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Author Topic: Hobbling yourself  (Read 2110 times)

Offline Nora

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Hobbling yourself
« on: September 08, 2017, 08:53:11 PM »
I have had this story on the back burner for months now, the one I derived from my short monthly story on corpses. I'm fond of the character and her power. I wrote quite a lot around her, but got myself a bit stuck for what now appears as a totally stupid reason :

I wanted to include bits of text I really liked, wrote as I was discovery writing it, yet don't fit at all with any good plot. Or at least not for me, not from where I wanted to start the story.

But even the point I wanted to start the story at didn't have to be that one.

My point is, I spent months running in circles because I'd written these bits I wanted to keep, but were hobbling me.

After several months without touching this story, going back into it, I'm like "why does this have to be done by her? It could be put in some other short story, or she could make this comment somewhere else entirely".

How did I not realise that sooner? Why was I so hung up on this happening? How to get rid of that habit, without going all the way to the plotter's special hell?
Does that happen to any of you guys?

It has happened before to a lesser extent, but in the monthly contest I've had less problems since you can write around that 'one scene' and bend the story to fit it, and I also feel much better about cutting and reshapping the entire story. I often re-write it, changing pov, tense, or starting points.
So what's making it so much harder with longer stories?
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Offline Yora

Re: Hobbling yourself
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2017, 09:07:36 PM »
I gave up on writing a year ago because I never could find a plot that would make good use of my ideas for characters and setting. Because I somehow assumed that a story starts with a villain and something he can fight over with a hero. But that thing they fight over can't be saving the world or saving a princess or anything to that effect because that's overdone. I still never found any halfway decent conflict that works as a starting seed for a story.

Turns out you can also start with a character who wants something and then go looking for reasons why he doesn't have that yet. Antagonists, confrontations, and conflicting short  term goals are things that can evolve from that over time.

That thought had me immediately go backand pick up my writing notes again.
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Re: Hobbling yourself
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2017, 12:50:18 AM »
This is what, for me, is encompassed by the term "kill your darlings". Kill is a bit of a misnomer, because really what you do is take the things you adore and set them aside for use another day, but the key point is trying to get that distance between what you love and what this story needs, so you can see the difference between the two.

It's really, really hard. I got nothin' for you, there. It's just damn hard. And part of the hard is that you won't know that the thing you love and what the story need don't fit together until you try really hard to make them fit together, because what if they can be made to work together and strengthen each other? Wouldn't that be amazing? Aren't we aiming for amazing?

I don't think you've done anything wrong, Nora, and I don't think you should have got there sooner. I think we have to go through the agony of trying and hoping and wanting and failing in order to understand that it wasn't meant to be and be able to move on to try other things.

Offline Peat

Re: Hobbling yourself
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2017, 01:03:14 AM »
Haven't really got a lot here either other than sympathy. Stumbled a lot of times on similar issues. I guess you maybe get quicker at noticing what's going wrong with experience - I'd like to think I am but that could be a lie. I'm increasingly opting for simpler stories to try and make my choices easier while I develop this experience.

The one thing I do have is, alas, the plotter's special hell. Which I'm finding to be a very convivial holiday destination - great weather, all the barbecue you can eat, lots of people in scanty clothing, plenty of interesting stories - but its not for everyone. That said, if you can learn to do it and like it, you're a lot more likely to find out these issues quicker.

I know some people recommend complete fresh starts on redrafts so all your darlings are killed but that seems very baby and bathwater to me. I guess others would say just write it anyway and see if people like it - can't imagine doing that myself.

Offline JMack

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Re: Hobbling yourself
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2017, 12:13:33 PM »
"Hobble" is such a good word. Hobbling comes in soooo many forms.
I haven't been able to force myself back to my July wip.
Having my usual loss of confidence in what I've already done.
That little voice muttering: It's crap crap crap crap crap crap.

Thank god for the monthly contest. Very happy with my yet-to-be-posted September entry.
But it's a bit like eating a candy bar when you really want dinner.
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)

Offline Skip

Re: Hobbling yourself
« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2017, 05:55:53 PM »

>Does that happen to any of you guys?
Sure. Regularly. It also happens that I have passages that stay in the story that still make me wonder if I ought not have cut them. And in every novel there's a dark pit I fall into from time to time. When I crawl back out, not infrequently I have a different opinion about certain passages.

>How did I not realise that sooner?
Hard to say, but for me writing is a little like playing a musical piece. If I'm practicing something, I'll play it over and over and each iteration is pretty similar. If I walk away from it for weeks or months and come back, invariably I find some nuance or different interpretation. I think we get the story, or just a scene, in our head a certain way. So you couldn't realize it sooner because sooner precludes the perspective of distance. It's ok. It's broken as designed.

>How to get rid of that habit, without going all the way to the plotter's special hell?
So, I don't think it's a habit; it's a reality. You don't get rid of it, you just incorporate it into your workflow. Oh, and it's not hell, it's just purgatory. Eventually you get out. :)
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Offline Yora

Re: Hobbling yourself
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2018, 09:38:21 AM »
Last night I made the realization that I had married my ideas for stories to the wrong genre.

There is a lot about Sword & Sorcery that very much appeals to me. Individual works tend to be short and don't require any specific order to read or write. Casts are small, plots are simple, there is little exposition, the focus lies on plot progress. It's all much more about the personal experiences of the protagonists than about historic events. And it deals a lot with monsters and strange magic.

These are all good things that I really like and I don't find in epic fantasy works. However, using Conan, Kane, Elric, and Fafhrd and Gray Mouser as my references for how a story is set up and plays out was a mistake. The former two are really fun to read and the later two have many very compelling ideas. But in the end, their stories are always about the protagonist seeking confrontations and needing validation that their might makes them superior to the common masses. They seek glory to give their lives of violence and greed meaning.
And I have to say I enjoy the genre despite of that, not because of it. These motivations and values are meaningless to me and empty. I can not write with this story structure.

There are much better examples of stories that I can use as references. Princess Mononoke for example has all the good things I listed above but all the main characters are motivated by meaningful values.

I am so looking forward to finishing my last main season as an apprentice. Only two more months until I finally get all the time in the world to actually work on stories again.
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Online Magnus Hedén

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Re: Hobbling yourself
« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2018, 02:00:00 PM »
It's happened to me, but I work in a way that makes it rare. I've tried WIP faithfulness; it's not for me. When my creative mind is churning, I take no responsibility for what comes out. I'm just the guy who tries to place those pieces into a suitable story/setting. So I'm quite used to getting an idea, trying to cram it into whatever story is at the top of my mind, then giving up and moving on to another story/setting.

Everything I've worked on that's turned out good has been through a long and painful process of construction, deconstruction, & reconstruction. I think the willingness to smash up your thing and start over is a great strength. I'm not talking about a blank slate, mind you. I keep the good parts, though I might assemble them in a different way.

And that's what I think creativity is; taking bits and pieces from all over the place and putting them together in new and interesting ways. It's not a jigsaw puzzle; the pieces don't fit together in obvious ways. Even so, sometimes a piece just won't fit anywhere in your current puzzle. Then it's not just fine to put it back in the box. It's the right thing to do.
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Offline NedMarcus

Re: Hobbling yourself
« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2018, 02:06:08 PM »
How did I not realise that sooner? Why was I so hung up on this happening? How to get rid of that habit, without going all the way to the plotter's special hell?
Does that happen to any of you guys?

Yes, it's happened to me. That's why I spent six and a half years writing my first novel: writing, rewriting, rewriting endlessly. For me the only way out of this is to go to what you call plotter's special hell. I've decided to outline my third novel in detail (something I absolutely did not do with my first, and only partially with my second). If it's hell, then it's a hell I'm looking forward to more and more.