Stuck? Writing something, anything, helps.

LangdaleOver the last few weeks at the writing group I attend there has been some discussion on how those of us who are writing novels go about it, meticulous planning vs. just start and see where it takes you and everything in between.  For someone writing historical fiction once they have the idea then detailed research is the obvious next step, now all the easier for the internet.  Stephen King in his book on writing (one of the best things I read when I started writing) said he starts with a what if and then sees where it takes him, which is more my philosophy and I guess writing science fiction you have more licence to work that way.

One interesting idea that has come up is people who once they have the idea focus on the main characters and write detailed descriptions of them, what they look like, their likes and dislikes, where they live, how they live and anything else you can think of that might help define a person.  It’s not that they include all those things in the story, but they use it as a way of intimately getting to know the characters and therefore how they might behave in any given circumstances.  I haven’t done that before but I’m thinking maybe I should?

Getting back to the planning one thing I put in my writers resolutions for this year was to actually plan a novel.  I was reminded of this commitment and my failure so far to accomplish it because of the current struggle I’m having with the third novel in the series starting with Ancestral dreams.  I’ve completed the second and therefore I know where the third books starts.  Also know how I want it to finish.  But I have to admit I’m struggling with getting there.  So much so that I didn’t touch it for several months and allowed myself to get distracted by other projects, hoping perhaps that I’d have that eureka moment.  I didn’t, but I did have some discrete ideas for scenes that would form part of the story.  So I decided to write these understanding that by doing so I was not writing the book in sequential order and that at some point I was going to have to piece it together and make sense if it.

C19 canalsI think it’s working, I’m happy with the ideas and how they are taking shape and as is often the case with writing, one idea leads to another.  Writing one scene has introduced me to a new character that I think will help me thread the story together.  So this emphasises to me that if you are stuck wondering where your story is going or how you are going to progress it, just write something, anything.  There are no route maps in the finished story.  When you come to the revisions, yes you need to make sure it all hangs together and makes sense.  I now wonder if I could start a story at the end and work back chapter by chapter?  Perhaps that’s a step too far?

As always views and ideas are welcome.

Ian Martyn

Author: Ian Martyn

Science Fiction Writer

6 thoughts on “Stuck? Writing something, anything, helps.”

  1. I wrote two whole chapters with no dialogue at all and loads of description, the plot was ok but it was wrong. I was told to add dialogue, people, and slice it up and I can see now the difference. With the best will in the world, too much of that and the reader is distanced from the characters, you kind of pan away (to put it visually), they probably won’t stick with that long or might just fall asleep. The object for the reader is to get to know a character, not just a story. The Stephen King book is great but I laughed at him one time because he said he wrote some great stories when he was unknown and totally failed to get them published (he used this as an illustration of how great stories get overlooked), he re-submitted them when he became famous and lo and behold everyone wanted them. He didn’t consider that they then had `STEPHEN KING’ written on them, they’d probably have published his shopping list by then. Thanks for the help.

    1. Glad you like the blog. I find first time round it’s best not question too much what I’m writing, as I say just write. I know there will be many revisions to come. As for the Stephen King bit, yup, getting that first break.

  2. I completely agree with “just write something, anything.” Even if it’s only a few words. Here’s why: Your mind/brain will have an immediate reaction. It reacts much quicker to something it can see than to an idea, usually a vague one, that’s in her head.Your mind/bran is your best ally in writing, though there are times when it certainly doesn’t feel that way. Our brain does have a handicap: It can’t activate itself. It needs stimuli.

  3. I have a Word file named “Scenes for Later”. I also have an idea of where I want my story to go, how it opens, where it ends and some scenes in between, but now and again I will write myself into a corner or a character will act out of character. So, I will check the “Scenes” file and see if perhaps there is a boost there or maybe a whole new direction. When a scene hits me it goes in the file, and maybe later I will need it. I just wish those scenes didn’t pop up in Shavasana, so messes with my yoga. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment. Yes I too collect odd ideas about the book, of things I may or may not include later. Or maybe they’ll end up in another book altogether. The worst thing is when ideas occur and I have no means of recording them and I end up with the ‘don’t forget’ mantra.

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