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I've had a story developing inside my head for years (literally about 5 or 6 years now) but every time I try to put that story onto paper it never turns out how I wanted it. It feels like this is my calling in life but yet I can't even complete even a little of it before becoming frustrated and trying again. It's a never ending loop. So my question is, how can I put my ideas onto paper how they are in my head? Is there like a exercise or tactics I can use?

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    What is it that's not living up to your mind version when you go to write it? – Numi Oct 3 '16 at 8:26
  • Numi asks an important question. What is frustrating you? We can't help you overcome your concerns if you don't share them. – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Oct 3 '16 at 9:46
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    It is called practice. Why anyone expects to be able to write without ever doing it is beyond me. You don't expect to run a marathon just because you can walk, do you? So train for your writing marathon by writing. Every day. And in time your "problem" (which is just a lack of experience) will disappear. – user5645 Oct 4 '16 at 7:12
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Start writing a diary. At the end of the day, you will be able to imagine and put down that stuff which you have already lived. That is just a simple trigger. Don't take it for easy because you will have to struggle a lot in order to find the correct words and its formations in order to properly describe everything that which you experienced, that which you felt, that which you understand, expression of your perception, display of emotions, however subtle they be, and everything that is happening around the central theme of your existence i.e. you.

You have already spent 5 to 6 years imagining, spending a few more is not going to be a vain investment perhaps. It will take time but practice, for sure, will help you fetch that mastery which you desire.

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Many writers have this issue. I think we should simplify this to something as innocent as a baby.

You give birth to the child, but you don't discipline it right away. You let it grow and become amazing, and then when its old enough to understand discipline, you discipline it. You wouldn't go around shouting at your newborn, would you? You mustn't hastily punish your baby at an early age, you need to let it grow and see how it goes. Then, you can discipline it the way you want.

Your book is like the baby. You can't give up on something right away. What you should do, is you should put the idea on paper the best you can. You can try this, to help you not give up on your baby (your book):

My writing might be bad now, but that's because I haven't edited it and made it the best I possibly can. It doesn't matter if my first draft is bad, because I can go through and edit it.

For the first time writing your story, it DOES NOT have to be good. Because that, is your first draft - your first time going through it. When you go and edit it, you'll get rid of all those silly imperfections and tidy up all the unnecessary paragraphs and sentences, reorder events a bit, perhaps change structure, remove chapters. You'll do everything then.

I think the best way for you to appreciate the work you're doing, is for you to know that this is only your first draft. A blacksmith doesn't just run his whetstone along the weapon once to sharpen it - he does it many times. Think of the image in your mind as that final version of the weapon.

Conclusion:

  • Remember, you mustn't discipline your newborn.

  • You must acknowledge that this is only your first draft and not the final product.

  • Keep sharpening your weapon time after time until its as sharp as it is in your mind :)

My analogies were bad, but I hope this helped.

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Stop editing and reviewing your writing during the process! Self-review, especially in the early pages of a project, can strip away your momentum and keep you from ever reaching the finish line.

If you were running a foot race, you wouldn't stop every few yards to look back at your footprints and criticize their placement and symmetry. You would just charge on to the next step, ever improving your speed and stride.

If Nike made pens they would have "JUST WRITE IT" on their sides.

...and they would help a lot of stillborn stories get past their author's prenatal hesitancy.

What you are writing during this first feverish rush of words is called a "first draft". It is not meant to be perfect. It is meant to get you used to the discipline of writing every day. It is meant to be a gathering of the characters and scenes which will make up later version. The significance of those characters and the order (or inclusion) of those scenes may change in future telling, so don't waste any time getting any of them perfect. Just get them down on paper. Give them physical form today so that they can be a starting point for the real writing you will do tomorrow.

When I started writing, I believed that creativity and grammar were the only skills needed to successfully write. Now, neither of those fakers make it into the top three attributes of a productive author. That list now includes...

  • dedication to the current story, despite all distractions
  • the discipline to write every day, despite all distractions

and

  • an unnamed human characteristic involving the willingness to end a story, even while you are in love with its characters and full of ideas for where the action can go next.
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Other answers assume that the problem you are having is inertia, and perhaps they are right. Perhaps you just need to start writing and keep writing.

But perhaps inertia is not the problem. Perhaps that problem is that what seems like a story in your head is not a story when you get it down on paper. One way to test this is to write down the key story elements and see if they are fully realized. By this I do not mean an outline. An outline is what happens. The key story elements are why things happen.

One possible formula for this is to write down the desires of each character:

  • What is the main character's main desire.
  • What stands in the way of their achieving that desire?
  • What are they willing to do to achieve that desire.
  • How does the desire, or what they are willing to do to achieve it, change with each setback they encounter.

Since most of the setback to the main character achieving their desire come from the actions of other characters, you then need to ask the same questions about every other character.

The things that other characters do which frustrate the main character's desire are the result of the secondary characters trying to achieve their desire and are based on what they are willing to do to achieve that desire, which may also change as a result of their own reversals.

When a story that feels coherent in your head falls apart on paper, it may well be because these complicated dynamics of character and desire are not worked out properly. Somehow the stories in our head seem to easily paper over the cracks in the story shape, but putting them down on paper reveals the gaps.

Writing comes from imagination filtered through discipline, and to get a story out of your head and onto a page you have to subject your imagination to an appropriate discipline. The kind of discipline that works for each writer is clearly different. But one of the effects of that discipline is often to reveal that you do not really have a story (yet).

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