Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

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RSchibler
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Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby RSchibler » Wed Mar 20, 2019 6:09 am

So like the title says, I've had a story in my head for a long time, but when I sit down to write it, it just feels off. I have the plot, the characters, the setting, conflict, try-fail cycles, satisfying conclusion. It's all there (which as a discovery writer, is weird) but I've started it three or four times, gotten a few thousand words, and closed the document in disgust. Any thoughts or tips on either *why* this might be, or how to approach fixing the issue? Many thanks for your brilliant replies. wotf009
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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby TimE » Wed Mar 20, 2019 8:44 am

I've been in this situation but didn't find a way out of it. Sorry for my lack of brilliance. I'll be interested in any other replies.
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RSchibler
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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby RSchibler » Wed Mar 20, 2019 9:17 am

TimE wrote:I've been in this situation but didn't find a way out of it. Sorry for my lack of brilliance. I'll be interested in any other replies.

Sympathy is helpful in its own way wotf024
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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby michaeljwyantjr » Wed Mar 20, 2019 9:43 am

I only have one way to get out of it: write it all out anyway. Instead of closing the file in disgust, come back to it tomorrow and, without re-reading your previous work, just keep going.

At the end, you'll have the story and, while it may be crap, it'll be crap you can now edit rather than crap that's stuck in your head.

In my experience, once I get to the end of one of those stories, I usually find the entire thing isn't as bad as I originally thought.

Good luck!
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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby orbivillein » Wed Mar 20, 2019 4:52 pm

From mental composition to raw draft processes suffer from missed-the-page disease and inconsistent craft skills due to raw drafts are little more than outline summary and explanation sketches -- tells. The dramatic craft facet wanted next or in the first instance is show's reality imitation sequence skills.

A mental plot realizes only substantive and tangible dramatic points (pivots, turns) and little, if any, tension setup and apt relief delay that develop a plot's tension relief points' dramatic effects (emotional appeals, pathos). Too little setup, too rushed or forced relief delay, or too much, or untimely, or unsubtle, the payoffs of plot points are unearned or overwrought. Raw drafts' outline "tell" nature misses the timing, pace, and show detail appeals of fully realized drafts.

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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby kentagions » Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:13 am

This happens to me occasionally whether I plot or pants (discover).

Damon Knight in Creating Short Fiction would say that Fred (his name for the subconscious mind) has a problem with something. There are a gazillion (That's 1 with as many zeros as you can imagine behind it) ways to get through it.

Rather than enumerate hundreds of ways to break the block, I will share one. Do a full character study of the MC's history, sensibilities, decision-making process, fashion sense and anything else that will sharply define her/his character in your conscious mind. Move on to fears, dislikes and things that the MC is reluctant to do. Then grade desires from most intense (Gotta have it, gotta do it) to least intense (I like it if I'm holding it but, meh.).

Be sure to follow guidelines for creating a compelling character (No matter what source you study).

Doing character studies helps me start writing again. One memorable character study defined a character so at odds with the story that I changed the POV and the MC to a secondary character more suited to telling the tale.

Good luck,
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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby chuckt » Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:12 am

I can't remember where I read this. Not Stephen King's book on writing but a similar book. He said forget your outline and notes and just tell me your story. Then put that in writing.
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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby chuckt » Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:12 am

Oh! Just remembered. Stephen Koch. Writers Workshop.
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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby morganb » Thu Mar 21, 2019 11:49 am

RSchibler wrote:So like the title says, I've had a story in my head for a long time, but when I sit down to write it, it just feels off. I have the plot, the characters, the setting, conflict, try-fail cycles, satisfying conclusion. It's all there (which as a discovery writer, is weird) but I've started it three or four times, gotten a few thousand words, and closed the document in disgust. Any thoughts or tips on either *why* this might be, or how to approach fixing the issue? Many thanks for your brilliant replies. wotf009


Is this maybe a case where your inner critic is telling you the story sucks before you even get it written? I listen to that little voice far too often and have a hard time making him shut his fat trap. As was mentioned earlier, maybe you can just barrel through and get it written down on the page in all its glorious ugliness. Then you can set your plastic surgeon's scalpel to its hooked nose and double chins, and dress it up in fancy clothes after all the scars have had a chance to heal.

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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby amoskalik » Fri Mar 22, 2019 7:00 am

I feel this way often. I use a couple different things to get through it. First is the mantra, trust the process, trust the process ... Stories are complicated and their elements do not coalesce all at once, so it is common to feel as if I'm wading through a swamp when I'm half way through the first draft. This little mantra helps me remember that if I stay the course, I will find solid ground again on the other side.

The second is to relax my preconceptions for the story. Yes, I may have a great plot, and a profound theme, killer characters, an awe inspiring setting, etc. but these elements may not want anything to do with each other. Characters have minds of their own, settings have demons hidden in their shadows, and themes have a fractal nature that confounds. So my battle plan needs to be adjusted continuously as I write, so much so that when I look back at my original plan for the story, regardless of the level of detail, I am always amazed by how different the end product is.
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RSchibler
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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby RSchibler » Sat Mar 23, 2019 5:52 am

Thanks for the great advice all. I will see if doing some writing exercises like a character study help me sort it out. It is odd because I don't usually have any trouble getting the words out once I know the basic setup. I will try to just keep working on the story and see where it takes me.
Trying to refute entropy with words.

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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby OldDarth » Mon Mar 25, 2019 9:54 am

Check out the Story Grid for pinpointing story problems - https://storygrid.com/resources/

Lots of useful tools. I'm a regular listener of the podcast and The Story Grid book is one of my go to reference tools.
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czing
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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby czing » Fri May 17, 2019 3:42 pm

Ursula LeGuin talked about something that comes to my mind with what you said. She said sometimes if it isn't flowing/working it could be an issue with the tense or it could be you are writing 1rst person and you need to be 3rd or vice versa etc. I am almost certainly messing up what she said. But I found it really intriguing and something I thought I would definitely try if I was finding myself really stumped on a story that I figured should be working.

So maybe try changing one of those things and jumping into it fresh????

Good luck with it!
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RSchibler
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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby RSchibler » Sat May 18, 2019 4:31 am

Hey all, wanted to weigh back in here. I ended up doing what a few of you suggested and just pushing through the writing. I think the story ended up pretty solid. More relevantly, it certainly isn't any worse than my other stories. I am still uncertain why I got stuck - perhaps the genre felt uncomfortable or the character relationships didn't spring to life in my mind easily - but I feel better for having exorcised the story. Next time I get stuck, I'll try to just keep writing anyway based on this experience. Thanks for all the help and advice! We have quite the brain trust here.
Trying to refute entropy with words.

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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby Helge Mahrt » Mon May 20, 2019 2:47 am

Great to hear! And thanks for updating us on this. (Even though I wasn't around for when you ran into this, it's great to know how it turned out)
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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby TheWolfEmperor » Tue Sep 03, 2019 7:13 am

I hope it's okay that I bump this.

I run into this problem a lot and I think it's because I spend so much time "mentally plotting". Then comes the reality of actually having to write it and the real work overwhelms me.

It could be the same thing for you.
Don't waste time trying to convince someone the sky is blue.

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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby storysinger » Tue Sep 03, 2019 8:21 am

I usually have more than one story percolating. I also use a whiteboard to help keep track of prompts and possible titles.
For me by the time I actually start the story it's a moment I'm prepared for so I enjoy the process.

Maybe you could cultivate feelings of excitement and less anxiety. Just saying, and welcome to the forum.
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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby czing » Tue Sep 03, 2019 4:14 pm

TheWolfEmperor wrote:I hope it's okay that I bump this.

I run into this problem a lot and I think it's because I spend so much time "mentally plotting". Then comes the reality of actually having to write it and the real work overwhelms me.

It could be the same thing for you.


I'm a pantser so I don't spend much time actually plotting. Sometimes an idea sits for a while in my brain before I do anything with it but I don't mentally work on it. Just let it simmer back there. Most of the time I just jump in as soon as the idea plops into my brain and start doing some discovery writing. Maybe you could try doing a little discovery writing with the knowledge that it is just a different way of figuring out your story and may not produce much writing that makes the final draft. But at least that way you might feel like you have "started" and that might ease some of the pressure???

I hope you find a way that works for you!
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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby Henckel » Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:51 pm

For me, the key is to truly understand the problem. I have to know exactly what it is and what it looks like from all sides. To do this, I attack it with an intense analytical probing—refining the problem down, more and more, until I get to its true core.

Once I found it, I can fix it.

This little technique has never failed me.

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Re: Story mentally plotted, but can't get it out

Postby TheWolfEmperor » Tue Sep 03, 2019 8:08 pm

My brain's really just like an old car in the winter. I've tried many of the techniques suggested here in the past and at the end of the day, I comfort myself by knowing that the stories I couldn't finish or get going just weren't ready yet. The ones I completed are the ones I'm proud of.

But I am going to put pen to paper again very soon.
Don't waste time trying to convince someone the sky is blue.


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