An Aspiring Writer's Blog Site

Knowing when its Time to Freeze the Story into Carbonite

Here is something that hurts like hell to say, but, I’m going to say it anyway: I’m going to stop working on the Gideon Plan.

Why?

Well, the bottom line is two fold: I don’t have the time to write a 300k+ story. Also, my craft is not strong enough to do it justice.

Lots of thoughts are going through my head right now. The foremost thing is, “Goddammit, I’ve been working on this f’n thing for ten goddamn months. That’s a lot of f’n time to waste.”

True. True. But you know, its better to stop at ten months then at three years. And you know what, its not like I’m deleting it from my computer. Its still there, in really good shape actually. I can come back later when my craft is stronger.

Bottom line—regrets, yes. Right decision, yes.

Over the next week, I’m going to give myself some time to just mull things over, recoop my losses, and form a new strategy. When I come back, I’ll be stronger.

In the mean time, here are some things I’ve learned from this wonderful ten month adventure.

High Level Items:

  • Scope well. Know your limitations–particularly if you are a new writer. When I was in video game school, we made a lot of 2 week mini-games. They were short and played in only a few minutes, but they helped hone our craft. I need to take a cue here and start small and work up.
  • Adding more POV characters only increases the size of the story, but also increases the work itself (plot, characters, description, etc.). I think every time I added a new character, I may have added on another 50-100K words. I had six POV characters.
  • Look at the amount of time your story spans. Mine spanned five years. This was a good indication for length.
  • My rough draft is really just a skeleton for the first draft and equaled approximately 10-20% of the story (not 60% as I had thought).
  • Thinking time is invaluable. I drove a lot in a former job and it gave me time to come up with ideas for the story. Continue to use my phone’s voice recorder for recording these. That worked great.
  • Weigh how long it takes to write a story vs. how much time you actually have in your life to give to it. How often do you work? Do you have a family? Do you have other obligations or responsibilities? Do you have other interests or hobbies? Be realistic.
  • Don’t listen to your heart. Don’t listen to your head. Listen to your gut. My heart wanted to continue because I loved it, my head just told me the reasons why I should and the reasons why I shouldn’t and just confused me more, but my gut told me it was time to stop.

Things I do well

  • The story concept was a really good idea—steam punk special ops team. That’s just really cool. Plus, I was putting my own spin on the whole Victorian Sci-Fi genre to make it unique.
  • I have a strong writing process—the burst technique works really well for me. I can use this with other stories I write.
  • I write a lot and am disciplined. I’m focused. I’m not easily distracted and rarely have writer’s block. This all goes back to having a good writing process.
  • I was good at turning the editor off and writing.
  • I was getting really good at tracking the amount of time I devoted to the novel. This will help me with scoping and planning in the future. I’ll do this a couple of times and I’ll have a pretty good gauge on just how long it takes me to write a story.
  • I am a good writer. I had a good plot, good characters, dialogue, pace, rhythm, and setting.
  • I’m not afraid of killing the baby. If it doesn’t go, I take it out.
  • I have a strong understanding of why I write—because I love doing it. This is my primary motivation. Everything else (i.e. publishing, is secondary) and that helps me focus and not worry about success.
  • I’m patient and kind with myself. If I mess up, I don’t beat myself up about it.

Things to improve

  • Get a better grip on scope.
  • Bringing the story to its climax is difficult for me. I want it to be satisfying. I think a lot of authors have this issue, though, even professional ones. A lot of stories do not have satisfying endings in my opinion.
  • I have a hard time with plot. I’m instinctive and eventually I wade my way through it, but I need to have some tried and true techniques that serve me well. For me, its the most difficult part of the writing process. Always has been.
  • Need to be stronger on description and transitions.
  • I need to figure out a good balance between how much I spend on my writing and how much I spend on other obligations. Quite frankly, I was tiring myself out trying to do both.
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15 responses

  1. Well that was depressing. Sorry to hear about it Dan. Your project did seem awefully immense. The only thing I want to suggest is, is there a way for you to wrap up what you’ve done currently. Turn this thing into the monster it might really be meant to be–a trilogy?

    July 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm

  2. Aw man, sorry to depress you. Didn’t mean to do that. I guess it could be a series, but it still all boils back down to time and ability. I’m just not ready for this type of project yet. Its in good shape right now and it was a cool idea. I’ll come back to it some time when my skills have caught up.

    July 31, 2012 at 2:10 pm

  3. Drew Merten

    There is definitely something to be said about coming back to it later. If you’ve been writing on it awhile, and with the large scope, you might come back and see that its still going well. Of course, you could always write a few 60k-80 k novels first 🙂 if you don’t mind my asking, what did you do in the video game arena?

    July 31, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    • Thanks, Drew. You and Nathan have been great. I’m really glad to have met you two! Nice to see kindred spirits out there. I worked at n-Space for about three years. I made games for the Nintendo DS. I was the project manager for a Star Wars game and two James Bond games.

      July 31, 2012 at 10:39 pm

  4. I have had to do this to a story, too. It’s a fantasy book that I was super passionate about in the beginning, but it just wasn’t working so I put it on the backburner. Now, some ideas are circulating in my mind and I might be able to re-work it, slowly.

    Maybe down the road, you can complete the Gideon Plan. It sounds like an interesting concept – steampunk special ops. But you know what is best, as the writer.

    Either way, all writing is good practice whether we end up using it or not.

    August 1, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    • Agreed. It was awesome practice. I hope to come back to it one day. Thanks for stopping by, Sara. It was actually your post about the five mistakes killing self publishing that finally made me stop and say, “You know what. I’m not ready for this.”

      August 1, 2012 at 10:48 pm

      • Really? Well, now might not be the right time, but when the timing is right, I am sure that it will start to flow again.

        Sometimes, starting another writing project in a different genre does the trick to get the inspiration flowing again!

        August 1, 2012 at 10:53 pm

      • Yeah, its not the time. When you lift weights you don’t go and clean and jerk 1,000 lbs off the bat. You got to work your way up to it. I’m gonna work on smaller stories for awhile and get my craft down. I’ll be back to novels before long. Thank you, Sara!

        August 2, 2012 at 8:52 am

      • That sounds like a solid plan. 🙂 Happy writing!

        August 2, 2012 at 9:32 pm

  5. Hi Dan! I’m sorry to make my first appearance on your blog during such a difficult time, but I know exactly how you feel. I’d worked on an epic fantasy for years, 3 in fact, before I realized my ability and pre-writing skills hadn’t caught up to my dreams. I was a discovery writer then and I just could not write toward an ending. I’ve since turned into an outliner and made my life a 100% better. My pre-writing time is immense but the writing itself has gotten easier and more manageable. Have you considered trying this approach? I pick an ending and write backward, using bullet-points to logically step from end to beginning, then start branching out to individual small plots that will crop up. VERY helpful.

    August 2, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    • Hey, Mike. Thanks for stopping by! Those comments are great. I am sort of an outliner– I have this thing that I call bursts that turns into a rough draft which becomes the skeleton of my story– which is the closest thing I have to an outline. It works very well for me. I was doing pretty good on this story, bopping along (hit 100,000+ words) and just realized I didn’t have the time to do it and I couldn’t do some parts justice like it needed. I need something smaller right now, both for time’s sake and also to improve my craft. I really appreciate your advice and taking time to read my blog!

      August 2, 2012 at 9:59 pm

      • I certainly understand about the time crunch. I work a full time job, am in the middle of wedding plans and travel just about every weekend back and forth between states. It’s a wonder I have a few hours every night to work. Good luck on whatever you pick up next. There’s a saying that you don’t really write a good novel until your 6th attempt. Like Brandon Sanderson says, I like those odds. I don’t have to be good at this for a while!

        August 2, 2012 at 10:02 pm

      • 6th novel? Really? Gee. I wonder if I’ll live that long. Heh. Thanks for dropping by Mike.

        August 3, 2012 at 3:30 pm

  6. Cat

    It’s interesting that a lot of the above comments suggest this post is depressing or difficult: I’m not suggesting it might not be, but when I read this I think how brave you are being and how wonderful it is that you can put The Gideon Plan to rest for a while and take so much learning from it.

    It’s sometimes challenging to identify what the process is for successful learning, but you appear to have used your experience of writing The Gideon Plan to your advantage.Now you not only have lots of useful information about your writing capabilities (and those areas you want to work on) but, as you say, you will always have this epic tale to go back to when you feel ready to dedicate your more-experienced self to it: that’s giving you as an author and your current novel a lot of respect which I think is admirable in itself.

    I’m looking forward to following you on your journey and seeing how you get on. I think as you share your knowledge of yourself and your writing trials, it could provide valuable lessons for me also.
    Take Care, Cat

    August 3, 2012 at 10:36 am

    • Hey, Cat. Thanks. Those words mean a lot to me–really. It certainly wasn’t an easy step. I’ve been in Gideon Plan mode for so long, I have to keep pulling myself out of it. I look forward to the next step and yeah, maybe the Gideon Plan will be back some time in the future.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:33 pm

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