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View Full Version : Is 'Just write it' ALWAYS good advice?



Hamilton
01-14-2013, 07:03 AM
Something is always better than nothing, and procrastinating is a huge problem for lots of writers. There are people who need to be told to stop fretting and dive in.

But sometimes I think this advice is given too quickly to people who are having trouble in the conception or planning stages of their work. "Just write it" has a very pantser bias. Sure, actually getting started on the writing produces something concrete. But if a plotter is prompted to start the writing process earlier than they're comfortable with, isn't it possible that they'll run into more frustrations and potential discouragements than necessary?

The brainstorming/worldbuilding/outlining processes can be very important for some kinds of writers. The "just write it" line should only be given when it's clear the writer's planning is getting in the way of their writing instead of facilitating it.

quicklime
01-14-2013, 07:09 AM
"Just write it" has a very pantser bias. Sure, actually getting started on the writing produces something concrete. But if a plotter is prompted to start the writing process earlier than they're comfortable with, isn't it possible that they'll run into more frustrations and potential discouragements than necessary?

The brainstorming/worldbuilding/outlining processes can be very important for some kinds of writers. The "just write it" line should only be given when it's clear the writer's planning is getting in the way of their writing instead of facilitating it.

and have you actually seen this happen? Because "just write the damn story" has, in my experience, usually come after six threads in a day, or ten in a week, from a writer who would probably at that point do better by actually trying things out than indulging paralysis by analysis. Obviously sometimes you're better having a clue where you're going, but I don't think the advice is given here to fuel some pantser bias at all. It is to kick someone in the ass who is in desperate need of it, even if just to start actually forcing an analysis of their plots.

Cyia
01-14-2013, 07:09 AM
Just write CAN be a form of plotting. Writing out what you've got in your mind, even if it's abstract or incomplete can work wonders. So can free writing.

Ex:

I know my characters are in a junkyard. A junkyard. Why are they in a junkyard? I don't know. What's in a junkyard? Junk. what kind of junk? paper, old diapers, leftovers, cars, smashed computers, scavenging dogs. Dogs... maybe they can be chased by dogs. They're looking for something in the junk yard, but it's on the other side of a pack of scavenging dogs! Even worse the MC has an irrational fear of dogs.

etc, etc, etc.

Writing produces writing. Not writing produces nothing.

benluby
01-14-2013, 07:11 AM
Just write it goes beyond sitting down at the keyboard and hammering out a story/book.
It also includes the planning phase for those that plot out the details, characters, even the locations in great detail.
The phrase is more of a comment on those who are always 'fixing to start' on their great novel. Just write it means get to work on it, regardless of the path one is going to take to complete it.

Cella
01-14-2013, 07:11 AM
I suppose the phrase could mean different things to different people.

Just write it to the person who only has vague notions of their plot wafting through their mind might really mean Just write a rough outline, whereas to the author who has been stewing over their fairly well developed ideas might just in fact be stalling on the actual MS for a combinations of reasons.

Like so many things, it's a matter of balance of thought and action.

:)

alleycat
01-14-2013, 07:12 AM
Very little writing advice is absolute. And often the shorthand type of advice needs expanding if someone is hearing it for the first time.

Show, don't tell. Generally good advice, but there are details that should just be explained.

Just write it! Often it's good advice for someone who continually plans rather than writes, but there is a place for planning and outlining for those who wish to use that method.

Filigree
01-14-2013, 07:19 AM
I politely disagree, Hamilton. Whether an author is suffering from procrastination, difficulty with plotting, or erratic pantser disasters, most of their problems can eventually be solved by writing - a lot, and often, until writing becomes a familiar activity. It's how most people figure out their writing style, and learn how to recognize the worthy efforts from the bad.

Sure, there is a place for abstract plotting. I write most of my scenes in my head before I ever sit down at the keyboard. But I had to learn how to do that through writing a lot of blunders.

Examine the argument from the perspective of new students at an art school. If they take any figure drawing classes, that means hundreds of charcoal and graphite sketches in the first weeks of class. The students don't have the luxury of pondering their approach; they're dumped in the deep end and told to draw what they see, fast and often. Accuracy isn't that much a concern at first, just teaching the eye and hand to work without conscious thought getting in the way. Most of those early efforts are crap. But the artists will get better with practice.

Kerosene
01-14-2013, 07:44 AM
The answer, "just write it," typically comes after a worry or concern from someone who just can't get to writing; they're either worldbuilding or plotting too much or doing character sheets or trying to test ideas and concepts.

Sure, plotting can do a lot. But I know of no one (other than very, very experienced writers) who have plotting a story and finished it in the very first draft without any need to improve or resort the plot. Those experience writers had the story stepped out, the characters planned, and ideas fully realized and had the utmost confidence in their writing and their ability to convey the story, and because of this, they could punch it out--they are also the people who don't need to be told to write, they just do it.

So, when the advice of, "just write it," comes along, just write it, because its needed to be repeated to someone who's not writing the story.


Think of it as eating something new and exotic. You can debate about eating it all day, but if you're ever going to taste it, you need to eat it. So, just eat it.

Hamilton
01-14-2013, 08:20 AM
and have you actually seen this happen? Because "just write the damn story" has, in my experience, usually come after six threads in a day, or ten in a week, from a writer who would probably at that point do better by actually trying things out than indulging paralysis by analysis.
Was just looking at a thread where the OP, who was anxious about being able to handle their project, stated they were working on a three part story involving three timelines, only one of which was fully completed. It was clear from their post that they were making steady progress in their planning, and intended to start writing later in the year.

They received a pile of replies urging them to just start writing, which they will be doing. Will it work out fine? Probably. But there was no attention paid to even the possibility that writing without a full plot outline might cause problems. No one considered that finishing those timelines might have put the OP at ease or given them a sense of confidence. It was just assumed that writing immediately was better than waiting until all the planning was done.






Just write CAN be a form of plotting. Writing out what you've got in your mind, even if it's abstract or incomplete can work wonders. So can free writing.

Ex:

I know my characters are in a junkyard. A junkyard. Why are they in a junkyard? I don't know. What's in a junkyard? Junk. what kind of junk? paper, old diapers, leftovers, cars, smashed computers, scavenging dogs. Dogs... maybe they can be chased by dogs. They're looking for something in the junk yard, but it's on the other side of a pack of scavenging dogs! Even worse the MC has an irrational fear of dogs.

etc, etc, etc.

Writing produces writing. Not writing produces nothing.
Just because it CAN be a form of outlining doesn't mean it's the only form of outlining. Freewriting can't provide a color-coded chart of plots and sublots for a very visual writer, for example. And realistically, when most people say "just write", they aren't talking about brainstorming. They're talking about writing the actual novel/short story/screenplay/etc.

It's always said that plotting, pansting, and everything in-between is great as long as it works for the writer, but I get the impression that spending time outlining is often seen as "not really working on the book/script/etc."

quicklime
01-14-2013, 08:26 AM
i wouldn't assume nobody was worried about their confidence, Hamilton....sometimes, refusing to write so you can fiddle around is every bit as damaging. AND, I don't know the specific thread, but can think of several floating around in the past few weeks where what I said above holds true, and either they are asking questions to procrastinate, or because they're afraid to take that leap....and in either case, no, they really should JUST FREAKING WRITE because otherwise, they're not doing a damn thing. these aren't folks having their plotting interrupted.

AKyber36
01-14-2013, 08:39 AM
For that case with the three timelines, just writing also helps. While the writer may plan and plan and plan, plots do change once the process begins and a lot of times, those previous plans go out the window. I've had it happen to me on multiple occasions, and no amount of planning would've thrown me the new possibilities. Sometimes, characters take off on their own, opening up new avenues. Of course, to fully develop the characters so that they may initiate and carry the plot, one must write.

I write little short scenes when I'm stuck. As an artist, I also do full graphic novel pages beforehand to do a full visual + dialogue before putting it into words. The important thing is that something concrete - no matter how elementary - must start the story. Thinking about it only goes so far. Pencil, pen, or cursor to the blank page is always far better for answering a lot of plot and/or character questions.

Kitty27
01-14-2013, 08:39 AM
I am a diehard pantser.

I respect writers who have a different style,though. BUT there comes a time when a writer will have beautiful outlines,every plot fully developed,marvelous character descriptions yet not have a single word written.

Intricate plotting and developing ideas is fine. But it gets even better when you are also WRITING. Some writers aren't plotting. They are procrastinating out of fear or self doubt. I can usually tell the difference between the writers who just love a beautiful outline but still write vs. the ones who are doing nothing at all.

"Just Write It" is indeed good advice if you take the "just" out of it and apply that to writers who belong in the latter category. We aren't dissing their style of plotting. I think what most on this board mean is to actually write and not spend six months on an outline.

rwm4768
01-14-2013, 09:16 AM
Most of the time, it's good advice, but sometimes it isn't. A lot of people seem afraid to start writing, though. I know I have a tendency to pace back and forth for hours, trying to figure out plot points. I often do better if I sit down and just start writing.

OhTheHorror
01-14-2013, 09:23 AM
Whether an author is suffering from procrastination, difficulty with plotting, or erratic pantser disasters, most of their problems can eventually be solved by writing - a lot, and often, until writing becomes a familiar activity. It's how most people figure out their writing style, and learn how to recognize the worthy efforts from the bad.

http://i1277.photobucket.com/albums/y481/jennifer_williams8/smiley-signs011_zps15a57e27.gif

Aggy B.
01-14-2013, 09:25 AM
I like to outline things. But at some point you have to write the outline too. And I don't mean character bios or histories of the world, I mean the actual outline. (Which I always consider the "roughest" draft of the novel.)

"Just write it" is about working on the actual story, not all the filler stuff that is just a distraction, whether that story starts in a 10 page bulleted outline or an uber-messy first draft complete with notes to [FIX THIS LATER!!!].

Hamilton
01-14-2013, 10:16 AM
I politely disagree, Hamilton. Whether an author is suffering from procrastination, difficulty with plotting, or erratic pantser disasters, most of their problems can eventually be solved by writing - a lot, and often, until writing becomes a familiar activity. It's how most people figure out their writing style, and learn how to recognize the worthy efforts from the bad.

Sure, there is a place for abstract plotting. I write most of my scenes in my head before I ever sit down at the keyboard. But I had to learn how to do that through writing a lot of blunders.

Examine the argument from the perspective of new students at an art school. If they take any figure drawing classes, that means hundreds of charcoal and graphite sketches in the first weeks of class. The students don't have the luxury of pondering their approach; they're dumped in the deep end and told to draw what they see, fast and often. Accuracy isn't that much a concern at first, just teaching the eye and hand to work without conscious thought getting in the way. Most of those early efforts are crap. But the artists will get better with practice.
I would disagree that one needs to learn the ability to plot through writing. Plotting is just planning with 'ot' instead of 'an'. Heck, learning how to plan properly could be a skill in and of itself.

It's true all problems can be fixed by just writing through them, but many problems could be prevented by prior planning. Yet, when a writer declares that knowing where their story is going would make it boring, no one feels the need to tell them they should just suck it up and plan first anyway. But no one has a problem telling a plotter to just get over their discomfort with pantsing and just do it anyway. All the supposed respect for different writers' methods goes out the window.

As someone taking art classes, I don't think the metaphor quite applies. Drawing requires one to work on a single image. Sketches are small, quick pieces designed for practice. A long piece of writing is more akin to a final project. Beginners class or not, you'd sure as hell better make thumbnail sketches and gather up a pile of references, or even scan your project and experiment in Photoshop. The bigger the project, the more planning is often done because of the time commitment.

Let me share my own experience, on my first large project. I was writing a script for what was supposed to be a romance. I really wanted to plan it out, but I was too overwhelmed by possibilities, figuring out cause and effect...ADHD driven indecisiveness. I just started writing, because focusing on one scene at a time was easier.

It ended with the love interest stabbing the main character with a pair of scissors and putting him in the hospital, and they somehow decided to stay together anyway. (Nothing's as romantic as domestic violence)

What did I learn?

"PLAN ALL YOUR THINGS, HAMILTON, CAUSE WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!"


i wouldn't assume nobody was worried about their confidence, Hamilton....sometimes, refusing to write so you can fiddle around is every bit as damaging. AND, I don't know the specific thread, but can think of several floating around in the past few weeks where what I said above holds true, and either they are asking questions to procrastinate, or because they're afraid to take that leap....and in either case, no, they really should JUST FREAKING WRITE because otherwise, they're not doing a damn thing. these aren't folks having their plotting interrupted.
Yes, sometimes refusing to write so you can fiddle around can be damaging. But sometimes refusing to write so you can fiddle around is called planning. I don't know what threads you're referring to, but the OP of the one I am talking about specifically mentioned what they had outlined, what was partially outlined, and when they expected to be done planning and ready to start writing. That doesn't look like needless procrastination; that looks like someone with a plan they're steadily working through.

And I do wonder, how do you know that the people in question are actually putting off writing? Some almost certainly are, but is it always clear?

Katrina S. Forest
01-14-2013, 11:39 AM
I've had disaster novels too, but I don't think planning would've helped them. I hadn't written novels before -- naturally, my first attempts weren't great. I plan more now than I used to, and it helps, but now I have a much stronger idea of what a polished novel looks like. I know what I'm planning towards, in other words. I don't think people giving the advice, "just write it" expect it to produce a solid novel on the first try. They do expect it to help the writer get over the fear that producing a bad novel is some sort of epic disaster when it's really just part of the learning process.

And like all advice, there are certainly times it doesn't apply. That's up to the person asking advice to discern.

Becky Black
01-14-2013, 01:58 PM
It definitely depends on the scenario. I'm definitely a plotter and planner, but even I will say "Just write it" if the writer is clearly using research, planning and worldbuilding as writing avoidance. (And I know all about that one. I did it for a long, long time.)

One the other hand, if it's a fresh and shiny new idea then "just write it" may not be the best advice. Not for me anyway. I remember back in 2007 having an idea in early summer, having this idea totally eat my brain for about three weeks, during which I wrote copious notes. Then it just stopped. If I'd jumped in and started writing I'd have been in big trouble at that point.

But as it was I let it bubble away on the back burner over the summer, wrote notes here and there as things came to me and eventually decided I wanted to do it for NaNoWriMo. October came and I started planning it and the story pretty much surfaced whole and ready to go.

During that time between the initial idea and creating an outline my unconscious had been working hard on it, building on what I'd come up with earlier, solving problems. And when it was time to write it, there it all was ready for me. I think of this period as putting the bread aside to rise before baking it. It really works better for me that way, most of the time.

Jamesaritchie
01-14-2013, 02:33 PM
Something is always better than nothing, and procrastinating is a huge problem for lots of writers. There are people who need to be told to stop fretting and dive in.

But sometimes I think this advice is given too quickly to people who are having trouble in the conception or planning stages of their work. "Just write it" has a very pantser bias. Sure, actually getting started on the writing produces something concrete. But if a plotter is prompted to start the writing process earlier than they're comfortable with, isn't it possible that they'll run into more frustrations and potential discouragements than necessary?

The brainstorming/worldbuilding/outlining processes can be very important for some kinds of writers. The "just write it" line should only be given when it's clear the writer's planning is getting in the way of their writing instead of facilitating it.

If the writer isn't having problems, I doubt anyone will have an opportunity to say, "Just write it."

RichardGarfinkle
01-14-2013, 02:38 PM
Short answer: Sometimes Just Write It is completely wrong advice.

At different stages of work a story will need different things. Sometimes it needs to be written now, sometimes it needs research, sometimes it needs the writer to develop more skills or understanding.

To learn to write one must write. That does not mean that a particular story should be written right now.

It's taken me twenty years of writing, research, and thinking to be able to work on my WIP. Sometimes, Just Write It is absolutely wrong.

aikigypsy
01-14-2013, 02:58 PM
Short answer: Sometimes Just Write It is completely wrong advice.

At different stages of work a story will need different things. Sometimes it needs to be written now, sometimes it needs research, sometimes it needs the writer to develop more skills or understanding.

To learn to write one must write. That does not mean that a particular story should be written right now.

It's taken me twenty years of writing, research, and thinking to be able to work on my WIP. Sometimes, Just Write It is absolutely wrong.

I very much agree with this. To grow as a writer, you have to actually write... or read, or edit, or have other life experiences which feed into writing. Sometimes, that can mean putting a specific project on hold and working on something else, or digging into major research for a while (like working in a hospital if you're going to write medical dramas, or on a sailboat if you want to write the next great Age of Sail saga).

kkbe
01-14-2013, 03:25 PM
Short answer: Sometimes Just Write It is completely wrong advice.

At different stages of work a story will need different things. Sometimes it needs to be written now, sometimes it needs research, sometimes it needs the writer to develop more skills or understanding.

To learn to write one must write. That does not mean that a particular story should be written right now.

It's taken me twenty years of writing, research, and thinking to be able to work on my WIP. Sometimes, Just Write It is absolutely wrong.

Certainly, there are times when writing must take a back seat to other things like research, planning, going to Walmart. :)

But there are times when you're sitting there, fingers poised on the keyboard, looking at that blank screen. The cursor's blinking. You hesitate.

Two choices. What are you gonna do?

Putputt
01-14-2013, 03:41 PM
Certainly, there are times when writing must take a back seat to other things like research, planning, going to Walmart. :)

But there are times when you're sitting there, fingers poised on the keyboard, looking at that blank screen. The cursor's blinking. You hesitate.

Two choices. What are you gonna do?

Go on AW. :D

buz
01-14-2013, 03:54 PM
No declarative statement is always good advice.

And there is some responsibility on the part of the receiver of advice to evaluate it. Believing whatever you're told can be a risky way to go about life, particularly if said advice comes from people who don't know you that well. Some advice that is offered is not going to work for you and you do need to exercise some of your own judgment.

If you know you need to plan and you finish what you start, then plan.

I do think "just write it" is generally decent advice, because generally, people can easily get hung up on all the other stuff and have trouble getting the story out, particularly on the first try. And writing something is almost always a good learning experience, even if it doesn't lead anywhere.

But applying general advice to individual people doesn't always work all the time. ;)

Cyia
01-14-2013, 04:16 PM
Just because it CAN be a form of outlining doesn't mean it's the only form of outlining.


And no one said it was.

Stacia Kane
01-14-2013, 04:47 PM
(We had a thread on this topic not too long ago; I've searched for it but can't find it, sigh. I'll keep looking.)

The thing is, I usually see "just write it" given as advice in response to questions like, "Can I have my MC do X?" or "Is it okay to have Y as a plot point?" There's really no other possible answer for questions like that; there's no other way to know if something will work, and no other way to find out if it's acceptable in context.

I agree some people need a strong outline, and for those people Just Write It isn't always going to be helpful, because they want to plot out their stories in advance so if there's a plot point--as in, how to get the characters from A to B--that needs to be worked out before they can write, it's not helpful to tell them not to do that.

But that's not every scenario. And as others have said, "Just write it" is also often given when we have people who start dozens of threads about things like what to do with their money and will they have a say in their cover art, when they haven't written a word.

It's always good for people to pay attention to what the OP says as far as being a pantser or plotter, and reply accordingly, but the fact remains that sometimes JWI is the best or only advice that can be given.

CharacterInWhite
01-14-2013, 05:01 PM
Yes.

RichardGarfinkle
01-14-2013, 05:26 PM
(We had a thread on this topic not too long ago; I've searched for it but can't find it, sigh. I'll keep looking.)


<Pleads Guilty>
It's a fair cop ma'am. I started one of those threads on this topic last August.
http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=253035
</Pleads Guilty>

shadowwalker
01-14-2013, 05:35 PM
No piece of advice is universally right. That's why it's called advice. But as Stacia and others have said, this advice is typically given when someone is doing everything except writing - whether that writing is the planning or the story itself. They aren't progressing in any way, shape, or form. It's also used when someone says "Can I..." and who the hell knows until we see how you wrote it?

Basically, I use it to tell people to get off their butts. If they don't need to be told that, I don't.

RichardGarfinkle
01-14-2013, 05:56 PM
Sometimes people need to get off their backsides and gather inspiration or information or do research or learn some necessary skills or shift to another project.

There can be more than one reason that a person might be stuck and incapable of going forward with their writing.

calieber
01-14-2013, 06:04 PM
If a writer is not sure if something will work or not, the only truly definitive answer is what critters/betas say once it's on the page.
I'm a plotter, but I'm pretty sure I can't submit an outline and get it published; it has to be written sooner or later. That doesn't mean "so write it sooner," but it does mean, again, if you're not sure about something, write it anyway and see what happens.

jeffo20
01-14-2013, 06:34 PM
Sometimes people need to get off their backsides and gather inspiration or information or do research or learn some necessary skills or shift to another project.

There can be more than one reason that a person might be stuck and incapable of going forward with their writing.Quite true.

When I give the 'just write it' answer it's because my perception is the writer is delaying and delaying and delaying, not because they need more time/info/research/whatever, but because they're just afraid of taking that next step. I could be wrong, but that interpretation is based on what they say in their posts. If I thought they honestly needed more time, I'd say so.

RichardGarfinkle
01-14-2013, 06:37 PM
Quite true.

When I give the 'just write it' answer it's because my perception is the writer is delaying and delaying and delaying, not because they need more time/info/research/whatever, but because they're just afraid of taking that next step. I could be wrong, but that interpretation is based on what they say in their posts. If I thought they honestly needed more time, I'd say so.

That's absolutely fine. My primary objection is to people who act as if Just Write It is the panacea for all writing problems. I think the alternatives do need to be laid out since the OP was asking whether it's always good advice.

Buffysquirrel
01-14-2013, 07:01 PM
And I do wonder, how do you know that the people in question are actually putting off writing?

They're posting on AW. That's the big clue.

Phaeal
01-14-2013, 07:14 PM
For "just write it," read "just work on it." All the pre-draft notes and diagrams and outlines and research count.

Some do get trapped in the preparations, however. Look to Middlemarch for a cautionary tale, and don't let Mr. Casaubon's fate be your own!

Myrealana
01-14-2013, 07:25 PM
Something is always better than nothing, and procrastinating is a huge problem for lots of writers. There are people who need to be told to stop fretting and dive in.

But sometimes I think this advice is given too quickly to people who are having trouble in the conception or planning stages of their work. "Just write it" has a very pantser bias. Sure, actually getting started on the writing produces something concrete. But if a plotter is prompted to start the writing process earlier than they're comfortable with, isn't it possible that they'll run into more frustrations and potential discouragements than necessary?

The brainstorming/worldbuilding/outlining processes can be very important for some kinds of writers. The "just write it" line should only be given when it's clear the writer's planning is getting in the way of their writing instead of facilitating it.

I agree. I am a very structured plotter. It's the way I approach everything - from balancing my checkbook to planning a vacation, and that includes writing.

I can't start writing if I don't know where I'm going.

I agree that sometimes over-prep becomes a way to avoid writing the actual story, but "just write it" is not a panacea for all pre-writing problems.

Stacia Kane
01-14-2013, 08:34 PM
And I do wonder, how do you know that the people in question are actually putting off writing? Some almost certainly are, but is it always clear?


Because they often tell us, either in that thread or in another post elsewhere. I know I'm not the only one who looks at posting histories here.

victoriastrauss
01-14-2013, 09:21 PM
I can't start writing if I don't know where I'm going.

I agree that sometimes over-prep becomes a way to avoid writing the actual story, but "just write it" is not a panacea for all pre-writing problems.
Same here, and agreed. I am definitely a plotter; I need to have the story and the major character arcs worked out ahead of time, or I feel as if I'm floundering in a shapeless morass, which I find really demoralizing. Plus, however well I plan, the plan always changes in the actual writing--whether because I have a better idea or because when I get to a certain point I realize it can't really happen the way I thought it should--so I'm always re-plotting.

I do get frustrated with myself sometimes. And I am a procrastinator (didn't use to be; this is something I've developed as I've gotten older), so I'm aware sometimes that I'm planning or plotting in order to avoid "just writing." But I've developed a reasonably good sense of when I should pause to re-group, and when I should push through.

- Victoria

James D. Macdonald
01-14-2013, 09:42 PM
I can't think of any advice, including "Don't hit your thumb with a hammer," that's always right.

James D. Macdonald
01-14-2013, 10:00 PM
Do you know what's illuminating? Googling on site:absolutewrite.com +"just write it" -"Is 'just write it' ALWAYS good advice?"
(https://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Aabsolutewrite.com+%2B&quot;just+write+i t&quot;+-&quot;is+'just+write+it'+always+good+advice%3F&quot;)
See when and where this advice has actually been given, rather than speculating about memories of vague generalizations concerning impressions.

Siri Kirpal
01-14-2013, 10:47 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I agree that no advice is ever 100% true. (including that last statement)

I can't write without an outline. I can't just rush through the words and fix it later. They have to be right for me to continue to write.

But....if it's procrastinating... Then, yeah, just write it is the advice I give.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

backslashbaby
01-15-2013, 01:16 AM
I think some of the questions could be discussed for the benefit of the poster asking about specific things instead of telling them to just write it and see. Granted, we won't know whether their version is good until it's written, but we can tell them where we saw it done well or poorly and give advice, imho.

It depends on the question, of course, but I try to go on and answer it if I think I can be helpful at all. For me, it's up to the writer to figure out whether they are procrastinating or truly learning as they go. But I do believe you can learn as you go, meaning that others' advice on what authors to check out, etc, can happen as you write, especially for a long work like a novel.

blacbird
01-15-2013, 01:38 AM
Yes.

Beat me to it.

And I'll echo what Stacia said, above. Ruminating about thinking about considering that you might intend to plan to begin to commence to start an outline, if only some commenters could provide reassurance of how good the intention is . . . isn't writing.

caw

quickWit
01-15-2013, 01:43 AM
is too

jaksen
01-15-2013, 01:47 AM
Beat me to it.

And I'll echo what Stacia said, above. Ruminating about thinking about considering that you might intend to plan to begin to commence to start an outline, if only some commenters could provide reassurance of how good the intention is . . . isn't writing.

caw

Wow. If I could say that, I'd say I couldn't have said it better.

:D

James D. Macdonald
01-15-2013, 02:15 AM
My primary objection is to people who act as if Just Write It is the panacea for all writing problems.

Who are these people?

Do they post at AW?

------------------------

Still and all, someone could spend fifty years researching, fill a storage shed with notebook after notebook of detailed outlines, write character sheets for every major character, minor character, and household pet in the story, cast horoscopes for those same characters, do a pre-writing exercise every day until their fingers are strong enough to crush coal to diamond -- and yet, seventy years later, if they haven't actually written the book, there is no book.

How many people do you know who say, "I'm going to write a book some day," and ten years later are still saying, "I'm going to write a book some day"?

What advice would you give that person?

RichardGarfinkle
01-15-2013, 02:42 AM
Who are these people?

Do they post at AW?

Some do. See previous threads on the subject.




Still and all, someone could spend fifty years researching, fill a storage shed with notebook after notebook of detailed outlines, write character sheets for every major character, minor character, and household pet in the story, cast horoscopes for those same characters, do a pre-writing exercise every day until their fingers are strong enough to crush coal to diamond -- and yet, seventy years later, if they haven't actually written the book, there is no book.

How many people do you know who say, "I'm going to write a book some day," and ten years later are still saying, "I'm going to write a book some day"?

What advice would you give that person?

These seem like extreme cases. The question isn't whether Just Write It is ever good advice. Of course it is sometimes (especially in the first of your examples). The OP was whether it is always the right advice, which it isn't.

The advice I would give your second example isn't advice it's a question, "A book about what?" If the person had no answer to that, then they're only day-dreaming and need no more discussion. If they have an answer I'd discuss process with them.

James D. Macdonald
01-15-2013, 04:00 AM
The OP was whether it is always the right advice, which it isn't.



In which case this thread should be two posts long:

"Is 'Just Write It' ALWAYS the right advice?"

No.

Mr Flibble
01-15-2013, 04:09 AM
I can't think of any advice, including "Don't hit your thumb with a hammer," that's always right.

Don't eat yellow snow?

No advice for writing is ALWAYS right. They aren't rules etc etc

But many things, such as apprehension about writing, can actually be allayed by actually writing (this includes to my mind working on your timeline etc as long as you aren't doing it to avoid writing the book)

For the OP of the other thread (perhaps I shoudl post this there too....because I have a confuddle) - you have one timeline complete. There is nothing to say you can;t noodle the other timelines in your head as you bash out the first scene of the one that IS complete. (I quite often brainstorm projects I will write, while I am writing this project.)

The thing is this: Whatever advice anyone here gives, it is up to you to decide what works for you. Because there are as many different ways to write as there are writer - perhaps more, because not every book works the same way.

If you feel apprehensive, then perhaps writing a scene or two will help to settle you in. Then again, maybe you're the kind of writer who needs it all down first and it won't work.That's cool. But you won't know that until you try. Try everything, until you find what works for you

RichardGarfinkle
01-15-2013, 04:31 AM
In which case this thread should be two posts long:

"Is 'Just Write It' ALWAYS the right advice?"

No.

You'll get no argument from me about that.

Layla Nahar
01-15-2013, 04:34 AM
I, for one, think it can minimize the help-seeker's struggle.

jaksen
01-15-2013, 05:03 AM
I'm one of those who has written, 'just write,' or words to that effect on various threads here and there. Prob. less than five, but I've done it, regardless. Why, might one ask?

Because I've seen so many people who hem and haw, outline and then reoutline, then do character sketches, then backstories, then research various things and then talk about them here, on AW. They want advice. They want support. They want confirmation from those who also outline. And invariably, they get it. There are many of us on AW who will bullet point each argument or question or complaint with sound advice, patience support, yes do this and no don't do that, try this.

But I am of the mindset that writers write. Period. Those who outline, do so, then they write. Those who don't outline, just write.

You cannot be a writer if you aren't writing, so when I've seen a long and meandering thread, one in which the op is replying and seems to be seeking answers, my answer has been: stop all that other stuff and just write. Others on AW have done the same.

Even if a writer needs to outline and plan and whatever else, hopefully he or she is also writing. Something. Anything. It's the only way a writer will ever, ever get anywhere.

But of course, this is only my opinion ...

blacbird
01-15-2013, 06:40 AM
I feel the need to clarify my "yes" response to the OP: What I meant was in keeping with what StaciaKane said, which boils down to: At some point, "just write it" is the only advice to be given.

You may need to plan XYZ, or outline ABC, but "at some point" ya gotta actually write stuff. It's dead easy to get wrapped up in "planning", to the detriment of real story construction. And we seem to get a hell of a lot of thread-starter questions here that take the form of "How much description is too much? How many characters are too many? How much dialogue is too much? How many 'r's in a manuscript are too many?', etc.

To which the only possible answer, ever, is 'I have to see the writing.' To which I often get the impression doesn't yet exist.

I developed this bias as a result of frequenting a local writer's group for several years a while back. The two most prolific producers of material to be critiqued were 1. A man who longed to writer 'technothrillers', and had planned, via detailed outline, a series of forty-some, one of which was partly done. What he showed of it was utterly unreadable, filled to overflowing with implausible action, impossible action, anachronistic references, horrid grammar, and characters as substantial as morning mist in the sunshine.

The second was a man longing to write epic high fantasy novels, and all he ever showed was backstory world-building.

At some point, just write the damn story. Then, if you want it critiqued, by all means get it into the hands of critiquers (SYW here is a good place for that). All the nitpicky questions you may have can be answered only in the context of actual story.

I teach a university-level composition course, based entirely upon students actually writing. It is titled 'Methods of Written Communication', which I consider a great course title, and I try to construct the course to meet that title. I know that other instructors who teach this course rely on tests and quizzes, because I've seen some of them. I particularly recall on instructor's quiz on the use of commas, left behind in the same classroom where I teach. Dreadful waste of time. I teach punctuation and grammar and all the other nitpicky tools useful to make writing work, but I can judge every student's ability to use those tools by assessing the writing assignments they turn in. I don't need to give quizzes on such things.

Those principles also apply to my view on creative writing of the sort people who participate in AW are interested in. So . . . at some point, just write it. In general, I suggest doing that sooner, rather than later.

Overplanning has probably produced more lifeless wooden story narrative than anything else. Too many inexperienced writers think that if they just get everything planned out well enough, they can then 'write by number', filling in all the bullet points with prose. Maybe some can (Terry Brooks comes to mind, from a forum at a conference some years ago in which I saw him discuss his heavily-outlined approach). Great if it works. Others, not so much (John Saul comes to mind, from the same panel in the same conference).

For me, story-writing is a journey. Sometimes I know where I want to end up, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I change my mind about the former idea, once I get to actually writing. In the second case, where I finish comes along as the journey progresses.

My favorite example of the latter, in my own experience, is from my best unpublishable novel. I had two possible conclusions in mind as I wrote, to the point that I began to rough out each possibility. I had some way to go to get things to either of those conclusions, and worked on finishing that stuff, when suddenly (yes, I know you all detest that word, but in this instance it fits, literally), the story was concluded. I recognized it the moment I hit that point, and it was a feeling both of surprise and great satisfaction. Neither of the two intended endings was either necessary or appropriate. I was done.

Some people who have read the manuscript haven't liked that ending, and have told me so, and why, and I have respected and appreciated those comments. I took them on board, and gave them considerable thought. And, ultimately, I still think my ending is most appropriate. It satisfies the story, if not every reader. I never would have got it if I'd been playing write-by-number from a detailed outline.

For my currently near-complete unpublishable novel, I have already written the concluding chapter. I'm currently quite happy with it. I need a major transitional event, to get there, and am having problems working that out. As a consequence, I might . . . might, mind you . . . scrap that conclusion in favor of something else. Point is, I'm open to doing that. Maybe some comet will arrive, unexpected, from the literary Oort Cloud, and alter my thinking. It's happened before. I'm open to it happening again.

But that is only possible because I wrote, not knowing what was ahead on that night highway, seeing just as far as the headlights allowed, watching for poorly-marked curves, oncoming traffic, moose emerging from the woods to cross the road.

I just wrote it.

caw

cmi0616
01-15-2013, 07:05 AM
Well, it can't hurt to write it can it? Because if anything, at least your thoughts and ideas are tangible, down on the paper, in solid form. From there you can see what's wrong with it an then how to go about fixing it.

I think the advice that should always be given, indisputably, is "just write." It's when the brainstorming process becomes an excuse for procrastination (which is an easy trap to fall into) that "just write it" seems like good advice. But if you don't write "it," be sure that you write something everyday. That's why I have a journal--for the days on which I don't feel like writing any fiction.

RichardGarfinkle
01-15-2013, 12:16 PM
Well, it can't hurt to write it can it? Because if anything, at least your thoughts and ideas are tangible, down on the paper, in solid form. From there you can see what's wrong with it an then how to go about fixing it.

I think the advice that should always be given, indisputably, is "just write." It's when the brainstorming process becomes an excuse for procrastination (which is an easy trap to fall into) that "just write it" seems like good advice. But if you don't write "it," be sure that you write something everyday. That's why I have a journal--for the days on which I don't feel like writing any fiction.

Not everyone writes the same way. Not everyone has the same needs to improve their writing. Write something everyday works for some writers but not all. People differ in how they go about things.

And yes, it can hurt. There are people who can produce good work when they think things through but can't put two words down when they haven't. It's a mistake to think that one person's methods must work for another person. People need to work as they need to work and no advice is universal.

Blacbird is right that at some point one needs to write. But that doesn't mean that the solution now is always to write. It actually means the opposite. Knowing when to write is as much part of the skill as any other aspect of writing.

If you think it doesn't hurt to do it, think about someone who, if they thought it through more would produce good work, but pushed to write now, produces bilge and concludes that they can't write the story and gives up on it. That can and does hurt.

bearilou
01-15-2013, 04:21 PM
I suppose the phrase could mean different things to different people.

Exactly, which is why I have to agree with Hamilton.

Someone who is clearly dithering about their writing? Just write it works.

Someone who is having some issues with the craft itself or with trying to get through some problematic part? Just write it may or may not work, depending on who they are.

I think the problem is that too often 'just write it' is often offered too glibly to actually be useful in some instances and offered without taking into account that 'all writers are different', which is another thing tossed about.

There have been times when I was told 'just write it' and it was sound advice. I was dithering, unsure and thus procrastinating.

There have been other times when I have needed to talk things out to get them straight in my head before I put stuff down. Maybe I would have eventually gotten through it by 'just writing it' except that's not how my brain and creative process works. Talking it out, going at the problem from another angle can be just as productive for me. So 'just write it' when I was looking for help was actually the most useless (and frustrating) advice given to me in that instance.


Short answer: Sometimes Just Write It is completely wrong advice.

At different stages of work a story will need different things. Sometimes it needs to be written now, sometimes it needs research, sometimes it needs the writer to develop more skills or understanding.

To learn to write one must write. That does not mean that a particular story should be written right now.

It's taken me twenty years of writing, research, and thinking to be able to work on my WIP. Sometimes, Just Write It is absolutely wrong.

or...you know...what he said. :)

edit: In fact, I should just quote everything Richard has said in three pages because, yeah, what he said.

Ken
01-15-2013, 05:02 PM
Very little writing advice is absolute.

... yep.
That doesn't make the advice any less sound.
It's just not universal and applicable to all.

RichardGarfinkle
01-15-2013, 05:39 PM
If no one minds, I'd like to drop in a semi-concrete example from what I'm doing right now (I won't put in any text since I'm on second draft and no one but me should have to suffer through my first or second drafts).

Yesterday I thought I was ready to start rewriting a particular chapter. The opening scene basically works and probably needs clean up. But I didn't do it. It felt wrong to go ahead. So I didn't get any writing done yesterday.

I had also noted a couple of days ago that a couple of minor characters needed to be fleshed out as their actions and attitudes are major motivators for a major character who is central to the first scene of this chapter.

This morning I realized that I had a perfect opportunity to put a scene of them before the first scene of this chapter. The scene could easily fit the concept and purpose of the chapter. By the end of breakfast I had it fleshed out and I started writing immediately thereafter.

Had I stopped and dithered at this point, "Just Write It" would have been the correct advice because I was ready to write and knew what needed to be written.

This new first scene will flesh out and change some of the actions, motivations and descriptions of the old first scene.

Had I chosen to rewrite the old first scene instead of working out what needed to come before it, I would have wasted my writing time and mental effort when I needed to be working on something else. I might even have dug myself in deeper to the wrong direction for the scene and made it harder to figure out what should have been there.

In short, at any other point in this process, "Just Write It" would have been not only wrong advice, but bad advice.

Sam Argent
01-15-2013, 06:19 PM
If no one minds, I'd like to drop in a semi-concrete example from what I'm doing right now (I won't put in any text since I'm on second draft and no one but me should have to suffer through my first or second drafts).

Yesterday I thought I was ready to start rewriting a particular chapter. The opening scene basically works and probably needs clean up. But I didn't do it. It felt wrong to go ahead. So I didn't get any writing done yesterday.

I had also noted a couple of days ago that a couple of minor characters needed to be fleshed out as their actions and attitudes are major motivators for a major character who is central to the first scene of this chapter.

This morning I realized that I had a perfect opportunity to put a scene of them before the first scene of this chapter. The scene could easily fit the concept and purpose of the chapter. By the end of breakfast I had it fleshed out and I started writing immediately thereafter.

Had I stopped and dithered at this point, "Just Write It" would have been the correct advice because I was ready to write and knew what needed to be written.

This new first scene will flesh out and change some of the actions, motivations and descriptions of the old first scene.

Had I chosen to rewrite the old first scene instead of working out what needed to come before it, I would have wasted my writing time and mental effort when I needed to be working on something else. I might even have dug myself in deeper to the wrong direction for the scene and made it harder to figure out what should have been there.

In short, at any other point in this process, "Just Write It" would have been not only wrong advice, but bad advice.

I think most of us would know that you weren't procrastinating but thinking out a scene so "Just write it" wouldn't apply.

I have this huge fantasy story that I've been plotting out since high school. I tried writing it but couldn't figure out where I wanted the story to begin. No amount of plotting or outlining would help, but I knew that I still needed to write. I took a sliver of my universe and started another book. Working on it helped me learn about world building, magic systems, and writing with large casts. This is experience I wouldn't have gotten if I had spent all of my time creating the first story. There's nothing wrong with planning, but if it's not getting you anywhere after a couple years, maybe it's time to find another way.

bearilou
01-15-2013, 06:31 PM
I think most of us would know that you weren't procrastinating but thinking out a scene so "Just write it" wouldn't apply.

Yeahbut...if he had come to the forums to try to talk out his options, he still would have gotten a few comments that would have said 'Just write it'.

Now, Richard has experience as a writer and he's self-aware of his strengths and weaknesses so he would know how to take the advice given and apply it to his situation. Many writers aren't.

Again, for them 'just write it' may be what they need to hear, that it really is the best response to their procrastination, or maybe they need someone to bat around a few ideas first, see a perspective they hadn't considered prior, get that sorted and then apply 'just write it'. But unless the poster is very specific in what kind of help they're looking for and has gone on record previously as working one way or another creatively, perhaps 'just write it' is a bit premature as advice.

Sometimes, I get the impression that advice isn't given because it's sound advice for the situation, but they're saying it because they either don't have the patience to suss out what the real question being ask entails or they simply want to have 'provided assistance' without actually getting involved.

Sounds smart, pithy and helpful without actually being helpful.

shadowwalker
01-15-2013, 06:38 PM
I really can't think of an instance I've seen here where "Just write it" was given in lieu of 'real advice', or where it wasn't justified (bearing in mind I obviously haven't read every single comment in every single thread). Maybe someone could point out a couple instances where they've seen this happen (if someone already has I must have missed it).

bearilou
01-15-2013, 07:24 PM
I really can't think of an instance I've seen here where "Just write it" was given in lieu of 'real advice', or where it wasn't justified (bearing in mind I obviously haven't read every single comment in every single thread). Maybe someone could point out a couple instances where they've seen this happen (if someone already has I must have missed it).

I have. Not in recent days. And no one has said that every single comment has told the OP 'just write it'. Usually it's a mix. Some posters will say "hard to say, just write it and see what happens", other posters will try to provide experience or advice and end it with "but nothing will beat just sitting down and writing it", others still will give advice or opinions and not say it at all.

The advice and opinions are good, the advice and opinions and the final 'just write it' are good. But there have been some instances where 'just write it' has been said. I've even responded to a few by trying to temper that with 'sometimes it's not an all you gotta do is kind of situation'.

Has it been in the last day? Last week? Last month? It gets said a lot of the time although not necessarily all at once in the same thread unless it's pretty obvious it's a procrastination issue. Sometimes, as many of us have already said, it's the only really good response and those aren't the cases that at least I'm objecting to.

Do you really want me to comb back through all the threads I've read and maybe even responded to (because sometimes, all I can do is just sigh and close the thread since I really don't have the mental and emotional energy to talk about that again) to come up with a few instances of where it wasn't productive?

shadowwalker
01-15-2013, 07:44 PM
I'm just saying that it's all well and good to say "this is happening" - but a couple of examples would be better. I'm assuming something was said somewhere which prompted this whole discussion.

bearilou
01-15-2013, 07:55 PM
I'm just saying that it's all well and good to say "this is happening" - but a couple of examples would be better. I'm assuming something was said somewhere which prompted this whole discussion.

Well, it is easy to be lead to think this is happening OMG ALL THE TIME, when it really doesn't. And even in the threads where it gets said, not everyone is saying it (although I am reminded of a thread in the SFF section a while back where someone asked a question and pretty much every response was 'write it and see'. I also recall that it was warranted, as well), but even said once or twice...and then in thread after thread...it appears to be happening quite often.

And because I can't leave well enough alone:

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=262313

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=262239

Two really good examples of being told 'just write it' but with a lot of experience, advice and commiseration mixed it to assist with the overwhelming advice of 'just write it'. But...there was a comment that said 'just write it' and nothing more.

As far as I'm concerned, these threads are far more helpful with the number of people who not only encourage the writer to keep going, they indulge in conversation, a give and take of ideas and suggestions. But still, tucked within are the comments of 'just write it' and offering nothing more in way of help. Several threads in a row and they start to pop out.

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=7873716#post7873716

A thread where 'just write it' was perhaps apropos and yet still many had something else to offer, other than just blithely throwing 'just write it' out there. And still...there it was...'just write it'.

In reading the responses, it seems pretty clear to me that the advice, when stated 'just write it', falls flat in the face of other comments which offer a little more in the way of engagement and, like I said above, tend to stick out.

and lastly, Richards thread from august where this very thing was discussed before. :ROFL:

Shadow_Ferret
01-15-2013, 08:21 PM
Just write CAN be a form of plotting. Writing out what you've got in your mind, even if it's abstract or incomplete can work wonders. So can free writing.

Ex:

I know my characters are in a junkyard. A junkyard. Why are they in a junkyard? I don't know. What's in a junkyard? Junk. what kind of junk? paper, old diapers, leftovers, cars, smashed computers, scavenging dogs. Dogs... maybe they can be chased by dogs. They're looking for something in the junk yard, but it's on the other side of a pack of scavenging dogs! Even worse the MC has an irrational fear of dogs.

etc, etc, etc.

Writing produces writing. Not writing produces nothing.
Yes, but is writing nonsense any better than writing nothing? There was a point where I tried the "write no matter what" thing. For a period of several months, maybe over a year actually, I thought by forcing myself to write every day at the same time I would improve and writing would become automatic. But as it turned out, forcing myself to write even when I had nothing to write, produced a binder full of nonsense. Just crap off the top of my head, like "Here I sit at my typewriter, hoping to think of a story. A fly has landed on the platten. Maybe I can hit him. 3$;&3?/! Nope. He got away."

So I no longer subscribe to the "just write no matter what" school.

shadowwalker
01-15-2013, 09:22 PM
So I no longer subscribe to the "just write no matter what" school.

But that's somewhat different from telling someone to just write when they've done all this planning, worrying, procrastinating, etc. "Write every day" is a method to develop discipline in writing; "just write" is telling people to shit or get off the pot.

shadowwalker
01-15-2013, 09:30 PM
but even said once or twice...and then in thread after thread...it appears to be happening quite often.

This is what I was getting at. In those links you gave (thank you btw), it was all that was really necessary - the additional comments were kind of icing on the cake. And they still boiled down to "Just write it.".

Roger J Carlson
01-15-2013, 09:38 PM
If you don't like the advice -- just ignore it.

James D. Macdonald
01-15-2013, 09:52 PM
In the examples Bearilou linked to, "just write it" is actually good advice. Any examples where it was bad advice?

RichardGarfinkle
01-15-2013, 10:47 PM
In the examples Bearilou linked to, "just write it" is actually good advice. Any examples where it was bad advice?

Is there a way to answer this in the affirmative that does not violate RYFW? I don't see how to do this without violating that rule since any such thread posting will point to a member's advice and says that this person gave bad advice.

shadowwalker
01-15-2013, 11:07 PM
Is there a way to answer this in the affirmative that does not violate RYFW? I don't see how to do this without violating that rule since any such thread posting will point to a member's advice and says that this person gave bad advice.

People disagree with advice given by others on many threads. This would just be giving examples where you disagreed with this particular bit of advice. JMO

quicklime
01-15-2013, 11:35 PM
Yes, but is writing nonsense any better than writing nothing? .


in a vacuum, I'd say yes, it is--presumably you're still working on, and learning, dialogue and punctuation and other niceties, honing your craft.....which again, in the "all things equal" vacuum, you aren't doing by watching tv.

Sometimes you're better off getting your ducks in a row. On one hand you could call that part of the writing, as doing is very different than asking here. On the other, even with that, at some point you shit or commit. And that's usually where people say to just write it. The entire thread is based on a false assumption the advice, ANY advice, is applicable in every single case, and I find it hard to imagine the poster did not have at least some inkling of this.

anyway, carry on....

Hamilton
01-15-2013, 11:37 PM
I think I've figured out my issue with 'just write' being advised to readily:

You can't "just write" until you've made a decision about what to write, even if it's just the next sentence.

On one extreme, complete pansters make decisions about what to write sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, scene by scene.

On the other extreme, complete plotters make as many decisions as possible before they start writing. When they do start writing, they're only making small scale decisions, like how to phrase dialogue or describe specific actions.

When a writer makes the wrong decisions on their first draft, which is inevitable, they have to figure out what the mistakes were and fix them. The more bad decisions in the first draft, the more rewriting.

I think those who say "just write" is a valid solution for everyone aren't considering that the decisions a writer is struggling with still have to be made. In my experience, when you're forcing yourself to "just write", you're making decisions as fast as possible so you can keep writing.

Sometimes that's exactly what needed to happen. Other times, the stress a writer felt about a decision was justified, and they may have caused significant problems by choosing too quickly.

People like me simply can't handle writing and making big decisions about what to write at the same time. Sure, I can do it if I absolutely have to. But every panster who insists that they lose interest in a story if they outline it could probably write that way if they absolutely had to.



In the examples Bearilou linked to, "just write it" is actually good advice. Any examples where it was bad advice? Good advice for a plotter? Unlikely.

The OP in one thread was worried about their ability to handle a complex three part story. They were in the process of making an outline, which would be particularly useful because there were going to be overlapping timelines. There are plenty of ways to give advice on the OP's problem without saying, "Just start writing, even if you haven't finished your outline."

The other OP, who didn't know what to do with their inciting incident, looked like they needed to learn how to brainstorm. Later in the thread they realized they needed to write down everything they knew about the story already, and work from there, which is often how brainstorming ends up starting.

In either case, if those OPs worked best with a complete outline and they hadn't finished one, "just write" would have been useless advice. Was that necessarily the case? I don't know. But you don't know either.

Telling a plotter to "just write" before they're done with a plot outline isn't just useless advice; it can be harmful advice. You can't just make the assumption that everyone's process is the same as your own, and anyone putting off writing is doing it for no good reason.

quicklime
01-15-2013, 11:37 PM
Is there a way to answer this in the affirmative that does not violate RYFW? I don't see how to do this without violating that rule since any such thread posting will point to a member's advice and says that this person gave bad advice.


spend a bit of time in QLH, or grammar and punctuation. Plenty of arguing and suggestions one poster is wrong, which doesn't in itself violate the rule.

quicklime
01-15-2013, 11:39 PM
Good advice for a plotter? Unlikely.

.


you toss that around like the group is a monolith; I would bet you at least a third of the folks saying "just write it" do in fact consider themselves plotters.

Anyone who's in this thread and guilty of suggesting to just write it, who's a plotter themselves, care to raise a hand?

shadowwalker
01-15-2013, 11:47 PM
Good advice for a plotter? Unlikely.

I don't know of very many plotters who keep their outline in their head. It's written down. They write down their notes. They write down possible scenes. They write character bios.

There's always a period of thinking about something. But at some point, everyone needs to start writing, whether it's an outline or the story itself.

Mr Flibble
01-15-2013, 11:53 PM
I

Good advice for a plotter? Unlikely.



I know this guy, and he's had a book in mind, plotting, for ooohhh longer than I've been writing. He's got all the details worked out, he can talk all night long on the ins and outs of characters, arcs, sub plots, setting... etc.

He has yet to actually write one word of the story. Every time he goes to, he sits down, writes three sentences, declares them crap, deletes them and puts it off until he 'just tinkers with X' in the outline.

So yeah, even plotters have to actually gird the loins, sit down and write the story at some point.

Is it always good advice? Nope, but then not much is. So, given that often as not it IS good advice, should we stop offering it?

bearilou
01-15-2013, 11:53 PM
Anyone who's in this thread and guilty of suggesting to just write it, who's a plotter themselves, care to raise a hand?

I will. *raises hand*

Which is kind of what I'm arguing in this current thread now. 'Just write it' can be valid under certain circumstances. From procrastination, to being indecisive about a direction, to trying to get past a sticking point/hump, to moving beyond outline vapor lock. A myriad of situations that can lead to bogging down due to a stranglehold on the outline.

In many instances, I have actually said 'let your outline go and just write and see where it takes you' or 'just write it'. Except I'm not really saying 'just write it', I'm also trying to give reassurance to another (possible) plotter that it's okay to deviate from the outline sometimes and you can't possibly know what can come of it unless you...ohdear...just do it.

That said, I have seen on many occasions on this forum (and no, I can't point to them because they haven't occurred in such a time frame that I can put my mitts on the links) where I have seen someone come to get opinions and state that they aren't so much bogged down but want opinions or need a specific direction and have seen the chorus of 'just write it' come out at them.

Which is great if they had actually had an issue. They were soliciting opinions, hoping to engage in conversation, to maybe even brainstorm to see if there were other options they hadn't considered. And I watched as they struggled in frustration to get that point across in the face of 'just do it'. They understood the novel wasn't being written by committee nor were they looking for permission to write. They were trying to converse.


Is it always good advice? Nope, but then not much is. So, given that often as not it IS good advice, should we stop offering it?

Stop offering it? No. In many cases, it is just the kick in the pants the OP would need. In those cases, sure, maybe flipping off a 'just do it' comment would be enough. Maybe. It's an individual thing, I suppose. I would suggest that instead of an all or nothing, either or response that perhaps if the OP questions allows it, to offer more insight other than 'just write it'.

Mr Flibble
01-15-2013, 11:59 PM
That said, I have seen on many occasions on this forum (and no, I can't point to them because they haven't occurred in such a time frame that I can put my mitts on the links) where I have seen someone come to get opinions and state that they aren't so much bogged down but want opinions or need a specific direction and have seen the chorus of 'just write it' come out at them.Perhaps (and I'm just pantsing my post here...) though that's not the fault of the advice. It doesn't make it bad advice, necessarily. Perhaps the OP wasn't very clear about what they wanted/needed, perhaps the person saying just write thinks maybe it will help or they are in a rush or perhaps the OP stated they don't know what works for them yet so it's actually valid, or maybe the poster read the OP wrong or....

Yeah, sometimes it's not good advice, but then again, it's up to the OP to sift all the advice they get anyway. Otherwise, if they took all the suggestions, they'd often end up doing about fifty different contrary things...

ETA:
I would suggest that instead of an all or nothing, either or response that perhaps if the OP questions allows it, to offer more insight other than 'just write it'. Oh, I concur, but most people DO add more than just that (except when it's fairly obvious the OP just wants permission to do X)

Hamilton
01-16-2013, 12:01 AM
you toss that around like the group is a monolith; I would bet you at least a third of the folks saying "just write it" do in fact consider themselves plotters.

Anyone who's in this thread and guilty of suggesting to just write it, who's a plotter themselves, care to raise a hand?
Just because a someone who plots their stories is giving the advice doesn't necessarily mean they're not throwing out the "just write" advice too hastily. There are also degrees of plotters, from the more flexible to those who need to plan out every part of a scene step by step.

Many people make assumptions based on what's easy for them. For example, a plotter who can make decisions easily might tell an indecisive and confused plotter to "just write", not realizing that the indecisive plotter really needs to learn to organize their ideas in a methodical manner that isn't overwhelming. I had that problem myself.

But the issue isn't whether the advice is given by someone who plots themselves or not.

RichardGarfinkle
01-16-2013, 12:04 AM
Perhaps (and I'm just pantsing my post here...) though that's not the fault of the advice. It doesn't make it bad advice, necessarily. Perhaps the OP wasn't very clear about what they wanted/needed, perhaps the person saying just write thinks maybe it will help or they are in a rush or perhaps the OP stated they don't know what works for them yet so it's actually valid, or maybe the poster read the OP wrong or....

Yeah, sometimes it's not good advice, but then again, it's up to the OP to sift all the advice they get anyway. Otherwise, if they took all the suggestions, they'd often end up doing about fifty different contrary things...

ETA: Oh, I concur, but most people DO add more than just that (except when it's fairly obvious the OP just wants permission to do X)

Sifting advice can be fairly difficult for beginners. A reasonably skilled writer who is stuck and comes for advice will likely have enough sense of their own processes to be able to tell which advice to follow. A person starting out looks for help in all directions and often does not understand how they work well enough to sort through advice.

bearilou
01-16-2013, 12:06 AM
Yeah, sometimes it's not good advice, but then again, it's up to the OP to sift all the advice they get anyway. Otherwise, if they took all the suggestions, they'd often end up doing about fifty different contrary things...

Not disagreeing that the OP would need to be able to sift through all the advice to get what they want out of it. Except if the only advice is 'just write it' when they were looking for something a little more.


ETA: Oh, I concur, but most people DO add more than just that (except when it's fairly obvious the OP just wants permission to do X)

Yeah, it's usually that advice that I find most useful, even though I'm not the one who asked the question or even had an issue! So much to learn when there's more conversation going on. But then, I'm all about sucking all the useful information out of this place that I possibly can, draining every last drop!

Mr Flibble
01-16-2013, 12:10 AM
But the issue isn't whether the advice is given by someone who plots themselves or not.

The issue is whether it is helpful to a given person.

The thing is ANY advice will be unhelpful to some people - if you told me that I had to sit down and organise everything, write out timelines and character sheets and all that before I started, it would be very bad advice for me, because I'd get bored and end up not writing at all.

When people say 'Just write' (or any other piece of advice) they are usually giving the advice they would find helpful themselves. It won't be helpful to everyone, and that's usually pretty clear (often too, there will be several different pieces of advice in a thread - it's very rare to see the only advice is 'just write' - so the OP can pick one to try and see if it works)

People don't have to take the advice.


A reasonably skilled writer who is stuck and comes for advice will likely have enough sense of their own processes to be able to tell which advice to follow. A person starting out looks for help in all directions and often does not understand how they work well enough to sort through advice. If someone doesn't know what their process is, they need to try lots of different ones till they find the one that works though, surely? And that would include 'just writing'.? Because if you don't know your process yet, it could be anything....

ETA: I suppose I'm not seeing the real problem here - advice can never work for everybody. That's fairly fundamental, so why the antipathy towards people sharing what works for them?

RichardGarfinkle
01-16-2013, 12:21 AM
ETA: I suppose I'm not seeing the real problem here - advice can never work for everybody. That's fairly fundamental, so why the antipathy towards people sharing what works for them?

Either of the following works fine.

1. I find sitting down and just writing works for me.

2. Here's a list of things that have been known to work for different writers (with just write it on the list)

Those are both qualitatively different from 'Just Write It!' as an imperitive.

amergina
01-16-2013, 12:26 AM
I think I've figured out my issue with 'just write' being advised to readily:

You can't "just write" until you've made a decision about what to write, even if it's just the next sentence.

On one extreme, complete pansters make decisions about what to write sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, scene by scene.

On the other extreme, complete plotters make as many decisions as possible before they start writing. When they do start writing, they're only making small scale decisions, like how to phrase dialogue or describe specific actions.

When a writer makes the wrong decisions on their first draft, which is inevitable, they have to figure out what the mistakes were and fix them. The more bad decisions in the first draft, the more rewriting.

I think those who say "just write" is a valid solution for everyone aren't considering that the decisions a writer is struggling with still have to be made. In my experience, when you're forcing yourself to "just write", you're making decisions as fast as possible so you can keep writing.

Sometimes that's exactly what needed to happen. Other times, the stress a writer felt about a decision was justified, and they may have caused significant problems by choosing too quickly.

People like me simply can't handle writing and making big decisions about what to write at the same time. Sure, I can do it if I absolutely have to. But every panster who insists that they lose interest in a story if they outline it could probably write that way if they absolutely had to.

Good advice for a plotter? Unlikely.

The OP in one thread was worried about their ability to handle a complex three part story. They were in the process of making an outline, which would be particularly useful because there were going to be overlapping timelines. There are plenty of ways to give advice on the OP's problem without saying, "Just start writing, even if you haven't finished your outline."

The other OP, who didn't know what to do with their inciting incident, looked like they needed to learn how to brainstorm. Later in the thread they realized they needed to write down everything they knew about the story already, and work from there, which is often how brainstorming ends up starting.

In either case, if those OPs worked best with a complete outline and they hadn't finished one, "just write" would have been useless advice. Was that necessarily the case? I don't know. But you don't know either.

Telling a plotter to "just write" before they're done with a plot outline isn't just useless advice; it can be harmful advice. You can't just make the assumption that everyone's process is the same as your own, and anyone putting off writing is doing it for no good reason.

I always thought outlining a novel, for plotters, was part of writing. That is, a detailed outline is essentially a very loose first draft where you figure out all the stuff and see if it works. And if it doesn't you fix the outline. And then you "rewrite" the outline into a tighter and more formal draft of the novel.

So perhaps plotters should take "Just write it!" as if the advice-giver was saying "Just plot it!" and see if it works?

James D. Macdonald
01-16-2013, 12:37 AM
I think those who say "just write" is a valid solution for everyone aren't considering that the decisions a writer is struggling with still have to be made.


I'm still not convinced these people exist.




The OP in one thread was worried about their ability to handle a complex three part story. They were in the process of making an outline, which would be particularly useful because there were going to be overlapping timelines. There are plenty of ways to give advice on the OP's problem without saying, "Just start writing, even if you haven't finished your outline."

I presume you're talking about this thread? Is it normal to feel apprehensive about approaching complex stories? (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=262239)

The OP there has a complex three-part story, with one part completely outlined. In that case, advising the person to start writing the part that's been completely outlined, while working on the outlines of the other two parts, is exactly the right advice.


The other OP, who didn't know what to do with their inciting incident, looked like they needed to learn how to brainstorm. Later in the thread they realized they needed to write down everything they knew about the story already, and work from there, which is often how brainstorming ends up starting.

I presume you're talking about this thread? lack of 'inciting incident' (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=262313)

The OP there has a complete story, but is being paralysed by the perceived lack of an "inciting incident" (a term from academic criticism, as persons other than the author try to analyse a story). "Just write it" is excellent advice there, too. The perfect opening won't appear until the second draft. At the earliest.

I call to mind a young lady I knew, many years ago, who wanted to be a writer but couldn't write unless she had the title exactly centered on the page. (This was in the days of manual typewriters.) To date, I'm pretty sure she's never written anything.



Telling a plotter to "just write" before they're done with a plot outline isn't just useless advice; it can be harmful advice. You can't just make the assumption that everyone's process is the same as your own, and anyone putting off writing is doing it for no good reason.

If someone needs a complete outline, they should just write it.

kkbe
01-16-2013, 12:53 AM
Pity the writer who plots himself--

Wait, let me rephrase. :) Pity the writer who plots and plots and plots and never writes a thing.

Just as one might say, Pity the writer who mindlessly churns out page after page of pure, unadulterated crap because he wrote without even the slightest coherant idea in that little pea brain of his.

The question, Is 'Just write it' ALWAYS good advice?, incites heated debate because the word ALWAYS is in there. What if we rephrase?

Is 'Just write it' ever good advice?

Or,

Is 'Just write it' good advice?

Or,

When, if ever, is 'Just write it' good advice?

Change the wording, change the semantics. Or maybe people don't want to. Because debate is fun. And highly educational.

Always. :)

shadowwalker
01-16-2013, 01:01 AM
A person starting out looks for help in all directions and often does not understand how they work well enough to sort through advice.

I don't understand what you're saying here - should only one person advise a new writer so they don't get confused? Part of learning to write is learning about different methods and ideas and trying them to see if they work for that writer.

Hamilton
01-16-2013, 01:02 AM
If someone needs a complete outline, they should just write it.
You know as well as I do that "just write it" is a big oversimplification.

Writing, whether it's an outline or a novel or a script or an essay or a poem, involves piles choices. "Just write it" is useless to the person who is already writing but needs advice on how they can get character A to location B during C, despite D.

RichardGarfinkle
01-16-2013, 01:08 AM
I don't understand what you're saying here - should only one person advise a new writer so they don't get confused? Part of learning to write is learning about different methods and ideas and trying them to see if they work for that writer.

That's why saying something on the order of, "This works for me, you might try it." is a good form of advice, but "Everyone must do this in order to write" is generally not.

Or more bluntly:

Subjunctive good.
Imperative bad.

James D. Macdonald
01-16-2013, 01:10 AM
For the love of Benji, Hamilton, if you never write your book that's just fine with me.

amergina
01-16-2013, 01:19 AM
You know as well as I do that "just write it" is a big oversimplification.

Writing, whether it's an outline or a novel or a script or an essay or a poem, involves piles choices. "Just write it" is useless to the person who is already writing but needs advice on how they can get character A to location B during C, despite D.

Well, that's the kind of specific research-type question one would find in (or would wind up being ported to) Story Research :Experts and Interviews Wanted (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=66).

And the answers given there are generally not "Just write it!"

Hamilton
01-16-2013, 01:24 AM
For the love of Benji, Hamilton, if you never write your book that's just fine with me.
Touchy, touchy. No need to get personal. You were the one who decided to come into this thread.

Really, though, I think this comment says a lot. Instead of actually admitting that "just write" isn't going to help someone with a specific problem they're trying to fix, you just threw up your hands and started making comments about me.

Shadow_Ferret
01-16-2013, 01:31 AM
You know as well as I do that "just write it" is a big oversimplification.

Writing, whether it's an outline or a novel or a script or an essay or a poem, involves piles choices. "Just write it" is useless to the person who is already writing but needs advice on how they can get character A to location B during C, despite D.
We all face those choices, no matter what kind of writer we are (pantser or outliner). And none of us can make those decisions for you. Thus: just write it. Because ultimately, its your story and your decisions.

James D. Macdonald
01-16-2013, 01:34 AM
Okay, Hamilton.

If your problem is that you need advice on how they can get character A to location B during C, despite D. Then here it is: They can drive.

If nothing happens during the drive, you don't have to show it.

But that isn't where the "just write it" advice tends to turn up, and you know it.

Rather, it's when the discussion goes, "I want to write a book."

"Cool."

"I can't write it until I do X."

"Cool, so do X."

"I can't do X until I do Y."

"So do Y."

"I can't do Y until I do Z."

"Listen, forget X, Y, and Z. Just write your flippin' book."

quicklime
01-16-2013, 01:52 AM
You know as well as I do that "just write it" is a big oversimplification.

Writing, whether it's an outline or a novel or a script or an essay or a poem, involves piles choices. "Just write it" is useless to the person who is already writing but needs advice on how they can get character A to location B during C, despite D.


so, instead of an oversimplification, shall we now advise "Take a four-year writing program, and get all them nuances there before you make a move?"

This is silly; you're in knots about if this sometimes doesn't work, as though a revelation is right around the corner that there are exceptions to rules.....the cases you have mentioned, if Jim found the right ones, were for very particular instances....and he even explained why. Is there really something you don't get here, or are you grinding a personal axe? Because no advice is ALWAYS right, so unless you're actually suggesting none be give, ever, to avoid this terrible risk, I'm not sure what you expect to come of this.

quicklime
01-16-2013, 01:53 AM
Touchy, touchy. No need to get personal. You were the one who decided to come into this thread.

Really, though, I think this comment says a lot. Instead of actually admitting that "just write" isn't going to help someone with a specific problem they're trying to fix, you just threw up your hands and started making comments about me.


i see a nastygram from moderation in your future....

*shakes head

Hamilton
01-16-2013, 01:55 AM
We all face those choices, no matter what kind of writer we are (pantser or outliner). And none of us can make those decisions for you. Thus: just write it. Because ultimately, its your story and your decisions.
Of course you need to make your own decisions. But that doesn't mean we can't solicit advice on those decisions from others. Hell, maybe half of this forum is dedicated to just that.

But that isn't where the "just write it" advice tends to turn up, and you know it.
Yeah, I know it so much I started an entire thread about it.

And your previous comment was still a really crappy thing to say.

Shadow_Ferret
01-16-2013, 02:00 AM
Of course you need to make your own decisions. But that doesn't mean we can't solicit advice on those decisions from others. Hell, maybe half of this forum is dedicated to just that.
Asking for advice on HOW to write is one thing, expecting advice on WHAT to write is something else again.

blacbird
01-16-2013, 02:05 AM
Yeah, I know it so much I started an entire thread about it.

And your previous comment was still a really crappy thing to say.

Not really the attitude that plays well in this place, Ham, and mesuspects you're about to hear that from a mod.

caw

quicklime
01-16-2013, 02:06 AM
Yeah, I know it so much I started an entire thread about it.

And your previous comment was still a really crappy thing to say.


the thing is, he actually went and explained that (where the "just write it" advice tends to show up). So did several other posters.

and you continued to argue about absolutes.


So now you want to plead ignorance, but it sems sort of hard to argue you didn't know after folks have told you where it comes up and you've CONTINUED to argue. choose one, but you can't be both correct and a poor victimized soul here, you're trying to play both sides. Jim and others mentioned where the advice usually comes, why it is given, etc......so now either you understand, or you don't....but you DO know.

shadowwalker
01-16-2013, 02:08 AM
That's why saying something on the order of, "This works for me, you might try it." is a good form of advice, but "Everyone must do this in order to write" is generally not.

Or more bluntly:

Subjunctive good.
Imperative bad.

Imperatives are bad no matter what the advice. I just figured that was understood. It's certainly stated often enough throughout the forums.

bearilou
01-16-2013, 02:16 AM
Imperatives are bad no matter what the advice. I just figured that was understood. It's certainly stated often enough throughout the forums.

Sometimes new writers need to be reminded, though. Being new to the forums they don't always see where it's stated and re-emphasized.

Hamilton
01-16-2013, 02:40 AM
the thing is, he actually went and explained that (where the "just write it" advice tends to show up). So did several other posters.

and you continued to argue about absolutes.


So now you want to plead ignorance, but it sems sort of hard to argue you didn't know after folks have told you where it comes up and you've CONTINUED to argue. choose one, but you can't be both correct and a poor victimized soul here, you're trying to play both sides. Jim and others mentioned where the advice usually comes, why it is given, etc......so now either you understand, or you don't....but you DO know.
I'm not claiming ignorance. Before I started this thread I knew the justification for giving the "just write" advice, and that there are times when it's needed. I have never questioned that.

But I do think that the "just write" advice is sometimes given too quickly, and if the wrong person takes it literally it could cause problems for them. Some in this thread have also argued that in most circumstances "just write" is still good advice, which I disagree with.

I'm not oblivious to the reasoning behind "just write". I just think it's a response that sometimes looks like it's being given without enough consideration.

AW Admin
01-16-2013, 03:38 AM
Touchy, touchy. No need to get personal. You were the one who decided to come into this thread.

Really, though, I think this comment says a lot. Instead of actually admitting that "just write" isn't going to help someone with a specific problem they're trying to fix, you just threw up your hands and started making comments about me.




And your previous comment was still a really crappy thing to say.

Macdonald has been relentlessly courteous, and given you the experience of someone who has successfully made a living writing, someone who has taught and mentored hundreds of writers, and is saying whether you just write an outline or just write a draft, doesn't really matter.

What matters is that writers write.

I don't particularly give a damn whether you pants, or plotz.

You will however, be courteous to your fellow members, including mods.

phantasy
01-16-2013, 05:10 AM
Who cares? Do it or not...it's your book, your life.

Layla Nahar
01-16-2013, 05:12 AM
... this thread? lack of 'inciting incident' (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=262313)

The OP there has a complete story, but is being paralysed by the perceived lack of an "inciting incident" (a term from academic criticism, as persons other than the author try to analyse a story). "Just write it" is excellent advice there, too.

Interesting. From that poster's description it looked like she had a lot of ideas but lacked a viable story. I imagined that in such a situation (lack of a concrete idea of exactly how to get started) it would be very frustrating to hear 'just write it'.

Layla Nahar
01-16-2013, 05:29 AM
"just write" is telling people to shit or get off the pot.

But maybe what the writer seeking advice really needs is a laxative...



But as it turned out, forcing myself to write even when I had nothing to write, produced a binder full of nonsense.

likewise


you toss that around like the group is a monolith; ...
Anyone who's in this thread and guilty of suggesting to just write it, who's a plotter themselves, care to raise a hand?

Addressing the OP's plotter/pantser take on this - I write my story as I go, and I find the 'just write' advice very hard to take. For me, if I could just write it, I'd be writing rather than asking for help.

Ken
01-16-2013, 05:40 AM
... in a way it might be likened to asking somebody for directions and being told to "just drive," in some of the particular cases that have been mentioned here. But you know, some of that is the writer's doing. I've often read threads where a writer is stuck and doesn't really explain why. All the particulars are left out and yet they want specific direction and help. Just ain't possible to give that without disclosing more.

Mr Flibble
01-16-2013, 05:40 AM
Interesting. From that poster's description it looked like she had a lot of ideas but lacked a viable story. I imagined that in such a situation (lack of a concrete idea of exactly how to get started) it would be very frustrating to hear 'just write it'.

And perhaps the story will turn up as she writes

perhaps not - depends on the sort if writer/person - bit from thte OP I'm not sure she knows her process yet and/or is stalled by planning. So writing the stuff she DOES know may help. It may not - depends on what sort of writer she is

But then ALL Advice falls in that bracket, whatever that advice is

Advice is EXACTLY the same as crits - take what is useful, discard the rest and say thanks. And yeah, perhaps a very young newbie might not get that advice is subjective, but anyone with experience of advice (like most people over ohhhhh 14 perhaps) will probably know...it isn't always all that. Take from it what is useful - it's a life skill tbh. Not rocket science.

If they don't know that advice is subjective, the there is almost always someone else popping up in the thread to say 'try this instead'. Which is why AW is awesome... The only times I haven't seen that happen is when it is obvious (to to prolly everyone but the OP) that they are stalling.

So given that 90% of threads with a 'just write' in also have a different viewpoint...what's the problem?

Layla Nahar
01-16-2013, 06:01 AM
And perhaps the story will turn up as she writes


Well, may I ask you - what do you suggest a person write in order to help the story turn up? (I'm not trying to be fresh/flippant. I'd really like to hear some ideas about this.)

Mr Flibble
01-16-2013, 06:09 AM
Well, may I ask you - what do you suggest a person write in order to help the story turn up? (I'm not trying to be fresh/flippant. I'd really like to hear some ideas about this.)


Well I can't say for anyone else.

Here's an example.

So I needed X thing to happen, to wrap up a subplot. i had a vgue idea that X character would say...somethng. I ha a bgue idea bit...

So I wrote it.

Only when I came to write it, she said something totally different -- something that actual wrapped that sub plot better than anything else I'd planned. My subconscious? Perhaps? My muse? perhaps also. I don't care - I got the scene I wanted plus some.

Just write like this:

Character X needs/wants this
Character Y is in opposition somehow

So, being the person X is, what does he say/do?
Being the person Y is, how does he react?

Repeat...
And there is your scene.
Next scene? Then your character reacts to what happened in that scene
If in doubt - what would your characters do now?

PS people acting of screen/the villain also count as characters.

Layla Nahar
01-16-2013, 06:28 AM
Thanks for sharing that, Mr. Flibble! :)

blacbird
01-16-2013, 06:34 AM
... in a way it might be likened to asking somebody for directions and being told to "just drive," in some of the particular cases that have been mentioned here. But you know, some of that is the writer's doing. I've often read threads where a writer is stuck and doesn't really explain why. All the particulars are left out and yet they want specific direction and help. Just ain't possible to give that without disclosing more.

Ain't possible to learn how to drive without getting behind the wheel at some point, either.

caw

Layla Nahar
01-16-2013, 06:45 AM
Ain't possible to learn how to drive without getting behind the wheel at some point, either.

caw

There is Driver's Ed to help you, and there are also driving schools. (& hope you'll excuse my pedantic nature here, but Ken's example was about asking for directions rather than about asking how to drive.)

cmi0616
01-16-2013, 07:26 AM
If you think it doesn't hurt to do it, think about someone who, if they thought it through more would produce good work, but pushed to write now, produces bilge and concludes that they can't write the story and gives up on it. That can and does hurt.

Right, perhaps I wasn't clear enough in getting my idea across. What I said was that "just write it" is not always a good idea. If you have a thought for a project or a story or whatever it might be in your head that you need to think on some more, by all means, hold off on actually writing it.

My advice was to "just write." If you feel that you can't write down the idea you still need to think on, write something everyday. As with anything else, the only way to get better at writing is to actually do it. I think most writers will agree with that. After all, you can't expect every word you put on the page to ooze with Shakespearean genius. That would be madness.

The point of writing, at least at first, is to get the ideas on the page. Their not supposed to be perfect or even all that good at first. That's what the revision process is for.

Terie
01-16-2013, 12:07 PM
Of course 'just write it' isn't ALWAYS good advice. This is why most of the threads here at AW don't contain the advice of 'just write it'. Duh.

However, like it or not, sometimes, it really is the best advice, as has been explained repeatedly in this thread. Just because someone doesn't like the advice doesn't mean it's automatically wrong.

This thread reminds me of the time a manager who worked in another region came to our office. She needed to get a taxi to the airport, and she asked the receptionist where to catch one. The receptionist told her, 'Go out the front door of the building and look to your right. You'll see the taxi rank about 30 meters down the road.' This wasn't good enough. The manager went to every single employee asking how to find the taxi rank. Every single one of us told her, 'Go out the front door of the building and look to your right. You'll see the taxi rank about 30 meters down the road.' But no matter how many of us told her that, it just wasn't good enough for her. She wanted more. Except in her case, 'Go out the front door of the building and look to your right; you'll see the taxi rank about 30 meters down the road,' was the exactly right advice.

Which, sometimes, 'just write it' is, too.

Ken
01-16-2013, 05:10 PM
Ain't possible to learn how to drive without getting behind the wheel at some point, either.

caw

... you sure are clever when it comes to snide remarks.
Maybe we'll change your name to Mockingbird.

As to the content of your reply, I rather agree.
But then I wasn't addressing writers who are merely inhibited for one reason and another.
In that case, "just write" is a fine prescription.
No one here is disputing that.

Kitty27
01-16-2013, 05:24 PM
Of course you need to make your own decisions. But that doesn't mean we can't solicit advice on those decisions from others. Hell, maybe half of this forum is dedicated to just that.

Yeah, I know it so much I started an entire thread about it.

And your previous comment was still a really crappy thing to say.


Please remember the #1 rule of AW and that is respect your fellow writer. You asked for advice and opinions, both of which you have received in a cordial manner.

Please respond in kind.

acockey
01-16-2013, 08:04 PM
I'd like to add, that 'Just writing it' can lead you to wonder, and wondering about your story can lead to sequels/prequels

Buffysquirrel
01-16-2013, 08:23 PM
On one extreme, complete pansters make decisions about what to write sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, scene by scene.

I'm guessing you're not a pantser, because, no.

I sometimes write as a complete pantser, but I write with the whole book in mind all the same.

Stacia Kane
01-16-2013, 08:55 PM
... you sure are clever when it comes to snide remarks.
Maybe we'll change your name to Mockingbird.




Jesus. Seriously?

Unnecessary and rude. How many mods need to show up here to remind people to RYFW, exactly?



You know, take the advice that's useful and leave the rest. Give "just write it a try" and see if it works for you. If it does, you've learned something. If it doesn't, you've learned something.

It's not rocket science. Writing is a process, and people have to figure out how to best serve their own process. They do that by actually, you know, writing, and seeing if they need additional thought beforehand or if they can just create something on the fly. They do it by experimenting, and for a writer that usually means writing and seeing how it goes.

"Just write it" may not always be the best advice for a particular individual or situation, but it's hardly on the level of advising someone to go ahead and drink that antifreeze to see how it tastes, for research.

All people can do is offer suggestions. Giving "just write it" a try never killed anyone. If it doesn't work they can come back and ask a more specific question.

I'm just really not seeing where the personal offense comes from in being told that some people advise that to see if something writing-related will work, you should write it and see. Nobody's showing up at your house to make sure you're doing it, you know. And if "Just write it" won't work because you need to plot in advance, then say that when you ask, as in, "I've tried just writing it but I keep getting bogged down, so want to have a solid outline before I start. My character, X, does Y for a living and has stumbled on to a mystery involving A and B. C is the villain. I want to make clear that C wants to destroy the world; any ideas for a scene I can add that will show that?"


I included a lot of detail there because when asking for advice, information is needed. If you need specific advice you need to ask a specific question, otherwise how can anyone advise you? Asking "Can Character X do B?" is bound to get you "Write it and see" advice, because A) Any character can do anything as long as it's written/handled well; and B) How the heck do we know what your characters are capable of?

Kitty27
01-16-2013, 09:11 PM
... you sure are clever when it comes to snide remarks.
Maybe we'll change your name to Mockingbird.

As to the content of your reply, I rather agree.
But then I wasn't addressing writers who are merely inhibited for one reason and another.
In that case, "just write" is a fine prescription.
No one here is disputing that.


As Admin and Stacia have done, I am again reminding y'all to remember the rules of AW. Respect your fellow writer.

Period.

James D. Macdonald
01-16-2013, 09:13 PM
Interesting. From that poster's description it looked like she had a lot of ideas but lacked a viable story. I imagined that in such a situation (lack of a concrete idea of exactly how to get started) it would be very frustrating to hear 'just write it'.

Oh, she's got a viable story.

In her world, magic is returning.

Main character's grandmother vanishes.

Main character has a need: Needs to find granny.

Main character has a problem: The old rules don't work any more.

Conclusion: If this is a short story, either the main character finds granny, or she doesn't.

If this is a novel either she finds granny, or she doesn't, and this leads to a new, different, and even greater problem. Repeat for another 300 pages.

As to how to start the story, anything at all will do. The main character can go out for pizza. As long as the character is moving it doesn't matter.

What should that author do? She should write her story. Being paralysed by the thought, "I must find an inciting incident!" is what's stopping her. Being told "An inciting incident isn't necessary; start wherever you'd like and just write it" is exactly what she needs to hear, and to do.

Stacia Kane
01-16-2013, 09:18 PM
I think I've figured out my issue with 'just write' being advised to readily:

You can't "just write" until you've made a decision about what to write, even if it's just the next sentence.

On one extreme, complete pansters make decisions about what to write sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, scene by scene.

On the other extreme, complete plotters make as many decisions as possible before they start writing. When they do start writing, they're only making small scale decisions, like how to phrase dialogue or describe specific actions.




I'm guessing you're not a pantser, because, no.

I sometimes write as a complete pantser, but I write with the whole book in mind all the same.


As Buffysquirrel says, no. I'm a pantser. Not only am I writing with the whole book in mind, but as I write I'm making word choices only, pretty much. I'm usually not consciously making story decisions with every word or sentence. I'm just letting it flow. If anything I'm NOT thinking, more than thinking of everything in minute details.

I'm making the exact same decisions, as a pantser, as the ones you've described for your complete plotters. Exactly the same.

The decisions about where to go next come after I've finished a particular scene, not during it.

No offense, but if you haven't done it and don't understand the process, don't make blanket statements about how it works.

And those complete plotters who make all the decisions ahead of time still have to make those decisions, write them, and see whether or not they worked. Having a perfectly plotted outline doesn't mean the book will work once written. Nor does it mean the book will be any good. Nor does it mean the book won't need editing.

You won't know any of that until the book is written.




Telling a plotter to "just write" before they're done with a plot outline isn't just useless advice; it can be harmful advice. You can't just make the assumption that everyone's process is the same as your own, and anyone putting off writing is doing it for no good reason.

How is it harmful? Because they try to write it and find they're stuck and need to work more on their outline? Is that harmful or helpful? Or maybe because they learn they can stray from their outline? Or maybe they learn they have a hard time pantsing and so need the outline? All of those are valuable things to know.

Advising someone to JWI isn't the same as assuming their process is the same as your own. It's offering what worked for you. Nobody here advises JWI with the intention of making the OP feel stupid or small. We're not rubbing our hands together with glee at the idea of ruining somebody's book. We're trying to help. We're giving advice we've seen work, that works for us. (Personally, if a whole bunch of people were advising me to do something, I'd try it, thinking perhaps they're right. But that may be just me.) It's free, no-obligation advice, and for that price no one is obligated, either, to spend hours investigating the OP's specific process. (I also point out that there seem to be more pantsers than plotters here; what advice do you expect us to give?)

And again, if you don't like the advice, ignore it. If you try it and it doesn't work for you, say so. Nobody's going to check up to make sure you did what they suggested. Nobody's going to call you names if you try it and it doesn't work.

But the fact remains that even those who use outlines often tell people to just write it. Because at some point you have to.

And because you can't edit unless you have a draft.

And because sometimes just writing will teach you something about the story or kick-start your mind into solving that plot problem/character issue.

And because no matter how good your outline is, you never truly know if that will translate to "good book" until the book is actually written.

aa1888
01-16-2013, 09:51 PM
I'm in a dilemma where "just right it" might be a good advice. I have plotted, worldbuilded, and started the novel. But i have this nagging problem of doubting myself and trying to place a distance to the novel.

So "just right it" will appear to suit my dielemma. The advice "just right it" should apply to someone who already started the story. Once you write one word, you must write the last word. Whether you doubt the story or hate the story.

RichardGarfinkle
01-16-2013, 10:12 PM
Imperatives are bad no matter what the advice. I just figured that was understood. It's certainly stated often enough throughout the forums.


I'm in a dilemma where "just right it" might be a good advice. I have plotted, worldbuilded, and started the novel. But i have this nagging problem of doubting myself and trying to place a distance to the novel.

So "just right it" will appear to suit my dielemma. The advice "just right it" should apply to someone who already started the story. Once you write one word, you must write the last word. Whether you doubt the story or hate the story.

Not necessarily. My previous WIP was stuck going nowhere past chapter 1 for two years, because it wasn't what I needed to be working on. Current WIP is on second draft.

Just Write It works when the writer is sabotaging the work with self doubts, distractions, dithering etc.

blacbird
01-17-2013, 12:23 AM
The advice "just right it" should apply to someone who already started the story. Once you write one word, you must write the last word. Whether you doubt the story or hate the story.

Bear in mind also that you don't have to proceed in totally linear fashion, like a freight train. Think "scenes", and work on writing some that stimulate you, whether they are in order or not. You can assemble stuff later, one of the great benefits of the word-processor. But write something to get past the speed-bump of "planning". There's nothing wrong with planning, until it becomes an obstacle to forward movement.

Writing, actual writing stimulates more writing. Planning, no matter how intricate, doesn't generally do that.

And don't overworry about writing stuff that might get tossed out later. Keep the windows of your writing mind open to the air. Fresh breezes sometimes enter, bearing entire new and useful ideas that might not be contained in the architecture of your plan.

caw

Layla Nahar
01-17-2013, 01:16 AM
Oh, she's got a viable story.

Main character has a need: Needs to find granny.

Main character has a problem: The old rules don't work any more.

As to how to start the story, anything at all will do. The main character can go out for pizza. As long as the character is moving it doesn't matter.


James,

Thank you very much for sharing your insight. I failed to see what you see, but I have a lot of trouble with 'story'.




I'm making the exact same decisions, as a pantser, as the ones you've described for your complete plotters. Exactly the same.

I'm glad to hear someone say this. People have suggested to me that I solve my problems by outlining, but my take on it is pretty much what you have said - outline or write-as-you-go, the writer has to deal with the same kind of decisions either way.

Windcutter
01-17-2013, 02:33 AM
This coming from a plotter. Justwriteit often helps when I can't choose between two (or more) projects. I write a chapter or two, get a feel for each project, and then it's suddenly clear which one clicks.

I think it's pretty pointless, though, as a general case. I mean, if you could just write it, why would you be asking for advice? You'd be writing. And if you can't, no amount of JWI will make you. But then, I never really understood how external pushing works, either. If I can't force myself to get up and start working, then no one else can. Well, unless they are my boss and it's a job and I really need money. :)

CChampeau
01-17-2013, 04:30 AM
*sigh* What irks me about "just write it" is that it's overused (IMO). Like, 3+ people saying it on the same thread for many threads.
And it's vague. A more articulate response would be appreciated, I'm sure.

shadowwalker
01-17-2013, 05:05 AM
*sigh* What irks me about "just write it" is that it's overused (IMO). Like, 3+ people saying it on the same thread for many threads.
And it's vague. A more articulate response would be appreciated, I'm sure.

But again - if the poster is just dithering or asking a 'crystal ball' question, what other advice can one give?

RichardGarfinkle
01-17-2013, 06:14 AM
But again - if the poster is just dithering or asking a 'crystal ball' question, what other advice can one give?

Sometimes, "What are you afraid of?" can help. New writers are often afraid of looking foolish or messing up etc. For them the reassurance that we all mess up a lot as we are finding our ways can help them find theirs.

For the ones who are too egotistical to think that they can mess up, no advice of any kind will help except "get over yourself"

CChampeau
01-17-2013, 06:14 AM
But again - if the poster is just dithering or asking a 'crystal ball' question, what other advice can one give?

Dithering deserves the 'just write' response, but sometimes people ask things without being entirely sure of what they're not sure of. Like in a math class where the teacher launches into a lengthy explanation, and when the student says "I don't understand," the teacher asks them what they didn't understand...and the student says, "All of it."

Sometimes helping someone figure out what their question is can be more helpful than giving a stock answer. It may take more time and energy, but...well, stock answers are easy to give.

FTR, to those who frequently say 'just write', I'm not criticizing - just sharing my thoughts on the matter in hopes that this advice will be used appropriately rather than as a fix-all.

Layla Nahar
01-17-2013, 06:58 AM
"just write it" reminds me of "just snap out of it" - what they used to say about depression.

shadowwalker
01-17-2013, 08:28 AM
"just write it" reminds me of "just snap out of it" - what they used to say about depression.

I don't see that at all. "Just write it" is good, even excellent advice under many circumstances. "Just snap out of it" is ignorance.

AshleyEpidemic
01-17-2013, 09:04 AM
I've found the concept of just write it unhelpful. In theory it is wonderful, and for many it may be. But for some, like me, it is detrimental and results in something I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. I finally dove in to a short story I was planning that I seemed to be dancing circles around before writing. I decided I would take the just write it and see what happens approach and it wasn't good. For most people, they would recognize it just didn't work or rewrite it, but now I'm in limbo where I still believe in my concept, but don't believe in my ability to execute said concept.

blacbird
01-17-2013, 09:27 AM
I've found the concept of just write it unhelpful. In theory it is wonderful, and for many it may be. But for some, like me, it is detrimental and results in something I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. I finally dove in to a short story I was planning that I seemed to be dancing circles around before writing. I decided I would take the just write it and see what happens approach and it wasn't good. For most people, they would recognize it just didn't work or rewrite it, but now I'm in limbo where I still believe in my concept, but don't believe in my ability to execute said concept.

So your planning wasn't working, either. Hard to tell what the problem is without seeing some work, which is the major reason people (including me) tend to give the "Just write it" dictum. Maybe this particular story idea just isn't fully matured. One thing you could do, certainly, is post what you have in SYW.

All I really know, for dead certain, is that at some point, if you're serious about producing writing, ya gotta put a noun after the article and follow that with a verb, and go from there, regardless of the intricacy of "the plan", or lack thereof.

caw

amergina
01-17-2013, 09:41 AM
You know what? If "Just Write It" doesn't work for you, then don't write it.

You do have a choice in the matter.

Don't write it. Think about it more. Dwell on all those intricate plot points. Do more research. Bounce ideas off of others.

Whatever floats your boat.

But if you want to write... at some point, you actually have to do the deed, you know?

quicklime
01-17-2013, 05:17 PM
I don't see that at all. "Just write it" is good, even excellent advice under many circumstances. "Just snap out of it" is ignorance.



this. the two are nothing alike.

bearilou
01-17-2013, 06:44 PM
I don't see that at all. "Just write it" is good, even excellent advice under many circumstances. "Just snap out of it" is ignorance.

But not under ALL circumstances, which is what this thread started off discussing. That there are some circumstances where 'just write it' really isn't that helpful.

PorterStarrByrd
01-17-2013, 07:02 PM
For me, 'just write it' means get off of AW and get to work. To some extent AW is really my water cooler since the few people I meet up here speak mostly French ( and I speak mostly English) and meaningful interaction is rare.

I've always got plenty of material spinning around in my head and in 'started' WiP. It sits there begging for my attention. I would never recommend someone who has not already begun the mental work for something to sit down and hit keys on the keyboard, hoping for inspiration. I say that as a complete panster who breaks away for research but not outlines etc.

AshleyEpidemic
01-17-2013, 07:28 PM
So your planning wasn't working, either. Hard to tell what the problem is without seeing some work, which is the major reason people (including me) tend to give the "Just write it" dictum. Maybe this particular story idea just isn't fully matured. One thing you could do, certainly, is post what you have in SYW.

All I really know, for dead certain, is that at some point, if you're serious about producing writing, ya gotta put a noun after the article and follow that with a verb, and go from there, regardless of the intricacy of "the plan", or lack thereof.

caw

The planning actually was working wonderfully, but I didn't want to spend more than two days planning the short story. I was trying to prescribe to the just write method. I hit the two day limit and wrote it. Personally I needed the extra day or two to plan.

I have no issue with execution. I have written every idea that I have seriously put any thought into. It is never a matter of getting to it. Only being prepared enough for it.

I simply voiced that I am not one who prescribes to the idea. Not saying it wouldn't work for others.

shadowwalker
01-17-2013, 07:47 PM
But not under ALL circumstances, which is what this thread started off discussing. That there are some circumstances where 'just write it' really isn't that helpful.

I don't know of anyone who has said it's always the right advice. The whole discussion is kind of out there, frankly. As has been said, over and over, no advice is always the right advice. :deadhorse

quicklime
01-17-2013, 07:52 PM
this is starting to remind me of the Clinton "what is the definition of 'is'?" fiasco

Stacia Kane
01-17-2013, 08:10 PM
The thing is, too, that for every person for whom "Just write it" doesn't work, there's someone for whom it's permission.

Lots of people come here with the idea that they MUST plot in advance, they MUST have a detailed outline before they start, they MUST know how the story ends first. Not because that's their process, but because they read it somewhere or someone gave them that advice before.

For those people, "Just write it" sets them free. It makes them realize that lots of successful writers (by which I mean writers who have finished a book) start with a character and an idea, not a pages-long detailed outline with bullet points and character factsheets and pictures of models or actors.

There isn't always a way of knowing in advance which people those are.

Buffysquirrel
01-17-2013, 08:22 PM
Lots of people come here with the idea that they MUST plot in advance, they MUST have a detailed outline before they start, they MUST know how the story ends first. Not because that's their process, but because they read it somewhere or someone gave them that advice before.

This. Oh my God this. A thousand times.

RichardGarfinkle
01-17-2013, 08:29 PM
The thing is, too, that for every person for whom "Just write it" doesn't work, there's someone for whom it's permission.

Lots of people come here with the idea that they MUST plot in advance, they MUST have a detailed outline before they start, they MUST know how the story ends first. Not because that's their process, but because they read it somewhere or someone gave them that advice before.

For those people, "Just write it" sets them free. It makes them realize that lots of successful writers (by which I mean writers who have finished a book) start with a character and an idea, not a pages-long detailed outline with bullet points and character factsheets and pictures of models or actors.

There isn't always a way of knowing in advance which people those are.

That's fair.

Roger J Carlson
01-17-2013, 08:32 PM
But not under ALL circumstances, which is what this thread started off discussing. That there are some circumstances where 'just write it' really isn't that helpful.If that's all this thread was about, it would have ended on the first page. Mostly this thread has been about people telling other people what they said isn't really what they said.

quickWit
01-17-2013, 08:34 PM
Is not.

Hey! This is fun! :D

Roger J Carlson
01-17-2013, 08:45 PM
Is not.

Hey! This is fun! :DIs too ... times a thousand.

Davarian
01-17-2013, 08:49 PM
If there's one thing I've learned about rules, guidelines, and advice, it's that NOTHING always applies. Heh, not even the Golden Rule. Not even Newton's Laws. Everything has exceptions

That being said, I think "just writing it" is a good idea for your senario simply beacuse you might overthink the whole thing, and then nothin gets done.

quickWit
01-17-2013, 08:53 PM
Is too ... times a thousand.

GAH! Bested, yet again! How can I debate such unassailable logic?

AshleyEpidemic
01-17-2013, 08:56 PM
The thing is, too, that for every person for whom "Just write it" doesn't work, there's someone for whom it's permission.

Lots of people come here with the idea that they MUST plot in advance, they MUST have a detailed outline before they start, they MUST know how the story ends first. Not because that's their process, but because they read it somewhere or someone gave them that advice before.

For those people, "Just write it" sets them free. It makes them realize that lots of successful writers (by which I mean writers who have finished a book) start with a character and an idea, not a pages-long detailed outline with bullet points and character factsheets and pictures of models or actors.

There isn't always a way of knowing in advance which people those are.

I think I read this a million times because I kind of love it. For some people it works, for others it does not, and you can't know. You can only help based off what little you know about a poster. Some people need that permission or need to feel that access has been granted to do what they want.

As long as people accept that there is not just one way or one winner takes all method for an creative outlet. I have told people just write before. I have also told people to plot it out. It all depends.

Now everyone let's hug. :Hug2:

Buffysquirrel
01-17-2013, 09:06 PM
I'm hugging Stacia. She understands me!

Soccer Mom
01-17-2013, 10:55 PM
And on that note, I think we're done. We all agree, to do whatever works for us. Yes?