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Oftentimes, when trying to write, I run into trouble comming up with all I intend to say, barely managing to author the main points. As to whether this is due to some cognitive defect, or due to some other issue, I do not know. But concerning this, I ask you for insight, if maybe you are able to help me advance my writing.

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    What sort of writing? Fiction or non-fiction? Hobby or schoolwork? Dec 29, 2020 at 14:56

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The Magic of Editing:

So it sounds like you struggle to get everything you imagine into your writing when you are writing. If I'm reading the question correctly, I think you have a broader range of things you want to put in, but you just can't seem to get them in while writing. No doubt about it, writing is hard.

So my suggestion to you is write a scene, then put it aside and come back to it in a day or two. Make a list of the things you wanted to put into the scene now that you are looking at it from a distance. Now add those things in.

But that makes a total mess of things! YES! Don't be afraid of messes. in resolving all those complex, messy things, you get a complex, interwoven story. I think of them as threads. I get all these threads going, and I have to figure out how to weave them together. Sometimes a thread is only in the background - a spaceship thread might be represented in a bar scene by a spacer sitting at the bar (which adds color), or a dragon theme may be the characters having their dramatic conversation in a tunnel sheltering from a rampaging dragon instead of in a bar.

The point is, you have a vision for the story, and it is still fluid as long as you want it to be.

Now occasionally, there is something in my writing that almost seems to write itself, like the story and characters WANT to go there. That's your subconscious telling you what to write. Those are the sacred pieces of writing. The rest of the story can be flexed around these points. Sometimes I get one of these and it WON'T fit in the rest of the story. That's when I find somewhere else to add these nuggets of gold to. A moment of the MC making a life-or-death decision might need to become the MC relaying a story of making the decision. Again, this is where editing comes in to keep the elements alive. Adding stuff like that adds depth to the story.

But not EVERYTHING needs to be written down. I have unwritten subtext going on that shapes my characters and their actions. It will occasionally be alluded to, but not directly discussed/explained. As long as it doesn't create confusion, NOT adding stuff you have in your head can make the story feel three-dimensional. Your reader may not know what a skellig is, but it can be enough to know the MC likes to listen to them being played. You don't need to explain that in your world, they were developed on the Skellig isles and it looks like a harp.

So don't be afraid to rewrite, don't be afraid to move stuff around and manipulate, don't be afraid to allude to things not completely explained. All this adds depth, complexity, and the elements you struggle to include.

In short, the real magic may come as you re-write, not when you're just cranking out a crude first draft.

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I have a ton of ideas, many of which are just variations on each other. Adding one option just creates an exponentially larger pool of ideas. Here's how;

Divide your story into five categories; setting, plot, inhabitants, characters, and extra.

Setting will be the world your story is set in. This could be medieval fantasy, scifi planets, fantasy scifi, or any other combination. I believe this is called worldbuilding and there's an entire SE site for it. Also make sure to include any sort of criteria(ie trolls don't work because they were all killed) that comes with the world in case you forget.

Plot is what happens in your story. Keep it general, so that you can easily switch it around plots and stuff without having to change much. You should also include the minimum and maximum number of characters you will need to do this story. Too little and there's not a ton of diversity, too much and you might accidentally forget about one for the entire story.

Inhabitants are the people in your world, not your characters. These could be fairies, cyborgs, trolls, or several of these if your world is really diverse. Make sure you don't put stuff about how all trolls are bloodthirsty murderers, because maybe your fantasy story needs a troll lawyer or something.

Characters are your characters. These you can be more specific on, going into personalities, abilities, motivations, descriptions, and other relevant information. These should be the most detailed, and setting should be right under characters in descriptive terms.

Then there's extras. This is where everything else falls. If you have an idea for a special lightsaber that only cuts through stuff a normal lightsaber can't(seems weird but hey maybe you want it), then it goes here. This is where stuff like magic, certain items, and world-changing(but not plot changing) items and abilities will go, as well as maybe one-off encounters/characters that don't change the plot. Make sure you have a lot of these.

Okay, we have the groups, now we pick a random option from setting, plot, inhabitants, and characters. Read through your new selection, and decide if you need more of some other category. Maybe you need another species, so you'd grab another inhabitants option. If you want more characters, then grab a few more of those. Once you have all that nice and ready, make sure you're happy with it. Now comes the fun part, and you grab any number of options from the extras category. This will spice up your story and make it real different from most others.

Even if you only have 3 options in each category, you have 3^5 (243) options, and then you can add more characters, extras, and/or extras to increase that number. When you add another option(in let's say extras), you now have 3x3x3x3x4 (324) options, and that's without choosing more than one of a certain category. The more options you have, the more stories you can throw together.

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From your question, it's hard to know why you get out of ideas, but I also see you're not sure yourself.

My first tip would be to keep an eye out for why, when, how your ideas get dried up.

Here are some possible causes:

The way you intend to write

There are two main ways of writing a story:

  1. You sit down and write (by the seats of your pants)
  2. You outline your story from the overall idea/message down to every chapter or scene, and then you write

There is obviously combinations of these (The Snowflake Method, or writing one chapter and then editing it to perfection before writing the next chapter, or actually any writer out there will have their own process).

If you've tried one version of this, but get stuck without ideas. Try the other.

Self-censoring

Maybe you have ideas but reject them because they are outrageous, bad, or some other way not "right"?

You may be right. Some ideas (sometimes many of them) don't fit or work but make a habit to write them down and get a system to organize them anyway.

Because if you really have very few ideas, treating the ones you get with respect and enthusiasm is one way to possibly get more and more as you go. Your unconscious see you!

If you have problems with self-censoring. Write an outrageous, hideous story, that will upset people. It could be a hit...

The circumstances you intend to write under

If you try to write when the circumstances are problematic, you're tired, there are disturbances, you should be doing something else, etc, you might head for problems.

If you have this problem, it could be good to plan your writing better. Set aside time for it, inform people in your family that you're going to write, go to a café, or a park, or some other place where the circumstances are better.

Your expectations

Outrageously enough, most writers of both books, movies, and TV-shows, when writing about the process of writing and how it's done right out lies.

I can't believe people that work every day as authors would produce fairytales about someone sitting down in front of a computer or typewriter, typing away at the keys with passion from the first word to the last, then sending it to the publisher that yells from enthusiasm, publishes it, everybody loves it and the Saga of the Book is born.

That's just not how a book is written (or published, or received by its audience), that's a fairytale... or when written by an author, a lie or an outright giving it up to the un-knowing Tinseltown management. I don't know.

However, if you have that idea of how to write, it will obviously cause problems.

Writing is hard work, words sometimes feel like boulders crushing the page. I use to tell myself about ten times a day, "I'll fix it in editing... moving on!" Or as Hemingway is rumored to have said: the first draft of anything is crap.

Writing is very little magic. Much more craftsmanship, patience, and fixing broken things.

So, write crap. Then edit it. And edit it. And...

Maybe you DO have some "cognitive effect" causing trouble

Well, first, most people with disabilities, etc can learn to improve how things in their life work to a point where the disability is mostly not a problem.

If you feel that there are many areas in your life that are problematic. If you feel that you may be disabled, I recommend asking your doctor.

If you do, why not write about it?

You're starting out writing

Inexperience could cause ideas to disappear. So, you need to write more. But without ideas, you may ask, what do I write? Write about not having ideas, then when that feels silly, write about how silly that is, and keep writing until some part of your brain goes, hey, this is boring, what if we wrote about...

Also, read books... web pages... etc. I'd say your first couple of years will be spent learning to write. If you send your work to publishers and get rejected or not while doing it probably mostly depends on your learning process...

Distract yourself

Sometimes, when I get stuck I do something else... like answer questions about writing... ;o) World building and character development is also on top of the list. Or finding a new tool to store such information... or build one... when it gets really dark :)

Idea management and development

I get ideas in small pieces. My current project came from a single picture I had in my mind. It was hardly enough to write a whole book about or several. So I kept digging, combining ideas, sometimes conflicting ideas that demanded new ideas for how to bind things together. I also stole from reality, pieces of stories, characters, places, I threw it all in and stirred until my mind started organizing it into a story. I built brick towers that toppled over and got even more ideas from the pieces on the floor.

So, in essence. Getting ideas can be easy, but twisting and bending them into something that will be a story is harder. But thankfully it is more of a craft than something that hinges on divine inspiration.

I'd recommend looking into articles or books on how to get ideas and how to manage them. Also books and articles about writing. All the ideas, all the 7 steps to this or that will pose new questions that will likely generate more ideas. Reading about story structure, emotional wounds or character development will likely have you go "hey, I should ... for my character/conflict/location..."

Research is also a great source of inspiration and ideas. Dig into the time period, the event, the person, and/or location you're thinking about writing about and see what comes up...

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It sounds like a wonderful problem to have! A surplus of ideas allows you to more 'carve out' a story than have to build one. Research a little on how Michaelangelo approached his work. Maybe his perspective applies.

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