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View Full Version : This may be a naÔve question, but . . .


The Backward OX
08-10-2009, 03:56 PM
It's all about a major writing task I face.

I am writing my first, and what will possibly be my only, novel.

One particular chapter, set in the 1850s, is intended to be about a family travelling by sailing ship from Ireland to Australia.

I have written out twenty or so ideas or scenes or main points, call them what you will, around which this chapter is to be built. Hopefully I don’t need to enumerate them – all you need do is think of what life was like back then, and visualise Planet Earth – Ireland’s way up near the top, and Australia is half-way round the other side and half-way to the South Pole, nearly 11,000 miles away. This particular journey, with a two-month layover in Rio for repairs, took six months.

I am now at the nitty-gritty point where I must put fingers on keyboard and start pounding out the first rough draft.

Because the chapter will cover such a sweeping panorama of people and places and activities, and also because it’s set in the past, the entire project seems daunting. It makes me want to play Spider Solitaire instead. Anything except write.

So my question to you is, have you ever faced such a task, and felt as I feel about this one? And if so, how did you reduce the psychological impact, how did you make it seem less intimidating?

I might mention I’ve more or less sailed through other chapters, set in other times and other places. Pun not intended.

scarletpeaches
08-10-2009, 04:04 PM
So my question to you is, have you ever faced such a task,Yes - every time I sit down to write!and felt as I feel about this one? And if so, how did you reduce the psychological impact, how did you make it seem easy?While I've never written anything as externally ambitious (as in, outside the characters' heads) as what you propose, I get nervous about some chapters I attempt.

What goes on inside the human heart can be as intimidating and dramatic as something happening on the other side of the world.

How did I make it seem easy? I just get on with it.

A lot of people say, "Ah, but what if you get nervous?" I do. Every damn day. But I do it anyway. You can't edit what you haven't written.

A problem I have is it's never as good on paper as it was in my head, but...no-one will be willing to pay £6:99 to read my head, so unfortunately I have to get it down on the printed page and make it as close to the contents of my brain as possible.

And hope people like it.

If they think it's easy, they'd be wrong, but I'm glad of that, because it would mean I'd pulled it off.

Lisa Cox
08-10-2009, 04:54 PM
SP's gone all pretty in purple! Think she's flirting with us.

Anyway, yes, I get nervous all the time.

how did you make it seem less intimidating?

Take it step by step. Don't think about the entire chapter as a whole, because of course that's going to seem daunting. If you've outlined the chapter (and it seems as though you have), start at point one and put all your focus into that, then move on to point two, without thinking about the rest of the chapter ahead of you. It's all I can think of to help. Take it step by step, one bit at a time, and perhaps you'll feel less intimidated?

We all feel like this, BTW. It doesn't matter if it's a sweeping, epic chapter or a small, emotional scene. We all worry we can't pull it off, that it will never come across as clearly as we have it in our head. That we won't find the right words, create the right mood, etc. It's all a part of being a writer, and pushing through those doubts -- creating something we'd been so scared of -- and coming out the other side feeling proud and accomplished is what makes it all worth while.

scarletpeaches
08-10-2009, 04:57 PM
SP's gone all pretty in purple! Think she's flirting with us.

I has menny prettiez! :e2file:

Mumut
08-10-2009, 04:58 PM
Ask your local library to get in Trailblazer by Roderick Anderson. His story is the true story of his early family members leaving Scotland in the 1800's but he's made it into an adventure story. If you read that you might get a few ideas - also it will give Rod a sale.

Ruth2
08-10-2009, 05:15 PM
You could start by writing the scenes that are already in your mind. They don'[t have to be in order or linked right now, just scenes. Think about the scenes as being pearls on a necklace. Eventually you'll string them together in the right order but by then, you'll have a large chunk of your story written... and starting's half the battle.

scarletpeaches
08-10-2009, 05:16 PM
I am going to exercise restraint and not post the obvious reply to that one, Ruth2. :D

mscelina
08-10-2009, 05:24 PM
My solution to this self-same dilemma?

I uninstalled Spider Solitaire. Works like a charm.

Mr Flibble
08-10-2009, 05:26 PM
Feel the fear and do it anyway

Just get words down, every day. After a few days you'll see that you've got less of an fear-inducing task ahead. Each day makes what you have to write a smaller obstacle.

Take a thousand mile walk, one step at a time.

I uninstalled Spider Solitaire. Works like a charm.

I tried that but people keep posting about these games on facebook. Like you :D

mscelina
08-10-2009, 05:28 PM
That's different. The games on Facebook are easy for me to avoid most of the time. I only resort to them when I hit a plot snag or when I'm trying to clear my notification list of the 75,814 Vampire Wars invitations and gifts.

:D

Libbie
08-10-2009, 06:32 PM
Ah, Spider Solitaire: The enemy of writerkind!

Yes, I've faced such a task as well. It's always daunting to start a first draft, but the journey of 11,000 miles begins with a single word. Or something like that.

Your book sounds really interesting. I love fiction set during that time period, and I love fiction about long travels. I really want to see you finish this!

You might enjoy the Historical Writing section of AW. It's a great group of people and a wonderful resource for those of us who write historical fiction. Having a support network of other writers facing the same types of challenges might help you feel less daunted.

Have you outlined your book? You mentioned that you figured out various specific scenes, but it doesn't sound like a complete outline to me. You seem like a very analytical, step-one, step-two type of person. Maybe a detailed outline of the entire book will help you ease into writing the first official draft with more comfort.

Libbie
08-10-2009, 06:35 PM
I am going to exercise restraint and not post the obvious reply to that one, Ruth2. :D

Yeah, I think you've written enough about that particular type of jewelry lately.

Wayne K
08-10-2009, 06:49 PM
A problem I have is it's never as good on paper as it was in my head, but...no-one will be willing to pay £6:99 to read my head, .

I am going to exercise restraint and not post the obvious reply to that one, Ruth2. :D


http://static.guim.co.uk/Guardian/money/gallery/2007/dec/11/familyfinance/EurosC-7318.jpg

Ya got change?

The Backward OX
08-10-2009, 06:52 PM
Ah, Spider Solitaire: The enemy of writerkind!

Yes, I've faced such a task as well. It's always daunting to start a first draft, but the journey of 11,000 miles begins with a single word. Or something like that.

Your book sounds really interesting. I love fiction set during that time period, and I love fiction about long travels. I really want to see you finish this!

You might enjoy the Historical Writing section of AW. It's a great group of people and a wonderful resource for those of us who write historical fiction. Having a support network of other writers facing the same types of challenges might help you feel less daunted.

Have you outlined your book? You mentioned that you figured out various specific scenes, but it doesn't sound like a complete outline to me. You seem like a very analytical, step-one, step-two type of person. Maybe a detailed outline of the entire book will help you ease into writing the first official draft with more comfort.
It's mostly set in the present. There will only be a handful of chapters scattered through the story that are set in the past.

I've outlined the entire story, and pick out chapters at random to work on. Some are roughed out, some are at first draft stage, and some are like the ******* thing that's the subject of this thread.

I'll check out that Historical Writing section. Thanks.

Analytical's my middle name. In the MBTI I'm an INTJ.

Ruth2
08-10-2009, 06:56 PM
Lovely lovely pearls....<g>

Hey scarletpeaches! I see Wayne K thinks highly of your.. er.. um... nevermind.

The Backward Ox: Just keep writing. Easy to say, hard to do. But yeah... write.

RJK
08-10-2009, 10:38 PM
When you are faced with the immense, focus on the minute. Write about one incident, one article aboard the ship, one port, one sailor, before you know it, the months will have passed and you'll be arriving at Sydney.

aadams73
08-10-2009, 11:11 PM
So my question to you is, have you ever faced such a task, and felt as I feel about this one? And if so, how did you reduce the psychological impact, how did you make it seem less intimidating?


Yes, often.

What I do is break it down into pieces. I keep an eye on the bigger picture so I don't lose my way, but when it seems daunting I focus on the small pieces.

To achieve this, I'll jot down scenes in point form on note cards.

But often, yeah, I've sat down with my whole WIP ahead of me and thought, "How the heck am I going to do this?" But I always get through it just by doing it. I don't allow much more than a few moments of negative self-indulgence.

sleepsheep
08-10-2009, 11:20 PM
I am writing my first, and what will possibly be my only, novel.



I have to ask why you think this will be your only novel. If you approach this book as one of many to come, rather than the one epic work of your life, you may find that the psychological burden is not so great.

bettielee
08-10-2009, 11:30 PM
When I feel overwhelmed, I just think about the character. This is their story after all, What are they seeing, smelling, feeling? What's going on around them? I find it easier than thinking about the massive amount of plot I've got to get going.

The Backward OX
08-11-2009, 05:37 AM
I have to ask why you think this will be your only novel. If you approach this book as one of many to come, rather than the one epic work of your life, you may find that the psychological burden is not so great.
Ha! At my age ~ 73 ~ Iíll be lucky to get even this one finished before they carry me off. With minimal background writing experience, this current story began as a project to keep me amused in my later years. At the time, I had no thoughts of improving my writing style to a point where publication would be a possibility. Then I started to get interested in writing a publishable story. If I reach that pinnacle Iíll die happy.

Cushnoc
08-11-2009, 06:12 PM
As someone who's been writing mostly historical fiction, I've faced this kind of problem often. I used to get stuck every time I didn't know exactly how to describe some period scene, but now I just plow ahead and write it. It helps me to trust myself that, with all the research I've done so far, I've got a good idea of the basics. The details (distance of journey, appearance of boat, etc.) can be added later. If I really need something as I'm writing it, I either look it up quickly on the Internet (if its something that's quick to look up and I can trust the Internet answer), or just leave a blank and fill it in later.

Hope this helps!

Tepelus
08-12-2009, 05:29 AM
I had no thoughts of improving my writing style to a point where publication would be a possibility. Then I started to get interested in writing a publishable story.


I've been the same way. The story I started on years ago that has been on the back burner more times than not, was written first as just something to do, pass time. I never thought of publishing it. But now, seeing how the subject, or the historical characters rather, have become quite popular, I got these crazy thoughts on improving it. It is a daunting task, since it takes place in a time and area of Europe I know very little about, but I want to do it even if it takes me a long time. However, my first love is gardening, and during the summer the book sits on the back burner once again until the season is over, or I just get worn out from gardening. Fresh eyes taking a look at what I've been working on all this past winter may be a good thing, though.

Aggy B.
08-12-2009, 06:30 AM
I've outlined the entire story, and pick out chapters at random to work on.

If you aren't working through in a straight lines (so to speak) then you might try writing this "challenge" of a chapter a little bit at a time. You have the individual scenes laid out, work on the chapter in bitesize chunks until you get the whole thing done.

I do this in working through sections of plot that have a lot of important points. I just hit the key points for each chapter and then go back and fill in on each side until all the piece meet/fit.