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What should I do about a story that has been in uneducated development for the past ten years? Should I delete the story and do something else with my life? Below I provided a quick summary of the current development of the story for additional information.

I have been plagued with an interesting story of which I feel unqualified to write. It has been 10 years since I first conceived the plot of this story and it still continues to grow and improve over time in my head. The story mixes fantasy, science, and mythology which appealed to me as a scientist. I wrote four scenes (30 pages) and submitted for peer review to two English professors of whom I have met as friendly acquaintances in my old Electrical Engineering college.

I recently spoke with one of the English professors from my Electrical Engineering college. She told me that the story was based on an interesting idea, but the story was (1) unoriginal, (2) the dialogue was poorly developed, and (3) the character development was poor.

Reason numbers (2) and (3) made sense to me, because the submitted document contains scenes that are literally cut from the middle of the story with very little explanation of the character's and their back stories. I selected those four scenes, because the characters that spoke provided their quickest general overview of the story. I did not intend to give her the whole story as a 100+ page document, because the story is not completely written on paper yet. It might have been better to have given her a plot outline as opposed to a plucked scene.

Reason number (1) did not make sense to me. I was told by many that stories in general are not truly original. She may have implied that the mythology was simply a copy and paste with my own scientific spin, but I do not understand why that is necessarily a bad way to develop a story. Although when I asked her for specifics on what was unoriginal about the story, she failed to provide specific examples about the story. She did state general reasons such as the use of stereotypical character rolls and the plot was original, but she did not go into specifics.

Looking towards the future I feel that it is impractical for me to write this story due to my inexperience as a writer and not much time to develop creative writing skills. I am about to attend a graduate program in Physics, in another college, to spend the next 5 years of my life working 60 hours a week in the lab. I am considering to talk to the English department at my Physics graduate school to see if there is away to develop my creative writing skills, but I fear my Physics graduate program will keep me too busy to attempt such a feat.

I am also contemplating the idea of giving the story to someone else who has the experience and the time to write a good developed story and let them take all the credit. Giving the story to someone else seems rude and irresponsible to me though. I feel like I have cursed myself with this story and I wish there was away to forget about it and be relieved from this burden.

The scope of the story can be humorously summarized as four books: Book zero is a beginning of time and mythology like story. Book one is a medieval like story. Book two is a modern cold war like story. Book three is a space exploration like story. All of which take place on another planet.

The historical development of this story seems outrageous and crazy to me every time I look back since its beginning. The story start out as several unrelated, sometimes childish, stories that slowly over time joined together to form an expanding universe with some level of coherence?

Any suggestions to what I should with this story either deleting it or going with it would be much appreciated. Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Scrap what you wrote. Write a bunch of other stories, maybe a novel or two. When you gain skill and some notoriety, go back to your original idea. –  SF. May 6 at 15:22

7 Answers 7

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It sounds to me like you have been building a world, not developing a story. A story, in the bestselling sense of the word, is about characters who overcome obstactles and grow in the process. I miss that aspect in your description of your project.

Without reading anything, it is hard to nail down the problems your aquaintance saw, or recommend what to do with what you have. But I'll speak from my experience.

I know quite a few hobbyists who have been developing, writing and drawing on one single novel or comic since their adolescence and well into their thirties or fourties. They accumulate heaps of sketches, excerpts, fragments, draw maps, invent mythologies, develop complicated systems of races, languages, names and laws. They write and rewrite and re-rewrite over and over again, but they never come to the point where the story is finished for them and they can tell another story.

I have always been a bit appalled at how a person could remain stuck in the rut of one idea for decades. It is as if a part of their minds was frozen in time and refused to mature. But since there are examples among the great works of art that have taken a lifetime to complete, maybe I just lack the width and depth of mind to understand this.

To me the answer you seek depends on what you want from your life, not what you want from that story.

  1. If you love immersing yourself in that story, then keep deepening and widening it, and forget about publishing.

  2. If you want to publish, let it go for the time being, and begin and finish one other project. National Novel Writing Month is a great event for this. Then begin and finish another. And while you do your smaller projects, learn about plot, character, and whatever else is important for a story that grips its readers. And when you feel ready – and have found some emotional distance from your lifetime project – tackle it with the new skills you have built. A hiatus of a year or two isn't much for a ten year project, but it'll be enough to give you a fresh view and more critical opinion.

  3. If you love worldbuilding and want to plublish, find a co-author, e.g. on the Absolute Write forums. If you do, trust this person to understand plotting etc., and allow them to make changes.

None of this is the law, obviously. It's just what come to mind first. A variation or combination or something else might be the solution for you.

What I see is that you may be too deep in your creation to clearly see it as your readers would see it. That is the distance you need. Get it by having a co-author look in from the outside, or get out yourself by doing something else for some time. You need to fall out of love with your mind's child and see it as what it is: a bit interesting, a bit boring – just like all ideas, before they have been treated and polished by a hard working writer.

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1  
Thank you for providing your answer. You have given me a lot to think about. –  linuxfreebird Apr 20 at 15:14
    
Could you suggest a person I could email for additional information about Absolute Write forums? –  linuxfreebird Apr 20 at 16:53
    
I don't know anyone there personally, but I found a co-author there once for a comic book project. Google "co-author wanted" and see where people post such ads, then look at the member count of those forums and become a member of the largest ones. Absolute Write was a great forum about five years back. That doesn't mean that this is no true, I just wasn't active there for about five years. Look at it, you can read all the forums without becoming a member. –  what Apr 20 at 17:53

First I will be discouraging, then I will be encouraging, then I will be fatherly. OK?

1) Judging by the text of your question, your writing skills are not (currently) up to the task of writing an epic 4-volume novel (which is what you are proposing). Your writing is rife with grammatical errors (not just typos) and other problems. Sorry to be blunt, but you needed someone to say that.

2) Based on available data, I estimate your age at 23 +/- 1. You are young! You do not need to write your magnum opus now. It will wait for you to mature. As you write scientific papers, work closely with the technical editor who reviews your manuscripts. Don't just accept the fixes -- ask why your original was wrong. Also, writing papers is a great way to learn how to tell a complicated story in an ordered and coherent manner. That will be good training for your tetralogy.

3) While pursuing your PhD, you will NEED to have some non-scientific downtime, or you'll go nutso. So, you can putter some more with your story for the next 5 years.
Concentrate on the STORYLINE and the CHARACTERS. Make them sparkle. Meanwhile, technology will march on, and you will be in the midst of it. My twenty-something son is convinced that graphic novels and immersive video games are the future of literature. Learn computer visualization techniques while you obtain your physics PhD.

4) OK, here's the fatherly part: I'm sensing reluctance from you about the PhD program, as if you're not sure you want to head in that direction. From personal experience I can tell you that you will need a strong commitment to the PhD in order to finish. It's a long, hard haul (as you seem to fear). However, you can have a life outside physics, especially after the first year or two. And you're not signing up for the Foreign Legion, dude! :-) Throw yourself into it wholeheartedly. Psychologically commit yourself for one year. If you like it, good, commit for another year. If you hate it, drop out and fall back on your BSEE. Either way, you'll be fine.

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A lot of conjecture there, dmm, but a lot of good advice nonetheless. So +1, because I totally agree with the gist of your advice. –  what Apr 21 at 8:10
    
Thanks. I like the three chronological answers. –  linuxfreebird Apr 21 at 17:03

I don't remember where I read it, but there is a story about a sculpting teacher who did an experiment on a class. He divided the class in two, and told one half that they should spend the entire semester focusing on one pot or vase, and that they would be graded on the quality of that one object.

The other half was told that they would be graded purely on the quantity of vases they made. The more vases, the better the grade, no matter how bad they were.

Which half do you think made the best vases in the end?

The half who focused on quantity. Why? Because sculpting, like writing, is a skill, and the only way to get better at it is by doing it a lot. The ones who made many vases started getting the feeling for what made a vase good. By messing up all the time, they started getting a sense for what worked and what didn't.

You should do the same. Write. A. Lot.

Write crap. Write things that makes you cringe in embarrassment (don't show it to anyone). But finish it. Make sure you finish it, however bad it turns out, and move on to the next project. That is the only way to get better.

The best way to finish things is by starting small. Write short stories. Don't start with a novel. Would you run the New York Marathon without practising first? Probably not. So don't do the writing equivalent of that.

As other have mentioned, you seem to need some guidance on structure, plot and characters. I find this book on the subject indispensable. It should appeal well to someone with a scientific nature (do be warned that the author comes off as a bit cocky).

Good luck to you.

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Thanks. I will take this to heart. How many words or pages is a typical practice short story? –  linuxfreebird Apr 21 at 17:00
    
This is not the answer you want, but the length of a story is however long it needs to be to tell the story. It seems to me that you need to spend some time looking into the structure of storytelling, and what a story really is. Robert McKee has written a great book called 'Story' on the subject. Short stories range from 1000 to 20000 words, but most are between 4000 to 7000 words I think. –  erikric Apr 22 at 15:39

I can relate to you.

I started my journey in the writing world because of a story that couldn't quite leave me. I feel the weight of the responsibility to deliver it, to write it and breathe life to it. And I did. But not in the way I thought I would, which is by writing a novel or book about it.

I didn't write a novel because I couldn't quite make it perfect. The story keeps on developing in my mind and it will seem that there will be no end, and even if there is, I won't be able to give justice in writing it, or will I find the ending complete enough to put a period to it.

Yet I still write it. I open a blog (which you could also do) and release all those stories that was bottled up inside me. Sometimes two of my blog entries will be related to each other, a continuation of each other stories, other times the story stands alone. The point is, I was able to write it and I really enjoyed writing those stories, and I even gained quite a few blog followers! :) Plus, I keep my sanity intact.

So don't give up, but don't be burden with your muses.

And please, don't let the others write your story, not because of the credits (or anything to do with it) but because it wouldn't be the same as the story you had in mind.

There's a reason why that particular story speaks to you and not to anyone else.

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I come from a similar situation as yours. I guess I understand what you are going through. From my experience...

You read few great fantasy series and loved to put yourself in those characters and role played few of them (in your own world aka mind, at least). You have a great concept to build the story on (Research students in general love to explore a concept and dive deeper into it). You dream in your created world few times. I'd say,

  1. Don't worry about professional reviews. Keep writing. Let it be read by unprofessional people who will see your plot, world, and characters.
  2. Keep Writing. Make a group of people who likes your story. Break your story into small chapters. Release them to the group and collect their reviews every week. You will push yourself to write more if people start showing more interest in your work and wait for more.
  3. Keep 1 hour a day to write and 2 hrs on weekends. Edit only once, the day before your weekly release is best.
  4. Create more groups.
  5. Forget the chronological order for now. Forget 3 and 4 books for now. Write book 1.
  6. All graduate students have other passions and hobbies too. Some dance, some drink, some sleep. Make this yours.
  7. Read for a week and not write. Do this once in 5 weeks. It will change your perspective and writing style.
  8. Everything else goes later. YOU WILL PUBLISH.
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Do you mind to step out of the Realm Of Ordinary for a while?

If you have not yet done this before - I suggest you to try to spend some time living in the world you're creating with your writing. Immerse in it, feel it. Might be helpful.

I'm saying that because I've also been a science student in my youth. And scientific thinking tends to be analytic, not immersive one. Works for writing science papers, not for stories and novels.

How to immerse? Well... Have you played tabletop roleplaying games? Especially so-called storytelling systems are good for that. Games like these allow to immerse in the world created by your writing together with your friends. There are several benefits at once.

First, 'loneliness is the biggest dream-killer'. But game means friends.

Second, you get feedback without having to feel ashamed for faults - because all the experience is fun for everybody involved. The faults stop being faults at all, at least no one will perceive them as such.

Third, you can polish the game world (along the characters populating it, surroundings, etc.) during the game. With inspiration!

Fourth, you will learn a lot from the game experience. Not only writing skills, but social, acting, problem-solving... Just recently I read about script writers for Game of Thrones, saying that they owe their success to roleplaying games they played for many years.

Do you have friends who play roleplaying games? If not, know that our folks are ve-ery friendly to newcomers! :)

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I recommend reading the book immediate fiction to help you with #1 and #2. If you are really serious there are a lot of good books on writing on Amazon.

World building in itself is a means to an end of making a good story (I got this from Orson Scott Card's book). Just look at the Hobbit.

My advice is to study up on writing and go for it. In life we regret the risks not taken, not the failures.

For the record it is very hard to come up with something original, and many things you see is original are not.

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