Hawky

How do you make choices as a writer ?

8 posts in this topic

Hey !

I've been quite amazed this issue was never brought up before :

Imagine you have a plot, a setting and two great ideas for a magic system ? How do you decide which one to use ?

And what if you have several plots, settings, and magic systems ? How do you filter them to one or several book ?

And if you have a great character and you wonder whether to add this trait or this power or to use this given power or character trait in the next book or someone else ?

In short, what do you do with all the possibilities ?

 

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 My own advice would be to look for connections between your different ideas… Points of conflict. If you can find things that work together and create friction, it will improve your ability to tell a compelling story.

I also suggest that you make sure your first book really  holds its own in terms of cool ideas. Don’t hold off your best stuff for later, or you risk losing readers before they ever get to see them.

 As for characters and even magic systems, Brandon’s advice from his YouTube lectures is to take what you have and dig deeper before you consider adding something new. I think that is pretty sage advice myself. 

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This is a great question. Every situation is different, but I think there's one universal solution: make a decision. It doesn't have to be the right decision, it just has to be made. The more time you spend deciding what to write, the less you spend writing. Make a decision, and write it. If it doesn't work, now you know. Sometimes that's the only way to know what works and what doesn't. That's what first drafts are for. Make your mistakes, then try something different for draft 2.

 

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To extend what @Belzedar says, that's what first novels are for. If you start out trying to write the perfect novel you will fail. You have to make a choice or choices and write it. Writers write, they don't sit around and think all day. I must also say it's slightly absurd to ask the question. I don't mean that in a cruel way, but what you are asking is how to be a writer, in fact, how to write your book. It's your job to find that out, no one can tell you how to do that.

Also, I've heard it said that your first novel won't be any good, so you might as well get it out of the way. BUT, you will learn immeasurable amounts in going through that process, and it's highly likely you will have other ideas as you go, ideas that don't fit with this novel, but you will save for others. You will learn how to do things better, faster and more effectively for the next time.

Good luck, and get writing ;) 

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And if all else fails for making choices: flip a coin. As mentioned on the webcast (several times, I think), Philip K. Dick wrote The Man in the High Castle by deciding stuff with the I Ching, so randomness isn't an automatic fail.

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If you're not sure, talk it over with another creative person. (They don't have to be a writer! They just need to understand the creative process. A musician, filmmaker, actor, dancer, puppeteer, etc... will all work as well as a writer- that said, you probably want someone who works with fiction, so a journalist, blogger, etc... won't be helpful) Adding extra perspectives to your process before you're sure about what you want to do is great.

If you can't consult with someone else, ideally have some sort of central message or theme involved in each of your works. If you're deciding between lots of different ideas, pick the one that you feel you feel adds the most to your work- either by reinforcing your message or theme, or complicating it. (so for instance, if your message is that "democratic process makes decision-making better," showing the bad parts of how demacracy works is actually a plus for selling your theme as long as you don't over-emphasize them, because you're being sure to give a balanced picture) If you feel the options are equal trade-offs in that respect, there should normally be one that adds some other aspect to your work which synergises better with the whole thing.

And as Eagle says, making a decision and writing is better than getting stuck on these choices, so flip a coin if it's taking you more than a couple of days to decide. It's better to decide randomly and fail than to never start, and the lessons you learn writing something that isn't perfect are so much more valuable than the lessons you learn by avoiding mistakes altogether that it's almost worth deciding things randomly for your first couple of goes just to see what doesn't work for you, because you're definitely going to make mistakes in your first couple works, no matter WHAT you do.

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If you have already tried all these other things (which are amazing suggestions and generally things work out), but it hasn't worked, one last things you could try, would be combining ideas, like if you have two different magic systems, and your aren't sure which one to use, you can try finding the best of both and sticking them in.

It may not work, but in a few instances, it could

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Write two short stories that highlight each magic system, maybe not in depth, but as a demonstration. Then go ahead and share that with some friends or readers, and ask them what questions arise or what they like or dislike. I find that it gives you a more 'on the ground' perspective of the application of your ideas. You can do this with any trope really, without the commitment of a whole novel. And yeah, what everyone else said -- there's good, sober advice in this thread (but who am I to say.)

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