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How about a No-Progress Report?
Mimi Speike
Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 3:10 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014

In which we can discuss problems we’re having, whether they be general concerns or specific limited areas that we need advice on.

I am thinking ahead. Eventually I will have a re-do of my problematic first chapter ready and will be eager to know if it pleases, or if it bombs like the original did. I may have two or three variations, all of which I could live with, and would appreciate to see if any of them are found to be less annoying than my first iteration. 

Brandi Larsen
Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013 9:51 AM
Joined: 6/18/2012
Posts: 229


I see where you're going, Mimi. I think a lot of people talk about why they're stuck on the individual discussions (plot, characters, etc.).

I like the idea of a "I'm stuck because..." thread where we can hash out why we're stopped. What do you think of that?

Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013 12:07 PM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 438

This is a great idea! We'll give this the "Book Country bump" (=feature it).
Mimi Speike
Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013 12:47 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014

The topics tend to deal in general issues. My idea is that here we can discuss our specific problematic passages and receive specific advice, without a full (often daunting) read being necessary.  

And this will be another way to engage potential readers.

Atthys Gage
Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013 3:14 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467

I feel like I could write the book on writer's block, but I just can't seem to get it started.  

In all seriousness, I have been becalmed in the middle of a novel I started, gads!, four years ago.  It's book two of a trilogy (sorry, yes).  Since the first time I got stalled, I finished three other novels.  Yikes!  

Is there something wrong with this half-finished second book?  I glance back at what I've written and I honestly think it's some of the best writing I've ever done.  Have I worked out the plot going forward?  Yes, for the most part.  The big story is clear, and there are many episodes that I know are going to be effective.  

It's all the joinery that seems to be bogging me down.  I've never been good at skipping around.  I generally write my scenes in order and prefer it that way.   I'm sure someone is going to say:  if you're struggling with a scene, it's probably a bad scene.  Delete it.   It's good advice, but I have a hard time rejecting a scene until I've really struggled with it.  I feel like the emergency room doctor, pounding on the dying patient's chest:  "Don't you die on me, dammit!  No one's dying on my watch!"  

 Very counterproductive behavior (and also extremely unrealistic television).   SO I keep paddling around, making excruciating progress.   I have two other ideas for books floating nearby, but since they're mostly in the research and plotting phase, they aren't so threatening.  I can happily potter about with either one of them without committing to anything.  

Look, I know the answer as well as any of you:  just write. Who cares how goddawful it is, now – just get it down.  You can change everything later, but you can't edit something that isn't written yet.  

Anyway, thanks for listening.  In a way, writing about why I can't write is just another way of not writing, but it helps, a little, maybe. 

And Mimi, I never found your first iteration annoying.  You have, I think, hold of something that could be grand, even classic.  But the devil is in the details, and oh how he loves to confound us.  
Mimi Speike
Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013 4:16 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014

Thank you for that, Atthys. I have been beating myself up over that for a year now. It's time to move on. I have theories aplenty, in my head. I've yet to work them out on the page.

Pattimari Sheets
Posted: Friday, April 12, 2013 7:43 PM
Joined: 2/22/2013
Posts: 4

If I might jump here, I'd like to say that many old classic writers re-wrote their books more times than you can imagine until they got it the way they wanted it to be. Some were turned down by publishers and then made it in the top line with best sellers and in todays world we see they made it to the very top.

I suggest you not be so hard on yourself and make it the way you want your book to be. I am offering you help in any way you'd like; to proof, read and add suggestions as a reader, or simply listen to your venting. What I am saying is that I am here for you.

Mimi Speike
Posted: Friday, April 12, 2013 9:28 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014


I have never asked for a review, but I wonder if you would look at chapter one of my Sly! The Rogue Reconsidered.

In chapter one I introduce my warped sixteenth century world. The live story doesn't start until chapter two.

I enjoy this chapter tremendously, but am advised to cut/rework/relocate all that backstory. I have changes in mind but have not moved on them yet, possibly because I don't think anyone is going to be any happier with my fixes. 

You don't need to read the whole chapter, just tell me at what point you couldn't take any more of my intricate detail and give me an idea why. I am in such a funk over it, and the thing is, I love my annoying little critter to death and every bit of his absurd take on life. 

Why do I agonize so? If I'm lucky, I may finish it on my deathbed. I'm sixty-six and I've been working on Sly for thirty years. It may not matter if I please anyone but myself. I won't be around to care.

Kevin Haggerty
Posted: Sunday, April 14, 2013 6:21 PM
Joined: 3/17/2011
Posts: 90

Hey Mimi,

I'm so sorry you've been struggling. I worked on a book for some 15 years and had to put it away because it had stopped giving me any joy to work on it. That was an agonizing realization. I'm hoping after I finish this novel, I'll be able to get back to it and complete it.

I know you asked Pattimarri to read your book, but I hope you don't mind if I took a look at it. It put me in mind of a little rant about the backwards advice I see people give again and again about info-dumping that I've been working out in my head lately. I hope you won't mind if I share it with you.

We hear so much about the evils of info-dumping, how unnecessary it is, how we need to "work in" that material elsewhere, how no one wants a history lesson, etc. and so often when I read a so-called info-dump I find an entirely different and, I think--I hope--far more interesting problem.

A lot of times, what's in the info-dump is actually, really and totally great, but it's just not a story yet. Where I lost momentum with your first chapter was right at the begining with that long paragraph about the king's decline. Right up front, bam! I was lost in a sea of details about a guy I couldn't even picture.

The solution isn't to skip it, or work references to this king's decline into the rollicking main plot you promise us in chapter 2. The solution I see is to make the info-dump the story!

Tell me a story about a king in decline. Show me him being in decline so I (me, here, the reader you need to motivate to keep reading) will care about the king the way your kitty does. Your MC has a great deal of affection for this king. Tell me why. Let me see the king's endearing qualities acted out as they are for your MC on a daily basis.

A lot of times the info-dump we write is really the embryonic stage of a great story coming at us from...you know, wherever stories come from. We're counseled to crush, kill, destroy each info-dump when what we may need to do is really give it center stage and let it become the story for a while.

Show us a day in the life of your city. If sheep are the mainstay of the economy, give me a story about the sheepherd's son and the butcher's daughter. You're writing a novel! You can put whatever you want in it! If France and Spain are always trying to take the town over, give us some Spanish soldiers haggling with the butcher's wife who always cheats them because she has family in France.

We get brainwashed into this idea that we have to fit our wondrous imaginations into 100k words or less, so we start editing from page one of the manuscript. If our first draft is the longest draft, with every successive rewrite cutting thousands of words, I think we're doing it wrong.

I see so many writers going for "minimalism" and what they end up with is simply underwritten. A synopsis, a scenario, masquerading as a novel. A power bar that thinks it's a four course meal.

Put as much on the page as you possibly can. Just keep adding and adding until you can't think of anything more. THEN get out the red pencil and slash and burn and carve the world you've created into the lean publishable machine of your dreams.

Anyway, that's my rant. I hope it sparks something. And if it doesn't, no worries.

Good luck!


Carl E Reed
Posted: Sunday, April 14, 2013 9:50 PM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 608

That's not a rant, Kevin; that is sage advice and clever, insightful analysis which is dead-on-target. 


I hope everyone on the site reads what you've written here.
Mimi Speike
Posted: Monday, April 15, 2013 2:13 AM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014

Thank you, Kevin. You have said a few things that encourage me, and a few that discourage me, for reasons that I won’t go into here.

Overall, your advice contains more positive (that I feel I can use) than not (because it does not take into account certain of my problems). I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

Atthys Gage
Posted: Monday, April 15, 2013 6:34 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467

Good advice from Kevin.  

Mimi.  I get the sense that you are loathe to tear the thing apart and I can relate.  You're attached to what you've done and, I'd guess, hoping you can nip and tweak it into shape.  Unfortunately, that isn't usually the way it works.  More often – especially with  a project that has lived and grown in your mind for a long, long time – the fix is more radical. The only consolation I can offer is that tearing a work down to it's very concept and rebuilding it afresh can be very liberating, and provide just the sort of spark that you might need to really move forward.  

Anyway, my two cents.  
Mimi Speike
Posted: Monday, April 15, 2013 6:49 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014

Thank you, Atthys.

I am trying to work out a modus operendi for the first four chapters, which will be a template for the rest. I have two fairly radical ideas in mind which may only compound my problems, but I'm going to try them out. I need to forge ahead and deal with the real doo-doo in chapters five through twelve. I have too many villains and not enough for them to do. Some of them have to go. That's my real headache.

Atthys Gage
Posted: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 6:50 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467

Hmm.  Too many villains dilute the evil broth, eh?  Maybe you can elevate one to villain-in-chief and demote the rest to henchmen.  

Not original, but classic.
Mimi Speike
Posted: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 8:41 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014

Here's my advice for one and all. When you reach an impasse with your plot, do not kick-start a new thread with a brand-new dreamed-up-on-the-spot character to get things moving. That's what I did. Now I'm dealing with the mess I made for myself.

I love my quirky meanies. I hate to kill them off, much less rewrite them out of existence all together. But I have to do something. My plot has changed. I don't need them any more.

Who goes, who gets a reprieve? This is gonna be damn painful. I have hopes of using some of my nutcakes when I get to the episode involving John Dee, the royal astrologer, and Tycho Brahe, the noseless astronomer. 

Posted: Saturday, June 1, 2013 5:06 PM
Joined: 5/27/2013
Posts: 108

Oh this seems a perfect spot to come to for the question I have. I made a thread, but it hasn't recieved attention. (Not complaining too much, yet) So let me put it here and see what someone thinks, because it has me not only stumpped, but absolutely stopped in a chapter.

I am writing a book that spans a large area and diverse cultural backgrounds. So it is inconceivable that they (the characters) would all speak the same language. To show this, I have thought about using lines in a different dialect to show the reader some diversity. Not whole conversations, but maybe a start-off-line to indicate the change and to start the mind of the reader thinking of this change. But I get stuck on what can be used and how do I bring it in without a long explaination or lecture so the reader can understand. I need to be able to do it so it enriches the work, rather than take away from it.

An example;

Hess enters the main hall and is met by his servant who greets him with, "Herrani, kaikki on kuten pyysitte." (My lord, all is as you requested)

The reason for this is that the character Hess was in one land when the chapter ends, and next time we meet up with him he will be thousands of miles a way, in a different land.

I, as a reader, would expect that not everyone would speak the same language, so far english, and if they had never left their land, they would have a different dialect.

The question for all, and hopefully to help more than just myself, is;
Does anyone have some helpful words that can make this work, or is this a taboo and other tools should be used?

Posted: Monday, June 17, 2013 1:38 AM
i have made no progress this month whatsoever ---- so far. i see my therapist next thursday. i'm hoping we can figure out what's gotten me into this funk and what i can do to haul myself back out of it.

Posted: Monday, June 17, 2013 11:06 PM
Joined: 5/27/2013
Posts: 108

MariAdkins - I think most of my life has been a funk, so I feel your pain. Hopefully you can find the block and remove it. For what it is worth, someone once suggested to me to just free write. Whatever random nonsense comes to mind, and just let the words go where ever they wanted. Now I will admit 99.9% of what gets put down is worthless, but there usually was some small spark that would bring me back to the pages of my book and off I would go. 

Maybe it is worthless advice, but it was free. Maybe it will help.

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