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Old 10-07-2011, 11:41 AM   #1
Bob Russell
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Do you ever save your "best" story idea until you can do it justice?

I'm a newbie to novel writing, and am working on plot for a couple of stories that are meaningful to me. But they deserve a better outcome than what I can give them right now while I learn to write.

I don't want to ruin a good story, so should I put the stories on a shelf until I know what I'm doing?

First drafts are said to be "trash" and that the challenge is to just get the story down in some rough form. Writers also seem to always have many good stories in mind, so maybe it's not important to save that great story idea for later.

What's your advice? Anyone else ever have this worry, or am I uniquely demented?
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Old 10-07-2011, 11:53 AM   #2
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Bob, what better way to "learn" to write than on a story you really care about? Your desire to bring out the best in the story should help bring the best out of you.

I say go ahead and write it. It will be good practice regardless, and there's no reason you can't go back and re-edit it later (you should be doing a re-edit pass anyway).
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Old 10-07-2011, 12:26 PM   #3
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I would write whatever I could. If you don't like the result, save it and come back to it in the future.

I see it as:
If you write it down, what's the worst that can happen? You wrote something that you don't like that you're free to edit anytime in the future.
If you don't write it? You'll forget your good story and that's the end of it.
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Old 10-07-2011, 01:15 PM   #4
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Books aren't written, they're re-written. So even if your story idea doesn't come out well in the 1st draft of your manuscript at least you've gotten it down on paper which is the 1st step. Later you can always go back and re-write it so that it runs more smoothly, but in order to do that you have to first get it down on paper in the 1st place.
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Old 10-07-2011, 04:52 PM   #5
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It's hard to keep writing at something, especially when you start to doubt your ability (and you will). If it is something you really want to write you are more likely to keep it going than if you write something just to learn how to do it.

What I first started with was bunches of random scenes, people talking, etc. You can worry about a story later, and a lot of those scenes can be recycled.
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Old 10-07-2011, 05:55 PM   #6
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Thanks for all the great answers. Seems pretty unanimous that I should just write the story I care about, rather than wait until I feel "worthy" of writing it.

The bits about the benefit of desire in writing hit home. After seeing your comments, it does seem pretty self-evident that it would be frustrating to write something I don't care much about, just to learn the process. I trust I can either clean up the story, or that inspiration will hit again later with another "best" story idea.
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Old 10-07-2011, 06:02 PM   #7
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Could I recommend you read the book "Save the cat" by Blake Snyder. Although this is about screenwriting-the advice is good for writing fiction in general. Blake Snyder is internationally known as a teacher and lecturer in this field. The best way to pursue this is to visit his website at www.blakesyder.com
Cheers
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Old 10-07-2011, 06:24 PM   #8
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I completely agree with what has been said. Just write
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Old 10-07-2011, 07:58 PM   #9
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I know what you mean. I've been a pretty prolific writer since I could first hold a pen, but there is still a story, probably a novel, sitting in me, and it has been for several years, that I'm not "ready" to write.

Why? It's hard to explain. I'm just... not. I don't have enough distance from the inspiration of the story. I am still working out the kinks not necessarily in my ability to write (though that process never ends), but in my ability to trust myself and not get bogged down in existential crisis when I write something I care dearly for. It's not the right time.

I've written short prose pieces that are sort of "commercials" to what I want to someday write. And I never write anything that I don't care about.

But I do believe there is such a thing as the right time. Maybe this is naive of me - I am still quite young. Maybe, conversely, it is because I am still young - writers tend to age like wine (at least as far as their work is concerned). Maybe it's just me, and something I don't share in common with a lot of other people - it wouldn't be the first time. Maybe it's the fact that I am a "doing" writer rather than an "outline" writer - I tend not to write until I have the big picture firmly in mind due to this.

I don't know why it is. But I'm not ready to write it.

It's not that I think I'm too poor a writer to do it. I know, at least intellectually, that I'm good enough. But there's more to it than simply being a good enough writer. It seems to me that for something truly important, a manifesto of sorts no matter what genre it's in, it demands of you to be a good enough person, not just a good enough writer.

I'm not a good enough person. So I continue to develop further into adulthood, and wait.
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Old 10-08-2011, 12:15 AM   #10
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Thanks for all the great answers. Seems pretty unanimous that I should just write the story I care about, rather than wait until I feel "worthy" of writing it.

The bits about the benefit of desire in writing hit home. After seeing your comments, it does seem pretty self-evident that it would be frustrating to write something I don't care much about, just to learn the process. I trust I can either clean up the story, or that inspiration will hit again later with another "best" story idea.
I agree there is something to be said about the 'desire' to write a given story too. If you don't really find the story interesting then it will show in your writing as well. I remember in college I took a customer service course and one tip that I remember was that when you talk to someone over the phone have a smile on your face. The reason being that even though they can't see your face something of the smile is transmitted via your voice. The same thing applies to writing I think. If you don't enjoy the story when you're writing it that will show in ways that you might not imagine. So a good mindset is just as much a part of writing as knowing how to properly string words together.
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Old 10-08-2011, 12:38 AM   #11
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I agree there is something to be said about the 'desire' to write a given story too. If you don't really find the story interesting then it will show in your writing as well. I remember in college I took a customer service course and one tip that I remember was that when you talk to someone over the phone have a smile on your face. The reason being that even though they can't see your face something of the smile is transmitted via your voice. The same thing applies to writing I think. If you don't enjoy the story when you're writing it that will show in ways that you might not imagine. So a good mindset is just as much a part of writing as knowing how to properly string words together.
Yep. Robert Frost said
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I’ve often been quoted: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” But another distinction I made is: however sad, no grievance, grief without grievance.
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Old 10-14-2011, 02:24 PM   #12
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Heinlein said (and I paraphrase badly here) never force an idea.

If you aren't ready to tell the story, look for one you are ready to write.

If you are ready, write it down, and then let it hibernate until you finish your next story. Then pick it back up again when you feel your writing skills are better and rewrite it.
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Old 10-14-2011, 08:26 PM   #13
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Heinlein said (and I paraphrase badly here) never force an idea.

If you aren't ready to tell the story, look for one you are ready to write.

If you are ready, write it down, and then let it hibernate until you finish your next story. Then pick it back up again when you feel your writing skills are better and rewrite it.
Hmmm, that's an interesting alternate perspective. Thanks!

I think I'm convinced by the other comments that I should dive in, and can rewrite whenever. Don't know, but Heinlein may be referring to letting the idea come alive, rather than waiting for the skillset to write it.

So I've got two stories. The one that I felt I could not do justice to is on the shelf, Heinlein style. The other one that feels alive to me is getting developed now. I guess I agree with both sentiments, applied in the right place.
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Old 10-14-2011, 09:05 PM   #14
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I think Heinlein, by saying to never force an idea, means do not write something that you are not interested in.

If someone tells you to write a story about a boy teaming up with a robot from the future to save the world but you have no interest to do it, or if you thought it was a cool idea at first, but then lost interest, then don't force it and don't write it.
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Old 10-14-2011, 10:30 PM   #15
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I generally write poetry or operations manuals rather than stories.

For me, I do best getting something down snd coming back to it after time has passed. Then I can see flaws I am blind to early on. Obviously this doesn't work under deadlines.
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