I've been writing a story for the past few weeks...well I haven't actually started writing it yet, I'm still nailing out all the concepts and boundaries of the world.
But in past stories I've written, I've noticed that the actual execution of the story didn't live up to the idea that I had which explains the 50 some odd unfinished stories I have lying around in a binder.
But I would say that my execution of ideas are lacking in comparison to the ideas. I plan to put a lot of time into this story because I really think I'm onto something here, but how do I improve my execution?
Even when you finish a story, you aren't finished. You have to go back and fix it. There's a quote (I think from Hemingway) that the first draft of everything is crap. Don't expect a final draft on your first run.
I usually plan something out and then just get it down on paper so I can have a first draft. I'll leave things that I know I'm not happy with because sometimes just forging ahead in the story can help you figure out what I needed to do earlier in the piece.
You might want to write your first draft of the current story you're working on and then put it away for a few weeks. Then go back and look at your story again with fresh eyes. (Maybe in between you can take a crack at a few of those unfinished stories).
6. "RE: OKWriters: Idea vs Execution" In response to Reply # 0
i think idea and execution are related to one another. it's hard to separate them...they aren't one and the same but i think there's some kind of "co-exisiting" dynamic between the two.
depending on what stage a piece is in, it can make sense to separate them because sometimes, who really knows why, one gives birth to the other. it's possible to have the idea but not have any idea about how to execute it.
i'm only guessing at what you could mean by execution, by the way.
check to see if your idea is sound. check to see if your execution is sound.
usually, you don't need to see both. usually. if you can manage to just fiddle around with one, the other will eventually swing into place. i think i place more importance on execution-- how an idea is expressed. it doesn't hurt to be open to an idea evolving and changing, too.
and yes, revision is definitely a piece of the puzzle.
one thing that can improve execution? besides reading, imitations. imitate, imitate, imitate. try on the voices of other writers, imitate their syntax and all that good stuff. pick a topic or emotion or something to describe and put it into a "container" in the style of capote or woolf or joyce or baldwin or whoever. grab one of their novels or essays, pick a section of it, say a paragraph that you like and imitate it. flex your muscles a little bit that way. pick writers from all over, even writers you don't necessarily feel excited about.
13. "RE: probably shoulda clarified that" In response to Reply # 10
>EX: Anyone could've came up w/ the idea for Harry Potter, but >few could've executed on it.
fascinating. i think it's the opposite. few could've come up with the idea for harry potter, but in someone else's hands, i think it could've been written better. ok. that's beside the point.
revision seems to be the general consensus, and it's a good consensus, but i also want to share, that in my experience (my own stuff and talking with other writers), it isn't a magic bullet. i'm almost sure you've been revising.
hm. or maybe it'd be interesting to start a conversation about the revision process?
i make a distinction between practice and revision. it's up to the writer to figure out which one they're in need of, i guess. the line i draw is probably a fine line, but yea...i do think there's a difference. for starters, revision, most likely, won't give you skills that you want to acquire or need to develop so that you can write your story.
it's possible for a writer to re-write themselves into the blue yonder and still get shot in the foot. if you're essentially asking: "how do i become a better writer, a writer who has better control over their subject matter, with solid technique?"-- i don't know if the answer is an out and out "revise".
i think technique comes through practice, not unless you're born knowing how to "do it". practice, in my opinion, basically develops whatever tools your have in your writer's toolbox and maybe gives you the wherewithal to purchase some new stuff to show off. practice helps to familiarize yourself with what's in a writer's toolbox.
then it just becomes a matter of
1. practicing how to use the tools, based on the instructions jotted out in the owner's manual. that's why i mentioned reading and imitation. writing and language go together like two peas in a pod. good writers have some kind of mastery over the language. their work is like an owners manual. 2. practicing how to use that funky electrical thing to put up the metal picture frame and knowing why you're using it instead of a hammer.
along the way, sure, issues of taste and style and likes and dislikes come up. it's possible to notice stuff about what works for you and what doesn't, while you practice.
11. "where do you stand on outlining?" In response to Reply # 0
Yes, rewriting is crucial.
How clearly defined is your idea before you start writing? Without knowing anything about your writing, it sounds like you're trying to hit a moving target.
An outline, a complete outline, is like a road map. If you start by saying it would be great to head west, it's very easy to end up somewhere you don't want to be -- even you end up somewhere west of where you started. And rewriting could be difficult and fruitless -- what you end up doing to starting over and heading out again just hoping you come up with a something you like. It's may be easier than starting from scratch, but whether you get where you want to go may still be a crapshoot.
But if you say you're going to San Francisco from, say, D.C., and plot which roads you will take, it will be easy to stay on course. It would be harder to get lost, and if you get off track it would be easier to make corrections.
As far as how to outline, well, don't get caught up in any formal structures. There are as many ways to outline as there are writers. But as some noted writer once put it, everybody outlines -- some just call it the first draft.
16. "Alright, feel free to critique it." In response to Reply # 15
1. First I come up w/ the concept of what the story is to be based on and I set the boundaries of what is/isnt possible in my fictional world. 2. Decide how long I want said story to be. And how many arcs there will be in the story. 3. Make the characters, usually done by profiling 4. Lay out a outline of the plot of the story. 5. Let it sit for about a week or two and just marinate on what I have plotted out so far. 6. Write the story, which is usually rife w/ plot holes and errors, but I want to get it on paper. 7. Re-read it and have other people re-read it and tell me what doesn't flow. 8. Fix plotholes, revise anything that doesn't make sense 9. Re-write
and that's pretty much it. 7-9 is what I have the most difficulty with because I have a hard time seeing errors in my own work.
>5. Let it sit for about a week or two and just marinate on >what I have plotted out so far. >6. Write the story, which is usually rife w/ plot holes and >errors, but I want to get it on paper. >7. Re-read it and have other people re-read it and tell me >what doesn't flow. >8. Fix plotholes, revise anything that doesn't make sense >9. Re-write
>and that's pretty much it. 7-9 is what I have the most >difficulty with because I have a hard time seeing errors in my >own work.
If you are having trouble seeing the errors, I would suggest getting away from the script for a while before your re-read it. Try to read it with fresh eyes.
I would also ask about your step five - are you marinating on the plot, or getting away from it? Try putting it in a drawer and forgetting about for a while.
The reason I asked about the outlining before is that it can set up an easy checklist for rewriting. Basically, you compare the draft to the outline and see if you did what you set out to do. If the draft isn't working, you should have very clear steps to fix what isn't working. But this all falls apart if the outline doesn't work either.
Wasn't it Billy Wilder who said Act 3 problems are really Act 1 problems? Well, this is sort of the same thought on the relationship between the rewrite and your outline, in that the seeds of problems are sown very early on.
Your mileage may vary, as with all writing advice.
19. "damn, I wrote a long response and it didnt post....." In response to Reply # 16
So I am going to try to sum it all up:
1) I would say the biggest problem is probably in the rewriting stages. You don't have to be a perfectionist, but it couldn't hurt to be a bit more critical of your work. The good thing is you clearly have an idea of what you want to work on so focus in on execution, and specifically style.
2) Try some freestyle writing exercises. Let go of ideas and just let whatever happens to happen. With any luck this will help you develop a better sense of your own style. Try putting the characters you've developed in different places/situations; put unrelated characters into the setting you've created; write what you specifically would do were you in your protagonists shoes. These are of course very simple ideas but they may help you get a better idea of the feel for how to actually bring your story to life.
3) Synthesize, synthesize, synthesize. It isn't enough to have a style, and it isn't enough to have an idea. Truly great work comes when the two inform each other and add up to something bigger than either of them individually. It seems that you dwell on the big picture quite a bit, which is good, but it sounds like you really need to spend as much time on the practicality and application of your ideas.
If you can pinpoint the things you want to work on, let the people who read early drafts of your work know what you want them to look at. If you think you are great at the ideas, then I assume that most people's positive comments about your work will be on the ideas. Tell them what specifically you are having problems with in terms of construction, fluidity, and overall execution so that hopefully another pair of eyes will see something you didn't.
I hope some of this is helpful, and good luck to you.
I give rappers the biz for being m-izza-a-archaic.
17. "RE: OKWriters: Idea vs Execution" In response to Reply # 0
I am more of an okay writer than an OKWriter, so take my advice with a grain of salt, but I think you need to be just as excited about the characters you're having things happen to as you are about the things you're having happen, if that makes sense. It's actually where I'm hitting a snag with a project I'm working on with some friends.
---- I check for: Serengeti, Zeroh, Open Mike Eagle, Jeremiah Jae, Moka Only.