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I just want to make sure everyone knows, English is not my native language, so if there are any spelling errors or similar, that's the reason.

I'm a 20 year old student who writes novels during my free time, but I never end them. The problem is that I have an idea that I think sounds good so I start writing, then I get about 50 pages into the project a new idea. I then write down that idea so I do not forget it. The problem is that I usually just finish writing on the first text and bypassing the new idea, but when I'm about 50 pages I get another idea and so the cycle continues.

Any thoughts on what I should do? or does anyone have any ideas or simulated experiences that have some tips?

  • Are your characters' choices driving the stories, or are they reacting to events that happen to them? – DPT Nov 27 '17 at 15:43
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Here is an idea.

First, I warn you I am a 'discovery' writer, and it sounds to me like you should be too, but your write yourself into corners.

A discovery writer (like Stephen King) begins with characters and some initial situation (for him often a catastrophic supernatural situation; in The Dome, a whole town and some surrounding area is covered by an impenetrable clear dome, it cannot be tunneled under or broken through, and they must figure out what happens next. A bunch of characters are there, a promiscuous high school girl and her stalker, a thoroughly corrupt mayor, a hit man passing through, etc.

Then the discovery writer picks some scenes; confrontations and problems to deal with, and starts writing, with a focus on how the actions change the characters, and then eventually, as King himself says, the story has to come out somewhere. He says his formula is the same every time: Develop a likable and realistic character (hero), then put her (or him) "in the cooker."

So there isn't plotting, exactly. Just that the hero cannot battle forever, he learns things, there is escalation until they win or lose.

So perhaps when you change your idea, you are not escalating, or letting the character learn enough to overcome the villain.

My suggestion would be what I do: Before you begin your story, have some kind of rough idea of what you think is one possible ending. Write a page, a few hundred words, on how this winds up. Maybe not exactly how a prisoner escapes, but that she DOES escape. Maybe not exactly how the villain is killed, but something about how the hero gained the upper hand and killed him.

Not too much detail, just a sketch or guide to the ending that is NOT novel-style writing, it is a note on what to write, and definitely not so much work that you cannot discard it.

Now, when you get a new idea as the story develops, you need to do some work before you start writing it. Does your original ending still work? If it doesn't, think about your new idea, and what you have already written, and come up with a NEW sketch for your ending. BEFORE you start writing on the new idea. Again, just one page of notes on the end game and how it will work.

Do that every time you take off in a new direction, and you won't write yourself into a corner, you will always have an idea of how to end the story.

If you cannot come up with a plausible ending, do not start on the new idea! It is a dead end, or more literally, a dead ending. Always work with a live ending, your writing on the fly will automatically guide you to it.

When you are done with your first draft and HAVE an ending, then you can go back to the beginning and rewrite anything inconsistent with this ending, or move information reveals around, and make it appear as if you knew the whole story all along.

6

I have no idea if I understood you right. I hope I have. If I haven't, I apologize. English is my second language as well :).

I was -or I hope I was, that is- the same as you. I start with an idea and halfway through, get a new one stuck in my head and have to stop with my first idea to start the second. Because it would bug me if I didn't write it.

Then I sat down and thought quietly why I never finished any of those ideas. And for me, the answer was- I got bored of the first idea. Then I started to notice why it bored me. I had too much info dump, I kept repeating stuff, I had characters not doing anything just sitting and talking, etc.

So, I made myself focus on one project. It wasn't easy, but I ended a story. Around 35,000 words. Short, true, but at least had a beginning, a middle and an end. And with that story I realized what I was doing wrong and from then on, I tried to stop making the same mistakes.

So, after all this nonsense chattering, my points are:

Don't let other ideas get in the way. Write them on a notebook, just a short description, but don't start any of them. Close the notebook and don't look at them again. Finish the novel you're writing first.

Don't think that the work you've done so far is useless, because it's not. Look at it and learn from it. Find the reason why you're not finishing it.

So, this is me and how I am/used to be the same. Don't know if it's helpful to you or not.

  • 1
    @Rasmus Characters "sitting and talking" :-) I think characters are a big part of the answer. (1) Tips on creating compelling characters at this link are useful to me writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/… (2) making sure that they drive the action, not being driven by the action. The things that happen, are because the characters made certain choices. The events are outcomes of those choices. Using these tips on character and their actions, helps move the story (for me). I don't get bored. But ... it is work. – DPT Nov 27 '17 at 15:42
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Writing is a lot like many other skills, like cycling, exercising, drawing, etc. At first it takes a lot of effort and you can only do a little bit at a time, but as you gain experience, you'll be able to complete longer and longer projects. Start by writing a few stories that are literally just a page or two (300-600 words, let's say), edit it to your liking, and call it complete.

Then you can move to a longer story, just a few pages long. Eventually, you can start to add chapters and increasingly complicated story lines, with more detailed characters and environments. In order to be a competent writer, you need to gain some experience and some confidence. Completing several smaller stories will allow you to write increasingly larger and more complicated works.

Since you seem to get stuck around 50 pages, consider writing a few novellas before you go straight to writing a novel. You'll gain confidence in your ability to write compelling stories as you successfully complete some stories. Writing a novel is a lot like running a marathon. You need to condition yourself first in order to have the stamina to do it.

2

The reason there are so few great artists in any discipline is because it's common to have some of the skills and aptitudes needed, but rare to have them all. Nearly everyone starts with some things they excel at, and some things they are horrible at.

In your case, you're great at coming up with new ideas, terrible at following them through to completion. There is no shortcut around this, you will have to power through at least one project from start to end. In other words, you have to make an absolute commitment, and stick to it, even at the price at losing out on some good other ideas along the way. It may make it easier, however, if you start with a shorter project. Why not commit to writing a short story, rewriting it, editing it, and at least submitting it for publication BEFORE starting anything new? That way you'll at least have gotten past the psychological block of never having finished anything.

With all that said, there are also different seasons in your life as a writer. When I was younger, I was overflowing with ideas all the time. Now the new ideas come slower, but I'm better at follow-through. So, hold on to those old notebooks!

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Set up a schedule / make a habit of re-reading what you have written in new regular intervals. It will feedback your ideas to yourself. Sometimes that is needed to get you back on track on your own ideas or motivation and it will leave old ideas open for new ones to jump and bite from your unconcious in everyday life.

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One thing I'm surprised no-one seems to have mentioned is the architect-gardener distinction.

I get the impression your current writing style is that of the gardener, meaning you see what happens and react to it as you go. This is sometimes called writing by the seat of your pants (and such writers pantsers), but I think the pantser-plotter terminology is simplistic and unfair. George R R Martin coined "gardener" and considers it his approach, whereas an architect plans the plot and then writes it. You can see why this might help you.

In my experience as someone who's finished a few novels (none as yet published), both approaches can work depending on the author and story, what happens in practice may be somewhere in the middle, and if you've only tried one you should experiment with the other. A better idea for an ending is just one benefit such switching may bring.

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