eyeright's picture
eyeright is reading c.s. lewis excerpts January 30, 2015 - 12:51pm

How do you know your writing genre? Or what you should write? I feel so stuck?! I have so many different ideas, but absolutely no direction. 

Also, how do you know if you are going in the right direction?

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK January 30, 2015 - 1:57pm

Just write. Ignore genre, forget what's expected. Start writing. Read it back. If you love it, as in really love it, keep going. If you're not sure, adjust it so you love it. If you don't like it, leave it and write something else, and come back to it later. Simple.

Redd Tramp's picture
Redd Tramp from Los Angeles, CA is reading Mongrels by SGJ; Sacred and Immoral: On the Writings of Chuck Palahniuk; The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault January 30, 2015 - 2:44pm

Start by reading a lot. Without focusing too much on genre. Just read a bunch of books by authors that catch your interest. Then look for some common themes. Do you seem to enjoy dark stories about damaged people? Do you seem to enjoy reading about young people coming of age? First figure out what really catches your interest, the books that you don't have to force yourself to get through, the ones that fly by. Consider the ideas involved, what makes it interesting. Then go about your day to day life, daydream, scribbling down anything that really catches your mind's eye. Anything that makes you stop and go, "dang I wish I could figure out how to write about that." Just scribble that down for safekeeping, allowing your daydreams to kind of come and go from idea to idea as they grow and change in your brain. 

At that point, I think it really becomes about actually sitting down to get some words on the page. The idea won't grow characters if you don't put at least meaningless names and description down and start trying to go somewhere. In one of Clevenger's essays, he mentioned how he does a first, first draft, almost more like a freewrite, just to see what characters spring up, to get to know them, and decide maybe where they should go. I like that a lot, and usually, if I have no idea what to write (even if I do), I'll start a freewrite in a notebook (by hand, because somehow on paper it seems to be easier to just put down anything) and see where it goes. Don't be afraid to take some time. Don't rush unless you suddenly get really excited. Just get the words down and then figure out how to connect the dots and turn it into something more cohesive.

Also, I thought it was pretty helpful to start by writing super short stories, Micro Fiction, get a handle on that, feeling comfortable with just a few paragraphs, then expand to longer and longer pieces. There are sooo many days I feel really, really stuck. On the worst of those days, I just don't write. That's okay, I know I'll write again. Because on days that I feel good, really good, I can't NOT write; my brain starts to itch. Figure out your own way to make progress, and remember that baby steps are okay. I think the key to this whole thing really is feeling comfortable doing it.

Carly Berg's picture
Carly Berg from USA is reading Story Prompts That Work by Carly Berg is now available at Amazon January 30, 2015 - 4:57pm

One idea (figures I would say it, I know haha) is to try writing some flash fiction. When each story is under 1,000 words, you can write it in a day and there's a huge market out there for flash stories too. Such a small commitment is a good way to try out ideas and see what types you keep coming back to.

Matt Oddfield's picture
Matt Oddfield from nowhere in particular is reading Embassytown February 2, 2015 - 2:36pm

I'm not sure it's not a horrible piece of advice, but it does the job for me, so. Take your favourite book, TV show, film, video game, whatever, something you keep revisiting, and wallow in it some more for a while. If you were to write fanfiction in this fandom, what would you write? As in story ideas, not who you "ship". Think about the whys of this choice. For instance, "what if World of Warcraft took place in a cyberpunk future?" might indicate you're--well, me, in this particular case, but also that you're into urban fantasy, new weird, that kind of thing. Or you might not discover your genre but your theme, or your favourite type of character. And that's fine. You don't have to write in a singular "your" genre. Look at J.K. Rowling or China Mieville--they don't.

Returning to fanfictioning, you can go as far as stripping the concept itseld of the fandom baggage, combining it with other ideas, and mish-mashing until it becomes an original, stand-alone story. Just make sure it is an original story. Not that it stopped E.L. James much, but whatever.

I should also point out that this yields pretty much the same results as the exercise Redd Tramp offered by taking a slightly different route. It worked well for me, and I'll be glad if it helps you.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated February 3, 2015 - 2:48pm

Kick a puppy.

Seriously, find and destroy something that will get the readers attention and more importantly your own.

Redd Tramp's picture
Redd Tramp from Los Angeles, CA is reading Mongrels by SGJ; Sacred and Immoral: On the Writings of Chuck Palahniuk; The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault February 4, 2015 - 9:19am

^^^ That's great advice. Sometimes I forget to make things exciting, and then I wonder why it's not going anywhere. Because I'm already bored. And sometimes that's what you need to get you going, for a puppy to be kicked.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated February 4, 2015 - 1:46pm

I also think good editing consists of removing all things that aren't puppy kicking, so...

Redd Tramp's picture
Redd Tramp from Los Angeles, CA is reading Mongrels by SGJ; Sacred and Immoral: On the Writings of Chuck Palahniuk; The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault February 4, 2015 - 2:38pm

Haha, like get rid of the tying of the shoe, the brushing of the puppy's fur first, and get right to the toe on meat action?

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated February 4, 2015 - 6:56pm

Well I mean don't go crazy. Maybe a paragraph or two.

Christina Daumer's picture
Christina Daumer from Colorado, USA is reading Books to my son February 5, 2015 - 6:57am

I had this "stuck" problem for years; only it was after I wasted time writing half-books and what-not that I realized I was stuck... bummer.

I finally sat down one day, "pulled up my boot straps" and just made myself do it, and there is was- finally -finished my first short novel in about 6 weeks (yes, I am still editing it a couple months later, but HEY I fianlly finished something!)

The generre and all that lit  jargon... well... figure it out after the piece is done.

bjlangley's picture
bjlangley from Cambridgeshire, UK is reading C by Tom McCarthy February 19, 2015 - 6:50am

I wrote an essay on how helpful an understanding of genre was as part of my MA. I found that you can read an awful lot about genre and conventions and reader expectations, but if you try to shoehorn that into something that you don't really want to write, then it won't work.

The most useful thing about the critical reading was the fiction that it pointed me at. Wider reading of what you like gives you an understanding of what works for you, and that is much more important, because you can then take that on board, and take it off in your own direction. 

Neil Gaiman wrote, 'all fiction is fantasy of one kind or another', and that's as far as I need to go with genre definitions. 

rikjam's picture
rikjam from Long Island is reading Dan Brown April 27, 2015 - 6:32am

Try 'Freewriting'. Sit at your writing place and with no pre concieved ideas-- start to write. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Freewrite your stream of consciousness. Do not stop writing for any reason; do not correct spellng, do not edit--most importantly do not stop for anything, do not go back. Write as fast as you can.

Do this for a few consecutive days. The last things you write, are what you should write about. That is what is on your mind. You can say 'I don't know what to write I don't know what to write, this is silly, a waste of time, I can't think, I can't think this way this is stupid- I am not going to get anything done. I need to write something meaningfull, not trash. I know I can write if I have the time and the place and few interruptions and if I set a time aside each day to write. Sue thinks she is understanding about my need for time and space but she is in the next room, talking on the phone and laughing while I am in here trying to find myself and imerse myself in thoughts. She doesn't understand that it isn't helpful if I am writing and she comes in here and says ' I'm going to the market, is there anything we need? Do we need eggs? I stop writing, uh, yes and get some whole wheat bread too. Now where was I oh yes, interruptions.

If you do this kind of exercse everyday for three days, you will clear your head, and get to the stuff you want to get to. 

Rick