You may have seen my name on these forums before but if not, it's probably because I haven't been on in a few weeks. Anyway, I have a concept of a storygame that I've begun to flesh out. It's a promising thing, I just can't find the time or motivation when I have time to write. Everything I write I dismiss as bad or subpar for my standards, so I can't make progress. It's also hard to come up with new ideas and ways to get the story where I want it to go. Obviously I have plans for the direction I want the story to go and the major plot points, I just can't seem to figure out how to get there. Any advice?
Motivation is a fickle bastard. If you only rely on motivation, then you will never finish anything. The best way to write is to build a writing habit, where you will write every day, and eventually it will be a part of your daily routine.
Though that advice is the best, it is extremely hard to obtain, so here are some other things.
1. You might just not want to write that story. If you don't have the motivation to write it, you might just have to not write that story.
2. You could also write short stories for the forum. It is a great way to relax, and just write something small scale.
3. It might be a super large scale story. If this is the case, then ask yourself if you are ready for that. Many writers get intimidated by a large story, and that is okay
There are a ton other things, though you would have to be more specific for anything more. You will find this is a issue most writers face, and I'm interested in others coping methods.
Thank you for the advice. I might just write some short stories then, possibly fragments of ideas of a larger story? I'll try to keep my current large storygame going since I really like the premise, but I will definitely keep those things in mind.
There can be any number of reasons we hit 'blocks' when writing. Here are a few possibilities/possible tricks to try to get past:
1. The Inner Critic
This one is huge. If you catch yourself wanting to editing every word, or feeling things just aren't good enough, then you are probably wrestling with your internal editor. It can be good to do 5-10 minute freewrites or braindumps (e.g. freewrites where you attempt to type faster than you can think) at the start of a writing session - no editing or backspacing whatsoever - to get past this when first setting down to write. Other things that can help circumvent the internal editor is 'making a deal' - try deciding that you will go back and proofread or edit in a week, for example. Then give yourself permission for the next few writing sessions to write whatever without stressing over the quality, with the commitment that you will take that scheduled session to proofread and spruce things up.
If you are working in a document you can go back and search later, you can use odd letter combos or symbols to 'flag' things for future edits while continuing to type, so you don't have to edit as you go. For examples:
* For things to research later
^ For word choice you are unhappy with
TK for names you haven't come up with yet
 for notes
2. Anxiety of the blank page
It can be hard starting a session with a blank page. It can be helpful, then, to copy or write out some notes or a summary of what you are going to put there. (I did this with the first section of the game I am working on currently - I wrote out each piece of the first section as a small summary, so I had all the branches planned out. Then when I dove into the writing, I didn't have any blank pages and knew what needed to go where. I didn't do this with my second section, and it's been harder as I have to flip between pages a lot to figure out where I am in the story.)
Another trick you can do is stop a writing session in the middle of a sentence, so that when you pick it up again you already know what you are starting with, and the words theoretically should flow more easily from there. Or you could brainstorm about a scene while doing some boring task around the house (e.g. laundry) so that you aren't trying to brainstorm and write while at the computer.
A last thing that might help here is to give yourself *less* time to write. This might seem counterintuitive, but tasks tend to expand to the time we give for them. 5 minutes of constant writing will be more productive than a half hour mostly staring at a blank screen. Set yourself a timer (half hour or less) and at the end of the session stop. Take a break and do something else. If you feel like trying again, do another session of the same length, but always with a deadline. This, in theory, helps train the brain to write during the time alloted rather than procrastinate.
3. Know your 'why'
Think about *why* you are motivated to write this particular storygame. What is the underlying purpose? Is there a meaningful theme you want to explore? Even if it is supposed to be lighthearted entertainment, why this particular angle or plot? Sometimes when we get stuck it is as simple as not really believing in the purpose of our own writing.
4. Imposter syndrome
This one is a bit more abstract, so I'll link to an article summarizing some basic varieties:
In essence, Imposter Syndrome happens when we feel like we don't really measure up to others or the skill level we desire, so fear putting our work out there for others to see. It's the feeling that if we show something to others, we might be revealed as a fraud. What seems to be lack of inspiration is really more just trepidation.
5. Genuine lack of inspiration
When stuck for ideas, there are quite a number of creative ways to jumpstart some:
- Make a mindmap of the story
- Brainstorm ideas for a five minutes, anything goes!
- Use name/plot/item/lore generators online to get a few new ideas
- Work on something related to the project that isn't directly the project itself (e.g. a short story or poem in the same world, sketch some scenes or characters, etc.) This will often spark ideas.
- Read a tv tropes page on a similar genre and consider how to use or subvert common tropes
- Use a random word generator or ask a friend for a random word, then try to incorporate it into a scene. For example, imagine you are planning a battle scene but are a little stuck how to approach it. You take the word "snail" as inspiration. Perhaps you could describe the soldiers carrying convex, spiral shields and come up with an interesting battle formation. Or you could describe the crunch of boots on snail shells as the soldiers march without care to the fragile environment. You could even go the literal route and describe the battle from the viewpoint of a snail.
That's excellent advice and I'll be sure to use it. I think that the tip about summarizing each page before I write it will help since I have a general idea of where I want to go with the story.
I'm not gonna repeat anything anyone else has said, they've all given really great advice. I'd just like to add that whenever I get antsy or feel like I can't progress, I switch to speech-to-text to get ideas flowing more fluidly. Most of this stuff comes out not being good enough for my stories, but it helps me defeat writer's block.
I'd never thought of that before. I might try it some time, thanks!
Hey I am late to the game here, and you already have amazing advise in this thread, I’ll just add that when I was unmotivated in my current work it really helped to sketch out a plan to get excited about. I like to plan my games in block diagrams (I really should upload a picture), but basically I believe that if you can write down all the MAJOR plot points then it is easy to write from one to the next. It is like putting together the edge-pieces of a puzzle to make a boarder before you attempt to do the inside.
I did mine like this:
- start of the story: characters, setting, general world info
- first major plot item (battle, encounter, get lost, whatever)
A) first choice option
B) second choice option
- A) results
A1. Option A1
A2. Option A2
- B) results
B2. Option B2
That might seem confusing, so I make a chart. The point is that you only focus on the over arching story. Once you know the general steps of the story, writing in details becomes more of a connect the dots than a daunting unfinished work.
For example (making this up as I go):
- at the start the main character is in school and there are two cute girls he likes
you can talk to the blonde
you can talk to the redhead
- if you talk to the blonde the redhead hates you, and the blonde is too stuck up to talk to you
You can keep trying to talk to the blonde
you can try to make up with the redhead
- if you talk to the red head she flirts with you, and the blonde gets jealous and tries to butt in
you can switch and talk to the blonde
you can tell the blonde off and continue talking to the redhead
In the example above, if I have you this as a writing assignment for a class, it would be sort of easy to “fill in the blanks” and imagine what the first few pages would look like. You probably can quickly describe a school/class room, the girls personality can be easily assumed, etc. Notice that details like exactly what they said are left out though, it’s just the concept that is in the plan. I found this the easiest way to stay motivated. I can plan out the entire story like this in 5-10 minutes and not get bored. Then when I have two spend hours writing the details I can look at the plan and know where it is going. I typically think things like “man I just need a few more pages and I can get to the epic fight scene!” Or “I’m getting really close to the steamy romance part!”
note: for graph form it kind of works like a flow chart if you want to look that up... I should scan in one of my plans though, this has come up a few times
I've found this list of techniques to be helpful, some of which have already been mentioend. The key is to figure out what works for you, which is probably going to be different from what works for me or anyone else. I think that the problem of wanting to constantly edit or critique your work while you're writing a first draft can stem from writing on a computer, where it's very easy to change any word or phrase that doesn't sound perfect. Writing by hand (or, I assume, with a typewriter) makes it easier for me to ignore the imperfections in my first draft and just get something down that I can polish up later.
I find connecting the dots in an outline to be tricky too, which is why I tend not to plan my stories out much in advance, whether for this site or in my non-CYOA. But again, this is very much a personal thing- you might find that kind of freewriting harder, since you don't have anything to go off of besides an empty screen.
Finally, contest deadlines have a wonderful way of curing writer's block!