I'm only 12, and I've been writing seriously since last year. I tried writing a novel before (I wrote only 5 chapters; I gave up later due to time constraints). I've written a couple of short stories, which have generally received positive feedback. I also do free verse poetry, usually melancholic in nature.

At current, I'm working on a sci-fi novella about a scientist living in the 24th century. Sci-fi is not my cup of tea, as I've soon realised. It's beginning to seem too hard for me to weave a coherent and credible storyline. After a certain point, plot holes start appearing. Sometimes I let my imagination fly out of control and write silly stuff. Now, I don't want to make a blend of fantasy and sci-fi. The story should be able to be paint a picture of the future that will appear reasonable enough to the reader.

Yes, it is taking the enjoyment out of writing for me, but something at the back of my mind is telling me to try hard no matter what. I can't bring myself to drop this idea.

I'm quite comfortable with writing thrillers and feel-good stories. But it's important for me to try different things. Without change, life would be pretty dull. This is why I thought of writing a science-fiction piece in the first place.

My ideas for the story are really good (I think), and a good sci-fi writer could make a very good book out of them. However, writing about the future is too troublesome for me. Should I quit trying or try hard no matter what? Is it even worth trying?

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    You might find plot holes easier to avoid if you plan the story in detail in advance. I stress "might". There are two extreme writing styles called architect and gardener; most writing is probably somewhere in between, and the optimum varies by author, possibly even by story for an author. Only your experiments will tell whether this advice helps. – J.G. Jan 2 '17 at 21:03
  • Thanks, J.G. That's really helpful! You're right - it depends. – Soha Farhin Pine Jan 2 '17 at 21:23
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    Be dedicated. The plot holes will be eliminated eventually with enough revisions. You just need dedication, that's all you need. – Daniel Cann Jan 3 '17 at 6:30
  • Welcome to Writers.SE! I've edited your post a bit, to remove the sample of your writing (which we don't handle here), and make clear the focus of the question. All the best, and hope we can prove helpful to you :) – Standback Jan 3 '17 at 15:37
  • Hello, there! Thanks for editing my question. I'm not a newbie here though. I've posted three other questions before this. I'm loving the help and support this community is giving me. Yes, it's very helpful. :-) – Soha Farhin Pine Jan 3 '17 at 16:06

10 Answers 10

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Remember that your creative time is valuable and rare. If you're having trouble thinking of something, there may be a deeper flaw which you only realized after starting.

Sure it's possible to write yourself out of a flawed story premise. I've done it several times with amazing success. But you have to prioritize your projects and make sure you're not wasting too much precious time on a project that you only feel lukewarm about.

Believe me, if a story idea is interesting or compelling enough, it will continue to dog you until you get it done. There is no shame in putting off projects indefinitely as long as you don't make a habit of it.

A personal aside: I am in the middle of two short stories which have some flawed premise/structure which make it very hard to shape well. I'm applying myself to both stories, but I feel the gnawing appeal of other new projects. As a 51 year old, it is hard to walk away from a flawed story idea -- and sometimes there is value in completing it because you may discover possibilities about the idea which you hadn't realize it had. All this time while I'm working on it, I'm thinking about other projects I should be working on whose narratives would flow more naturally.

To put it another way, teenagers have brilliant story ideas but have limited understanding of the mechanics of narrative and how to avoid overdone tropes. Older writers don't have half as many brilliant ideas, but have a better b.s. detector and are more comfortable using language to create complex and original narratives.

Longform storytelling (which is what a novel or novella is) is very very difficult. It is also only tangentially related to writing. You can be good at writing and know nothing about longform storytelling. It is rather like the difference between painting a house and painting a mural. You need all the same understanding and skill with paints and brushes to paint a house as to paint a mural, but the mural is much more difficult because it requires an artist's eye for design, color, and story.

A very few people are natural storytellers and just seem to be able to tell stories, even longform stories, effortlessly. But they are very rare. Most of us have to work at it and study it for a long time.

So, it is a lot of work and it will take a lot of time and dedication to get there, which is pretty much like anything else worth doing in your life. But, like all the arts, there is the added problem that merely doing the work and the study and putting in the time is no guarantee that you will ever make any money doing it. In fact, odds are that you won't.

So, like anything else, it comes down to how much you want it. If you thought it was going to be easy, it's not. If you are still up for it knowing how hard it is going to be, if it is so important to you that no amount of discouragement and rejection is going to stop you, then plow on.

  • Thanks for the support. I badly needed it. Not much people read this work, so none have commented upon it. Maybe, I'm striving too much for perfection. I need to remind myself that I'm still very young and I've a lot of things to learn yet. – Soha Farhin Pine Jan 2 '17 at 19:50
  • Anyways, what do you think about my writing skills? – Soha Farhin Pine Jan 2 '17 at 19:51
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    We don't do critiques here. There are lots of places that do, but an in-person writing class or critique group is probably a better place to get feedback. But the other thing you should do is to learn to read with attention. Normally when we read, we just lose ourselves in the story. But when a writer reads, they are always looking at how the writer is achieving the effects they are producing. Discipline yourself to read like that, and then when you come back and look at stuff you wrote six months or a year ago, you will immediately see what is not working. – Mark Baker Jan 2 '17 at 20:06
  • I see. Thanks a bunch for all that advice. – Soha Farhin Pine Jan 2 '17 at 20:11

I'm the same really. I'm scared of sci-fi books, really scared of them, because they always depict a horrible dark future which isn't the kind of future I want. But that's not the point of the question.

Question 1

Should I quit trying or try hard no matter what?

You mustn't give up. I'm only a few years older than you, but I've written every day for at least three or four years. It's so important to get the practice and know what you're doing. By trying hard and practicing in that way you will eventually get better and have good work. You must not quit because eventually you will create good work. If I were you, I would join a site like Critique Circle, where you can get some really nasty and good feedback. That was a site which really helped me improve my writing and learn where I was going wrong.

I was going wrong in the following areas:

  • I did shopping list descriptions. Loads of them.

  • Sometimes I was too exaggerated.

  • Sometimes it didn't make sense.

Because the critics there were able to point them out, I was able to home in on them and improve.

Question 2

Is it even worth trying?

Yes. It is worth trying because you can get amaranthine enjoyment out of writing. It will never be something effortless but because of that you can derive so much satisfaction when you finish some industry-standard work on a short story or something.

What you should really do

So this is what I think you really should be doing. Firstly, you need to practice the areas you're weak at. Find those out from Critique Circle. However, I should point out that to be able to make the most of the feedback on there, you need to realise that you're writing isn't actually very good. To the critics on there writing is never 'good' because there's so many improvements. Then, after going there you need to do what is called editing. This answers all of your doubts and erases all of your worries. It is a dream.

You don't think your writing is good because it is unedited. With proper time and care, it will turn from being something very bad into something magnificent.

I don't think you need any fancy writing programs or tutorials to be a good writer. You just need patience, time and dedication. After all, a blacksmith doesn't forge the shape of a sword and then give it to a warrior, he sharpens the edges and carves it into shape. The original piece of writing you do - known as the first draft - is forging the shape of the blade. The refining, sharpening, shaping, is the editing, where the blade goes from a bulky blunt object to a razor sharp stunner.

Good luck!!!!

Conclusion:

  • Use Critique Circle to pinpoint the areas you're weak at. Really hammer down on those areas and get them good.

  • Don't stop writing. Know that in the end, with proper time, editing and dedication, you will have an amazing finished product.

  • Practice by writing more short stories.

  • Try putting constraints on your writing/poetry (doing things like lipograms can help your active vocabulary).

It's hard to explain. I was the same, really. I never thought anything I did was good before I discovered the holy grail of editing. It actually is the holy grail. You really just have to know that in the end, your finished product is going to be great. You musn't stop at the beginning. Seriously, the phase where you actually write the book is the very beginning.

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    For what it's worth, not all scifi is distopian. I'm not sure where you got that impression. Some is downright utopian. And there's every shade in between. – mattdm Jan 3 '17 at 11:34
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    It's just very stereotypical. If you type in 'sci-fi' into google images you get a ton of dark, urban pictures with a few gross SLIMY aliens and troopers in full armour. Whereas if you type in fantasy, you get beautiful scenery, knights, princesses, and sunlight rather than a dark, cloudy dystopian sky. – Daniel Cann Jan 3 '17 at 16:38
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    I don't get that, though. I just tried it now, and sure, there's some of that, but in the very top results I also get this and this and this, whereas when I type "fantasy" I get plenty of stuff like this and this. – mattdm Jan 3 '17 at 16:46
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    Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Daniel Cann Jan 3 '17 at 18:42
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    @DanielCann Your search results are a result of your previous searches, your online behaviiour, and the place you are searching from. Read this, for example: searchengineland.com/… – user5645 Jan 3 '17 at 18:51

One of the most important methods to develop your skill and find your personal voice is experimentation.

What you are doing, is experimenting with different genres, and I hope you also try out different narrative voices, different linguistic registers, different plot structures and character constellations. Writing is like any art. A young actor will experiment with different ways of showing emotion. An aspiring painter will try out different mediums. A student of music will learn different instruments and compose in different musical styles.

But experimenting does not mean that you have to walk every path to its end. You should consider them all – and try those that attract you –, but you will usually notice quite immediately, what feels liberating to do, and what feels stifling.

Write in any style or genre only as long as you feel that it "gives you something". Struggling to finish something can be a learning process, or a waste of time. But only you can know which is which for you.

Be aware of how you feel with what you do and trust your intuition. And be ready and willing to take some time to reach the first goal of your first publication. The less desperately you aim for that goal, the easier it is to achieve.

I get the struggles, believe me. I'm only a few years older than you, but I started writing when was a few years younger. I write sci-fi as well and depending on how out there the story is, it can be difficult. The best advice I can give to you is to experiment. If sci-fi isn't your cup of tea, then figure out what is. Incorporate that into your sci-fi piece.

I have a similar problem with realistic fiction. What I did was incorporate my strength - science-fiction into any realistic fiction work I had. I ended up with quite a few manuscripts I'm really proud of. Perhaps you can consider doing that?

Everything is worth trying, I would never suggest giving up. Though if you do decide you're not ready to write a sci-fi novel (which is perfectly okay, even for writers with much more experience than we do) switch to another genre. Find your comfort zone, and if you decide to pursue this, work your strengths into it.

And, if it's so difficult that it is taking the enjoyment out of writing for you, then why do it? And as Mark Baker said, writing novels is difficult. It takes a lot of time and effort. Don't beat yourself up if you decide to drop the idea, though the excerpt you provided is well-written.

  • Thanks! I'm quite comfortable with writing thrillers and feel-good stories. But, I always prefer a change. Without changes, life would be so dull. This is why, I thought of writing a sci-fi in the first place. Yes, it is taking the enjoyment out of writing for me, but something in the back of my mind is telling me to try hard no matter what. I can't bring myself to drop this idea. I'm not a native speaker by the way, so my English writing skills need refining. – Soha Farhin Pine Jan 2 '17 at 20:46
  • I'm only 17, not that much older. And, I completely get what you mean, when I started my first novel, I think I was 11, I was dead set on realistic fiction. The first one ended up so badly written I didn't even type it up. The second one tanked too because I thought historical fiction would be easier than realistic fiction. My first real one, about 200 pages, was a combination of realistic fiction and science-fiction. The one after was under 100 pages, but it was a sci-fi mystery that turned out well. – RE Lavender Jan 2 '17 at 21:03
  • And, if you want to mix things up a bit, instead of switching genres, why not switch the characters you write about? Since I started writing, even before I got into novels, I've always written from the perspective of characters near my age. This year I wrote a book that centered around characters significantly younger, it was a challenge, but still science-fiction, so it wasn't as big as it could've been if I decided to switch genres. – RE Lavender Jan 2 '17 at 21:07
  • That's really good, you're already getting the hang of where your comfort zone is. I'm equally comfortable with both, I think. Though I do notice that when I write in the first person, the more different the character is from me, the easier. – RE Lavender Jan 2 '17 at 21:17

Be a planner and gardener. Get raw ideas and put them in a note-taking program, I used to do it on 3x5 cards. But sooner or later you have to organize them, and shuffle them around to get an idea of a structural flow and find what is missing in the plot. You will find that you move stuff around a lot. That is ok. Just keep the ideas flowing, and put them on paper so you don't lose them. Also, it is important to set aside a specific time every day to do this. I do most of my raw writing now drinking my morning coffee, while doing my daily walk talking into my cell phone or waking up in the middle of the night. Good Luck

Many successful genre-bending stories are essentially one type of story in the setting of another. For instance, the original Star Wars is a fairy tale in space, and the early Harry Potter books are detective stories with a fantasy setting.

So if you enjoy writing thrillers, but want to try sci-fi, why not write a thriller set in space? Many thrillers are borderline sci-fi (or fantasy) anyway. If you're still getting hung up on the details, try a near-future sci-fi (essentially the present, with some new, not-yet-existing technology thrown in).

As a scientist in the midst of his first science techno-thriller novel, I can relate completely. But, take heart; for even in the future, humans still act like humans. They have the same emotions and drives. What about non-humans like robots? Since they don't exist today other than crude shadows of what is portrayed by most fiction, your view of how they act and how humans interact with them is just as valid as any Sci-Fi writer. After all, it is your novel. Don't be intimidated by futurists, they are nearly always wrong. The real focus of the future isn't so much on technology but how humans react to new technology. If you want to know how your great-great-grand kids will view modern tech, buy a new hot gizmo and see how long it takes for you to learn it and incorporate it into your daily life. Here is a link to my own alt history/near future dystopian novel. https://spark.adobe.com/page/wRjql/ As Mark Baker said, "Longform storytelling (which is what a novel or novella is) is very very difficult." I have been working on my novel for 4 years and it still seems pitiful but the research is fun and learning how to improve my own writing is worth it. If an old guy five times your age can enter these waters, so can you. Jumping into the water is fine but watch out for the sharks! And be sure to take time from writing to go outside and play with your friends, you are only a kid once.

When new at something difficult (let's use playing an instrument, painting and prose as examples)

  1. Any creative tool takes years of daily practice before it becomes "fun"
  2. For me; percussion performance still sucks but it's on my bucket list to change that
  3. Prose is not my strong suit; editing is.

Regardless of natural talent, in the case of music performance and editing/proofreading....same for painting and creative writing; it's all about practice. Creating & jamming on a trumpet, trombone, drums, midi, euphonium, baritone bugle and mellophone bugle...it comes easy. Editing the work of my peers as well--easy-peasy lemon-squeezy.

Put a pair of sticks in my hand though? Or task me to paint a line of "happy trees"? -- I STINK. I'm a mediocre drummer at best (this will change over time) and my skills with acryllics are laughable (less likely to change 'cuz I prefer to draw using pencil/pen media; nor do I picture a future that features "plants - a study; acryllic on easel by cwelke" Though I'd love to paint "happy trees" I have little inclination and even less drive to put the work in. I write, I edit, I draw [using pencils & ink], I do maths; I write code, solve MIS problems, tutor, date once or twice a year and get a laugh about half that rate.

Since you are just a youngster; your mind & body need time to figure what they like to do; what they DO do; what they dislike...and what they simply WILL NOT do. Resist the tempation to box youself in or out of any creative skill until at least your mid-20s. I'm pushing 40; as you can see I have a clear picture of my capabilities.

--> Only give up if sci-fi novella-composition brings you no reason to smile whatsoever. Is it the subject matter? Or is it the 70ish page length that gets ya? Test this by writing a crime novella; or sci-fi short story

The secret to writing is rewriting. If you aspire to math and computer science, try thinking like a scientist. (I am a research scientist using both math and computer science).

A story is much like a program; you are trying to evoke certain emotions from the reader with each scene. If your program doesn't work after you write it, you must debug it, and change it, until it does work. But you can't change it at random and hope it will work, you need to understand what went wrong and fix THAT.

Do the same thing with your story. If you know there are plot holes: I assure they were not on the blank page you began with. Which means you made your characters do something that resulted in the plot hole. Go find that bug, and fix it, and if you have to, start changing what follows so the effects of that bug are gone. No more plot hole!

Now you can fix the part after the bug in several ways; one is with slight modifications of what they do or know. If the plot hole bug was in CH3, then in CH4 and after, change their decisions, so they aren't based on something that isn't in CH3 anymore.

Another is by introducing a transition scene. If your plot hole bug was in CH3, and now CH4 is messed up, you can write CH3.5 to get your characters into the same place as CH4 but by a different route; now that the bug is fixed.

Or you can scrap it, and write from the bug forward. Put CH4 and after in another file, so you can scavenge writing from it, but after fixing CH3 start again with a new CH4 that flows from CH3.

I am a discovery writer, meaning I do NOT plan out a plot, mostly when I write I have a description of an ending in mind (which can change). It is a written description, usually half a page that will turn into 30 or 40 pages. So I can write myself into dead ends, and this is what I do: Find the bug, scrap stuff and start over.

Every day when I write, I begin by reading at least what I wrote yesterday, usually from the beginning of the scene I am working on, or if I am starting a scene, I read the entire previous scene I wrote. After a night of sleep and other work, I can read that with more objectivity and see what needs to be fixed, and I will fix it if I don't like it. That might mean I write very little that day, or nothing at all, but what I am doing is part of writing, getting it right, and I am making progress by doing it.

Imagine you want to lay a deck of cards, perfectly aligned end-to-end, down the hallway. The fastest way to do that is not to scatter all the cards in the hallway about where you think they will go, and then start aligning #2 to #1, and then #3 to #2, and so on. If you did it that way, by the time you get to aligning #12 to #11, nothing is in the right place, it is too far or too close, and it is all out of kilter. You wasted all that time up front trying to make a rough placement.

The fastest way to get done is to put #1 down, then #2, then #3, until you are done, each perfectly aligned. Now think of those cards as your scenes.

Write the first scene, and rewrite until you get it right. Then write the second scene, and rewrite that until you get it right, and reading scene 1 then scene 2 feels right. Don't worry about how long they are; a scene lasts until something irrevocable happens (good, bad, or minor; for example a scene may end when somebody decides they are going home for the night).

That is when the next scene begins, perhaps just after a passage of time (they arrive at work again the next day), or perhaps as they decide how to deal with the irrevocable event (for example they accidentally killed somebody with their car).

That is how you progress, through a short story, a novella, a full novel, a series. Every scene has a conflict. Keep in mind the (provisional) ending, keep making it difficult for your protagonists, all the other writing advice holds. But the main thing is: Always keep it coherent and sensible as you write, you should never have to discard a huge amount of work, just two or three scenes at most (and you can keep them in your junk pile in case you want to cut and paste something from them).

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