Scope overreach?:

Total posts: [20]
1 Morven12th Feb 2011 10:59:55 AM from Seattle, WA, USA
I've been increasingly wondering if I'm overreaching in terms of the scope of my work. I've read, and heard, that too many unpublished writers try to be over-ambitious and attempt some gigantic project that's beyond their skills, and I had a "That sounds like me!" moment.

Rather than trying for one big thing on epic scale, perhaps it'd be better to tell it in a more episodic style, as a series rather than a *logy.

Plotting and structure are my problems, not character or setting.
A brighter future for a darker age.
It's a good idea to try various styles and forms. If it doesn't work, you'll still have learned from trying it. Of course if it works, that's great.

I've seen others do what you said and I always suggest they just focus on one story at a time. The downfall I see with most young writers aspiring to write epic trilogies is that they hold back their good ideas for later entries that never come instead of using them on what they're actually writing, and what they're actually writing often ends on an unsatisfying cliff-hanger instead of a conclusion.
3 MildGuy12th Feb 2011 11:40:49 AM from the bed I made.
I squeeze gats.
^^I've run into the same issue with the story I'm writing now. I considered the episodic approach, but that has it's own challenges. One can either write every episode by the seat of their pants, no outline or long term plan, or one can plan ahead and start dropping foreshadowing and setup early. In the case of the latter, one is still writing a huge story, so many of the same frustrations remain.

Planning for only one episode at a time allows one to practice writing effective scenes and get the basics of storytelling down. But writing in the short form is also a challenge, esp. if one doesn't resort to rote formula, like Monster of the Week shows. Then again, some writers have managed to craft a larger myth arc out of a series of disconnected standalone chapters.

It's a pain, and I don't have any answers to the problem.
You could start off with one-shot, finished short stories, and then work your way up to a novel. (in the same or in a different universe/continuty).

It worked for me: I tried and failed writing two novels, but after writing a 14-page, a 21-page and a 42-page novella + a bunch of 2-3-page short stories, I eventually figured out how to write an outline and a coherent plot.
"Sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane"
5 MrAHR12th Feb 2011 11:51:43 AM from ಠ_ಠ , Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
Well, you can always start off episodic, and slowly stretch out in scope as you gain feedback.

Also, this prolly describes me as well, link please?
6 Morven12th Feb 2011 12:13:43 PM from Seattle, WA, USA
What crystallized this for me was an episode of the Writing Excuses podcast (Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, and the guy that does Schlock Mercenary webcomic).

Worth checking out, by the way, and the episodes are only fifteen to twenty minutes long.

A brighter future for a darker age.
The Puzzler
[up][up] Writing Epics is the link, I think. I remember listening to it and hearing about scope.

[up] Howard Tayler is the guy who does Schlock Mercenary.

edited 12th Feb '11 12:29:12 PM by EldritchBlueRose

Has ADD, plays World of Tanks, thinks up crazy ideas like children making spaceships for Hitler. Occasionally writes them down.
8 Morven12th Feb 2011 12:40:12 PM from Seattle, WA, USA
Thanks! Couldn't remember his name.

I can write things that are enjoyable because my characters and settings are good and I can just throw them together and have things happen.

Planning them, though, not so well.

A brighter future for a darker age.
9 lordGacek12th Feb 2011 03:29:31 PM from Kansas of Europe
I've been increasingly wondering if I'm overreaching in terms of the scope of my work. I've read, and heard, that too many unpublished writers try to be over-ambitious and attempt some gigantic project that's beyond their skills, and I had a "That sounds like me!" moment.

Dammit! O_O

Anyway, I think I'll finish at least some of what I've begun, then do something short, then I'll return and do the editing on the first one.
"Atheism is the religion whose followers are easiest to troll"
All big journeys start with one little step. If you try thinking too big — making the big picture all in one go, then you will lose the coherency, and you will feel like you are biting off more than you can chew.

For those who like having the freedom of making it up as you go along (like me!), I suggest you try focusing on the current moment you're writing. Don't worry so much about the futures (the planning ahead, what happens two scenes later). That ties you down to 'obligations.'

Once that gets out of the matter, you can finally start writing — creatively for once.
11 Dec12th Feb 2011 04:32:27 PM from The Dance Floor
Stayin' Alive
Rather than trying for one big thing on epic scale, perhaps it'd be better to tell it in a more episodic style, as a series rather than a *logy.

That's one of the things I'm trying right now — every chapter in my mains story is a different episode with a self-contained plot, with other arcs winding their way through the series. Its not going so well currently, but that's more the fact that I suck at beginning stories coherently than it being a bad idea in itself.

But to the topic in general, I definitely have problems with this. I think the fact that they're complicated is what makes me want to write them in the first place, despite them being way out of my league. I'm still trying to figure out how to write most of my ideas in a way that will actually get a story finished, but its all still insanely messy on my end. This isn't helped by the fact that when I think of plots for short stories, I always draw a blank.
Nemo enim fere saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanit
12 Madrugada12th Feb 2011 05:26:27 PM , Relationship Status: In season
For what it's worth, Morven, from what I've read of your stuff, it seems to me that it would probably work best as something like Larry Niven's Known Space stories or Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth stuff rather than the one-huge-story series type. Independent but interlocking stories of varying lengths, but focusing on different characters, settings, and situations, with crossovers and call-backs where they make sense.

edited 12th Feb '11 5:26:35 PM by Madrugada

...if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you for it.
^ I like that idea—it would be like your writing built, out of many pieces, a world to explore.

And I saw this thread title and thought, "'Scope overreach' sounds like the tagline for my own work." tongue
14 Morven12th Feb 2011 07:16:28 PM from Seattle, WA, USA
@Madrugada: yeah, that's increasingly what I'm thinking. Trying to squeeze them all into one work (of however many volumes) seems to get too choppy, too confused, and I'm always feeling like I'm not giving any of them enough time, enough story, enough continuous attention.

Another part of the frustration is that, while there's definitely overall conflict, and clashing ideologies, in this world — it's not the kind of thing that really lends itself to the gigantic, world-changing climax. It's more likely that the conflict will lessen, that one side will perhaps slowly win or both of them merge into each other, or that new divisions will slowly grow to overshadow this one.

I've been trying to force myself to devise a conclusion of that kind of epic scale, and the thing is — it's not there. The very design of the world forbids it, really. As does my innate sense of how I believe the real world works, which translates over here — while many things differ between our world and theirs, this is not a place of narrative causality; people do not differ all that much there and here, in fundamental motivation and behavior.

In a sense, it's as bad as trying to force a change on a character that's against their nature — it doesn't work right.

So, yes, smaller works, multiple viewpoints, and an acceptance that epic scope is not required. It'll be there, in the background, but no world-changing dramatics.
A brighter future for a darker age.
Away on the wind~

I often think I might be overreaching like this, too.

All I can do, though, is write it and see what it turns out like.
There are too many toasters in my chimney!
16 Sidewinder14th Feb 2011 03:13:49 PM , Relationship Status: Above such petty unnecessities
Sneaky Bastard
I wholly endorse the episodic format, but there are some things to remember. I've written the first two (although I'm waiting for my beta to get through the second one) and now I realize that I need some structure to how my arc is going to go.

The first two episodes established some of the core principles of my characters and the setting and had to be done first. But now that I'm 'free', knowing where to go next is crucial. Otherwise I might end up chasing irrelevant plot threads everywhere. So plan (unless you're what Writing Excuses calls a discovery writer. If so, just go for it.)

One bonus of the episodic format is that, once the first part was up, I was much more motivated to write. Knowing that someone might want to read more was a powerful incentive to keep writing. The first episode took me a year to write, the second took about three months.
17 Morven14th Feb 2011 03:33:29 PM from Seattle, WA, USA
I'm somewhat a discovery writer, but I have some plot arcs and character arcs already worked out. All subject to change, of course.

The other thing I've heard them talk about in Writing Excuses (and I've also seen it other places) is that it's a big temptation for newbie writers to start the story too early. You develop characters and setting from your original idea, and then you have all these character histories, and then you want to write those first.

One piece of advice I've seen is, paraphrased, "Start late and end early". People want to read action, not setup, and want a book to end while the exhilaration of the climax is still fresh — just time for everyone to breathe a sigh of relief, mourn the lost, reward the victor, and not give everyone time to really think, "Now what?".

So I have to fight hard against the inclination to show my work too much. Yes, all these characters have fascinating backstories, but that can come out over time.
A brighter future for a darker age.
"Start late and end early" is a rule I have broken way too hard. I've been writing this thing for a year, and the premise isn't even known yet. Which makes me a bit nervous now because it could be a letdown after all this buildup...it's not like it's never been done before.
19 Morven15th Feb 2011 02:07:22 PM from Seattle, WA, USA
I don't think it's a hard and fast rule — there are LOTS of successful works that breach it, and some genres that are fundamentally unsuited to it.

I just try and keep it in mind to override the desire to spill everything I know about everything onto the publishable page.
A brighter future for a darker age.
20 MrAHR15th Feb 2011 02:52:00 PM from ಠ_ಠ , Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
I always thought to take the Watchmen approach. Story first, little side stories second.
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Total posts: 20