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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've got in a mess. I have 4 novels started and at different stages between 15,000 and 30,000 words but I've lost confidence and have doubts about each of them (I've finished 2 series in the past).

I'm a pantser but have tried outling more to get me going, but nothing seems to work and I just seem to go round in circles. I'm hardly writing now and it's like pulling teeth to get new words down.

I would be so grateful for any advice or experiences you guys have that might help. I've some time off next week when I can focus on writing and I'm hoping to find a way to choose a project and get going!
 

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I often get the same feeling whenever I get to the midpoint of a book. I know it's not very encouraging advice, but sometimes you just have to force yourself to write SOMETHING. Even if you end up editing it out later, writing the next scene can help you figure out where you actually want to go with it. So, even if the idea for the next scene seems like total shite, or completely "out-there", just write it anyway. Self-doubt is common. I find the best way to wipe it out is by sheer force of will.
 

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I don't rely on inspiration to write. I rely on self-discipline.

That means developing good work habits. Daily schedule with butt in chair and hands on keyboard.

Writing has always been a business-related activity for me, so I've never dealt with writer's block. Like Steve Jobs said, "real artists ship." Like a journalist under deadline, I focus on shipping.

Maybe that mindset will work for you too?
 

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When I hit that inevitable round of self-doubt, I take a day off to read back over the entire book to date. Sometimes I'll catch a problem that's been niggling at the back of my mind. Sometimes I'll just get inspired by the story again. Either way, it helps get the momentum going again to move forward.
 
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We were talking about this a few days ago. You need to find out if you are tired of writing or not content with the stories you are writing. If you are tired, take a break or work through it. If you dislike your stories, start a new one that does inspire you.
 

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I felt that way during my year-long drought as I dealt with illness. What I realized was that I needed inspiration. I watched movies that had a similar theme or setting. I read biographies and histories, all related to the setting of my book. Then I sat down and wrote my outline.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks, all very good advice (I can't work out the quote different posts bit to respond individually).

I feel like self discipline and writing something/anything should work but it doesn't seem to, but I can try it again next week.

Over the years I seem to have become slower and slower. I was looking at Chris's 21 day challenge and maybe I need to try his timed writing and just force words out.

I guess it is about self doubt and I just have to put the uncertainties about the stories aside. I could also try something new next week too, but then I'd have to finish it.  :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Moist_Tissue said:
I felt that way during my year-long drought as I dealt with illness. What I realized was that I needed inspiration. I watched movies that had a similar theme or setting. I read biographies and histories, all related to the setting of my book. Then I sat down and wrote my outline.
Yes, that's something I wonder, is it more about what's going on with me than the actual writing. I'm not sure how to work that out.
 

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When I reach such a place as you describe, I sit quietly, take a deep breath or two, and feel my way through it. I open up and listen and go with my gut.
 

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If ya like, I can read one or two of your drafts and give you feedback. Not on your writing. Just my impression of where I think the novel is going. It might help to generate ideas on what you need to accomplish and how many pages/ chapters to get there.

Trust me. I feel your pain.
 

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Julia M said:
I've got in a mess. I have 4 novels started and at different stages between 15,000 and 30,000 words but I've lost confidence and have doubts about each of them (I've finished 2 series in the past).
Pick one and finish it, even if you feel uncertain and doubtful. Just throw words into one every day until it's done. That will do more for you than anything else at this stage.
 

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Julia M said:
I was looking at Chris's 21 day challenge and maybe I need to try his timed writing and just force words out.
This. I've been trying to up my productivity so I gave the timed thing a try yesterday. Without fail, I hit 1K during every 20 minute sprint (I did four).
 

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Take a break from it for a few days/weeks/months... however long you need. I was getting a bit discouraged by the troubles I went thru in some of my writings, but after I focused on something else for a few weeks, I came back with fresh eyes, better ideas, and put down 10k words over a 3-day stretch, and it's still going strong.

Sometimes you need to put your half-finished project on a shelf for a while and come back at it after some time off. It's possible to get burned out on anything you're working on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Moist_Tissue said:
If ya like, I can read one or two of your drafts and give you feedback. Not on your writing. Just my impression of where I think the novel is going. It might help to generate ideas on what you need to accomplish and how many pages/ chapters to get there.

Trust me. I feel your pain.
Thanks for the offer! I have these doubts about the stories. Particularly the 2 I have got furthest with, one is maybe going to be too dark and the other is way off any genre and direction.

If you had time I'd really appreciate your thoughts.
 

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When I get that, I find that my problem lies somewhere in my earlier chapters. Either something is missing or some choice isn't working. At 30k, you've completed the opening of the novel but lost all momentum getting into the middle. You established the characters and the scene, but you haven't established a narrative, so the opening stalls.
 

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Remember - at the end of the day you need to finish one of those manuscripts. The thing that is most likely slowing you down is the thought that it has to be something brilliant. Tell yourself this. All that you need to do right now is to finish ONE of those half-finished manuscripts into first draft format.

And a first draft does not have to be anything more brilliant than a steaming pile of dog funk, wrapped in a second hand Tupperware container.

It doesn't have to brilliant.

It doesn't have to be wonderful.

It just needs to be done.

Figure out where you want the story to go and then run until you get there.

THEN - sit down and have a beer and smile contentedly. Go rake the lawn or go for a walk or listen to the cat complain that she doesn't have enough fish in her bowl.

THEN - after you have given yourself enough time to breathe and feel comfortable, pick up that steaming piece of Tupperware and pull out a Popsicle stick and commence to sculpting.

Getting past the mid-ground is a little like getting over a hill and running on home. Right now you are on the wrong side of the hill and you are terrified about what might be on the other side of the hill. Oh God, you tell yourself - what if I get over there and there is lions on the other side of the hill. What if I get there and every single bully who ever picked on me in school is standing there and pointing at me and telling me that my writing sucks.

It's fear.

You can call it boredom if you want to - but I will bet you a box of cut-tomato-tins-in-two Ginsu knives that it is nothing more than fear wearing a mask of creative ennui.

Grit your teeth and go for it. Remember that you are doing nothing more than stringing words together. It's just like talking to yourself on paper. It isn't rocket science.

Outlining might help you - but don't get all hung up thinking it has to be a picture perfect outline. Just lay the bare-bones of the plot together. Look at your manuscript and decide that you want your hero to live happily ever after - once he has successfully out-wrestled the giant Tupperware Ginsu knife wielding Ennui - and lay a few perfunctory footprints down for that hero to follow and then go for it.

Try laying your manuscript in a pile on one side of your dining room table. Take a look at what chapter you left off at - say it's Chapter 7.

Then take a blank piece of paper and write CHAPTER 8 at the top of it and then scribble yourself a note over what needs to get done in Chapter 8.

Chapter 8 - our hero needs to go and sharpen his own Ginsu knife.

Then take another blank piece of paper and write CHAPTER 9. Maybe you don't what Chapter 9 needs to be. Well write that down. "I have no freaking idea what Chapter 9 is."

Then blank paper out Chapter 10 - and write down - our hero needs to get lucky because every ginsu-knife epic novel needs a little gratuitous sex scenes in it.

Then just sort of rough track yourself towards the last Chapter, which is Chapter 13, where our hero does a high-spirited manly jig of victory over the Tupperware bones of his fallen foe.

This isn't rocket science. Don't try and impress yourself. Just give yourself permission to play and have fun. Finishing the first draft is the big part of the battle. Once you have that first draft, lying there like the bones of a gigantic Tupperware Frankenstein monster then you start to sculpt into something divine and wonderful - like maybe a glittering vampire.

:)

Hope that helps some. If nothing else this helped me forget about having to go to work for an evening shift shortly.
 

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Julia M said:
I've got in a mess. I have 4 novels started and at different stages between 15,000 and 30,000 words but I've lost confidence and have doubts about each of them (I've finished 2 series in the past).

I'm a pantser but have tried outling more to get me going, but nothing seems to work and I just seem to go round in circles. I'm hardly writing now and it's like pulling teeth to get new words down.

I would be so grateful for any advice or experiences you guys have that might help. I've some time off next week when I can focus on writing and I'm hoping to find a way to choose a project and get going!
Break each one down into the 3 act structure and make sure you have your beats. This alone can get your head and the story in the right place.

As for the middle part it all comes back to answering the question in the first act which is usually both a physical and emotional journey towards change.

The middle is a back and forth towards answering that question

Will Luke Skywalker save the princess, trust the force and destroy the death star? ( act 1)

At the end the answer is YES to all three. (end of act 3)

In the middle its, yes, no, yes, no, yes , no. ( act 2 )

Simple as that. Be sure you know what question you are trying to answer at the start of the book. As they say.... if there is a problem in act 3, there is a problem in act 1
 

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I had this same problem last year. I wrote half of my book and then...fizzled. So I left it and moved on. I would come back to it periodically but didn't make much headway. I read some craft books and tried to fix that WIP. (I worked on other projects when not focusing on the problematic one.)

Then I discovered outlining. It helped a little but not much.
More time passed.
Eventually, I decided I would ask for help. I posted a general outline and someone pointed out where I went wrong.
That was all I needed to fix my WIP. It took me less than a month to finish it.

So after a year...I finished the book.

I would recommend stepping away from your book(s) to give yourself some insight. Read craft books. I have Libby Hawker's Pantsing book and James Scott Bell's Write your Novel from the Middle.

It is also very important to get with some authors who are familiar with your genre and run the outline by them. They might be able to see where you went off topic and point you in the right direction.

With my book, I had to delete about 8k words (beautifully written stuff, too!) but it had to go so that I could get back on track. Perhaps you are in the same position I was in-you are reluctant to delete what you spent a lot of time slaving over.

You don't have the perspective right now, so get someone else to take a look. A fresh pair of eyes is always helpful.

I write romance (PNR). I also read other genres, so if you want to bounce some ideas off me, feel free to PM me. If it's not a genre I'm familiar with, I can always offer a reader's perspective.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Steve Vernon said:
Remember - at the end of the day you need to finish one of those manuscripts. The thing that is most likely slowing you down is the thought that it has to be something brilliant. Tell yourself this. All that you need to do right now is to finish ONE of those half-finished manuscripts into first draft format.

And a first draft does not have to be anything more brilliant than a steaming pile of dog funk, wrapped in a second hand Tupperware container.

It doesn't have to brilliant.

It doesn't have to be wonderful.

It just needs to be done.

Figure out where you want the story to go and then run until you get there.

This isn't rocket science. Don't try and impress yourself. Just give yourself permission to play and have fun. Finishing the first draft is the big part of the battle. Once you have that first draft, lying there like the bones of a gigantic Tupperware Frankenstein monster then you start to sculpt into something divine and wonderful - like maybe a glittering vampire.

:)

Hope that helps some. If nothing else this helped me forget about having to go to work for an evening shift shortly.
This makes sense and hits home with the doesn't need to be perfect/brilliant. I have an issue with getting it right first go.
 
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