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determined2finish
05-05-2005, 07:46 AM
I am getting very frustrated am hoping to get some advice. I have the trouble of getting so overwhelmed with new ideas that I can never stick with my present writing project long enough to finish it (hence my screen name). So many times I start with a great idea for a story and work with it for a while, then another idea pops into my head, and another, and another and before you know it I am making lists of "great ideas" instead of completing the first project I was working on.

Do any of you have this happen? If so, how do you deal with it? Do you have any suggestions for me so that I can finally finish a project and get it to the submission stage????

Thanks for any input you may have.

Liam Jackson
05-05-2005, 08:26 AM
I think most of us are usually juggling three, four, or more ideas at once. I try to keep track of new stuff as it occurs to me by writing it down in a notebook. But I won't spend any length of time exploring new ideas in depth until the current project is finished. It's tempting to swerve off the path and go chasing fresh projects, especially when the current story hits a wall or that dread mid-book curse. Too much swerving can lead to a stack of unfinished manuscripts. Been there, done that. :)

Some people can juggle two or three novels at once and do it well. I can handle two these days, but just barely.

determined2finish
05-05-2005, 07:58 PM
Thanks for sharing your experience with this Liam! It's comforting to know that I'm not the only one dealing with this frustration. I have plenty of unfinished manuscripts, my humble goal is to finish at least one of them and move on with my life. :)

veinglory
05-05-2005, 08:04 PM
Two things, one is having a specific publishing goal in mind for each project. I want the money, fame etc from publishing complete pieces at least as much as the excitement of starting new ones


The other is using two rules (not rigidly but most of the time)
1) Finish first that which is closest to being finished
2) Take no idea beyond the 'jottings' stage until finishing and submitting an existing idea.

clara bow
05-06-2005, 06:07 AM
So many times I start with a great idea for a story and work with it for a while

How long is "a while?" A few days? A few chapters? A few pages?
Are you becoming bored with the ideas or with the process of developing them? I'm curious if this is happening just with your writing or also in other areas of your life?

Maybe you could brainstorm for several weeks just on ideas. Brainstorm until you think you've come up with all the great ideas that you can. Then put the list away for a few weeks. Then go back and pick the ones that still excite you the most. Narrow the list down to the top 2 or 3 and then stick with them. Store the master list somewhere that's not easy to access to avoid any temptation.

Another idea would be to set up a series of rewards for yourself. Start with small rewards and make them more elaborate the more work you get done (e.g., a CD when you finish the outline. Dinner out when you complete a chapter). Think up all the rewards (whether they cost something or not) you could give yourself, and then match them with certain writing goals. The idea is that even if the writing becomes tedious, you still have something exciting to look forward to. Of course, you have to have the discipline to set up the reward system. You could also put someone else in charge of the rewards. Show them the finished work and then they can give you the go ahead to cash in. Or however you'd like to set it up.

You may want to analyze where you feel stuck in your writing. Is it the opening sentence? Transitions? Action scenes or description? A great piece of advice I once read was to start writing the stuff you like, the fun stuff. Personally, I detest transitions so I save those for last. It's okay to write whatever you want first.

I also find that it helps to brainstorm my ideas with others. My husband and I take a lot of walks and have developed numerous story ideas that way. We help each other get unstuck and it often provides a fresh perspective on the story. In turn, I find that I get a burst of energy to resume writing.

Finally, there's also the need to recognize that writing can be very tedious, difficult work. Sometimes there's just no way around the work aspect of it. Think of other areas when you do something not because you want to or it excites you, but because you have to do it. Then make a conscious effort to apply that skill to your writing. If the tedious part becomes overwhelming, break it up into smaller segments. For example, tell yourself that today you are going to write for 15 minutes, and no more. Don't go back to it even if you want to. The next day, write for 20 minutes. That's it. No more. And so on.

Anyway, not everything works for everyone, so try out different things. You may have to experiment for a while.

ciao,
cb

Lucky Penny
05-06-2005, 06:27 AM
thank you for this thread...I have the same problem, determined2finish! It's so very frustrating!

There are some great suggestions here! :)

sgtsdaughter
05-06-2005, 06:46 AM
I go on for the fear of failing. Finishing a WIP to realize it sucks is one thing, but to never know. . . that is too depressing for me to face.

William Haskins
05-06-2005, 07:11 AM
A) i'd be willing to bet you're not working from an outline
B) i'd be willing to bet your lists are more than just lists.

i could be wrong on one or both counts, but i'd say they're safe bets.

working from an outline keeps you from hitting the wall of "where do i go from here?"

you could have a thousand new ideas a day and the physical act of making a list (a real one, in which you simply jot down enough to recall the idea later) would take up no more than an hour or two. if you're dwelling on them, however, you're sabotaging your WIP.

i work on what i'm working on, but if i'm driving, taking a shower, mowing the yard, or lying in bed before falling asleep, i allow myself to daydream about another project.

the spins your subconscious like a top, and it then spins of its own momentum. when the time comes to start on that project... guess what? you have a good enough grasp of it to write an outline.

and the process begins again.

paprikapink
05-06-2005, 09:26 AM
My father loves to classify everything, including his dear family of course. Among his many theories of what types people fall into, one is the "enneagram." He told me I'm a "7." It's always nice to be put in a box and locked up, isn't it? What's particularly annoying is that according to the book he gave me on the subject, one by Helen Palmer, he's right! :( Sevens love to start projects and to come up with new ideas. Finishing? Maintaining? Let the 3s and 9s do it.

Actually, it's helped me somewhat to see myself pigeonholed in that way. When I get to a point where it seems like there's some good reason for me to drop this boring old ball and run after that shiny new one, reminding myself that this ball isn't really boring, and that I'm just mechanically following a pattern of incompletion, helps me to stick through those impulses and soldier on. At least that way I get the dishes done. Sometimes.

-paprikapink

determined2finish
05-06-2005, 08:59 PM
one is having a specific publishing goal in mind for each project.

Exactly! I have been putting togeter a list of markets I'd like to approach, and using their guidelines to help steer my writing goals to the next level.

determined2finish
05-06-2005, 09:07 PM
How long is "a while?" A few days? A few chapters? A few pages?
Are you becoming bored with the ideas or with the process of developing them? I'm curious if this is happening just with your writing or also in other areas of your life?

Maybe you could brainstorm for several weeks just on ideas. Brainstorm until you think you've come up with all the great ideas that you can. Then put the list away for a few weeks. Then go back and pick the ones that still excite you the most. Narrow the list down to the top 2 or 3 and then stick with them. Store the master list somewhere that's not easy to access to avoid any temptation.

Another idea would be to set up a series of rewards for yourself. Start with small rewards and make them more elaborate the more work you get done (e.g., a CD when you finish the outline. Dinner out when you complete a chapter). Think up all the rewards (whether they cost something or not) you could give yourself, and then match them with certain writing goals. The idea is that even if the writing becomes tedious, you still have something exciting to look forward to. Of course, you have to have the discipline to set up the reward system. You could also put someone else in charge of the rewards. Show them the finished work and then they can give you the go ahead to cash in. Or however you'd like to set it up.

You may want to analyze where you feel stuck in your writing. Is it the opening sentence? Transitions? Action scenes or description? A great piece of advice I once read was to start writing the stuff you like, the fun stuff. Personally, I detest transitions so I save those for last. It's okay to write whatever you want first.

I also find that it helps to brainstorm my ideas with others. My husband and I take a lot of walks and have developed numerous story ideas that way. We help each other get unstuck and it often provides a fresh perspective on the story. In turn, I find that I get a burst of energy to resume writing.

Finally, there's also the need to recognize that writing can be very tedious, difficult work. Sometimes there's just no way around the work aspect of it. Think of other areas when you do something not because you want to or it excites you, but because you have to do it. Then make a conscious effort to apply that skill to your writing. If the tedious part becomes overwhelming, break it up into smaller segments. For example, tell yourself that today you are going to write for 15 minutes, and no more. Don't go back to it even if you want to. The next day, write for 20 minutes. That's it. No more. And so on.

Anyway, not everything works for everyone, so try out different things. You may have to experiment for a while.

ciao,
cb

Wow, cb, your reply is amazingly helpful. At this point in my life everything gets put on hold for one reason or another (kids, housework, career crisis, cookie cravings). I guess my writing is suffering this fate as well. "A while" is relative, but usually until the next idea overwhelms me (a few days to a few weeks to a few months). I really like your idea of a rewards system, makes small goals more likely to happen. Also, brainstorming for a few weeks then hiding the list is a good way to ease my worries of "forgetting" a good idea. In fact, I pulled out an old book and found yet another list of ideas I'd long since forgotten about. Guess what? I obsessed on one of the ideas I'd found and put my current WIP on hold for me to work through the new one (!). I like the idea of working through my ideas with someone else, but I feel bad for my poor DH who always has to hear about the latest and greatest every other week.

Take care.

determined2finish
05-06-2005, 09:13 PM
thank you for this thread...I have the same problem, determined2finish! It's so very frustrating!

There are some great suggestions here! :)

Your welcome! I'm happy everyone here is kind enough to give advice to those of us with this boulder in the road.

determined2finish
05-06-2005, 09:15 PM
I go on for the fear of failing. Finishing a WIP to realize it sucks is one thing, but to never know. . . that is too depressing for me to face.

I feel the same way. It is very depressing to see a bunch of great ideas doing nothing more than collecting dust. I'm glad to see you can turn this into enough positive energy to get your work done.

determined2finish
05-06-2005, 09:33 PM
A) i'd be willing to bet you're not working from an outline
B) i'd be willing to bet your lists are more than just lists.

i could be wrong on one or both counts, but i'd say they're safe bets.

working from an outline keeps you from hitting the wall of "where do i go from here?"

you could have a thousand new ideas a day and the physical act of making a list (a real one, in which you simply jot down enough to recall the idea later) would take up no more than an hour or two. if you're dwelling on them, however, you're sabotaging your WIP.

i work on what i'm working on, but if i'm driving, taking a shower, mowing the yard, or lying in bed before falling asleep, i allow myself to daydream about another project.

the spins your subconscious like a top, and it then spins of its own momentum. when the time comes to start on that project... guess what? you have a good enough grasp of it to write an outline.

and the process begins again.

You're right, I don't have an outline and I am sabotaging my WIP(s). I think I need more structure to my ideas to help me keep moving them forward. My lists usually start out as basic lists, then I start tinkering with ideas as I go along, then tinkering becomes rough drafts, then I get stuck on a) what it is b) where it's going. At that point I'm so exhausted I can't write any more for the day. When I start writing the next day, I don't know what to tackle first because there are a bunch of half baked ideas sitting on the computer screen and I'm trying to work on them all at once.

How do you structure your outline? Maybe I need to learn more about organizing, then I wouldn't get so distracted.

determined2finish
05-06-2005, 09:35 PM
My father loves to classify everything, including his dear family of course. Among his many theories of what types people fall into, one is the "enneagram." He told me I'm a "7." It's always nice to be put in a box and locked up, isn't it? What's particularly annoying is that according to the book he gave me on the subject, one by Helen Palmer, he's right! :( Sevens love to start projects and to come up with new ideas. Finishing? Maintaining? Let the 3s and 9s do it.

Actually, it's helped me somewhat to see myself pigeonholed in that way. When I get to a point where it seems like there's some good reason for me to drop this boring old ball and run after that shiny new one, reminding myself that this ball isn't really boring, and that I'm just mechanically following a pattern of incompletion, helps me to stick through those impulses and soldier on. At least that way I get the dishes done. Sometimes.

-paprikapink

Looks like I'm a "7" too. I guess I should read that book :)

wurdwise
05-06-2005, 09:50 PM
Two things, one is having a specific publishing goal in mind for each project. I want the money, fame etc from publishing complete pieces at least as much as the excitement of starting new ones


The other is using two rules (not rigidly but most of the time)
1) Finish first that which is closest to being finished
2) Take no idea beyond the 'jottings' stage until finishing and submitting an existing idea.

I think this is the key in a nutshell.

Paolo
05-06-2005, 10:35 PM
You can finish your novel or latest work, but writing should never be finished. That's what's making me move. I feel that right now. I'm changing writing from a want to a need. I need to write. We are writers. That's what we do.

So, it's this need to write that pushes me to keep going.

If the ideas are flying at you as you describe, then run with them. Don't worry about whether they fit into a coherent story that is apparent in the given moment. Be confident in the fact that your ideas are all part of the same massive story whether you see it or not. Spin the thoughts out as far as you can without thinking about where you're going. When you calm down, go back and read it over to check out the story you've told youself.

Then come in here and tell us (me) because we (I) really want to know....

That works for me.

mommie4a
05-06-2005, 11:23 PM
Thanks for starting this thread.

I think patience and what you expect from yourself, and allowing yourself to adjust those expectations as fits reality, are very important elements to not getting down on yourself and spiraling into an unproductive mood. I'm not saying it's easy to do - to be patient or change expectations. And I'm also not suggesting that you lower, per se, the expectations you have for yourself.

I've been telling my husband for 15 years that I will get a PhD in something sometime. I know this is true. He used to tell me no, never. Now, he tells people, well - when Jill gets her PhD... (Forget that I have no idea what it will be in, let alone any other specifics.)

An entire year lapsed between my first published article (an oped- surprise surprise) and my second (in a regional parenting pub, again, another big surprise I'm sure) and I was so eager and antsy for all those months - I didn't query any markets at all for six-seven months. But inbetween, I kept writing when I could, submitted to a couple of contests, placed in them, went to a writer's conference and kept researching and reading the freelance/writing world.

Even when we might FEEL like we're not moving forward, many, many, many small currents can help you progress. Don't discount them just because they might not be the "big thing" you envisioned.

After a local columnist won the Pulitzer this year, I told my husband, see this continuum? My award for a personal essay is over here (far to one end) and that Pulitzer for commentary - it's on the other end of the spectrum. But hey - now at least that Pulitzer and me are on the same wavelength!

You'll find a rhythm, lose it, regain, re-calibrate and so on. I think that's just part of the writing.

Give yourself a pat on the back for trying to learn as much as you can. And helping the rest of us as well.

clara bow
05-07-2005, 06:48 AM
Wow, cb, your reply is amazingly helpful. .

that's sweet of you to say. Glad to be of help.

triceretops
05-07-2005, 08:14 PM
In trying to finish a novel, I view each chapter as a short story (or new idea) that ties in with the whold project. I compete with myself to see how clever I am in pulling all the strings together the further I get with the work. Don't look at it as different ideas seperately, but different and compelling ways of getting through a large manuscript. Take little chapter steps, and delight in each and every one of them, until you have (before you know it) the whole.

Triceratops

determined2finish
05-08-2005, 05:12 AM
You can finish your novel or latest work, but writing should never be finished. That's what's making me move. I feel that right now. I'm changing writing from a want to a need. I need to write. We are writers. That's what we do.

So, it's this need to write that pushes me to keep going.

If the ideas are flying at you as you describe, then run with them. Don't worry about whether they fit into a coherent story that is apparent in the given moment. Be confident in the fact that your ideas are all part of the same massive story whether you see it or not. Spin the thoughts out as far as you can without thinking about where you're going. When you calm down, go back and read it over to check out the story you've told youself.

Then come in here and tell us (me) because we (I) really want to know....

That works for me.

I have the need to write, but maybe also a fear of finishing! Thanks for your encouragement. You can bet that I'll let everyone know once I've finished one of my WIP(s). :)

determined2finish
05-08-2005, 05:17 AM
Even when we might FEEL like we're not moving forward, many, many, many small currents can help you progress. Don't discount them just because they might not be the "big thing" you envisioned.


Jill, I really can identify with this. So often I feel like no progress is made unless I sign a book deal. Writing can be so isolating that unless you are getting a regular pat on the back it feels like you are standing still in the middle of a marathon.

determined2finish
05-08-2005, 05:22 AM
In trying to finish a novel, I view each chapter as a short story (or new idea) that ties in with the whold project. I compete with myself to see how clever I am in pulling all the strings together the further I get with the work. Don't look at it as different ideas seperately, but different and compelling ways of getting through a large manuscript. Take little chapter steps, and delight in each and every one of them, until you have (before you know it) the whole.

Triceratops

What a great way to work! I find this approach very helpful, since my creative energy comes in shorter spurts and flashes. I am going to try working from my uberlist to see if there is a common thread beneath. Thanks for sharing how you tackle books :)

mommie4a
05-08-2005, 05:15 PM
Writing can be so isolating that unless you are getting a regular pat on the back it feels like you are standing still in the middle of a marathon.

Yup. That's why I have a folder in my computer called "Misc kudos" and I have a folder in a drawer near me for the same things. Letters dating back to my first published piece (not that long ago yet!). Believe in yourself, others will follow.

spacejock2
05-10-2005, 07:33 PM
I've come to realise that my best work, where short fiction is concerned, is that which rushes out in one sitting. If I'm not engaged enough with a story to finish writing it, I figure nobody is going to be interested enough to finish reading it.

So, I have a (computer) folder containing about 100 files. Everything from ideas to 6000 word stories needing a polish. When I'm stuck I troll through these files until I get an idea - usually completely unrelated to what I'm reading.

As a submissions reader for an SF magazine I get to see a lot of fiction which isn't ready for publication, and when I see the same flaws in my own stuff (indifferent story, lack of an ending, characters the reader doesn't care about, etc) I slip it back into the 'later' folder.

In terms of finishing my novels, deadlines concentrate the mind wonderfully. I can procrastinate for several months, then blow gaskets getting everything done in a three week spree. I also use a program which splits my novels into chapters and scenes, making it easy to leap over the boring bits to get to the stuff I feel like writing at the time.