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I always want to write a book or story and I have very good ideas. However, I can never follow through with my ideas on pen. It feels very frustrating when all you have are a bunch of miscellaneous idea fragments and you just can't connect them together into something readable.

Also, while I know about literary devices and how they are supposed to be used, I find it very hard to utilize them effectively in my own writing. For example, when I want to use symbolism, I can't subtly hint at it being a symbol without it sounding very intentional. (You know how, in lots of good books, the readers find that something that seemed innocuous is actually very important and that you seem to find something new every time you reread it? I can't really do that in my writing.)

All in all, although I feel like I have good inspiration, I feel that I lack the motivation to put that inspiration into writing and can't effectively convey the ideas I want to convey through literary devices. Any advice?

I'm so sorry that its two questions instead of one.

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A few thoughts:

  1. "I feel that I lack the motivation"

    That's not something we can help you with. You need to want to write (or rather, you need to want to learn to write). Writing isn't easy, and many writers experience the work as struggle.

    Many would be writers are in love with the idea of being a published and successful writer, but they don't find the writing itself attractive. If you lack the motivation, you won't have the tenacity and diligence necessary to overcome all the many obstacles on the way to a finished text.

  2. "while I know about literary devices and how they are supposed to be used, I find it very hard to utilize them effectively in my own writing"

    Literary theory is no help but a hindrance when you write. Analyzing finished texts doesn't show you what writers see while they write. Texts aren't constructed from building elements such as literary devices according to some blueprint. Rather, texts are developed instinctually from an intimate familiarity gained through a lot of reading. Texts are slowly expanded associatively (and not built rationally), shaped and reshaped until they somehow find their form.

    If you prefer psychological terminology, the ability to write a literary text isn't based on descriptive knowledge but on procedural knowledge. It's like riding a bike or swimming. You cannot explain it to someone like a mathematical procedure that can easily be repeated once it has been explained to you. To learn to write, you have to try and experiment, like you try and experiment with learning to ride a bike, until "it clicks" and you "get it".

    So instead of reading about literary devices (and reading how to write books), read books in the genre you want to write in and write one novel (or short story or poem or play) after another until you "get it".

  3. I don't know what happens between your idea and its execution, so it is difficult to recommend a solution, but my general recommendation is to simply sit down and write your story without considering the quality of the result.

    Your first work will suck no matter how hard you try, so you can stop trying right away. If you want, join NaNoWriMo, where you are supposed to write a novel of 50,000 words within one month – too little time to write a good book even for many professionals. The goal there isn't to write a good publishable book (although some rewrite what they wrote and get it published), but to overcome debilitating perfectionism.

    Whether you do it while participating in an event such as NaNoWriMo or on your own, the best advice for a beginning writer is to come up with a story and just write it. And then write the next one. And the next one.

    That is, don't set out to write "my first book", but: practice!

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  • How would I join NaNoWriMo? Is it also an online forums like Stack Exchange? Thanks so much! Sep 27, 2023 at 1:39
  • You don't really join NaNoWriMo. You just decide to attempt to write a novel of 50,000 words during November and then do that. There are community forums where you can interact with other participants, there is a function on the site where you can share your daily wordcount progress, and there is a list of local meetups. I found a group of other writers in my city through that. Here's the Wikipedia article: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Novel_Writing_Month
    – Ben
    Sep 27, 2023 at 6:36
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This is very common. A lot of people that think about writing get kind of stuck here.

To move forward, learn to differentiate between an idea or a situation and a story.

An idea is a squirrel is bitten by a radioactive prostitute. That idea could be turned into a situation by adding 'Hilarity ensures.'

Ideas and situation aren't enough for a story. Unfortunately, there isn't just a single formula to create a story, and in darkness bind all other ways of recognizing something that is a story from something that isn't a story.

Speaking solely for myself, I try to focus my story creation efforts around Motivation-Goal-Conflict. I've found if I do that, I can express my ideas as stories and recognize if it works.

Most stories that engage the imagination have a character that wants something for a tangible reason. That's the goal (the want) and the motivation (the reason). Then, when there is something preventing the character from getting what they want, that's the conflict. It's really important because it raises the stakes and creates tension and resonates with the audience. We've all wanted something we couldn't get and felt frustrated or annoyed or angry or whatever.

That is how M-G-C works on our psyche to engage our story telling minds -- as both the author and the reader.

The part that I find is interesting is that pattern -- M-G-C -- is fractal. To overcome big conflicts we set smaller goals to get something we need and there is always something interesting in the way of that intent. If someone wanted to they could use that pattern over and over to build up a very complex story from chapters and scenes all structured around the same pattern.

Anyway, that is just one way to imagine stories. There are many other ways look at storytelling -- Save The Cat, Freytag's Pyramid, 3-Act Structure, The Hero's Journey.

The take away is that the art of storytelling is just as important and just as challenging as is craft of writing. Things like theme and symbolism fall in place, usually serendipitously through the creative act. Once you've finished your first draft, then you can start looking for the symbolism and theme opportunities that lay within the work.

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