Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Is It Time to Let Go?

Today my guest is R. Sampson, who is discussing 'letting go', which may be hard for some of us, especially when we love our prose. There's some good advice here, so read on.

You have been working on a writing project for a while now. You thought about the plot and the characters and outlined every part of the story. Then without warning, all of a sudden, you hit a brick wall. The problem arises when your great idea just won't work anymore and now you're stuck. Does this sound like you? Are you "married" to an idea or phrase that you absolutely love, but for someone reason it won't fit into you book, paper, script, or project? Don't worry. You are not the only author that goes through this process. You might just need to rework you idea to make it fit or in the worst of circumstances, you might need a "divorce."

Let's start at the stage when you realize that you hit a road block and you are trying to find a way around it. Below are some techniques that you can use if you are in such a situation.

1. Talk to a friend- If you are stuck trying to implement an idea, put the pen down. Look around your room and find a stuffed animal or cardboard cutout. He is you new best friend. Explain all of your ideas out loud and record yourself doing it. If you feel comfortable sharing with a real person, you can always ask a friend or family member what they think.

2. Skip to another section of the assignment and start writing there. For example, if you are stuck at the beginning of the story, skip to how you want it to end and work backwards.

3. Brainstorm new ideas that are similar. For example: Say you really like the phrase, "Just Do It" but you know it reminds people of Nike. So instead you can change it to "Take A Chance." It has the same meaning, but is phrased differently.

4. Do research on ideas that are similar. For example: If you want to have a rich, somewhat arrogant character fall in love with a poor woman, then research books that have similar characters and read how the author makes that character work.

5. Examine the reasons you are stuck. Delve deep into why you are stuck and try to find solutions to the core problem. An example of this happens when a writer really wants one character to live in Italy. But according to the story, this just makes the plot more confusing. The real reason the author may want the character to live in Italy is because he/she wants to live in Italy. But that might not be the best thing for the storyline.

6. Take a break. Take a nap or go for a walk. Sometimes, exercise is the best way to push through frustration.

7. Hammer out the main points of the piece and decide if the part you are stuck on is critical to the story. Don't get bogged down on parts of the story that don't matter.

But sometimes you have an idea that you just can't fit into the story anymore. You have tried everything to work it in but it just won't work. It is time to let it go. Maybe you came up with the idea when you were younger, tired, or a novice writer. Your vision has changed and so should some of your old ideas. Or maybe you have outlined the story to friends and they are confused. Figure out what part of the story you need and cut the rest of it out. Don't scrap what you have written before. Instead, save it in a scraps folder on your computer.

One author stated, "I always have great ideas, but they don't always equal great books. You have to learn how to let go of the ok ones and work with the great ones. When I need to let go of ideas, I normally cover my room in post it notes and organize them somehow."

If you are still stuck, try reading some of these popular books:

1. The Count of Monte Cristo 2. Baby Proof 3. Their Eyes Were Watching God 4. 1984 5. Animal Farm 6. Pride and Prejudice 7. Things Fall Apart 8. The Great Gatsby 9. Great Expectations' 10. Tess of the D'Urbervilles


Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

I've had the "divorce." Hard but I learned so much.
Writing scenes not necessarily in order of appearance seems to work best for me. I find it much easier to to rearrange them and remove those that don't quite fit.
Reading, walking and showering give me the best inspiration.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great ideas here! I've used several different approaches, just depending on the issue I'm stuck on...seems that different things work at different times, too.

Maryannwrites said...

Very helpful post. Made me think of when I was writing a script about baseball with a NY producer and he loved some of the classic quotes from baseball players. He kept putting them in in places they didn't fit, and I had a heck of a time convincing him that some of them were just not working.

Terry Odell said...

Mary - good for you. I can't write out of order, although I'm inserting some new scenes from the villain's POV and I'm writing those separately.

Elizabeth - so true. I don't think any one system works 100% of the time.

Maryann - yep. Just because it's 'real' doesn't make it good.

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Cleo Coyle said...

Nice post and good tips. Raymond Chandler once said, "When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand." While it sounds flip, that is exactly the kind of exercise a good theater or film director would run with his or her actors to get the creative juices flowing. So it's not a bad idea to try something off the wall and see how your characters react. While you might not use the scene or sequence in the final manuscript, you will likely learn something about where the story can go--or where a character can take you. TY for the writer's food for thought. ~ Cleo, author of The Coffeehouse Mysteries

R. Sampson said...

@Mary - I've tried writing scenes out of sequence and have had a hard time building a consistent voice, but I definitely appreciate that it's worked for some people.

Terry Stonecrop said...

Great tips. I often have a little chat with my characters. I always blame them for my problems and they in turn, always blame me:)

Sheila Deeth said...

Great advice, and timely as I start editing and have to let go of some of those treasures that really don't fit.

Mum's coming on Monday. She'll be my best critic.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I need to spend some time on #5 with the suspense first draft I threw on the floor by the bookcase. Something needs fixing, but I need to really think about it before I start revisions.