or it might.
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Old 06-04-2011, 09:45 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by MartinC View Post

If you're good at spontaneous short pieces, why not stick to those for a bit? The best ones are allusive and oblique - there doesn't have to be a plot as such at all.
Yay, that will save me having to think of one. I suppose I could be clever and say the lack of a plot is to convey the boredom and futility of life on the dole under Thatcher. But the truth is, plots in similar books always strike me as somewhat contrived.

It would be reasonably easy to shoe-horn in an evil kung fu master or a nazi plot to spoil a rock against racism concert (both of which have been used in books I've read recently), but I don't think that would really add anything worthwhile.

Plus if I stick to random events I can carry on writing them until I get bored with the idea.
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Old 06-07-2011, 09:10 PM   #14
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I never know exactly where to take the stories and I guess some people would say "well write a plan" but I just have an idea for something and never know exactly where it's headed.
I my experience it takes more than a great idea. I have way more ideas than finished stories. You need to know the set up and how you want to end the story and how you are going to get there and most importantly who is going to get you there. All that takes a lot of thinking time. Months, maybe years. And a lot of commitment to the story. You have to really feel this is something worth investing huge amounts of time to draft and redraft and redraft again. And you need confidence in your muse to come through with the right idea at the right time, even when you mind feels like it is a complete blank. Mostly though it has to be fun. You need characters you like in situations that interest you the writer. Anyway, that's what works for me ... when it works at all.
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Old 06-07-2011, 10:16 PM   #15
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I my experience it takes more than a great idea. I have way more ideas than finished stories. You need to know the set up and how you want to end the story and how you are going to get there and most importantly who is going to get you there. All that takes a lot of thinking time. Months, maybe years. And a lot of commitment to the story. You have to really feel this is something worth investing huge amounts of time to draft and redraft and redraft again. And you need confidence in your muse to come through with the right idea at the right time, even when you mind feels like it is a complete blank. Mostly though it has to be fun. You need characters you like in situations that interest you the writer. Anyway, that's what works for me ... when it works at all.

That is one style for sure,and I will not knock it. I know greats who I have read give that kind of advice, such as Orson Scott Card. But the flip side of the coin is authors like Stephen King who say, the exact opposite. Stephen King absolutely has no idea where his stories are going when he starts, nor any idea who is them. Read his book, A Memoir of the Craft where he encourages new authors to abandon the concept of planing.

Different people work in different ways, the key I think is to try different things till you find what works for you.
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