I'm a Fraud

Well, not a fraud exactly but, given that I’m post this in the I’m a writer section of the forum, it’s not too far off because, as I haven’t actually written anything yet, I don’t yet consider myself to be a writer. The only thing I’ve published is a blog post and I only did that 3 days ago.

I actually joined this community 7 1/2 years ago when I first started to dabble in Scrivener but I never did an introduction post. Anyway, better late than never. I’m not going to tell you all about myself as, if you are really bored (and, to be fair, many are at the moment), you can read the Bio in the link in my signature.

I finally started writing my novel in earnest a couple of weeks ago but, 5 chapters & 10,000 words in, I’ve hit a block with regards to plot so I’ve had to go back and rethink. I’ve downloaded the trial of Scapple to see if it’s useful for me, anyone got any good tips for getting the most out of it. Also, any tips or methods of getting around these types of plot blockages?

This is a fun subject. I suspect everyone does it differently.

Something I do is set my characters wandering and see what happens/turns up. When writing a first draft, the goal is to get to the end; the state of the writing is immaterial. Once you have a story, you can plan – if you want to.

For example, my pair of protagonists turned up in a new land, and three guides had been sent to take them where they need to go. I had no idea what would happen in between. So I set them off walking. Suddenly the guides became nervous and had everyone hide. Some strange folk were approaching and – for some reason – the guides wanted to avoid them. I had some fun with what the strangers did and, of course, afterwards the protags wanted to know what was going on.

In subsequent edits, the strangers became a major plot point – well, the organisation they belonged to did – but if I hadn’t set off wandering, none of it would have happened, and the organisation would never have come to be.

For me, it’s a case of letting go in the early stages and seeing what turns up. i.e. Just write and be prepared to throw away stuff until something sticks.

You do need to get to the end, though, imo, and then iterate on the story. Once you have a beginning, a middle, and an end, then all sorts of things turn up; too many, quite often.

Of course, some genres are more limiting.

That said, I believe that knowing your ending asap is crucial; so you can write towards something. There’s nothing stopping you changing the ending, if you think of a better one (or need to move it a bit). If you’re not writing towards something, then you’re just writing, and then it’s easy to spend too long in the woods when you need to be on the path.

And an initial ending doesn’t have to be a clever plot twist; it can simply be: the protagonists get home safely; or the protagonist dies; or whatever. The humdinger of an ending will come to mind at some point as the story develops.

Other quick suggestions:
– Apropos of nothing, have two characters (more will slow you down) chat about something you think is unrelated to the story. Dialogue is easier to write than narrative, so there’s little to hold you back.
– Turn left instead of right. Revisit a scene and explore what happens when one or more characters changes their behaviour or action. They took the elevator, so have them take the stairs. They drank coffee, have them drink tea. And so on.

Have fun.

This is the crux of the principal behind outlining – give yourself just enough structure that you have something tangible to be writing towards. Some people think that outlining has to be as stuffy and rigid and formal as all those fun “how you must outline the essay” in grade school, but really, all outlining has to be is documenting a few decisions about where your story is going to go before you get into the full creative process, get crazy about the awesome trees, and lose sight of the forest.

One of my favorite authors iteratively outlines to more and more detail until at some point he’s writing the first draft. Others I know have more of a separation. There’s no one right way to do it, and I recommend a light touch – make the level of decision you need for now, and if you keep running into needing to decide stuff at a lower level, take a few minutes to do that. Just-in-time outlining. Experiment, find the level you do or don’t need in order to stay writing.

And don’t be afraid to write something that may need to fixed/revised/dropped. Often we can’t figure out how to correctly define (and by extension) solve the actual story problem we’re working on until we’ve made a few false starts. The only failure is stopping writing.

Thank you both for your extremely helpful replies, you’ve given me a lot to think about.

Auxbuss - Funnily enough, I had a beginning and a middle to my story but no ending. I was laying in bed this morning and a possible ending came to me. Nothing earth shattering or majorly plot twisting but it’s given me something to aim towards so you are spot on in that area I think. I also like the idea to “set my characters wandering and see what happens/turns up” and will certainly have a play with that idea.

DEVINGER - I thing maybe I’m trying to be a little too rigid with the outlining so will have another look at that aspect.

Thanks again

We’re all frauds. Some of us are better at it than others, is all.

What devinganger said. Plus, if you do much of your “writing in bed” (as in coming up with ideas there), be sure to keep a notebook and a pen somewhere near that bed, or any other The Wife kicks you onto. Many are the times I’ve come up with brilliant ideas, very easy to remember so there’s no need to get up and write it all down, and then woken up with not a damn thing in the tired old head.

Write it down.

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Yes, good idea. I keep my phone next to the ben so I can jot things down in the Notebook app

It’s never too late to start. I’m 71 yrs old and only really started about three years ago. Still learning how to do all this stuff, but enjoying the challenge.
I finished four or five novels already and am currently at 80k words on the latest (historical fiction if you’re interested).
In terms of writing in bed, I actually do most of my writing in bed. Waking up about 4am and then tapping away before the day starts.
The big trick as far as I can see is, ‘keep going’. A first draft is just that, a draft and you can’t do an edit until you’ve finished that.
Bernard D
Blog:- bdavisbooks.com

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For a very insightful and enjoyable read that covers outlining, writing, editing, and rewriting, try Lissa Evans’s novel ‘Their Finest’. Your online library might have it.

amazon.co.uk/Their-Finest-m … 9010757054

The central figure is a screenwriter working during WW2 on a propaganda film about the Dunkirk evacuation. Lissa gives a number of examples of scripts and how they have to be rewritten to make them more natural sounding or fit certain edicts. The process of writing and shaping is drawn out very subtly as the reader follows the production process effectively in real time. Although it is a novel, it is a very good about-writing read for any writer, and more informative than many of the how-to books out there.

Hi Bernard

That’s good to know as I’m still a very youthful 55! :mrgreen:

Unfortunately I have physical issues that make writing in bed rather difficult. Well, that and I don’t actually possess a laptop at the moment.

Interesting what you say regarding the 1st draft. There are so many conflicting pieces of advice out there. Some say, as you do, to finish the draft and then edit, others say to edit as you go. I guess you just have to find the method that works for you.

Thanks, I’ll take a look.

You do. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing process, it’s that everyone does it differently; literally, no two writers follow the same process. Hence, conflicting advice should really be read as “this is how X does it” (where X is often I).

At first that sounds odd, but ime it’s common across the arts. For example, get two guitarists together – even two world renown guitarists – and they will start exchanging techniques like two kids in a playground.

re: first draft: I can’t begin to understand edit as you go, but I know Zadie Smith does it – I bet David Mitchell doesn’t. I change things all the time, so the amount of waste makes it a non-starter. For a single narrative arc or first person story, I can just about imagine that approach; but that’s not me.

My greatest epiphany was learning that ignoring structure (chapters and so on) until the end was just fine. This was a clear-the-desk moment – or rather a rearrange the Binder moment. I used to look at the mess in front of me and wonder – in complete despair – at how thousands of others managed this stuff, yet I could barely make a start on it. It was like using a washing machine (with those little pods) instead of smashing and scrubbing wet clothes against rocks down at yonder stream.

Of course, others will throw up their arms in absolute horror at the mere thought of abandoning structure – the whiff of their smelling salts is strong even from here.

Well, the world, particularly the internet, is awash with those who feel their way is the right way. I’ve been sifting through the many websites, tutorials and youtube videos for the past week and have come to the conclusion that I’ll have to find my own way whilst cherry picking as required.

With regards to epiphanies (love that word), I have spent a large chunk of today creating characters starting with names and building them up with age, appearance, likes, fears etc. As I create them, I’m getting to know them and now I really want to write about them. I honestly don’t remember reading or hearing about this but I’m sure I didn’t invent it.

One of the things to keep in mind about writing advice is that there is often a very unspoken “this works for me, this works for others, and possibly for a large number of people” component.

Much of the “don’t break this rule!” type of advice is meant as a starting point – don’t break this rule until you’ve tried it and know why you’re breaking it because this is a common way for beginners to trip themselves up and get too discouraged to continue.

The “never edit while writing” thing is definitely one of those pieces of advice that is aimed squarely at the statistics. Most beginners don’t (yet) have the discipline to be able to balance writing new stuff and editing things that are on the page. As a result, it is common (but not foreordained) that one finds oneself in a Zeno’s-like paradox of writing that eventually brings forward progress to a standstill.

The “rules” are basically like novice mode – intended to help the majority get through the rough stages where they can start finding out which particular “advanced mode” switches work for themselves. Unfortunately, far too many writers mistake their unique case as universal, and completely forget that discovery phase.

Indeed and something that also rang true in my photography days.

This. The outlining advice is great. Conversely, sit down and write x-number of words a day. It doesn’t matter if they are good. Just write. You can go back and fix them later. Sometimes you just have to vomit onto the page.

You’re only a fraud if you set a standard you don’t intend to reach. If you write, you are a writer, and can say you are without fear of contradiction. Writing is a magical and daring experience, at least for me. I approach it reluctantly, but once I get going, which isn’t easy, I get absorbed in it. My strength is essay-type writing, but I have a strong urge to do fiction, not sure why.

I’m new to Scrivener and Scapple, still trying to figure out how they work and how to work them. I sense something of great value and help, but as of now it’s challenging. Looking forward to learning, maybe, a whole new way to approach writing, stepping out of the linear approach.


It took me three major attempts-- inverting the plot/story until I found the story I’m needing/wanting to tell. I invested a fair amount of effort (30k+ words, per attempt) into the previous versions but got them to a point where I realized my main characters weren’t really the “movers” of the story. So I had to go back and figure out how to make the story revolve around them, so they could drive the story. I have finally found the correct groove and have been writing my story ever since. I’m presently around 100k words, but I’ve written at least 150k (or much more) in service to the present version of the story. Not all ideas and sidelines are really “right” for the final result, so it’s important to keep asking yourself “does this (whatever) really serve the story?”


I did not like my original ending, so I ripped it out and thought up a new one I like much better.

Writing is like that, I guess :slight_smile:


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“The Snowflake Method” is also a good read for learning some basic elements. It’s about $5 bucks for the kindle version and is a quick read in parable form. You’ll spend the rest of your life though digesting the information. I resisted it for a long time and finally broke down and read it. Now, I love it and pass it along to everyone who asks. There’s a companion book, also about $5 bucks by the same author for writing “scenes”-- expands on that portion of the first book.


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