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Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

 
RETreasure
(@rschibler)
Silver Star Member
Posts: 743

So like the title says, I've had a story in my head for a long time, but when I sit down to write it, it just feels off. I have the plot, the characters, the setting, conflict, try-fail cycles, satisfying conclusion. It's all there (which as a discovery writer, is weird) but I've started it three or four times, gotten a few thousand words, and closed the document in disgust. Any thoughts or tips on either *why* this might be, or how to approach fixing the issue? Many thanks for your brilliant replies. wotf009

V34: R,HM,R
V35: HM,R,R,HM
V36: R,HM,HM,SHM
V37: HM,SF,SHM,SHM
V38: F, SHM, P, P
Available for critiques - PM for availability.
www.rebeccaetreasure.com

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Topic starter Posted : March 20, 2019 2:09 am
TimE
 TimE
(@time)
Silver Member
Posts: 338

I've been in this situation but didn't find a way out of it. Sorry for my lack of brilliance. I'll be interested in any other replies.

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Posted : March 20, 2019 4:44 am
RETreasure
(@rschibler)
Silver Star Member
Posts: 743

I've been in this situation but didn't find a way out of it. Sorry for my lack of brilliance. I'll be interested in any other replies.

Sympathy is helpful in its own way  fistinair

V34: R,HM,R
V35: HM,R,R,HM
V36: R,HM,HM,SHM
V37: HM,SF,SHM,SHM
V38: F, SHM, P, P
Available for critiques - PM for availability.
www.rebeccaetreasure.com

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Topic starter Posted : March 20, 2019 5:17 am
mikewyantjr
(@mikewyantjr)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 177

I only have one way to get out of it: write it all out anyway. Instead of closing the file in disgust, come back to it tomorrow and, without re-reading your previous work, just keep going.

At the end, you'll have the story and, while it may be crap, it'll be crap you can now edit rather than crap that's stuck in your head.

In my experience, once I get to the end of one of those stories, I usually find the entire thing isn't as bad as I originally thought.

Good luck!

WotF Results:

R:6
HM:12
sHM:0
SF:1
F:0
Last: HM, Q1 v38

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Posted : March 20, 2019 5:43 am
orbivillein
(@orbivillein)
Bronze Member
Posts: 73

From mental composition to raw draft processes suffer from missed-the-page disease and inconsistent craft skills due to raw drafts are little more than outline summary and explanation sketches -- tells. The dramatic craft facet wanted next or in the first instance is show's reality imitation sequence skills.

A mental plot realizes only substantive and tangible dramatic points (pivots, turns) and little, if any, tension setup and apt relief delay that develop a plot's tension relief points' dramatic effects (emotional appeals, pathos). Too little setup, too rushed or forced relief delay, or too much, or untimely, or unsubtle, the payoffs of plot points are unearned or overwrought. Raw drafts' outline "tell" nature misses the timing, pace, and show detail appeals of fully realized drafts.

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Posted : March 20, 2019 12:52 pm
kentagions
(@kentagions)
Bronze Member
Posts: 94

This happens to me occasionally whether I plot or pants (discover).

Damon Knight in Creating Short Fiction would say that Fred (his name for the subconscious mind) has a problem with something. There are a gazillion (That's 1 with as many zeros as you can imagine behind it) ways to get through it.

Rather than enumerate hundreds of ways to break the block, I will share one. Do a full character study of the MC's history, sensibilities, decision-making process, fashion sense and anything else that will sharply define her/his character in your conscious mind. Move on to fears, dislikes and things that the MC is reluctant to do. Then grade desires from most intense (Gotta have it, gotta do it) to least intense (I like it if I'm holding it but, meh.).

Be sure to follow guidelines for creating a compelling character (No matter what source you study).

Doing character studies helps me start writing again. One memorable character study defined a character so at odds with the story that I changed the POV and the MC to a secondary character more suited to telling the tale.

Good luck,
Kent

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Posted : March 21, 2019 3:13 am
chuckt
(@chuckt)
Silver Member
Posts: 419

I can't remember where I read this. Not Stephen King's book on writing but a similar book. He said forget your outline and notes and just tell me your story. Then put that in writing.

36: R, R, R, SHM
37: R, HM, R, HM
38: HM, R, ?

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Posted : March 21, 2019 4:12 am
chuckt
(@chuckt)
Silver Member
Posts: 419

Oh! Just remembered. Stephen Koch. Writers Workshop.

36: R, R, R, SHM
37: R, HM, R, HM
38: HM, R, ?

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Posted : March 21, 2019 4:12 am
Morgan
(@morgan-broadhead)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 133

So like the title says, I've had a story in my head for a long time, but when I sit down to write it, it just feels off. I have the plot, the characters, the setting, conflict, try-fail cycles, satisfying conclusion. It's all there (which as a discovery writer, is weird) but I've started it three or four times, gotten a few thousand words, and closed the document in disgust. Any thoughts or tips on either *why* this might be, or how to approach fixing the issue? Many thanks for your brilliant replies. wotf009

Is this maybe a case where your inner critic is telling you the story sucks before you even get it written? I listen to that little voice far too often and have a hard time making him shut his fat trap. As was mentioned earlier, maybe you can just barrel through and get it written down on the page in all its glorious ugliness. Then you can set your plastic surgeon's scalpel to its hooked nose and double chins, and dress it up in fancy clothes after all the scars have had a chance to heal.

~ Morgan

"If you can do it for joy, you can do it forever."
- Stephen King
Drop me a line at https://morganbroadhead.com

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Posted : March 21, 2019 7:49 am
amoskalik
(@amoskalik)
Silver Member
Posts: 438

I feel this way often. I use a couple different things to get through it. First is the mantra, trust the process, trust the process ... Stories are complicated and their elements do not coalesce all at once, so it is common to feel as if I'm wading through a swamp when I'm half way through the first draft. This little mantra helps me remember that if I stay the course, I will find solid ground again on the other side.

The second is to relax my preconceptions for the story. Yes, I may have a great plot, and a profound theme, killer characters, an awe inspiring setting, etc. but these elements may not want anything to do with each other. Characters have minds of their own, settings have demons hidden in their shadows, and themes have a fractal nature that confounds. So my battle plan needs to be adjusted continuously as I write, so much so that when I look back at my original plan for the story, regardless of the level of detail, I am always amazed by how different the end product is.

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Posted : March 22, 2019 3:00 am
RETreasure
(@rschibler)
Silver Star Member
Posts: 743

Thanks for the great advice all. I will see if doing some writing exercises like a character study help me sort it out. It is odd because I don't usually have any trouble getting the words out once I know the basic setup. I will try to just keep working on the story and see where it takes me.

V34: R,HM,R
V35: HM,R,R,HM
V36: R,HM,HM,SHM
V37: HM,SF,SHM,SHM
V38: F, SHM, P, P
Available for critiques - PM for availability.
www.rebeccaetreasure.com

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Topic starter Posted : March 23, 2019 1:52 am
OldDarth
(@olddarth)
Bronze Member
Posts: 77

Check out the Story Grid for pinpointing story problems - https://storygrid.com/resources/

Lots of useful tools. I'm a regular listener of the podcast and The Story Grid book is one of my go to reference tools.

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Posted : March 25, 2019 5:54 am
czing
(@czing)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 202

Ursula LeGuin talked about something that comes to my mind with what you said. She said sometimes if it isn't flowing/working it could be an issue with the tense or it could be you are writing 1rst person and you need to be 3rd or vice versa etc. I am almost certainly messing up what she said. But I found it really intriguing and something I thought I would definitely try if I was finding myself really stumped on a story that I figured should be working.

So maybe try changing one of those things and jumping into it fresh????

Good luck with it!

v36 Q1, Q3 - HM; Q4 - R
v37 Q1 - R; Q2 - SHM; Q4 - HM
v38 Q1 - HM; Q2 -SHM; Q3 - P

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Posted : May 17, 2019 11:42 am
RETreasure
(@rschibler)
Silver Star Member
Posts: 743

Hey all, wanted to weigh back in here. I ended up doing what a few of you suggested and just pushing through the writing. I think the story ended up pretty solid. More relevantly, it certainly isn't any worse than my other stories. I am still uncertain why I got stuck - perhaps the genre felt uncomfortable or the character relationships didn't spring to life in my mind easily - but I feel better for having exorcised the story. Next time I get stuck, I'll try to just keep writing anyway based on this experience. Thanks for all the help and advice! We have quite the brain trust here.

V34: R,HM,R
V35: HM,R,R,HM
V36: R,HM,HM,SHM
V37: HM,SF,SHM,SHM
V38: F, SHM, P, P
Available for critiques - PM for availability.
www.rebeccaetreasure.com

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Topic starter Posted : May 18, 2019 12:31 am
Helge Mahrt
(@helge-mahrt)
Bronze Member
Posts: 69

Great to hear! And thanks for updating us on this. (Even though I wasn't around for when you ran into this, it's great to know how it turned out)

R, HM, R
http://www.helgemahrt.com
Sky High, my YA/SciFi novel

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Posted : May 19, 2019 10:47 pm
TheWolfEmperor
(@thewolfemperor)
New Member
Posts: 4

I hope it's okay that I bump this.

I run into this problem a lot and I think it's because I spend so much time "mentally plotting". Then comes the reality of actually having to write it and the real work overwhelms me.

It could be the same thing for you.

Don't waste time trying to convince someone the sky is blue.

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Posted : September 3, 2019 3:13 am
storysinger
(@storysinger)
Gold Member
Posts: 882

I usually have more than one story percolating. I also use a whiteboard to help keep track of prompts and possible titles.
For me by the time I actually start the story it's a moment I'm prepared for so I enjoy the process.

Maybe you could cultivate feelings of excitement and less anxiety. Just saying, and welcome to the forum.

Today's science fiction is tomorrow's reality-D.R.Sweeney
HM-V32/Q3
HM-V36/Q4
HM-V38/Q1

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Posted : September 3, 2019 4:21 am
czing
(@czing)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 202

I hope it's okay that I bump this.

I run into this problem a lot and I think it's because I spend so much time "mentally plotting". Then comes the reality of actually having to write it and the real work overwhelms me.

It could be the same thing for you.

I'm a pantser so I don't spend much time actually plotting. Sometimes an idea sits for a while in my brain before I do anything with it but I don't mentally work on it. Just let it simmer back there. Most of the time I just jump in as soon as the idea plops into my brain and start doing some discovery writing. Maybe you could try doing a little discovery writing with the knowledge that it is just a different way of figuring out your story and may not produce much writing that makes the final draft. But at least that way you might feel like you have "started" and that might ease some of the pressure???

I hope you find a way that works for you!

v36 Q1, Q3 - HM; Q4 - R
v37 Q1 - R; Q2 - SHM; Q4 - HM
v38 Q1 - HM; Q2 -SHM; Q3 - P

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Posted : September 3, 2019 12:14 pm
Henckel
(@henckel)
Silver Member
Posts: 417

For me, the key is to truly understand the problem. I have to know exactly what it is and what it looks like from all sides. To do this, I attack it with an intense analytical probing—refining the problem down, more and more, until I get to its true core.

Once I found it, I can fix it.

This little technique has never failed me.

(2014) V31 Q1 – R
(2018) V35 Q3 – HM
(2019) V36 Q3 – HM
(2019) V36 Q4 – SHM
(2020) V37 Q1 – R
(2020) V37 Q2 – HM
(2020) V37 Q3 – SHM
(2020) V37 Q4 – Finalist
(2021) V38 Q1 – Semi-finalist
(2021) V38 Q2 – SHM
(2021) V38 Q3 – tba

Coolest Achievements
(2019) Published in Escape Anthology
(2020) Published in Sci-Fi Lampoon
(2020) V37 Q4 – Finalist
(2020) Dream Foundry - Shortlisted
(2021) Mike Resnick Memorial Award - 3rd Place winner!!! (to be published)

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Posted : September 3, 2019 1:51 pm
TheWolfEmperor
(@thewolfemperor)
New Member
Posts: 4

My brain's really just like an old car in the winter. I've tried many of the techniques suggested here in the past and at the end of the day, I comfort myself by knowing that the stories I couldn't finish or get going just weren't ready yet. The ones I completed are the ones I'm proud of.

But I am going to put pen to paper again very soon.

Don't waste time trying to convince someone the sky is blue.

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Posted : September 3, 2019 4:08 pm
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