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Authors with Attention Deficit Disorder...

Wheezer

...or whatever they are calling it these days.

I see authors on this site, and some excellent authors on other sites, who seem unable to focus on a story long enough to see it to completion. They will write a few chapters of a new story, then ignore it and go haring off in a new direction with a different story - again to write half a story only to once again drop it and start something else, or go back and add a chapter or two to one of their previous efforts. They end up with a large body of work, but most of it a work in progress and little of it completed.

Does ADD or ADHD affect writers more than it does the general population? This drives me nuts.

note: I'm not talking about incomplete/inactive stories - especially where the author has passed away or stopped for whatever reason. I'm talking about writers who have a fairly steady output - just not focused very well.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Wheezer

We've discussed this several times here, but many authors write stories 'on the fly'. Not only do they write ongoing series, but they'll post a few chapters just to see whether there's any interest in the story.

The alternative are the authors who write out the story in advance, completely revise and have it edited before posting it. These authors tend to produce at a more infrequent basis (little doubt why, with the amount of work involved with story cleanup).

Maybe Lazeez needs to add a new story tag, "Finished", so readers know which stories are completed before posting.

Personally, I don't see it as actual ADHD, merely a different type of attention seeking.

Replies:   Wheezer
Wheezer
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

I'm specifically thinking of authors that are juggling multiple story lines at one time. Not just one or two, but several, with new ones inserted to the mix as their muse strikes. Two of the worst offenders (as I define it) are not on SOL at all. They are not older writers, as are some SOL writers, which can affect output. In fact, lack of output is not their problem at all. Focused output is what they lack. Inability to complete one task before starting another is the issue here.

Replies:   oyster50
aubie56

This pseudo-ADHD is sort of what I suffer from. That's why I have resorted to never posting a story until it is completed. That is also why I sometimes break long stories into shorter complete segments. For example, the story I am posting now completes a 40-chapter series that I might never have finished if I had written it all as one story, instead of as a series.

CW-I don't write for reader adulation, as you imply, but for the sheer joy of writing. The stories I post are the ones that I think other people will like; otherwise, a story never gets posted.

I have about 200 stories partially written. Some have only one chapter, and some have only the final chapter missing. Most of them will never be posted, but I have enjoyed every minute I put into writing them. I write for my own fun, but I do care what other people think.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@aubie56


I don't write for reader adulation, as you imply, but for the sheer joy of writing. The stories I post are the ones that I think other people will like; otherwise, a story never gets posted.

I have about 200 stories partially written. Some have only one chapter, and some have only the final chapter missing. Most of them will never be posted, but I have enjoyed every minute I put into writing them. I write for my own fun, but I do care what other people think.


Aubie, that was my [badly phrased] point. When people post chapters as they go, their failed experiments are obvious. Many of us keep our work private until we have a finished product, so you don't see those failures. My point wasn't that these writers are seeking adulation, but that they're trying to evaluate whether to finish a story based on reader responses (i.e. the number of downloads). In other words, instead of picking their strongest stories, they're fishing to test their best 'bait'.

By the way, Aubie, that's why you don't have loads of unfinished stories. By definition, if you post as you write, you have no clue whether the story will eventually work out or not.

By the way, before abandoning all those stories, I suggest you get some beta-readers (family members work well for this), who'll review the stories and tell you whether they work or not. Sometimes, as authors we see a work and see our own issues with it, while readers don't carry our baggage into the story.

I had one story, which I'd agonized over, which I was sure wouldn't work. Someone here (Switch) mentioned that I had a tendency to be over analytical, so I asked someone to read it and give me their opinion. Despite my own qualms, they told me it was a stronger story than many of my others. So now the story is back on schedule, after a two-month hiatus. Sigh!

aubie56

CW-Thanks for you follow-up comments. As a matter of fact, I do have a beta reader: my wife. She is also my proofreader. Yes, she has caused me to drop some stories because she usually reads a chapter just after I have written it, so she catches stories that she thinks won't work. Those are usually the ones with only one chapter written. Definitely, if she doesn't like it for some reason or other, I usually drop it; however, I don't throw it away because I might think up a way to fix the problem.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
cave jug
Updated:

Hi all,

quite recently, I had a post or two regarding unfinished work of many, and as a reader, I had very strong opinion on this particular point.

In the exchange with the few and stumbling on, by an accident on an article on the trials and tribulations of creative writing, I must admit, I have completely reversed my opinion on this

It is a fact, we, the readers, are selfish lot, and do not know, for the most part, what is involved in creative writing. It is simple as that. We get "involved" in the world of the story, and want to see it to conclusion. We do forget, the time, effort, imagination, endless rewritings and editing involved.

Nowadays, I buy a complete story, if available, before the posting has finished.

So, I suggest to all readers, while an author is sipping your coffee and thinking of a new plot, you are reading the work of your favorite word-smith.

Cheers.

Switch Blayde

@cave jug

It is a fact, we, the readers, are selfish lot, and do not know, for the most part, what is involved in creative writing.


As an author, I don't agree. I have many unfinished stories, none of which have ever been seen by anyone other than me. I don't know how an author can take pride in what they wrote until they finish the story.

richardshagrin

@cave jug

While we readers (I tried us readers but it doesn't feel right) wait for stories to be completed, go back and read the completed stories you liked. Want a high 8. something or a 9. something? There are lots of them here. Look at some top 50 lists and reread one of your favorites. Or pick some of the unfinished greats that aren't going to be marked completed but are still fun to read. If you think you only like new stories you probably should try reading some of the thousands of stories already here before you log onto ASSTR and read all the new pedo and Mm stories there.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@aubie56

Definitely, if she doesn't like it for some reason or other, I usually drop it; however, I don't throw it away because I might think up a way to fix the problem.

Aubie, Aubie, Aubie! If she doesn't like the first chapter, there are a thousand different ways of presenting the information. She's not saying "Dump this piece-of-crap story", she's only saying, "It's not currently working as written." That's not unusual for first chapters, because you want to start off strong, with a bang, so you capture the readers' attention.

Next time, sit down and seriously review the first chapter to see what you did wrong, and then figure out how to make it work!

Beta-readers aren't there to put the kibosh on stories, they're there to point out where a story has issues which need to be addressed.

It is a fact, we, the readers, are selfish lot, and do not know, for the most part, what is involved in creative writing. It is simple as that. We get "involved" in the world of the story, and want to see it to conclusion. We do forget, the time, effort, imagination, endless rewritings and editing involved.

CaveJug, thanks for that. I've tried to suggest that myself, but when an author says it, it sounds like whining. That type of things always sounds better coming from readers.

(I tried us readers but it doesn't feel right)


Richard, you're right, the proper form is "we readers".

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

That's not unusual for first chapters, because you want to start off strong, with a bang, so you capture the readers attention.


In general that's good advice, but I'd amend it to be start strong. One of the worst books I've ever tried to read and gave up on was by a well established reporter come writer who did a dramatised version of an part of the recent troubles in the middle east. He started off with a high combat situation then went back several months three pages later - - normally that's OK and the opening scene is also in the last chapter, but this guy simply plucked a scene from the middle of the story to put it at the front for something with a bang - made the whole thing look like a disjointed mess.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Ernest Bywater

flashbacks/flashforwards are very difficult to handle in a way that doesn't confuse the reader and reduce the tension of the story on its way to a reasonable conclusion. I'd like to say "don't do it" but maybe I should say instead "be careful and make sure your editors/beta readers agree with how you handled it". You need a lot of experience with straightforward stories before you attempt to confuse your readers.

Sometimes a slow build works better than starting with the explosions and fireworks. If the slow build doesn't work, start later in the story. If there is something the reader needs to know about the hero's life maybe you can drop it in to the narrative after the later start. There are do-overs that start too soon, you may not need to send the character to elementary school if the interesting parts of his new life occur in college and his new profession.

Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

flashbacks/flashforwards are very difficult to handle


and the only times I've seen them work is the story opens with the last major climactic scene and the person then flashes back to what got them to that point, and finishes with the closing scene after reaching the start point.

Replies:   JohnBobMead  docholladay
JohnBobMead

@Ernest Bywater


@richardshagrin
flashbacks/flashforwards are very difficult to handle

and the only times I've seen them work is the story opens with the last major climactic scene and the person then flashes back to what got them to that point, and finishes with the closing scene after reaching the start point.


Heinlein did that in Starship Troopers, and it worked, but he was an exceptional writer. At least, I remember his doing this in Starship Troopers, but it's been several decades since I last read it.

Replies:   Grant
Grant

@JohnBobMead

At least, I remember his doing this in Starship Troopers,

AFAIK it was done similarly to the movie- it started in the middle, then flashed back to the beginning moving through to where it started (from a different point of view than at the start) then through to the end.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Grant

Haven't watched the full movie, but what I saw of it and clips, the only thing the movie had in common with the book was the title and some character names.

docholladay

@Ernest Bywater

flashbacks/flashforwards are very difficult to handle

and the only times I've seen them work is the story opens with the last major climactic scene and the person then flashes back to what got them to that point, and finishes with the closing scene after reaching the start point.


One reason I had so much trouble 40 years ago getting away from my reputation was someone always talked about it. I remember asking one guy why he told all that crap to everyone. Answer was he liked to watch the fights.

In any social group there is always at least one gossip who likes to talk about other peoples past events.

Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

Sometimes a slow build works better than starting with the explosions and fireworks. If the slow build doesn't work, start later in the story.

Epic stories, as a broad category, typically start slowly as they need to show where the character starts before they set off on their journey. Star Wars did an excellent job of doing this, while also starting off with a "Bang", by showing the Princess Lea fleeing the Empire and the main character's parents being killed--thereby prompting his move to the city where the story starts in earnest.

I struggled with (one of) my latest stories, because it starts really slowly, but the story wouldn't make sense without the conflicts established in the back story. I tried putting the big mid-book fight scene in the first chapter, and it didn't work at all!

Sometimes, slow but steady does the best job.

cave jug
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Yes CW,

this and other exchanges with you guys made me adopt a reversed opinion on the subject of serials, unfinished and abandoned stories. I used to think only of myself, now I consider a lot more I have no saying in.

I am "playing" with a finite time, I want see the epilogue, so nowadays a pick only the finished titles.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@cave jug

I am "playing" with a finite time, I want see the epilogue, so nowadays a pick only the finished titles.

There's a downside to that viewpoint. I've traditionally written incredibly long books (150,000 to 225,000 words), but have recently revised my style, so my most recent stories are now coming in in the 55,000 to 85,000 word varieties (with one novellette of only 30,000).

Hopefully it will make my stories easier to read, but I'm anticipating that many of my fans won't appreciate shorter posted stories. They're more tightly written, but don't include as many themes and subplots.

sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer

Aubie, Aubie, Aubie! If she doesn't like the first chapter, there are a thousand different ways of presenting the information. She's not saying "Dump this piece-of-crap story", she's only saying, "It's not currently working as written." That's not unusual for first chapters, because you want to start off strong, with a bang, so you capture the readers' attention.

I would add to that you could look for themes amongst your stories and se if you can tie them together just as in Number 7's Second Chance. Your Afghanistan and the following WWI story are a start to work on.

sarcastic_cynic

As Wheezer pointed out, "or whatever they are calling it these days". I'm really grateful many authors take the time to write a great story, with it being free. Why not just delete the bleeping story, so I won't be tortured reading it, knowing it is not completed. Thanks.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@sarcastic_cynic

Why not just delete the bleeping story, so I won't be tortured reading it, knowing it is not completed.


I used to think that way too. Then I got asked by one author to revise his stories and to look at writing the sequels. I accepted because I had already been working with him to co-author the original stories. A little later another author asked me to finish a story he wasn't going to finish because he was giving up writing, which I did, and then got him involved in revising it before posting. So it's a possibility that an unfinished story may get completed. I do know of two other authors who gave others permission to complete their unfinished stories as well.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

So it's a possibility that an unfinished story may get completed. I do know of two other authors who gave others permission to complete their unfinished stories as well.

In the old days, those people would have hired ghost writers (if they could afford it). Authors aren't writers who put words together, but artists who craft (and finish) their projects, making the entire thing work as a whole. A good ending is as important as a strong beginning. Without it, you essentially have no story.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

A good ending is as important as a strong beginning. Without it, you essentially have no story.


Many an author has notes about where they want the story to go, but are unable to complete it. Several of E.E.Doc Smith's stories were all mapped out but not written when he died, so others wrote them with the approval of his heirs. That's happened a number of times, and that's the situation with the authors I know of. There is one I know of who was given the notes and how to complete the unfinished stories in a series, but it's now doubtful if that'll happen because the author with the notes may not be allowed to write and post the stories after he gets out of prison.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Ernest Bywater

Its a free country, if you have lots of money to hire good lawyers.

Replies:   Jounar  Ernest Bywater
Jounar

@richardshagrin

But when you represent yourself you have a fool of a client which I think is the case here.

Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

Its a free country, if you have lots of money to hire good lawyers.


the lack of money is the major issue for most, however, the one I mention may have denial of access to the Internet as a condition of his release due to what he was charged with.

The Slim Rhino
Updated:

I do have attention deficit disorder, more precisely ADHS - Attention Deficit hyperactivity disorder.

If I have an idea for a story I get obsessed with it and often end up pumping out one or two chapters, but then I can't continue, call it extreme writers block. But at the same time I have an idea for another story and write one or two chaps for that. This is why I have so many 'in progress' stories. There's always one inspiring me and the other ones have to wait.

I understand that's not so great for the readers, who sometimes have to wait weeks for an update to their preferred story, but it's sadly the only way I can write. :(

None of them gets abandoned, the updates just are coming in irregular intervals. That my "Dawn of the Federation" Trilogy. The first book was written from 2009 to 2012. The second book was written entirely withing 3 months. Book three started in late 2012 and is still in work. It's sadly not foreseeable how fast the work goes along

Ernest Bywater

@The Slim Rhino

This is why I have so many 'in progress' stories. There's always one inspiring me and the other ones have to wait.


I've a similar issue, and that's why I don't post until after I've completed the story.

Crumbly Writer

@The Slim Rhino

If I have an idea for a story I get obsessed with it and often end up pumping out one or two chapters, but then I can't continue, call it extreme writers block. But at the same time I have an idea for another story and write one or two chaps for that. This is why I have so many 'in progress' stories. There's always one inspiring me and the other ones have to wait.

I wouldn't be so quick to jump ship. Once you start another story, you distance yourself from the first, often not venturing back, as you've found.

However, normally when I encounter writers' block, for whatever apparent reason, I discover it's because of story issues. Essentially, I'm bothered by plot holes which stymie me, and once I focus on the story--and what those issues might be--the problems evaporate once I resolve the singular issue.

Often it's a case of single character not seeming 'authentic', or my trying to force a particular character into doing something against their character (i.e. something they wouldn't do). By jumping to another story, you never have the chance to consider what's causing the problem.

@Ernest

I've a similar issue, and that's why I don't post until after I've completed the story.

Yes, but you do like he does, working until you run into a roadblock, then switch stories. When I encounter a problem, I find it best to take a long walk in solitude (along the beach or in the woods, without music or other distractions) and let my mind wander. Sooner or later, I'll not only see the issue holding me back, but I'll figure out how to resolve it.

But Ernest's point is valid. If you know you have an issue finishing things, then you shouldn't begin posting until you know you can finish it, and the only way to do that is to ... finish it!

Replies:   The Slim Rhino
The Slim Rhino
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


I wouldn't be so quick to jump ship. Once you start another story, you distance yourself from the first, often not venturing back, as you've found.


You don't understand. The main problem when suffering from AHDS is that you can't stay focused on something for too long. I abandon watching movies halfway into them, I stop writing a chapter half-way into it, because my brain tells me 'I want to read the news now'. I don't abandon stories, I just can't say when I will want to continue them. The one thing I know is I will eventually, I just don't know if I get a whole chapter out before my brain wants to listen to music.

I just posted an 8.5K word story that I hammered out on a single day. Got the idea in the morning - wrote it, in a language that's not my native one. Episode II? I started it, stopped after 50 words. No idea when the inspiration will be back, could be tomorrow, could be May. Only thing I know - Episode II WILL come, just no idea when.

Ernest Bywater

@The Slim Rhino

is that you can't stay focused on something for too long.


That's also a part of having Asperger's Syndrome (which I have), but I don't have it as bad as someone with ADD or ADHD. It's still an issue that I have to manage and work around. Like a lot of things in life, you eventually work out a way to deal with the situation and do things.

When I feel motivated to go back to a story I re-read what's been done, revise and edit as I do, then continue on with it. Which is good in a way as it does help clean out a lot of errors, but also introduces some too.

Crumbly Writer

@The Slim Rhino

You don't understand. The main problem when suffering from AHDS is that you can't stay focused on something for too long. I abandon watching movies halfway into them, I stop writing a chapter half-way into it, because my brain tells me 'I want to read the news now'. I don't abandon stories, I just can't say when I will want to continue them. The one thing I know is I will eventually, I just don't know if I get a whole chapter out before my brain wants to listen to music.

There are various strategies you can use. The most obvious is a long walk, to clear your mind and work the flightiness out of your system (for a little while, at least). Others include turning off (or turning on) the radio.

Since I spend time in coffee shops, people keep asking me why people spend so much time sitting around Starbucks. It turns out, the background noise increases creativity, helping with writers' block. The background noise is just loud enough, that you brain tunes it out, along with all the discussions as well. That frees you mind to ignore the other distractions and concentrate on your story. (I do that anytime I'm stymied, though I hate carting my laptop to the store.)

When I went to college, I realized I had to move away from my parents' home, because I can't concentrate if there's a TV or radio playing. For years, I lived without a TV and never missed it. Now, however, since I can't avoid it, I turn on a TV while I work so it'll counter the noise of the TV upstairs. With the two going at once, you can't really hear either one well, and the one you expect won't bother you as much as the one you can't follow. And of course, working after midnight when there's nothing else to distract you is invaluable.

By the way, Ernest, I have Asperger's as well, which is why I keep up on the research on these topics.

P.S. If you find the coffee shop idea useful, there's a smartphone app/website that duplicates the noise of a coffeeshop so you can get the benefit of the atmosphere at home. It's called Coffitivity.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


By the way, Ernest, I have Asperger's as well, which is why I keep up on the research on these topics.


Sometimes a good music collection and CD player or a digital collection and Audacious is good after you set up a long play list. At one stage I had my five favourite CDs on a 5 CD player that just played the CD, switched to the next and kept rotating the turntable until I told it to stop - good continuous music for when you want it. Now I use the program Audacious to do the same thing with mpegs and wavs and the like.

Edit to add: I usually write better with a quiet background.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I usually write better with a quiet background.

I write best after 1a.m. when there aren't any distractions, and the TV isn't worth turning on. During the day, the phone rings all the time, and people always want to talk, and each distractions meaning a 30 minute pause until you can get back into the story, only to have someone else contact you.

Unfortunately, if you stay up all night, you tend to sleep all the next day, and then feel dopey the day after that. Still, it's worth it because you're SO much more productive!

If I had the money, I'd build a studio in my backyard with no phone and forbid anyone from bothering me during work hours (I still need an internet connection for research purposes, but I'm pretty good at not checking my email every five minutes).

oyster50

@Wheezer

I'm specifically thinking of authors that are juggling multiple story lines at one time.


I resemble that remark, at least up to the point where you say 'not older'. I'm in my mid-sixties and in addition to writing, there's a full-time job covering five states, a girlfriend, a houseful of cats and a couple of hobbies.

I don't know why I keep three stories active at once, but I've been doing it for years. My muse likes to jump around. There are some bad dry spells, but there are equally prolific spells as well.

And yes, I'm one of those 'write as you go' people. One of the reasons I write is that I want to see what happens next in my own stories.

richardshagrin

@oyster50

OK, one of the cats has to go. Probably the one that sits on the keyboard when you want to type.

Crumbly Writer

@oyster50

And yes, I'm one of those 'write as you go' people. One of the reasons I write is that I want to see what happens next in my own stories.

That's not uncommon. Most of us treat our stories like that. The difference (in writing out a full story), is that some of us like to revise the story once we know where the story is going, so we can foreshadow future events, and remove story elements which never get fully developed.

It's the revision process which strips out the extraneous text, making the story better (besides allowing more regularly postings).

There's no problem with working on multiple stories at once (Earnest does this all the time, and I typically am planning several stories while writing one and revising another). I was just detailing different techniques to overcome writer's block and an inability to focus.

@RicharShagrin

OK, one of the cats has to go. Probably the one that sits on the keyboard when you want to type.

I vote for the one who likes to bat your balls during sex.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

I vote for the one who likes to bat your balls during sex.


With or without claws?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

With or without claws?


It's the unfair dismissal penalty claws you have to watch out for.

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