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Thread: Setting up the story?

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Exclamation Setting up the story?

    Hi!
    Now, before I start, I just want to say that yes, I do understand that I will edit my novel later on [When I'm finished with the manuscript] and probably cut and change a ton of things.

    My question is about setting up your story. I'm writing the first novel in a series I'm planning for, and lately I've realized that parts of what I've written so far is somewhat ... not too related to the planned plot; what I mean is that I kind of feel like I've done a lot of setting up for the future of the story, maybe too much. I'm 250 pages in my manuscript, which, for me, equals 56000 words with the standard manuscript formatting.

    So, how much "setting up" would you say is okay? I'm not that far away from the real start of the "real" story, but yeah.

    EDIT: By setting up, I mean the first act (part of the three acts often used in screenplay, but also novels).
    Last edited by Questioner; 12-06-2017 at 01:39 AM.

  2. #2
    cutsie-pie Curlz's Avatar
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    All the detail can make an appearance bit by bit, as the characters encounter it and it's needed for the plot. You don't need to explain it all in the beginning. Even if your characters mention something, it doesn't have to be fully explained at that moment. If you are writing a fantasy where Cinderella goes to the ball and needs a dress, it's not necessary to explain all the history of the kingdom, or why glass shoes are in fashion.

  3. #3
    Willing to Learn MythMonger's Avatar
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    Are you saying that you've written 56,000 words of setup? If so, just my opinion, I'd say that's too much.

    You say you're about to start your "real" story. My advice is to finish your setup pages, and once you're done put the whole thing aside. Start the next manuscript with the "real" story, and just put in relevant details as the story unfolds.
    I wrote my way into this mess, and I'll write my way out.

  4. #4
    Benefactor Member WeaselFire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Questioner View Post
    So, how much "setting up" would you say is okay?
    None. When you tell your friends a story, do you spend 20 minutes "setting it up" or do you just tell it?

    Now, as for what you should do -- Write the entire manuscript without cutting. What you are writing is necessary for you, as the writer, not for the reader. When you're comfortable with it, you can chop it out before submitting.

    Jeff

  5. #5
    Heckuva good sport frimble3's Avatar
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    I'm with Mythmonger. Write what you need of the background to get it clear in your head, then put it aside. I cannot think of a story that needs 56,000 words of explanation. Or, 56,000 words of background that I would want to read before I hit 'story'.

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW DanielSTJ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WeaselFire View Post
    None. When you tell your friends a story, do you spend 20 minutes "setting it up" or do you just tell it?

    Now, as for what you should do -- Write the entire manuscript without cutting. What you are writing is necessary for you, as the writer, not for the reader. When you're comfortable with it, you can chop it out before submitting.

    Jeff
    Nice. +1

    Quote Originally Posted by frimble3 View Post
    I'm with Mythmonger. Write what you need of the background to get it clear in your head, then put it aside. I cannot think of a story that needs 56,000 words of explanation. Or, 56,000 words of background that I would want to read before I hit 'story'.
    I agree. +1
    Vivere militare est.

  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I think I started this thread a bit unclearly. What I meant, was that the goals are already set from the very beginning, the 50000 words are basically the central group of characters getting to that point in which the goals start being fulfilled and stuff.. I don't know if that's called "setting up" or anything else, but I might have used really unclear phrases.
    EDIT: By setting up, I mean the first act (part of the three acts often used in screenplay, but also novels).
    Last edited by Questioner; 12-06-2017 at 01:39 AM.

  8. #8
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin FrauleinCiano's Avatar
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    Do you mean you've taken 50k to get to the beginning of Act II/Leaving the Ordinary World point in the standard three act story structure? If so, once you go back for edits you'll need to think about cutting down by moving your beginning closer to that turning point and then sprinkling in the important information from what's cut into the rest of the story. That Point usually happens about 1/4 into a work, and at 50k, that's a 200k book. And even if that were a reasonable word count, 50k is still a lot to read without getting to the rising action.

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW MaeZe's Avatar
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    Read what you have so far. Is that what the story is about? If not, kill that darling (or put it aside to maybe insert parts of if back in later), and start writing the part of the story that actually is what the story is about.

    I've recently read yet another prologue in a YA book where chapter one then went on to cover some mundane day in the life of teens in high school. The prologue had nothing to do with teens in high school, but rather it was about the fantasy part of the story, and the teens in high school didn't sound like the story in the prologue. Something is wrong here. Chapter one was doing a poor job of starting the story as close to action or the problem as one can.

    Is the story about the prologue or about the teens in high school? I didn't read past the first chapter. I can see why the writer thought she needed a prologue, but she'd have been better off to start the story differently. She could drop the prologue that hit the reader over the head lest we not know what story was coming and keep the high school opening. Put more of the actual story in the high school opening. Instead all that was in that opening was a plot piece (revealing there is time travel involved) as opposed to actually introducing the story (why should we care?).

    (Plot vs Story)

    Getting back to the OP, I'm not sure what you mean by goals being met.

  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW LJD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Questioner View Post
    By setting up, I mean the first act (part of the three acts often used in screenplay, but also novels).
    Which is about the first 25%, give or take. Which means...your book is going to be very long, considering a typical (adult) novel might be 80-100k.

    You can continue writing your first draft for now (this is what I would do), but keep that in mind and try to trim that a lot during the revisions. Maybe you needed to write a long Act 1 to figure things out, but it doesn't all need to be in the final version.

  11. #11
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Questioner View Post
    I kind of feel like I've done a lot of setting up for the future of the story, maybe too much. I'm 250 pages in my manuscript, which, for me, equals 56000 words with the standard manuscript formatting.

    So, how much "setting up" would you say is okay? I'm not that far away from the real start of the "real" story, but yeah.
    The real story, or at least some conflict that will bridge to the real story, should start as close to page one as possible. Wouldn't let it go past chapter one, myself.

    Half way through the novel is way, way too late to begin the real story.

  12. #12
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    That's too much.

    I'm pretty patient with slow starts, but even I would give up if it took 50k+ words to start the story.

    Maybe your story isn't what you think it is? I had somethign similar with a prologue that grew and grew... and really became its own MS.
    Happiness, is just a word to me
    And it might have meant a thing or two
    If I'd known the difference.

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW cornflake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Questioner View Post
    Hi!
    Now, before I start, I just want to say that yes, I do understand that I will edit my novel later on [When I'm finished with the manuscript] and probably cut and change a ton of things.

    My question is about setting up your story. I'm writing the first novel in a series I'm planning for, and lately I've realized that parts of what I've written so far is somewhat ... not too related to the planned plot; what I mean is that I kind of feel like I've done a lot of setting up for the future of the story, maybe too much. I'm 250 pages in my manuscript, which, for me, equals 56000 words with the standard manuscript formatting.

    So, how much "setting up" would you say is okay? I'm not that far away from the real start of the "real" story, but yeah.

    EDIT: By setting up, I mean the first act (part of the three acts often used in screenplay, but also novels).
    How long would you sit in a theatre before you thought, 'oh my god, we haven't even gotten to the first intermission and this is a three-act play? Nope. Out of here.' If you translate that to a novel, I'd say 60,000 words or more (as you're at 56k and say you're 'not that far away from,') is too long by far, yeah.

  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW DanielSTJ's Avatar
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    Again, I agree with everything you helpful fellows have said.

    You simply cannot take that long, in my opinion, to get into initiating action of the story. It's too much and it's too long. Publishers aim to sell books, not to mollify our majestic creative desires.
    Vivere militare est.

  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW
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    Stop thinking about "setting up" the story, and write the story.

    caw
    Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.

    -- Terry Pratchett

  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Questioner View Post
    Hi!
    Now, before I start, I just want to say that yes, I do understand that I will edit my novel later on [When I'm finished with the manuscript] and probably cut and change a ton of things.

    My question is about setting up your story. I'm writing the first novel in a series I'm planning for, and lately I've realized that parts of what I've written so far is somewhat ... not too related to the planned plot; what I mean is that I kind of feel like I've done a lot of setting up for the future of the story, maybe too much. I'm 250 pages in my manuscript, which, for me, equals 56000 words with the standard manuscript formatting.

    So, how much "setting up" would you say is okay? I'm not that far away from the real start of the "real" story, but yeah.

    EDIT: By setting up, I mean the first act (part of the three acts often used in screenplay, but also novels).
    I think this question may fall under the "show don't tell" maxim. Introduce your world gradually as each piece becomes pertinent to the story, and do it via character actions or dialogue. You can also introduce a seed of a past event, then as the story develops explain it in greater detail. I'd try to keep all the details of your world trimmed down to what's necessary to understand your story.

  17. #17
    Preparing for winter VeryBigBeard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
    Stop thinking about "setting up" the story, and write the story.

    caw
    Like many of blacbird's excellent posts, wisdom comes in brevity.

    A story, almost by definition, starts where it begins. Events happen. Then they stop happening, and the story ends. Hopefully, the book does too, because there's no story left.

    Set-up isn't really a thing. It's a writer-thing, in that we tend to think we need it. And sometimes we do... to get it straight in our heads.

    But generally, only include in the actual story that which the reader needs to be entertained.

  18. #18
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    You are waffling. Goals are the end target of every character, chapter or scene - they all have goals, or a purpose.

    Forget about technical gobbledy-gook. Get to the point, and start your story without waffling around it.

    If all your characters are doing for 250 pages is 'getting to where something actually happens or to where they start to DO something' it sounds pretty dull.

    Setting-up is - groundwork, background, setting the scene, setting up- if it goes on and on it is boring.

    .
    Quote Originally Posted by Questioner View Post
    I think I started this thread a bit unclearly. What I meant, was that the goals are already set from the very beginning, the 50000 words are basically the central group of characters getting to that point in which the goals start being fulfilled and stuff.. I don't know if that's called "setting up" or anything else, but I might have used really unclear phrases.
    EDIT: By setting up, I mean the first act (part of the three acts often used in screenplay, but also novels).
    Everything yields to treatment.

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