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Author Topic: Trouble Finishing a Story?  (Read 10199 times)
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Ed
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« on: January 12, 2006, 12:58:30 PM »

I was reading some threads on Orson Scot Card's website (excellent craft threads there) and he talks about this problem.  His take on it is that you started too soon, before the story was ready, and trouble finishing is often linked to a poor opening.

His advice, on another thread, is to combine several ideas 'things that strike you as interesting', and then intertwine them.  You can see it's true, because the evidence is in every good story you read afro

Link - http://www.hatrack.com/writingclass/lessons/1999-01-29-1.shtml

Thoughts? smiley
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« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2006, 01:28:44 PM »

Ahh, funny you should post this, as I'm thinking my flash this week is a good start on my next story, and I have some other pieces written elsewhere that I want to use in it. I'm hoping it will be cooking along by the 15th, which is the date for our next crit posting--right?  scratch
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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2006, 01:34:00 PM »

He's probably right that an inability to conclude a story is correlated to the attempt to write it before "it is ready".  However, there are many excellent novel starts that end like a limp lettuce. eg The Time Traveller's Wife.  There is no logic to why a poor finish should follow a poor start - it isn't commutative as in Mathematics Group Theory, and if it were we are allowed to break rules!

I often have the opposite problem: I conjure up too many possible endings. Now if I could match them up with several different beginnings I could have a barrowload of new stories! (Though they'd have the same middle... umm)

Geoff
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Ed
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« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2006, 01:49:16 PM »

Sharon - no, it's supposed to be February 8th, but you're free to post stories in the mid session section in the meantime, if you want feedback more quickly afro

Geoff - I see what you're saying, but I think he means for the ending to be climactic, you have to have the story seeded so well in your mind that you know when the climax is and all roads converge at that point.  In other words, you know what the point of the whole thing is and seed the potential from the very beginning.

It's funny - my wife thought The Time Traveller's Wife was excellent scratch  I'll have to ask her what she thought of the ending, now.  She said, "You must read it!"  I said, "OK then, givvit here then... "  She replies, "I lent it to my mother."  And her mother's since lent it to her sister, and on it goes.  By the time I get to read it, it'll be all dog-eared, with pages missing undecided
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« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2006, 02:32:21 PM »

Sharon - no, it's supposed to be February 8th, but you're free to post stories in the mid session section in the meantime, if you want feedback more quickly afro

Oh, PHEW!! Feb 8 is much better for me!
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« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2006, 07:30:33 PM »

It's funny - my wife thought The Time Traveller's Wife was excellent scratch  I'll have to ask her what she thought of the ending, now.  She said, "You must read it!"  I said, "OK then, givvit here then... "  She replies, "I lent it to my mother."  And her mother's since lent it to her sister, and on it goes.  By the time I get to read it, it'll be all dog-eared, with pages missing undecided

I also thought The Time Traveler's Wife was excellent. (currently re-reading it!) Gave my first copy to flirty and bought myself another one!
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« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2006, 04:29:15 AM »

I'm tempted to post my long review of The Time Traveller's Wife here, but I wouldn't want to prempt Ed's pleasure of reading the book first!  I would say at the book group where we discussed it, there was a clear woman / man divide.

As a writer I also judge (maybe unfairly) a book by memorable phrases I've jotted down while reading -- under the heading "I wish I'd writen that." I had none in my list for Dan Brown, but I did have one for The Time Traveller's Wife. Did you find any Donna?

Geoff
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« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2006, 05:24:09 AM »

Interesting article - like his idea that you need at least 2 fully formed ideas before you even start writing.
I find the act of creating a story a quite organic process anyway - half the time it ends nothing like i thought it would...
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Ed
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« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2006, 05:41:16 AM »

It used to be the same for me, Dan - I'd start off and the story could end up anywhere, even if I already had an ending in mind, I'd end up somewhere else.  My stint in BC seems to have killed that off, though, and I'm a lot more conscious of what I'm writing, which is a bad thing.

There are a lot of good articles under the heading 'Uncle Orson's Writing Class'.  http://www.hatrack.com/writingclass/index.shtml  Well worth a look afro  Perhaps we could all work our way through them and discuss them?  One a week, or something smiley
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2006, 05:59:04 AM »

How bizarre scratch  I went and clicked on one of those writing lessons and read this -

***

Link - http://www.hatrack.com/writingclass/lessons/2003-10-13-1.shtml

Sometimes when a story fails to have a soul, it's because the writer has become jaded with his own stories. Maybe he or she only had a few stories they deeply cared about and believed in, and they've already told those stories. Or maybe it's because they're trying to "write well" and by following someone else's rules it's killing their stories. Or maybe they're terrified of losing something and so they're imitating their own past success/es in order to try to recapture what "worked."

***

Very true, I'd say.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2006, 06:00:20 AM by blunt » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2006, 06:06:55 AM »

I have a bookshelf groaning with the weight of "this is how you should write" books. I've read three-quarters of them before realising I was being reprogrammed and aspects of my own madhat creativity was oozing away. I take the best advice, and even create plot-structure diagrams for my novels - especially the trilogy I'm working on - but I don't feel obliged to rigidly stick to them. Like Dan I might have launched into a story but while pumping my legs up a hill on my bike (OK, maybe not like Dan!) I would have an unstoppable idea that changes the ending, a character's true being or a twist.

Geoff
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« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2006, 06:59:59 AM »

Blunt - it's funny you should mention following other people's methods. Since writing i've toyed with the idea of taking a proper lit course, or even joining BC - but have decided against it. I'm learning that there is no right or wrong way to write a story - sure there are good ideas and good style but you learn these things from experience - from writing a lot, and what i'm finding, by critting other's work.
The most useful stuff i've found has just given hints on how to improve your work - such as Strunk's famous book. After reading that i found my use of language improved dramatically. Also Campbell's 'Hero with a 1000 faces' on how all stories descend from standard myth - very useful without saying you must do it a certain way. I've just ordered The Art of Fiction by David Lodge as well which is a collection of articles about literary method.

Geoff - i don't think plot structures are a bad thing at all - i'm hoping to start my first novel later in the year, and i hope i'll have a lot of it planned out by then - otherwise i think it may be a bit blind leading the blind! I'm actually dissecting the book i'm reading at the moment ('Grapes of Wrath') and find it incredible how simple a plot it really is...
Oh and you're right - you'd never catch me on those 2 wheeled death traps!!
D
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« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2006, 08:41:59 AM »

How bizarre scratch  I went and clicked on one of those writing lessons and read this -***
Link - http://www.hatrack.com/writingclass/lessons/2003-10-13-1.shtml Or maybe it's because they're trying to "write well" and by following someone else's rules it's killing their stories. " ***

Not bizarre--bashert, or fated as we say in Yiddish. I have had a lot of people warn me not to let my free-lance editor edit out my "voice." I've tried to work with her guidance and craft/technical rules and opinions and not lose what I think is the essence of my novel. It's not easy!
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« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2006, 10:00:16 AM »

Yeah, I think the golden rule is to learn as much craft as you can, but method is too individual to be taught or learned - everybody has their own way of writing, and that's how it should be.  

I also think the bottom line is that if you care about the story you're writing, somebody else will too, however much the highbrows beat it down.  For every level of writing there's a level of readership to match it.  I've read elsewhere that the reading level required to appreciate the most popular adult fiction is that of a 12 year-old.  So maybe there's a risk of trying to be too clever, if a writer wants their work to become popular?

Personally, after my experience of BC, I don't think it's worth the money, and that's not just based on my dislike of the tutor.  I could list my myriad reasons, but I won't bore you with them here and now scratch
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« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2006, 12:24:25 PM »

I'm tempted to post my long review of The Time Traveller's Wife here, but I wouldn't want to prempt Ed's pleasure of reading the book first!  I would say at the book group where we discussed it, there was a clear woman / man divide.

As a writer I also judge (maybe unfairly) a book by memorable phrases I've jotted down while reading -- under the heading "I wish I'd writen that." I had none in my list for Dan Brown, but I did have one for The Time Traveller's Wife. Did you find any Donna?

Geoff

Can you e-mail that review to me, Geoff?

Ya know, it's not that there are lines in this book I wish I'd written. Damn, wish I'd written the whole freakin' thing! It's the way Audrey has of understating things in her writing. I've just finished re-reading the section where Clare's blind grandmother meets Henry for the first time.

(Grandma says) "Goodness, Clare, why in the world would you want to marry such a person? Think of the children you would have! Popping into next week and back before breakfast!"

and later ...

A few nights later, I am sitting by Grandma's bed, reading Mrs. Dalloway to her. It's evening. I look up; Grandma seems to be asleep. I stop reading and close the book. Her eyes open.

"Hello," I say.

"Do you ever miss him?" she asks me.

"Every day. Every minute."

"Every minute," she says. "Yes. It's that way isn't it?" She turns on her side and burrows into the pillow.

"Good night," I say, turning out the lamp. As I stand in the dark looking down at Grandma in her bed, self-pity floods me as though I have been injected with it. It's that way, isn't it? Isn't it.

Possibly this book touches me so powerfully because of what's been happening in my own life over the past year. I just get it, ya know.

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