Work-In-Progress,  Writing Journey

Writer Life: Brainstorming Pit

So…I think I’ve been brainstorming this current story for about a month. I’m finally through one workbook, and then thanks to Masterclass I have another, which I’m about halfway through at this point. For a while there, I felt like I would never actually start drafting. I still haven’t, and I haven’t started my “official” notebook yet either. I don’t have to organize it before I start writing, but I want to. It makes for a smoother start.

Right now, I have 55 pages of notes from going through Story Genius and the workbook I wanted to try, which is an author-created Preptober Workbook, for the record. These 55 pages don’t include the the story-related notes I’ve taken for Masterclass. But at this point, what’s another several pages? 😀

Thus far, Neil Gaiman’s class is great. If I was just starting out, this would give me a great foundation to build on. As such, I’m way past being a “newbie” and while it’s always helpful to strengthen my current foundation, it’s a little frustrating at the same time. I had a similar experience with Story Genius. So far, no one is talking about how to stop feeling like a failure and stop being afraid of the blank page. Maybe such a state of mind doesn’t exist. Thus far, the only way forward has been to write anyway, and maybe that’s the answer. Still, it would be nice to hear someone else say it.

To be honest, I literally finished a story not even two months, and I’ve already completely forgotten not only how I did it but also that I even did it in the first place. I still feel like I haven’t finished anything in over a year. Why is that?

And I’m doing all this work and I’m still afraid the story isn’t going to work out. And I’m like, why did I do this to myself? Why am I still writing? Why can’t I just quit?

And of course, my fault, but holding off on writing until I finish Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass is also frustrating. I was expecting more work, but because the class wants to help all levels, I’m stuck going over a bunch of basic stuff, and I’m still enjoying everything, but just once, I want someone to talk to me on the level I’m actually on.

Like, I already know how to find ideas, and I have too many as it is. I’ve already developed my “writer’s voice.” I don’t write short stories or graphic novels. Sure, I can skip these lessons, but like I said when I talked about Story Genius, there are weaknesses and gaps in my process, and I don’t entirely know where they all are or even what they are, so I have to go through everything to see it, but I don’t want to at the same time, because it’s tedious. I’m going back and forth between being a little bored and feeling incompetent. And because I’ve been brainstorming so long, I’m starting to question whether or not I should even write this story, and if I’m making it more difficult on myself by setting it in the future.

Neil is covering Worldbuilding in the class, which I want help with rather I need it or not, and that’s something that was completely glossed over in Story Genius, even though she said she would give tips for fantasy writers, she really only gave tips for thriller, mystery, and romance writers. I kind of wished I had signed up for Masterclass a few weeks ago and done similar lessons simultaneously, but it’s fine. I think it’s actually better for my brain this way.

The funny thing is, the setting is the easiest part of this story. Anyone reading it will be able to see some of the changes that have happened in the world, but I’m not going to explain everything, because what happened to get here isn’t part of the plot. Yes, I definitely know what happened. And yeah, people are always going to want to know, like I wanted to know exactly what happened in Hunger Games and what other countries were doing, but we didn’t get it, and we didn’t have to have it, because it’s important to remember, especially for sanity’s sake, that not everything matters.

Anyway, I have a first chapter outlined, kind of. It’s not an outline so much as some notes about what happens and why. And I have some other chapters “outlined.” Some potential opening words written down. Character names and descriptions for everyone, I think, and a plot and subplots. Reminding myself of this calms me down. Like I can see, there’s a story here, and I maybe I can even sit down and write it. I’m excited, but I’m more scared than excited right now. Maybe Neil will cover nonsensical fear in his Writer’s Block lesson.

But yeah, I want to keep up with what’s going on with my writing more. It helps me work things out, and I definitely need to worry less about pestering people with my ranting. They don’t have to read it. Last year, I didn’t talk nearly as much about this stuff as I wanted to, or needed to, which I think is one of the main reasons I struggled so much. I felt like I sounded crazy or that I was bothering people, so I tried really hard not to talk about it too often. Since I’m not physically around anyone who understands, things got worse until I broke down and “pestered” a writing friend for help, and I still only went into detail because she asked, and even then, I didn’t want to say anything, but I couldn’t stand up anymore. It’s like ask for help or die, metaphorically speaking. 😛

So, first writing update of the year. ^_^


  • Michelle Athy

    I keep seeing MasterClass on ads on YouTube. How is it? How is it structured? I don’t particularly like craft books, tbh.The last one I liked was Romancing the Beat, which gave me a better idea of how romance novels are structured.

    Honestly, you tihnk writing shouldn’t be this hard–and at least we’re not, like, miners or anything–but then you remember non-writing friends and how they’re not always thinking about a world and people who don’t exist.

    • Krystal Jane

      MasterClass has been stalking me on YouTube and Instagram for a while. Haha. Now that I’m at the halfway mark, I much prefer this to a craft book. Everything is split up into separate videos, but it feels like I’m sitting down to an in-depth writing seminar. There’s a companion workbook that expands on the lesson and puts in writing exercises from his actual writing class, and we get plenty of examples of what he’s talking about, so there’s no trying to figure out what he meant or feeling lost or confused. Story Genius has some good things about it, but it legit made me feel crazy. Neil has a natural approach to storytelling that vibes a lot better with how I write.

      I’m finally having to admit that writing is hard. You’d think sitting down and making stuff up would be easy. But yeah, I can’t even imagine what it’s like not to have imaginary people running around in my head.

  • Kristy A.

    For what it’s worth, I understand how you feel. It’s hard for me to ask for help, especially when I’m having a bad year. I haven’t been able to finish a book in about five years. I only recently started talking about it which is why a friend and I are going to take some Masterclasses together. She’s more of beginner writer, as in, she really wants to write a book but has only written a few short stories a long time ago. I consider myself more on the intermediate side. I’ve written a handful of books but it’s been awhile.

    Does Neil Gaiman’s class cover more than the Story Genius book? Would you recommend anyone go through both? I’m not trying to overwhelm myself but I really want help at the same time.

    I’m excited to hear more about the book you’re working on! It sounds like it’s futuristic with the Hunger Games reference. Is it?

    • Krystal Jane

      Story Genius is mostly a highly detailed study on characterization and how that informs the plot. It’s a good book, but I feel like the book in its entirety is overwhelming. Since you’re already signing up for Masterclass, I think you can both get more help than you need between everyone who’s on there. Some of the same ground is definitely covered between that book and Neil’s class, and Neil also covers things Story Genius doesn’t cover at all, like editing and descriptions and dialogue and worldbuilding. I just finished the worldbuilding lesson, and it was a lot more helpful than anything I’ve gotten out of a craft book. He doesn’t go into as much detail on how to build characters as Story Genius, but there’s such a thing as too much information, and he has a very similar approach to it, so you’ll be getting the same information. It’s not necessary to do both.

      Also, yes, the work-in-progress is set in the future in a non-dystopian kind of way. 😀

  • Tonja Drecker

    You and I are so often in this same ‘lost’ boat, aren’t we? As you know, I’m in a slump but I’m forcing my way through. The co-author thing doesn’t leave me much of a choice, which is probably the best medicine right now. Even if the writing and stories are bad, they are getting done and going out. A win? But then, I don’t think I’ve ever looked at something I’ve written and thought, “Oh wow! That’s awesome!”
    As to getting things done…those started stories, ideas and partially finished MSs do start piling up, don’t they? My son calls them material for later. I see it as writing practice. After all, we need to constantly work on our craft like any other job or profession. And this might very well just be me making things appear rosy so I feel better. So yep, power through. And feel free to reach out to me and pour out your heart whenever you have the urge. I mean that.

    • Krystal Jane

      I’m going to take you up on that! And offer the same in return. If you need anything, reach out. We need to get off this lost boat and onto a party boat! I like to think that no writing is ever wasted, even though I don’t believe it all the time, but I did learn a few things from my rewrite. Valuable things. 🙂 There’s definitely a benefit to cowriting. You can pull each other forward. I do believe nothing is ever as bad as we think it is…except maybe a few things from a long, long time ago.

  • Jodi Leigh

    I had similar issues as you, in a Creative Writing course I took at the college. Everything was done with a critique partner or group, but because my writing level was on the high-end, I wasn’t getting the help I needed. I ended up feeling like everyone else’s tutor. It was fun in ways, but also draining, and not what I wanted (and definitely not what I was paying $ for).

    Your frustrated monologues are the best thing ever. Sorry, I’m not making light of your struggles. It’s just that as I follow your trail of thought I’m sitting here like, “Yes! THAT.” I love what you said about needing to worry less about pestering people with your ranting. I’ve changed the climate of my blog so many times because of that same fear. But you are SO right. They don’t have to read it. I’m glad you’ve come to that conclusion because I find your journeys through all of these writing woes so interesting and relevant to my own struggles. 

    • Krystal Jane

      I’ve definitely been in that “tutor” position, especially in English and composition classes. Thankfully, when it came to my writing classes, the entire class, teacher included, was our critique group, so there were always a few people to learn from.

      The best thing about being open about everything is how many people say things like this: that they understand and are going through it or have gone through it, too. A lot of times it does feel like we’re on an island all alone and everyone else is doing well while we’re out there with the invisible SOS lights. Plus, it’s a lot easier to get out a pit when some fellow writers can give you a helping hand. 🙂

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