Churtward's picture
Churtward from Gainesville, VA is reading Play It As It Lays February 4, 2014 - 2:25am

I've been struggling on trying to finish a story. 

I have ideas and thoughts I want to get out through writing but whenever I seem to start something I just can't finish cause I think it doesn't really work out. 

I wouldn't really call it writers block, cause I can write. Not sure what to really call it. But I just really want to finish SOMETHING. 

How'd you guys get over this? 

big_old_dave's picture
big_old_dave from Watford, about 20 miles outside London, Uk February 4, 2014 - 2:44am

Funny you should say that, I'm having this issue with two stories I'm working on at the moment - I would try and start somthing else and come back to it after two weeks or so. I can only speak for myself but with me I think it's more of a confidence issue with my own writing. I'm just changing stories and starting new ones when I start feeling like that and get back to them.

Get them to the best place you can and then workshop.

Hope this helps

Dave 

Churtward's picture
Churtward from Gainesville, VA is reading Play It As It Lays February 4, 2014 - 3:03am

Thanks for the input Dave! 

Another thing, what I want to write come across, to me, as big projects that I'm scared of tackling. How do you guys approach something like that? 

big_old_dave's picture
big_old_dave from Watford, about 20 miles outside London, Uk February 4, 2014 - 3:12am

Anything on a larger scale so far for me has pretty much gone down like a lead ballon in the workshop so the only real adivce I can give is what I do with all my writing regardless of size, I try and break it up into sections. I ask myself what is the point of this scene - is it a status play, an info dump, to win the reader over with head \heart authority, am I introuding a character with a lot of physcal description.

Try making a little chart with each part mappd out, Scriviner software is quite handy with this.

Dave 

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore February 4, 2014 - 6:37am

Outlining, kinda like Dave said. I rarely have a problem finishing, because I know (generally) how it's gonna end before I start. And even though that just shifts the same problem to one of how to begin, and it takes longer to do so, it's way less frustrating. For me.

I guess it's kinda like being more selective about your sexual partners instead of getting halfway through the act before realizing you're not attracted to them. It's also a bad idea to write analogies at 7:00 in the morning.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated February 4, 2014 - 9:03am

I try to limit myself to a few projects, when A is hard to write on I go to B.

TheScrivener's picture
TheScrivener from Seattle is reading short stories February 4, 2014 - 10:44am

Agree with Dwayne.  Too many projects and you don't end up finishing anything, but too few and it can be too much pressure to perform.  Perhaps you can find a competition or something you want to to enter and you could use that as a deadline of sorts.  

What do you mean by something not working out?  Do you mean your ending is not credible, you cannot think of an ending, or?  

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal February 4, 2014 - 11:16am

Oh I don't know, Gordon, I think the analogy's good.

To the OP- I'm curious how close you are, or perceive yourself to be, to finishing?

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books February 4, 2014 - 11:24am

I also think a big part of this is letting go of the idea that it has to be good. Fuck good, finished is better than good. You can make it good in revision, but if it isn't finished you have nothing. First drafts don't have to be good, they just have to get done.

V.R.Stone's picture
V.R.Stone from London is reading Savages by Don Winslow February 4, 2014 - 12:04pm

^^This. If a first draft is good, you're doing it wrong. Good writing is good rewriting. Somebody probably said that.

You can't edit a blank page. And editing isn't just about the prose. You can change the ending, change the beginning. Cut characters or add them. Give yourself a lump or rock, then try and carve a beautiful statue.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break February 4, 2014 - 1:31pm

If all first drafts were perfect, we wouldn't need editors.

Chacron's picture
Chacron from England, South Coast is reading Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb February 4, 2014 - 1:50pm

Dave and Dwayne have advocated the multiple projects approach, but I have to speak for the opposite here: I do one project at a time, and the others don't happen until that one is either complete or in the bin. The multiple approach isn't wrong, it just doesn't work for me. I've tried it occasionally as a way of giving myself a break, but I've never found it did much to help me.

Being focused on one story/novel sometimes makes me complete even though I want to give in to the part of me that says 'perhaps this doesn't work.' I hit that point a number of times in the last 6 months only to find I could rescue that story. I know when I'm writing with no conviction and just going through a step-by-step routine to get a story down, but if I do it for long enough I find I rediscover what made me enthusiastic for it in the first place. 

I've binned enough projects before to know when what I've got in front of me has had it's chance. I just trust my instincts and ask myself: 'Is it really true that I can't bear the thought of one more session with this, or is there a chance I'll believe in it again tomorrow?' Thanks to this I've got stories under my belt that at the time I felt tortured by the very act of writing, but the memory of doing that is now a fond one just because I've got that story and it didn't defeat me. When in doubt, I just go for the 'I HAVE THE POWER' approach.

Churtward's picture
Churtward from Gainesville, VA is reading Play It As It Lays February 4, 2014 - 4:32pm

Thanks for the advice ya'll.   

@TheScrivener 

By something not working out, it usually just that I don't really believe in it anymore, that what I want to write about doesn't fit the story or the plot doesn't convey it the way I want to, etc. But @ReneeAPickup hit it right on the money about just getting it done and then going over it again in the rewriting process. Thanks! I needed that badly.  

Another question, do you guys have a general idea on how the story is going to be length wise? I sometimes do, like I think of something and I automatically know it's going to be about 10 pages roughly or so. When you think of something and a big number comes up in your head, how do you deal with that? Do you just go right into it as if it's just another one of your projects? Or does the number kind of scare you and makes you hesitant to take it on and you approach it a different way?

 

P.s. @TheScrivener How are you enjoying Play It As It Lays so far? 

 

TheScrivener's picture
TheScrivener from Seattle is reading short stories February 4, 2014 - 4:52pm

I love Didion's language.  The changing POV is interesting---the first person voice was amazing, and the third person still sharp, but I almost wish the whole thing was in first person.  I am reading it slowly to let it sink in.

TheScrivener's picture
TheScrivener from Seattle is reading short stories February 4, 2014 - 5:01pm

Oh yeah, and for your problem you can try banging out multiple endings. Something will eventually feel more right.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated February 5, 2014 - 6:29am

@TheScrivener - 

Agree with Dwayne.

I don't see that often.

@Renee - 

...finished is better than good.

You know, you are my fav.  Also the only one on here who might get my obscure song lyric references, although I doubt you'll get that one.

@Chacron - Did you let yourself do anything at all, or just a few projects?

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer February 5, 2014 - 7:20am

Just get it finished. Once it is finished, you can read it over and fix whatever doesn't work in the rewrites. It's easy to write beginnings because you are excited and inspired. Excitement runs out about the time you get to the middle, and inspiration seems so far in the past that you start to wonder if you ever had it, or if it was just gas. The hardest part about writing is finishing. It's what really thins the herd. If you can get through that middle part, get an ending on it, even if you don't think it works, you'll be able to step back and see the big picture. Right now, you are probably too close to it to really judge impartially.

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things February 5, 2014 - 12:41pm

My book is handwritten somewhere north of 40,000 words. I have changed the story drastically since I started writing, but since it's handwritten, I can't actually change anything, so I just go forward writing about plot devices or characters I haven't even introduced yet. I'll do that during my revisions.

It's worked for me, because I know if I could edit the story as I was writing it, I would never get past the halfway mark. Then I would get frustrated and quit the story, as has usually happened in the past. Handwriting has been kind of a special discovery for me, and pretty much the only way I can force myself to finish anything in spite of plot holes and imperfections.

 

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore February 5, 2014 - 5:55pm

I also use longhand now and then for variety, mostly when I haven't been as productive as I'd like in the word count department. Similar to what Nathan said, except my main reason is that it helps me focus on the line at hand instead of constantly revising those previous ones that would be in my sightline in a word processor. My handwriting is just illegible enough to enable this. Sorta like that iA Writer app in this regard.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books February 9, 2014 - 12:46am

As for your length question -- I know that my personal sweet spot is 3,000-3,500 words. Sometimes a little more, rarely any less. I can tell after writing a few paragraphs whether a story will need more than that (as of right now, aside from my WIP novel*, I have exactly 2 that are longer than that), but that came from writing a lot of stories. 

*the chapters are almost all 3-3,500 words.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books February 9, 2014 - 12:51am

Dwayne -- no, I didn't. Unless "You know, you are my fav" has to do with "You know, you are my favorite white boy"... in which case I would tell you that I am not a boy, and you are not 50 Cent.

And then I would admit that I googled "finished is better than good" and "you know you are my fav" trying to figure it out.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK February 9, 2014 - 10:24am

I find stepping back into the story helps. I've just passed 50,000 words, but was stuck on 35,000 for ages. Every avenue I tried led to a dead end, so eventually I scrapped what I was stuck on, plus the last chapter, and went back into the one before to rewrite that. The whole story changed, then organically led to a place where I could use some of the scrapped chapter, with a few rewrites, and then on from there. The problem wasn't where I was, I had boxed myself in beforehand and had to chose a different path considerably earlier in the story.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated February 9, 2014 - 5:20pm

@Renee - All you had to do was put it in quotes.  Please Let That Be You, by the Rentals. 

http://weezerpedia.com/wiki/index.php?title=Please_Let_That_Be_You

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books February 9, 2014 - 5:25pm

I swear, I did. Hm.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated February 9, 2014 - 5:31pm

Umm... I'm not saying you didn't, but are you sure?

Also for the record, yes I am 50 Cent.

 

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal February 10, 2014 - 3:47pm

I think Renee just and finally convinced me to stop trying so hard to make it so damn good and just do it already.  If it isn't finished you have nothing.  Hmm...

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books February 13, 2014 - 12:49am

You should always listen to me. Unless it is about Googling song lyrics. Apparently that is a weak point for me.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated February 13, 2014 - 4:06am

Don't feel bad, it is a talent of mine.

Carly Berg's picture
Carly Berg from USA is reading Story Prompts That Work by Carly Berg is now available at Amazon February 17, 2014 - 1:35am

If you consistently can't get anything finished, maybe try writing some flash stories. You can easily finish a first draft of in one sitting. Even if that's not the kind of writing you really want to do, finishing a few of them might get your confidence up for the longer stuff. Or, you might feel especially attached to one of the flash stories and want to make it into something longer.