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  • Writing Question

    As a beginning writer, I often find myself “running out of steam� on a story that I start working on. What are some practices that other writers use to keep up the “steam�? Just curious.

  • #2
    I understand that Jack Kerouac and fellow beat writers used to swallow the benzedrine out of nasal inhalers- but that's probably not a good idea,
    \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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    • #3
      Very naughty of you, Mikey_C. I think the poster was asking a serious question. :lol:

      LSN

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      • #4
        The direct effect of shifting incident lux of sunlight upon the pineal gland, preferably whilst walking, running, cycling or travelling on water, and strong coffee,does it for me...

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        • #5
          I take a seven percent solution of coca cola, preferably Vanilla.

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          • #6
            I don't deserve to have an opinion on this subject, not being qualified as such, but that won't stop me from weighing in. Perhaps others, more knowledgeable on the subject, will contribute to the discussion, and you'll get more value.

            It's important from the beginning to *think* you know where the story will conclude. It's also helpful to have a step-by-step synopsis (I call it a scenario) of how the story will develop. The scenario/synopsis is written with thought to the choreography and patterning of the scenes. The scenes should follow each other with a certain logic that'll contribute to the desired final effect, as well as providing changes in pacing and tone to keep the reader interested.

            Once I have the scenario/synopsis in hand, I start at the beginning and just expand it one scene at a time. Invariably, for a work of any length, I get funny alternative possibilities that come to mind. I test these for feasibility, and if they seem good, I alter my scenario to fit my new notions. My usual "rate of inflation" of synopsis-to-complete chapter is that a one page synopsis turns into about 20 pages of fiction (or about 5000 words).

            Note that during the writing, one can get stalled at times. This isn't because one is empty of ideas. It's because the scene isn't ripe. It's important to learn to recognize this state. Taking the scene and turning it over in the mind while waiting will generally take care of this issue.

            I have written short things where I didn't do the above. That's because the whole process happened in my head. For anything longer than about 5 to 10 pages, I need a plan of attack, which includes a structure.

            I could take apart the silly story I wrote called "The Martian Sojourner" and describe the process as it applied here. Those who read the version I posted in this forum might be surprised by the additional considerations and changes that went into the final version I posted. The first draft was different.

            My 0.0125 Euros on the subject.

            LSN

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            • #7
              Do an outline of your story first. It's a lot easier to keep up "steam" if you already know where (generally speaking) you're headed. You can always change things on the fly but a little structure will help at the onset and avoid you getting stuck in a place you don't want to be--which might be a needless waste of writing.

              Good luck with it!!

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              • #8
                These are some great suggestions, and I will try some of them out, except of course the nose spray<G>. A plan of attack is important, and structure is important as well, but when my ADD kicks in I find myself writing or planning several ideas at one time.
                New ideas are not what kills my "steam", it is the effort needed to distill these ideas into print I think that slows everything down for me.
                Quick question:
                How many have started a writing story but never finished it?

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                • #9
                  Me! On countless occasions. I have tried to write several books and got either stuck or bored a few chapters in!

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                  • #10
                    sure, me too. However,if you always try to have a very detailed outline, like LSN suggested, you will generaly give up very early or not at all, as the thorough analysis of your idea and a detailed plan of the story's structure allow you to judge pretty early on what you're able to do with your idea. It also avoid other ideas to get in the way - anything that can't find its place in an outline does not belong in your story.

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                    • #11
                      I find that taking a pause in what your writing, then going off and writing a few short stories - in my case, using the characters and locations of my main story - really helps. I usually write a few pages of prequel/sequel- type stories, which I might use later or that might never see the light of day again :) . It also helps flesh out your characters, and sometimes you discover things about them that you might not have found when writing the main 'bit'. Does that make sense. No? Ha ha, I'm brain dead today! :D

                      I'm going through the same thing myself at the moment. I have been working on my project for at least ten years, and have started over so many times it's ridiculous. But I don't think that my time has been wasted, it's all good practise, and there are bit and pieces through the years that I will and have used on my current draft.

                      Some days I really have to force myself. And although I might write eight pages of mediocre stuff, there's always two or three lines that might work. Keep at it, and push yourself. It's fooking difficult but it can break the mould, rarely, but sometimes.

                      I also finding that drawing my characters is always a nice break when staring at a blinking cursor on a computer screen is driving me insane. Also, hand writing stuff is good as well. Some of my better ideas have been the result of me, a notebook, and an HB pencil while sitting up in bed at stupid o'clock. Makes you sleep like a nice wooden log as well! :D

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                      • #12
                        Well, structure is important as everyone agrees, although of course the structure itself will vary according to the sort of "writing" that you are doing (that word covers many sins!).

                        One of my lecturers used to claim that there was no such things as "writer's block", it was just laziness. I'm sure if I agree with that, but even he admitted that there are times when staring at a blank page, straining your constipated brain for an idea, isn't always the best approach. Speaking of constipation, I often find that when I'm stuck for an idea, going for a toilet break will help. I think it's a relaxation thing! I read somewhere that most people have their best ideas when they're lying down, so there's a good excuse if you ever needed one. Taking a bit of a walk can be a good way of refreshing your mental circuits too.

                        I've always had a tendency to imagine videos to songs that I'm listening to, and that can also be a good source of visual (or emotional) inspiration, as I drift away in to the songs... this "technique" might also come in handy when you sell the movie rights, and need to get the soundtrack together.

                        One of my lecturer's suggestion was to "write through it", if you're stuck ona partciular line of dialogue or a speicific action sequence. Just tap in some "filler" and maybe once you see what's coming next more clearly, you can nip back and replace the filler with something more suitable.

                        Just my two pesos.
                        "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

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                        • #13
                          I too, like dreamy, try to write a lot in notebooks. I have started to clip cool pics of people, places, and maps and tape them into my notebooks. When writing I often crank my Ipod up and try to have a sound track to my story. I also have stopped several times sometimes for months sometimes, and then pick up my notes and writings again. I just do not want to put the story down again; I would like to keep going. In my latest incarnation of writing, I have been writing for several months. The term "writing" is used loosely because that also includes my note taking and brainstorming. I have outlined the story several times, but then a new plot twist pops into my scattered mind and it changes the rest of the story, which in turn changes the outline.
                          I have heard that most every one has some great idea for the next big epic, but few actually do anything with it. I guess the difference between dreamers and doers is that dreamers just dream of what they could do, while doers actually do them.
                          Also I think over thinking what I am doing my be causing problems. In creating a fantasy world that is not earth, would my characters use the same slang words we use here? Would a dog still be called a dog, and would social customs like the idea of being married apply there? All of those unanswered questions create a slowing effect on the story, which detracts from the story line.

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                          • #14
                            I think you've answered your own question there, Starrick. I think the very process of making up languages, customs, etc, can restrict rather than expand your own world. The story is the thing, as they say. It's fun creating a world from scratch, but too much of it and it's offputting to read, imo. Endless pages of maps and location names like 'The Tower of Ishrallathra'an'doan...' puts me off certain writers no end.

                            The idea of using music to viualise a scene is a good one as well. I have made several playlists on my iPod based on my stories. Does that make me sad? :lol: I often have a nice piece of music blaring from my stereo while I'm writing, to set the mood.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by MissDreamy
                              It's fun creating a world from scratch, but too much of it and it's offputting to read, imo. Endless pages of maps and location names like 'The Tower of Ishrallathra'an'doan...' puts me off certain writers no end.
                              Me, too. I have enough trouble keeping track of geography, history, and culture in this world, using a lexicon with which I am familiar.

                              Originally posted by MissDreamy
                              The idea of using music to viualise a scene is a good one as well.
                              If we agree that MM is a good writing role model (I'm guessing we all would)...
                              Mike has spoken a great deal about using music to structure not scenes, but entire works. For instance, Mother London uses musical structures extensively. For a double-dose of Mike, imagine The Deep Fix's New World's Fair as the soundtrack for several sections of King of the City. Mike says that connection isn't accidental.

                              Originally posted by MissDreamy
                              I have made several playlists on my iPod based on my stories. Does that make me sad?
                              No, it makes you self-indulgent :D Only kidding of course. I think it's cool that you've found ways to connect your own creativity to other things.

                              Just so I add something to the thread...

                              I find that when I write for my job requirements I can simply make myself write--my own version of what passes as discipline. I think it is a bit of pragmatism. When I write for my own entertainment, though, I'm oddly overly critical and perfectionist, so I have to put myself in the mood for some self-abuse when I sit down to write. Well, the process isn't quite as painful as I make it sound (I promise). I have found the place in my mind that lets me get over myself and write, though.

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