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Thread: Is there a way to get over your plateau?

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Is there a way to get over your plateau?

    I'm just wondering, cause I'm currently working on this story. I'm not sure if the premise is even good, but I'm dipping my hand in it 'cause I got nothing else. And I'm writing it, and when I get later on in the chapters, the more I find myself struggling with metaphors and similes and whatnot. I mean, I usually have trouble with them, but they seem to come more naturally to me when I first start(not saying they're even good, but they just come more naturally at least) and then as I continue on with the story, I'm afraid the writing gets worse. And it wasn't really anything mind blowing to begin with. My question is, is there a way to overcome this limit? Or is this just signs of inherently bad writing? What if you cap on your writing skills and there's no signs of improvement, what to do then? Thanks for reading!

  2. #2
    Have pen, will travel Cindyt's Avatar
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    Write the first draft. Doesn't matter how bad it is or seems to be right now. Don't worry about similes and metaphors. The first draft is for story. Just get it down. All the other drafts are for polishing the the first. If you don't have a first you don't have anything to polish, do you?
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  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW neandermagnon's Avatar
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    If I reread something and don't like it, I edit it until I like it. If it's that bad, I rewrite it (the scene, not the entire thing at this point, but I have gone back and rewritten entire novels before). Don't worry too much about bits of your first draft being not as good as you want - that's what editing and/or redrafting is for. No-one's going to see your first draft unless you want them to (and why anyone would want anyone to is another question).

    I don't do metaphors and similes. Or at least not usually (I might occasionally throw one in here and there). They're nice, but they're not essential. Definitely don't force them in if they're not coming naturally because the result is excessively flowery, purple prose. Focus on telling the story and not boring or confusing the reader. There are lots of good writers that don't do metaphors and similes all that much.

    What makes a good story isn't the premise, it's the execution. (So forget worrying whether your premise is good enough.) And the way to improve your ability at anything is to keep practicing. Writing's no different to any other skill. Those things you wrote that you don't like? The fact you wrote them at all means your skills improved from writing it. The next draft will be better (or if you just edit it rather than redrafting the whole thing, the edits will make it better). The next thing you write will be better. The process of rereading it and editing and/or redrafting it will hone your skills. When you're rereading, if you don't like something, don't get discouraged by it, instead analyse it... why isn't it working? How can you make it better?

    Have you done any critiquing or put your work up for critique? You can do that here when your post count's above 50 (share your work section). Personally, I've found that reading loads, rereading and editing my own writing, writing loads, critiquing others and getting my work critiqued has been what's led to the most improvement in my writing. While there's always going to be differences in how different people learn, I'd say that the vast majority of writers benefit from all those things.
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  4. #4
    please distract me mccardey's Avatar
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    Just write it. Tell yourself you'll do 20,000 words and then make a decision. And try not to stress about the imagery; it might not be that kind of story.

  5. #5
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eclipses View Post
    What if you cap on your writing skills and there's no signs of improvement, what to do then? Thanks for reading!
    Plateaus are normal for everyone learning a new skill or honing one they've already learned. They're also common in fitness regimens and weight loss. So stick with it, and sooner or later you'll start to notice improvement again. It may come in a burst or it may be gradual, but either way, you'll realize one day that you've left this plateau behind. Another one will come along, of course, but experience will now tell you how to get through that: persistence.
    Last edited by BethS; 10-12-2017 at 04:31 PM.

  6. #6
    Seashell Seller Layla Nahar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eclipses View Post
    ...struggling with metaphors and similes and whatnot...
    Focus on clarity. Is your language clear? Is telling the story your main purpose in the writing?


    Quote Originally Posted by BethS View Post
    Plateaus are normal for everyone learning a new skill or honing one they've already learned. They're also common in fitness regimens and weight loss.
    To add to this list: speaking a foreign language. Yes, plateaus are an integral part of learning and change IME and also what I've heard from others.
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  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW Calder's Avatar
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    CindyT, among others, has got it pegged. The acronym is JWTFT - just write the f*****g thing! Get it down on paper/screen somehow. Try not to pause to revise, just go for it.

    Later, you'll have the luxury of reading what you've created and editing/amending/changing/rewriting parts of it. The idea of slamming out a first draft is that it provides you, as a writer, with the basic structure and narrative. That done, your editing passes can concentrate not on the story you're telling, but on how you're telling it, the language you're using, how you phrase things.

    It's very rare to come across a writer who has a first draft which needs no more than a few tweaks and minor alterations. Most of us use the first draft in the same way the Old Masters used cartoons (and no, I don't mean animated movies, or comic strips). The cartoon was the detailed outline of the finished work - the fine brushwork came later.
    Last edited by Calder; 10-13-2017 at 02:47 AM.
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  8. #8
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Ah thanks, guys, I really appreciate the advice. And I really need to take that JWTFT acronym to heart. Often, I start a book, then I think it won't do any good, and I end up scrapping it afraid of wasting time. Which is one of the reasons why I joined the site, so I can kick that habit to the curb!

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eclipses View Post
    Ah thanks, guys, I really appreciate the advice. And I really need to take that JWTFT acronym to heart. Often, I start a book, then I think it won't do any good, and I end up scrapping it afraid of wasting time. Which is one of the reasons why I joined the site, so I can kick that habit to the curb!
    Generally speaking (and general expressions are never true for every individual), I've noticed that writers fall into two camps - 'pantsters' (a term I learned here), and planners. There are probably few that exactly fit that mold, most probably do a bit of each. Anyway - I am more of a planner than a panster, and tend to outline most of the plot before I get to the actual writing. I also do character profiles that include their history, appearance, and manner of speaking which includes favored phrases.

    As a planner I know pretty much were I'm going before I start writing. Planning lets me weed out dead end plots, and lets me know the length of what I am about to embark on. I think this help me avoid the discouragement that comes with encountering the plane of lethal flatness that sometimes shows up in writing.

    I'm definitely NOT saying you should plan. We each have our methods that best fit our personality. I am saying that writing a novel is like running a marathon rather than a sprint. Some take years to complete, and it takes a lot of perseverance to get it done.

  10. #10
    Not as sweet as you think Aggy B.'s Avatar
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    The other thing about writing a novel specifically (compared to an essay or short story) is that because of the length you can actually see improvement from when you start it and when you finish it. But as you begin to improve you will also (likely) find yourself growing dissatisfied with where you are. The instinct that tells you the writing could be better grows more developed, but you have to push through in order to actually make the writing better. (As folks mentioned upthread, sometimes that happens in revision or later editing drafts.)

    But, it's not an unusual thing to experience and the only way to really fix it is to keep writing (and then revising) until you are happy with it.
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  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW
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    Same way you get to the other side of a swamp: You keep on slogging.

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  12. #12
    is watching you via her avatar jjdebenedictis's Avatar
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    You always feel most frustrated and useless when you're right on the cusp of a breakthrough, because you can see the problems (now; your ability has grown enough for you to) but your brain is still working out the solutions.

    So push onward. A written page can be fixed but a blank page can't be, and all the writing you do helps you improve, no exceptions.
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  13. #13
    You Are My Density Gateway's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cindyt View Post
    Write the first draft. Doesn't matter how bad it is or seems to be right now. Don't worry about similes and metaphors. The first draft is for story. Just get it down. All the other drafts are for polishing the the first. If you don't have a first you don't have anything to polish, do you?
    Agree.

  14. #14
    New kid...seven years ago! DancingMaenid's Avatar
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    I wouldn't worry too much about this with a first draft. Focus on getting the story down. Also, give yourself a chance to learn from practice.

    In the meantime, try to pay attention to what works for you in books you like. If you come across a passage or scene you really love, think about how the author accomplished that. Also, while experimentation can be helpful, don't feel like you have to emulate styles that don't come naturally. Over time, you can start to distinguish between things that you can improve upon and things that are just part of your style. You can get better at writing metaphors with practice, but it's okay to be a writer who doesn't use them often (in fact, it's better to do that than to overuse them, especially if it's forced).
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  15. #15
    figuring it all out
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    As most others said, first draft is barf!draft. Don't worry about anything, and if you do - which you will, since you are a writer - tell that worrying side to shut up and sit down while the true chief of the tribe sprays ink on paper.

    Regarding plateaus, I've come to learn that increases in writing ability happen on two levels.

    One is the long-term, which is easy enough: rote repetition: the more you write, the better your writing gets - be it content or style. There are also immediate increases though. Let's call them incandescant bursts of inspiration or realization - moments in which something works, and you're whole perspective on writing shifts a little. If such a thing goes off in your head, you might never want to go back. I had one recently, which is why I wax poetically about them. Read a piece of a dialog; boom, it clicked. Still, while incandescant bursts of inspiration or realization are great, flashing, dazzling things, I wouldn't count on them.

    The majority of the work is still done by sitting down and splattering ink across the screen for endless hours, which brings us back to the barf!draft. Just get it all down (or out), then worry about the rest.

  16. #16
    Not so new, really dirtsider's Avatar
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    First, finish your first draft. As many people have said, your first draft gets your plot/story down on "paper". Then edit, edit, edit.

    Once you have the bare bones of your story down, you can go back and figure out where it needs to be tweaked and/or fixed. The editing phase is where you figure out what you're trying to say with your metaphor/similes and change them to whatever descriptors work better.

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