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Old 09-08-2007, 07:47 PM   #1
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I’d like to ask other writers about writing in instalments versus working it all out beforehand.

It does seem that most (WB excepted) write on the hoof and post as they go along. Take Mr Big (JP) for example
Quote:
“Sorry for the long delay, I hope I'll be able to keep more regular postings for this story......Well thanks. I'll be writing again today, I'm not sure if it will be for this or for Digital Silver, but either way there should be more to come shortly......Thanks, hope to have something soon. Real life keeps intruding, which is good (I need to get out more) but does slow things up a bit.
Thanks for hanging in there.”
Unlike most of my other stuff which lurks around on my hard disk for months, I’m currently making one up as I go along (“Bottoming Out”) and have been getting myself completely tied up in knots.

What really surprised me is that is that it was originally going to be about a grotesque little soul who'd taken my fancy but an even more grotesque fantasy totally hi jacked the piece (driving us over the guidelines into the rough a time or two).
I’m trying to finish off now but have just found I’d completely forgotten I’d set out using a flashback format, which I have now got to extract myself out of 8 episodes later.

I’m definitely going back to stewing stuff on the back burner from now on.

There was a reference by someone the other day on this site to Charles Dickens writing in instalments. Me, I’d have set out writing “David Copperfield” and ended up obsessively expanding Miss Haversham into XWG.

So how do you manage it?
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Old 09-08-2007, 08:08 PM   #2
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One not so dirty little secret - the kind of thing we'll talk more about in the Writer's Guild when its formally launched - used by writers and entertainers for centuries: do a trial version before a smaller audience, then do a revised version after you're through the first time.

A good example is the current Bringing Down the Queen Bee series. The original by Matt L. ran 18 or so installments over nearly a year on the CWWF forum. It was good and popular, but it had some gaps. I wrote Matt with some thoughts and we wound up expanding it by seven chapters, at which time he insisted on making it a co-authorship piece.

A goodly number of serial pieces on the Dimensions site actually begin elsewhere and are then reposted here - frequently with changes. The majority of my own pieces as well as that of some other authors began on the old Pound Perfect Paradise AOL Hometown site.

With the new Dimensions Writers Guild we'll be able to critique and collaborate more in-house - which will then become another source for avoiding writer's block. You're a member already (thank you very much) as are over two dozen others. It should be interesting.
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Old 09-08-2007, 11:25 PM   #3
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One not so dirty little secret
aha! I can't wait for more. What a revelation this forum is proving.
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Old 09-09-2007, 09:00 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lardibutts View Post
I’d like to ask other writers about writing in instalments versus working it all out beforehand.

It does seem that most (WB excepted) write on the hoof and post as they go along. Take Mr Big (JP) for example


Unlike most of my other stuff which lurks around on my hard disk for months, I’m currently making one up as I go along (“Bottoming Out”) and have been getting myself completely tied up in knots.

What really surprised me is that is that it was originally going to be about a grotesque little soul who'd taken my fancy but an even more grotesque fantasy totally hi jacked the piece (driving us over the guidelines into the rough a time or two).
I’m trying to finish off now but have just found I’d completely forgotten I’d set out using a flashback format, which I have now got to extract myself out of 8 episodes later.

I’m definitely going back to stewing stuff on the back burner from now on.

There was a reference by someone the other day on this site to Charles Dickens writing in instalments. Me, I’d have set out writing “David Copperfield” and ended up obsessively expanding Miss Haversham into XWG.

So how do you manage it?
Mr Big, I like that!

I think Observer has a great idea.

As for how I do it, I don't recommend it for everyone. My writing habits are for the most part pretty sloppy. Good and experienced writers will make outlines, trials and rough drafts. I wing it. Many times I don't entirely know what's going to appear on the screen until I read it myself. I usually have something in mind; a scene, plot device, some special development, and everything else is the journey to that.

All-in-all most serious writers would probably say that's not the best way to write a story, and I'd agree. I have been getting some editing from The Studio (who I hope was invited to this as well). That has helped a great deal. This idea from Observer about the trial run though will also be a great help.
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Old 09-12-2007, 10:39 AM   #5
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Personally, I like to post stories in installments because I am vain and easily excitable. For one, the positive feedback that the forums usually provide is a wonderful boost of energy to get me writing again. I think most writers have rather large egos (as we think others want to read what we write in the first place), so there is definitely a pavlovian incentive to post parts of stories rather than the whole thing. Additionally, usually when I write a story I am excited about it (though, to be fair, if I wasn't excited about the concept then I wouldn't be working on it in the first place). Thus, I post installments because I have a hard time restraining myself from sharing. It is sort of like at Christmas if you have gotten someone a gift that you are excited about giving, it can be tempting to give it to them early.

Of course, that is terrible form. If nothing else it means that I don't get a chance to properly edit my own work (sometimes the keyboard is still warm when I post a story, as it were).

Still, installments do have their benefits. I find that they help focus my writing so that I ramble less (because I do tend to ramble quite a bit). I have a small goal ("alright, in this section I just need Jane to be introduced to Anne, then I can post it *girlish glee*") that is comparatively easy to accomplish. When it comes to finishing a story or finishing a single section of a story, the later is far more likely to happen.
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Old 09-12-2007, 06:03 PM   #6
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Mmm... more than once I've written something in 20 minutes, posted it, and then weeks later come back and realize I'm not going to have an easy time writing more. Assuming I even come back in a few weeks. All too often I start something I mean to finish, and then lose interest and.... never finish it.

I recently started something else from a random daydream idea, I'm struggling over posting what I have now as a first chapter, or trying to finish it first =P.
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Old 09-13-2007, 02:35 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Forgotten_Futures View Post
Mmm... more than once I've written something in 20 minutes, posted it, and then weeks later come back and realize I'm not going to have an easy time writing more.
I am told that this is often the result of not having a fully developed idea before sitting down to write something. The idea is interesting enough to start, but it doesn't interest you enough to finish. Orson Scott Card, a published writer (Ender's Game, Lost Boys, Ultimate Iron Man, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, etc), has stated that a method that works for him (I've found it useful too) is to take two different ideas and combine them; the tension created between them is what helps propel the story.

Take JP's Heavy Debt (while I count as a success in the development aspect, despite that it isn't done yet to my knowledge). Woman owes money to the mafia. Meh. Mafia "Don" likes to punish people in highly unusual ways. More interesting. Insert deranged cyborg nurse, and you've got a terribly interesting story concept that will propel things forward.

To offer a counter point, take Larger Every Day (as an example of a largely incomplete story even though the "plot" was concluded; it can be found in the discard room). The only idea in it is that a girl grows larger every day. Well, many of us like WG so that works a little, but it is a very short story (yet given its "plot" it couldn't be very long anywho). There is only one idea (and not much of an idea) and it never really grows or goes anywhere.
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Old 09-13-2007, 04:03 PM   #8
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take two different ideas and combine them
What a thought provoking theory: tick . . .tick . . . tick. But all the same I think I'd still finish it, then sit on it, having a bit of a fiddle, before posting .
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Old 09-14-2007, 07:06 AM   #9
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Most of my stories I've not posted until complete. I made an exception recently with Charles and the Dragon's Curse, to try writing in increments--largely for the reasons that have been mentioned, wanting to share this thing and hoping for encouragement and maybe even some feedback. Eh, didn't really work out. I wish now that I had kept it back.

On the other hand, I had several partially completed stories, one of which was about three-quarters done and some twelve thousand words or so, which I lost altogether due to a combination of changing computers and a scragged floppy disk. So now I wish I'd posted what I had of those, somewhere!

I've also done some less structured stories for specefic people, that I've spun out in IMs or through periodic emails. They were more like periodic episodes with some character, more than a complete story with a proper plot arc and so on. They were fun to write in their own way, just focusing on fun incidents. Some of the stuff that never gets finished here looks to me like it has been done the same way, the author has a scene in mind, and writes it--but doesn't really have a complete story in their head.

Hmmm, maybe we could have a home here for those? If someone has a really good scene, without a complete story, that they want to share? A thread that those could be posted in, for example?

Overall, I think I'll return to trying to finish a story, at least to draft standards, before posting it.

Regards;

-Ed
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Old 09-14-2007, 11:18 AM   #10
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There have been times I've thought to turn multi-session RPs into stories, but unfortunately it's been a very long time since I had a good one going, and I deleted it a while ago when myself and the other player had a wonderful falling out. Pitty, as that thing spanned a week or two of play.

Another reason I like to post stories incrementally is for tension. Readers are given the ability to read the story in parts and wonder more at "what's next?". Comments are rare, as always, but I actually did get one on TCQ, and at under 500 views that's an early comment by almost any standards. *shrug* I distinctly dislike being micro-managed, but I do like to show off my handiwork and gain recognition for it... so long as you continue to let me do my own thing to achieve the desired end/goal.
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Old 09-18-2007, 12:39 AM   #11
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Default Posting in bits and pieces

Some, some very short ones, the songs, the 69-word ones, those I might dash off and immediately post. The rest, well, the rest rot in hiding, occasionally re-read, sometimes cleaned up, sometimes dirtied up. In my opinion, no art is ever 'done', it's just 'given up upon' and if it's good enough by then, it'll show up in public.

The next few chapters of my now forgotten serieses are not. Yet.

But I have a couple others, very short ones, and reasonably positive, so I'll chuck them (and the theme, which might inspire more!) onto the 'Recent Additions' forum.

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Old 09-18-2007, 01:49 PM   #12
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As Weir pointed out in his recent seminar at the ICA, the old adage that works of art are never finished, just abandoned, is fundamentally challenged by webart.
There you go: there's hope for you yet.
And I'd just like to congratulate you on a magnificent idea for letters to be posted that can run and run. Wonderful!

It reminds me that an old favourite from the past in the old library about readers wives: "Buff Letters" is overdue for a revival.
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Old 09-18-2007, 03:24 PM   #13
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My method for the moment (and likely to remain so) is to post in installments, but only after at least starting the next part.

This means I can keep some momentum going, and feel like I'm getting somewhere, while at the same time making sure I haven't written myself into a corner.

I usually have a pretty good idea of where I want a story to end up - but not necessarily how I'm going to get there. While this may not be ideal, I find it helps the characters act more naturally.

That's the theory, anyway....
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Old 09-21-2007, 02:22 PM   #14
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I tend to write a story, then let it sit in its Word file for a minimum of a week before going back and rereading. For me, that's the best way to discover inconsistencies and lets me edit out (most of!) the instances of, say, a character unbuttoning his pants after he's already unbuttoned them. It also gives me a chance to read it "fresh" and tweak-edit some.

For the most part, I have a story arc in mind before I begin and might even rough out an outline. Sometimes I make a weight gain chart, for example, if I know I want my character to gain 100 pounds, I'll map out how long I want that to take.

And sometimes, even with all that to hand, as I'm writing I find that my characters have their own minds. A small example is Emma, the girlfriend in "Good Company." I had no idea she was going to be so touch-oriented as she turned out to be. I also didn't know what Jake's mother would be like ... but I kind of like her, now that I've gotten to know her.
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Old 11-25-2007, 06:31 PM   #15
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I always write the whole thing before I post it (or send it in, in the old days) and then spend some considerable time polishing and refining. Probably because I'm a perfectionist. I want the story to be as good as it can possibly be!

I couldn't write in instalments because oftentimes where the plot was going has changed from my first idea, and I have to change the earlier parts of the story to fit in with this, so as to be able to foreshadow later developments and so on. Since I work mostly at novella-length, the stories take a long time to do, so I need to go back and change things to get a consistency of tone.

And I want to be consistent about the character's gains, too, especially if I've changed around the order in which things happen!

There's also the opportunity to let difficult parts fall into place. I have a work-in-progress in which my character gives up smoking, and that's the trigger for her gain. Originally she gave up because her friend thought she should, which wasn't very consistent with her character in the rest of the story as it's developing. But since then, smoking in public spaces has been banned in the UK, so maybe that's a better motivation for her?

Don't look to see that one completed for a while, though!
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Old 11-25-2007, 08:57 PM   #16
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When I first started, I wrote in installments. Usually not a 'by the day' kind of update, but more when I felt that part of the story was over, and it was moving onto the next part.

Recently, well, mostly because I rarely post anymore, I write the whole story. Sometimes scrapping it for parts for other stories.

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Old 11-26-2007, 03:38 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Observer View Post
One not so dirty little secret - the kind of thing we'll talk more about in the Writer's Guild when its formally launched - used by writers and entertainers for centuries: do a trial version before a smaller audience, then do a revised version after you're through the first time.

A good example is the current Bringing Down the Queen Bee series. The original by Matt L. ran 18 or so installments over nearly a year on the CWWF forum. It was good and popular, but it had some gaps. I wrote Matt with some thoughts and we wound up expanding it by seven chapters, at which time he insisted on making it a co-authorship piece.

A goodly number of serial pieces on the Dimensions site actually begin elsewhere and are then reposted here - frequently with changes. The majority of my own pieces as well as that of some other authors began on the old Pound Perfect Paradise AOL Hometown site.

With the new Dimensions Writers Guild we'll be able to critique and collaborate more in-house - which will then become another source for avoiding writer's block. You're a member already (thank you very much) as are over two dozen others. It should be interesting.
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Originally Posted by Lardibutts View Post
aha! I can't wait for more. What a revelation this forum is proving.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JP. View Post
Mr Big, I like that!

I think Observer has a great idea.

As for how I do it, I don't recommend it for everyone. My writing habits are for the most part pretty sloppy. Good and experienced writers will make outlines, trials and rough drafts. I wing it. Many times I don't entirely know what's going to appear on the screen until I read it myself. I usually have something in mind; a scene, plot device, some special development, and everything else is the journey to that.

All-in-all most serious writers would probably say that's not the best way to write a story, and I'd agree. I have been getting some editing from The Studio (who I hope was invited to this as well). That has helped a great deal. This idea from Observer about the trial run though will also be a great help.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snorri Sturluson View Post
Personally, I like to post stories in installments because I am vain and easily excitable. For one, the positive feedback that the forums usually provide is a wonderful boost of energy to get me writing again. I think most writers have rather large egos (as we think others want to read what we write in the first place), so there is definitely a pavlovian incentive to post parts of stories rather than the whole thing. Additionally, usually when I write a story I am excited about it (though, to be fair, if I wasn't excited about the concept then I wouldn't be working on it in the first place). Thus, I post installments because I have a hard time restraining myself from sharing. It is sort of like at Christmas if you have gotten someone a gift that you are excited about giving, it can be tempting to give it to them early.

Of course, that is terrible form. If nothing else it means that I don't get a chance to properly edit my own work (sometimes the keyboard is still warm when I post a story, as it were).

Still, installments do have their benefits. I find that they help focus my writing so that I ramble less (because I do tend to ramble quite a bit). I have a small goal ("alright, in this section I just need Jane to be introduced to Anne, then I can post it *girlish glee*") that is comparatively easy to accomplish. When it comes to finishing a story or finishing a single section of a story, the later is far more likely to happen.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Forgotten_Futures View Post
Mmm... more than once I've written something in 20 minutes, posted it, and then weeks later come back and realize I'm not going to have an easy time writing more. Assuming I even come back in a few weeks. All too often I start something I mean to finish, and then lose interest and.... never finish it.

I recently started something else from a random daydream idea, I'm struggling over posting what I have now as a first chapter, or trying to finish it first =P.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snorri Sturluson View Post
I am told that this is often the result of not having a fully developed idea before sitting down to write something. The idea is interesting enough to start, but it doesn't interest you enough to finish. Orson Scott Card, a published writer (Ender's Game, Lost Boys, Ultimate Iron Man, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, etc), has stated that a method that works for him (I've found it useful too) is to take two different ideas and combine them; the tension created between them is what helps propel the story.

Take JP's Heavy Debt (while I count as a success in the development aspect, despite that it isn't done yet to my knowledge). Woman owes money to the mafia. Meh. Mafia "Don" likes to punish people in highly unusual ways. More interesting. Insert deranged cyborg nurse, and you've got a terribly interesting story concept that will propel things forward.

To offer a counter point, take Larger Every Day (as an example of a largely incomplete story even though the "plot" was concluded; it can be found in the discard room). The only idea in it is that a girl grows larger every day. Well, many of us like WG so that works a little, but it is a very short story (yet given its "plot" it couldn't be very long anywho). There is only one idea (and not much of an idea) and it never really grows or goes anywhere.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lardibutts View Post
What a thought provoking theory: tick . . .tick . . . tick. But all the same I think I'd still finish it, then sit on it, having a bit of a fiddle, before posting .
Quote:
Originally Posted by edx View Post
Most of my stories I've not posted until complete. I made an exception recently with Charles and the Dragon's Curse, to try writing in increments--largely for the reasons that have been mentioned, wanting to share this thing and hoping for encouragement and maybe even some feedback. Eh, didn't really work out. I wish now that I had kept it back.

On the other hand, I had several partially completed stories, one of which was about three-quarters done and some twelve thousand words or so, which I lost altogether due to a combination of changing computers and a scragged floppy disk. So now I wish I'd posted what I had of those, somewhere!

I've also done some less structured stories for specefic people, that I've spun out in IMs or through periodic emails. They were more like periodic episodes with some character, more than a complete story with a proper plot arc and so on. They were fun to write in their own way, just focusing on fun incidents. Some of the stuff that never gets finished here looks to me like it has been done the same way, the author has a scene in mind, and writes it--but doesn't really have a complete story in their head.

Hmmm, maybe we could have a home here for those? If someone has a really good scene, without a complete story, that they want to share? A thread that those could be posted in, for example?

Overall, I think I'll return to trying to finish a story, at least to draft standards, before posting it.

Regards;

-Ed
Quote:
Originally Posted by Forgotten_Futures View Post
There have been times I've thought to turn multi-session RPs into stories, but unfortunately it's been a very long time since I had a good one going, and I deleted it a while ago when myself and the other player had a wonderful falling out. Pitty, as that thing spanned a week or two of play.

Another reason I like to post stories incrementally is for tension. Readers are given the ability to read the story in parts and wonder more at "what's next?". Comments are rare, as always, but I actually did get one on TCQ, and at under 500 views that's an early comment by almost any standards. *shrug* I distinctly dislike being micro-managed, but I do like to show off my handiwork and gain recognition for it... so long as you continue to let me do my own thing to achieve the desired end/goal.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scx View Post
Some, some very short ones, the songs, the 69-word ones, those I might dash off and immediately post. The rest, well, the rest rot in hiding, occasionally re-read, sometimes cleaned up, sometimes dirtied up. In my opinion, no art is ever 'done', it's just 'given up upon' and if it's good enough by then, it'll show up in public.

The next few chapters of my now forgotten serieses are not. Yet.

But I have a couple others, very short ones, and reasonably positive, so I'll chuck them (and the theme, which might inspire more!) onto the 'Recent Additions' forum.

Scx
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lardibutts View Post
There you go: there's hope for you yet.
And I'd just like to congratulate you on a magnificent idea for letters to be posted that can run and run. Wonderful!

It reminds me that an old favourite from the past in the old library about readers wives: "Buff Letters" is overdue for a revival.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gus7021 View Post
My method for the moment (and likely to remain so) is to post in installments, but only after at least starting the next part.

This means I can keep some momentum going, and feel like I'm getting somewhere, while at the same time making sure I haven't written myself into a corner.

I usually have a pretty good idea of where I want a story to end up - but not necessarily how I'm going to get there. While this may not be ideal, I find it helps the characters act more naturally.

That's the theory, anyway....
Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Beautiful Dreamer View Post
I tend to write a story, then let it sit in its Word file for a minimum of a week before going back and rereading. For me, that's the best way to discover inconsistencies and lets me edit out (most of!) the instances of, say, a character unbuttoning his pants after he's already unbuttoned them. It also gives me a chance to read it "fresh" and tweak-edit some.

For the most part, I have a story arc in mind before I begin and might even rough out an outline. Sometimes I make a weight gain chart, for example, if I know I want my character to gain 100 pounds, I'll map out how long I want that to take.

And sometimes, even with all that to hand, as I'm writing I find that my characters have their own minds. A small example is Emma, the girlfriend in "Good Company." I had no idea she was going to be so touch-oriented as she turned out to be. I also didn't know what Jake's mother would be like ... but I kind of like her, now that I've gotten to know her.
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Originally Posted by Charisa View Post
I always write the whole thing before I post it (or send it in, in the old days) and then spend some considerable time polishing and refining. Probably because I'm a perfectionist. I want the story to be as good as it can possibly be!

I couldn't write in instalments because oftentimes where the plot was going has changed from my first idea, and I have to change the earlier parts of the story to fit in with this, so as to be able to foreshadow later developments and so on. Since I work mostly at novella-length, the stories take a long time to do, so I need to go back and change things to get a consistency of tone.

And I want to be consistent about the character's gains, too, especially if I've changed around the order in which things happen!

There's also the opportunity to let difficult parts fall into place. I have a work-in-progress in which my character gives up smoking, and that's the trigger for her gain. Originally she gave up because her friend thought she should, which wasn't very consistent with her character in the rest of the story as it's developing. But since then, smoking in public spaces has been banned in the UK, so maybe that's a better motivation for her?

Don't look to see that one completed for a while, though!
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Originally Posted by Deryk Shane View Post
When I first started, I wrote in installments. Usually not a 'by the day' kind of update, but more when I felt that part of the story was over, and it was moving onto the next part.

Recently, well, mostly because I rarely post anymore, I write the whole story. Sometimes scrapping it for parts for other stories.

Deryk
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Originally Posted by Lardibutts View Post
I’d like to ask other writers about writing in instalments versus working it all out beforehand.

It does seem that most (WB excepted) write on the hoof and post as they go along. Take Mr Big (JP) for example


Unlike most of my other stuff which lurks around on my hard disk for months, I’m currently making one up as I go along (“Bottoming Out”) and have been getting myself completely tied up in knots.

What really surprised me is that is that it was originally going to be about a grotesque little soul who'd taken my fancy but an even more grotesque fantasy totally hi jacked the piece (driving us over the guidelines into the rough a time or two).
I’m trying to finish off now but have just found I’d completely forgotten I’d set out using a flashback format, which I have now got to extract myself out of 8 episodes later.

I’m definitely going back to stewing stuff on the back burner from now on.

There was a reference by someone the other day on this site to Charles Dickens writing in instalments. Me, I’d have set out writing “David Copperfield” and ended up obsessively expanding Miss Haversham into XWG.

So how do you manage it?
You know, I have the same problem with the Feast Master. I prefer just to write short stories but this one in particular has been one I've avoided. I've written another story about someone who's known in a town he's never been before and this was easier than writing the FM. I think you have to do what's comfortable for you and if time is something you lack, then maybe it's good to have two writers or more to collaborate for a story.
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Old 11-27-2007, 06:31 AM   #18
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Yes, and we are still patiently waiting for the promised draft of the Feastmaster prequel per outline (hint hint)
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Old 02-19-2008, 04:35 PM   #19
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I like to do the story in several sessions to allow my mind to re-think issues. I always have the bones of the plot to start with, but like to finish it prior to publishing anything.

Nearly every story I've started has had some inconsistancy or nuance that needed tweaking the introductory portions somewhat. Once you've published a few chapters you are either locked in or inviting criticism for continuity etc.

Then is the other more philosophic attitude. If a story is fully complete, I won't abandon a good story line with it half published.

It annoys me and I won't do it to others.
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Old 03-30-2008, 06:03 AM   #20
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I just do loads of re-writes until it makes some sense!
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Old 03-30-2008, 10:13 PM   #21
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Well, the way I see it...

It is endlessly beneficial to do a trial-run and then do up a revised version, as many of you suggest. However, from a reader's standpoint, there's a lot of times where people post a part of a story and then simply leave it for either a long time, or an indefinite amount whereupon sometimes they never revisit it (and thus is born the discard room). I can't say how many times I've looked at new stories that have looked promising, only to see them drop off before the plot has really taken off. So, in my opinion, yes, it is good to perform your trial runs in order to make a story so much more better, but try also to balance it out. Maybe post larger installments, or have other bits prepared if the first part receives a lot of positive reception.

I don't know. Just a few thoughts.
Oh, and keep writing everyone!
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Old 04-04-2008, 12:10 PM   #22
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I just do loads of re-writes until it makes some sense!
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