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I'm a casual writer at best and tend to write in fits and starts when motivation hits. I tend to lack resolve and this leads to writer's block.

I've been off-and-on writing a series of little vignettes in a universe my friends and I created. The current series is a (for me) fairly tight narrative where timing is very important. It's fey-based fantasy but revolving around a college, so events fall into a typical college schedule.

I have written several scenes that deeply clash timing-wise and I can't think of a way to reorder them without causing more problems. It boils down to the following:

  1. Character meets other character at the start of winter break
  2. Characters agree to do stuff that require classes to be started
  3. A pre-Christmas party is had and plans are made for Christmas itself
  4. The characters do their during-classes events
  5. Christmas happens

Obviously this is a conflict and I can't find a way to solve it, but that's not the main concern of this question.

Because I've written myself into this paradox, I find myself unable to move forward in the narrative with it looming over me. However, I also can't see a way to resolve it without negatively altering the flow. I am, in short, completely blocked from writing at the moment.

How can I keep writing rather than linger over this paradox? I am reasonably certain that with enough distance and objectivity I could find a way around it, but it's weighing on me too heavily and I can't find motivation to keep writing.

  • Do you want a solution to the problem, or advice on how to motivate yourself to keep writing? The first one is answerable whereas the second one is subjective and we can't directly answer. – Aric Aug 9 '17 at 13:50
  • @AricFowler I was worried it might be too subjective. I don't have the time needed to lay out the plot sufficiently so if this is considered unanswerable I may just delete. – Alex Aug 9 '17 at 13:54
  • I'm just asking what you're asking. Do you want us to help solve the paradox? In which case, you may need to edit the question to make that clear. – Aric Aug 9 '17 at 13:55
  • @AricFowler No, because I know I haven't laid out enough info to fully explain it. I was hoping for tips on how to move past a writers-block-inducing problem – Alex Aug 9 '17 at 13:56
  • Mind if I edit? – Aric Aug 9 '17 at 13:59
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To Fix The Motivation Issue...

Watch your self-talk. The original version of your question (before Aric Fowler's edits) spent several sentences describing yourself as an amateur, sporadic writer with motivation and discipline problems. Such a self image can't help your writing productivity.

Write in a non-linear sequence. When you get stuck on a scene as you have with this paradox, jump to some other point in the story and get back to writing. Stories can always be rearranged during their edit phase. You don't have to write them in the order that they will eventually be read.

Find your muse! Writing is horribly hard but wonderfully fun. When you truly love what you are writing, no discipline is needed. When you are just following the standards of your chosen genre (magic school in this case), then writing can become a chore and the fun can evaporate. Ignore the expectations of your chosen setting or audience. Follow the story line which is revealed by your joy in writing it. Revel in the joy of creating without concern for the finished product. You can always work out the glitches during the edit and rewrite phases.

Keep Writing!

The following did not help the original question poster, but might be of value to other authors writing in a fey universe.

To Fix The Paradox...

If your characters live in a fey-fantasy world, why are they celebrating Christmas? Wouldn't the major winter celebration be the Solstice? Taking that further, if they are living in a world where the fey are real and visible, would they necessarily take the Solstice off from school? Might they not instead use the timing of the Solstice as an opportunity to study the fey during such a holy night. They could then take a break from school work (unrelated to any holiday or celebration) during the dead of winter, when it is too cold to get any work done anyway. The distances between the celebration and the break are completely under your control as they are unrelated to customs in our world. Paradox solved.

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  • Appreciate the motivation advice; the paradox advice is unfortunately untenable. (It's a modern AU with a fey twist and having them adhere to human customs is part of the AU's features). I'd find your answer a lot stronger without the first half! – Alex Aug 9 '17 at 14:35
  • I love the idea of non-linear writing! I'd never considered that before... – Aric Aug 9 '17 at 14:59
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Some writers' first drafts (ok, mine) look kind of like that: a bunch of loosely connected scenes that lack continuity and consistency. Just keep going. Write the next scene as if there's no paradox.

Revision is where you fix things like weird jumps in time, changes in your characters' names, meandering voice and pov, bad ordering of scenes, etc.

Just keep writing. Embrace the flaws. For now.

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It is hard to say without reading (and we don't do that here) but the times I have fallen into this paradox, and the many times I have seen others fall into it, I believe the real problem is that the story lacks a main spring. The main spring, the thing that drive a story, can, I think, be reasonably broken down to desire, frustration, and crisis.

A character has a desire. Various forces (internal or external) frustrate that desire. The character struggles against those forces. The struggle leads them to a moment of crisis (usually a crisis of values -- a hard choice), and from their to triumph, defeat, change, or self awareness. There are certainly yarns that don't obviously fit this model, that seem to get by on descriptive force and motion alone, but this seems to be the mainspring of most stories.

Without the mainspring to keep the author's imagination in check, the story can easily wander off course and end up tying itself in knots. This is, of course, highly discouraging. And while the advice to soldier on is no doubt well intentioned, and mere soldiering on may sometimes pay off in the spontaneous discovery of your story's mainspring, it may sometimes be better to pause and consult a map and make sure you have a clear idea of where you are going before you resume your journey.

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It's important to be flexible. If the plot point doesn't work replace it with something else that fills the purpose or find a way to work it into the story later. To avoid future instances of painting yourself into a corner, do some plotting before you sit down to write. It doesn't mater if it is a vague outline, as long as it helps you keep the story timeline clear in you mind. This will help you avoid paradoxes and dead ends.

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