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  1. #1
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Stuck on Time Frame

    So, I've been stuck for a while. Not precisely blocked, though output is way down.

    I've recognized that part of my stuckness is a major indecision on where to focus my attention. I've got this world I've built that I quite like, and I've got some characters I think are pretty fascinating inhabiting it, BUT... they are spread out in three distinct time zones.

    It's a future-earth SF setting. Basically, I've got a world where humans build machines to manage the environment, which they create by modelling the machines on biological functions, and the machines in turn merge with living things because they're similar enough, and so become aware, regulate the biological world using machine logic, and in the process more or less enslave humanity and all life on the planet by turning us into a machine-hybrid hive mind. It's sort of a Green Dystopia, I guess.

    I have, all told, three separate sets of about 50-75k words of short and middle length pieces set in this world, each set typically involving the same characters but in different situations or periods of their lives. For each period, I have a pretty clear sense of where I think the story will go, eventually. One set is all during the apocalyptic/immediate post-apoc phase, another is mid-way into the reestablishment of civilization from the resulting human/machine hybrid, pre-hive, and the last is farther future, when the earth bound system needs more fuel and the hive decides to expand to the stars.

    I think I've bitten off more than I can chew right now. I can't seem to focus on any one set, and as a result I've basically been idle for a year or so on it. False progress abounds. Part of me is saying to ignore the others and just focus on one of the sets and turn it into a proper story, beginning middle end. Another part is saying, forget that, the whole scope needs to be there. And yet another part thinks -- this whole thing needs a lot more time to percolate. And then there's the scrap it, start over voice.

    So I try to keep up the practice of writing often by pursuing other ideas and stories, but they tend to feel less interesting so they peter out. I've produced more unfinished half-baked writing now than I ever have before. It's getting frustrating. Can't finish, can't start.

    My point is: a) any sympathy out there? and b) got any great ideas to add some fuel to this fire? What would you do? Focus on one? Or keep trying to juggle all the balls and go for the glory with the magnum opus?

  2. #2
    KMTolan kmtolan's Avatar
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    Trilogy.

    (bows, flourishes cape, and leaves.)

    Kerry

  3. #3
    Breaker of Walls
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    Focus on one at a time. Rough draft it, then move to the second one. Then, the third. Go back through them all as a whole and see what you have. Better to go for it and start putting words down.

  4. #4
    bingley bingley beep kissmequick's Avatar
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    Finish one

    The first rule of write club is: finish what you start

    Because I can guarandamntee that you'll get half way through anything and hate it. To sub something, you need to finish it.

    Pick one

    Finish one

    Use that (experience, worldbuilding etc) to start the next one. One step at a time, but you need to complete the step

    See Heinlein on finishing.

    http://www.sfwriter.com/ow05.htm

    To quote:

    You cannot learn how to write without seeing a piece through to its conclusion.

  5. #5
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Well, let's put the time commitment you can do to the side for a moment. Are you wanting to write one big book that skips time periods, or several different stories that take place at different time periods? Because there are such things in SF as parallel series, i.e. you can be writing one series/trilogy that takes place in time period X and at the same time write another series/trilogy that takes place in time period Y. For instance, Marion Zimmer Bradley set Darkover novels all over the place in time. People do a series, then they do prequels, then they go forward in a whole other sector of the universe, etc. Or you can time hop within one book, and be quite episodic, such as Dan Simmons' Hyperion, and so forth. So can they be separate or do they need to be all together?

  6. #6
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    Are you wanting to write one big book that skips time periods, or several different stories that take place at different time periods?

    So can they be separate or do they need to be all together?
    Yep, those are the questions... I think I want three complete, distinct stories. Not precisely a trilogy, in that there's not one master plot threading through. Sort of a Canticle for Leibowitz style, I think, with more of a moral/thematic thread linking the time periods. Or Foundation, with a kind of ongoing social evolution thing happening. Depending on how long they up being, I think I'd prefer if they were in completely separate books, too.

    Well, so far external opinion says: start at the beginning, finish at the finish, but either way, get 'er done first.

    Having now written this out loud and slept on it, I think it has helped me identify a more specific version of the problem: I think I'm feeling constrained by the future versions of the setting. I think I'm trying to engineer the first story to define the outcome I want in the third, and when the first story wants to deviate from that path, I shut it down.

    Perhaps its best to consider the future of the setting thought experiments for now. Some of several possible outcomes....???

  7. #7
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Well, since the future stories were the main spark of the original idea, possibly not. But yeah, you may be having a thematic tug of war going on. You might want to write in parallel for a bit -- work some more on the future one and some more on say the early stage one and see if there are connecting lines or there are not. Otherwise, the middle ones are going to get stuck trying to bridge gaps if you decide that the future stories are the essential driving theme of the whole future world.

  8. #8
    Master Obfuscator Dawnstorm's Avatar
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    Maybe shift the historical perspective (if only for yourself)?

    Some of your problems might come from a too restricitive concept of how history works. So if you're writing the story not as the "god of cuase and effect", but as a future historian? Or if you treat history itself as a sort of character with inner conflicts?

    Anything that doesn't confuse you too much might work.

  9. #9
    There is no tomorrow RedMage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fung Koo View Post
    So, I've been stuck for a while. Not precisely blocked, though output is way down.

    ...

    So I try to keep up the practice of writing often by pursuing other ideas and stories, but they tend to feel less interesting so they peter out. I've produced more unfinished half-baked writing now than I ever have before. It's getting frustrating. Can't finish, can't start.

    My point is: a) any sympathy out there? and b) got any great ideas to add some fuel to this fire? What would you do? Focus on one? Or keep trying to juggle all the balls and go for the glory with the magnum opus?
    I don't have enough time to read everything right now so I'm going to come back later. But I did want to give you some sympathy though, Fung. For most of the last year I have been experiencing a block as well. I came up with plenty of story, character, world, etc ideas that all sound great and wonderful. I just couldn't write anything on any of them beyond the broad outline and notes phase. However, I've kept at it and, focusing mostly on figuring out one or two of my stories. Finally, since the beginning of September, I've been able write the actual story of one of my ideas which is a story I originally wrote as a novella and that I am now making into a full novel. I thought it would be a short novel, maybe even less than 60k words. However, as I write this I am now at 24,130 words and I'm not even done with Part 1! There are three parts and the original novella wasn't quite 20k so this is quite thrilling for me. I'm writing more than I have in a year and the story is turning out longer than I had thought and more of a length I would prefer.

    So what I'm trying to say is, hang in there. If your muse isn't speaking to you yet it's because its still trying to figure things out. Take the ideas as they come, do what you can, and be patient with yourself. Writing is hard work. Just because the majority of it goes on inside of our heads does not negate that fact.

  10. #10
    @PeteMC666 PeteMC's Avatar
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    That's enough material for a three book (at least) series, surely? Concentrate on the earliest time period first, finish that, and see if it flies.

  11. #11
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    You might want to write in parallel for a bit -- work some more on the future one and some more on say the early stage one and see if there are connecting lines or there are not. Otherwise, the middle ones are going to get stuck trying to bridge gaps if you decide that the future stories are the essential driving theme of the whole future world.
    That's what I've been trying to do, and the bridging gaps is certainly part of the problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
    Maybe shift the historical perspective (if only for yourself)?

    Some of your problems might come from a too restricitive concept of how history works. So if you're writing the story not as the "god of cuase and effect", but as a future historian?
    That's an interesting idea. And I can actually see an angle where telling the story about the relative past from the futuremost setting would really work. Hmm... At the very least, it could be a good exercise to try and clear out some cobwebs.

    Or if you treat history itself as a sort of character with inner conflicts?
    Why oh why are you people trying to punish me? Quit putting me in the middle! Something like that? History as the middle child. heh.


    Quote Originally Posted by RedMage View Post
    I don't have enough time to read everything right now so I'm going to come back later. But I did want to give you some sympathy though, Fung. For most of the last year I have been experiencing a block as well. I came up with plenty of story, character, world, etc ideas that all sound great and wonderful. I just couldn't write anything on any of them beyond the broad outline and notes phase. However, I've kept at it and, focusing mostly on figuring out one or two of my stories. Finally, since the beginning of September, I've been able write the actual story of one of my ideas which is a story I originally wrote as a novella and that I am now making into a full novel.
    That's my hope -- for inspiration to return, and something that at first seemed small in the story suddenly seeks paths to expansion. Keep at 'er, dude.
    Last edited by Fung Koo; September 19th, 2012 at 11:56 PM.

  12. #12
    Was: "Virangelus" A. Lynn's Avatar
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    Accelerando

    Fung Koo,

    I think Charles Stross strategy of splitting up time in his 2005 novel, Accelerando, may prove interesting to you. He covered three generations of time, connected it through one family, and split the work up accordingly. You may be able to enact something into your novel to help you connect the dots.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerando_%28novel%29

  13. #13
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by virangelus View Post
    Fung Koo,

    I think Charles Stross strategy of splitting up time in his 2005 novel, Accelerando, may prove interesting to you. He covered three generations of time, connected it through one family, and split the work up accordingly. You may be able to enact something into your novel to help you connect the dots.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerando_%28novel%29
    Hmm, free eBook. Thanks for the recommend. I need something new, actually, as I'm just about finished reading 1984 -- would you believe for the first time.

    I swear I'm one of the only people in recent history who hasn't been required to read it.

  14. #14
    Was: "Virangelus" A. Lynn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fung Koo View Post
    Hmm, free eBook. Thanks for the recommend. I need something new, actually, as I'm just about finished reading 1984 -- would you believe for the first time.

    I swear I'm one of the only people in recent history who hasn't been required to read it.
    Actually FK, I haven't read the thing either. It is sitting on my shelf, and my dad has threatened to beat me over the head with it if I don't start on it soon, but I still haven't read it.

    I've read Animal Farm though, for whatever that's worth.

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