I haven’t been writing for some time now. It has been so long that I have abandoned the story that I was working on. The desire to write, however, has been returning. But before I start to write again, it seems like a good idea to see if there is anything that I can learn from my previous failure.
Problem one: not enough world building.
The first problem seems to be that I didn’t do enough world building. While I like the ideas of having characters that weren’t common to any of the science fiction or fantasy that I was familiar with, I didn’t have a good world for them to operate in. Instead, what I did was essentially use the world as it exists now and expect all these wonderful things to just exist within that framework.
It didn’t work out too well.
Problem two: no one wants to be the bad guy.
I don’t good bad guys. That might sound strange, but it is true. None of the characters that I create are evil for the purpose of being evil. Each of my characters have an idea of how they believe that the world should be. Following their own ideas, they try to change the world for the better. But there is a problem with that. Each of my characters is also a rational person. When they see that some other character has a better solution to the problem, they then follow the other person’s idea. When that happens, the natural conflict that was created in the story collapses.
Problem three: organization.
While not a sexy problem – and not a problem with writing per se – my lack of organization has a profound effect on the story the further the story goes. Characters names, what they were doing, what they were thinking, their intentions and goals; each of these gets lost in the shuffle of writing. By the time I dig through my notes enough to have the character on track, my mind is completely burned out, or consequently, has come up with a better idea.
Problem four: writing style.
The problem could be related to the organization point, but it needs to be highlighted on its own. Much of the background work and world building that I do seems necessary. It seems necessary to the point that I gave it its own category. But when I write, I often use two different writing styles. These styles are loosely referred to as “seat of the pants” writing and plotting.
Plotting: When I write, I need to have at least a basic idea of where the story is going. It helps me tremendously to know where the characters are headed and what “natural” accidents or problems they are going to face in the future. For me, this is what plotting is all about. Knowing the general direction of the story, who is working against whom, which parts will come into conflict over time, and at least a vague idea of how those things will turn out.
The problem with plotting is that, as I am writing, I come up with better ideas than I had during the plotting stage. These ideas have a tendency to cause rethinking of several plot points. That has the effect of bringing the entire writing process back to the drawing board while I fix the rework the outline that I have been working from.
That wouldn’t be too bad if it weren’t for the problem of then forgetting what it was that I had changed. For instance, if I had an idea for a scene, came up with a better idea, changed it, then went on with my writing; I might forget that I changed it at some point in the future. When that happens, I end up with incompatible ideas warring with each other and one hell of a mess that needs to be straitened out. Now, multiply this problem by every scene that is changed through the course of the story and eventually it becomes easier to abandon the story that it does to fix it.