1. Taillin
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    Taillin Member

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    Am I not the right kind of person for this sort of thing?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Taillin, Nov 2, 2013.

    Am I not the right kind of person for this sort of thing?

    I’m asking specifically about writing, this is specific to really what it takes to be a writer and I apologize for the posts length. I have a lot of problems with the way I write though I know there isn’t a ‘how-to’ guide, I guess I just feel like I’m missing something. I know I certainly feel less professional.

    A lot of the people of these forums talk about things like research, having multiple drafts, mentally visualizing their characters like real people and their ability to put a lot of words to paper in a day (this doesn’t so much bother me).

    I’m not a person for research unless it’s given me an idea which I’ve gotten from things on everything from Deviantart to Wikipedia. A ‘problem’ I have is that most of my writing is based on things I adapt and change. These sources usually are movies, video games, anime etc. I find a story I really like and try to make it my own. These written works taking the form of fan fiction, or alternate inspired works. Most of my work feels like parody which makes me scared to share it because either the ‘Simpsons did it’ kind of thing or the fact that it may not feel like it’s completely mine. An example would be that after seeing Captain Phillips I might come up with a similar story: inspired by current events I guess.

    A lot of my writing is what I will call ‘Planned’. I will come up with a character/cast, a list of detailed events that I want to happen over the course of the story (usually detailed important events or conclusions/developments and endings. I really like this because character development is really important to me and it lets me lay it out. I could guarantee you that for 90% of my stories I could sales pitch you what important things happen (in great detail) and why. I always have my beginning, my middle and my end. Now, though I have that foundation I can’t go any further. I cannot fill pages beyond my plans or exerts I write for those important events.

    I find that most of my writing is really just a ‘plan’ I want character X to have the following things happen to him/her in vivid detail and why those events are important and how they ultimately change. I can pitch ideas like that to you in person but when I try to sit down and write it I never fill pages.

    The above really frustrates me because I get those creative feelings running and bam, gone after that writing session, won’t touch the story again. They just sit on paper.

    Also: is there a difference between writing on a chapter basis as opposed to an episodic basis?

    Now I’ve been told a variety of things to do with this ranging from the fact that “you (I) am not actually creative” to the fact that my writing seems like a general rulebook for a TV/game series in the sense that I’d list what has to happen in a season and then scriptwriters do the actual episodes.

    I know this is taking the easy way out (and I’d never do it) but I wish I could sell my ideas to authors to write because I feel like I can’t make the ‘filler’. I realize how ludicrous that is because the filler is the actual piece of work, the book itself.


    I don’t think I’m a bad writer because of my creativity because I think I have good quality ideas, I don’t think my writing style, word use or any other writing element is lacking, though I always strive to improve it. What I don’t know is what I’m cut out for because I never get beyond that first session.


    Can you please give me your thoughts, questions or solutions? I'd love to see if there's anyone else who either feels the same way or grasps how aggravating it is
     
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  2. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Everybody and their mice think they have good, creative ideas. How creative are yours if they are borrowed from video games and anime, like you say? But that doesn't matter, we all get inspired in some way by popular entertainment, and anybody would be a fool to deny it.

    The thing about putting it down--downtown on the ol' paper shop--is that there are millions of holes everywhere, and it is painful to fill them. But it must be done; a synopsis on its own is worth nothing. I feel your pain, though. When I was fourteen, I tried to write something, and stopped after the intro. Again at fifteen. And sixteen. Always failure. But this year, this time, it's different. I've been really putting words down and building MRUs like a madman. I suggest hat you read lots of books, maybe even some on the craft itself, and try to write something every now and then. There is a certain monkey-see-monkey-do level to writing that most people don't talk about, because they don't even notice its existence. I can see from how you write that you have stories you want to tell. That drive doesn't go away, it gnaws and gnaws until you find a way to get it out. So never say never, just give it a go here and there.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2013
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  3. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    Why do you write? And more importantly why do you want to write?
    If you're writing because you want to be a writer rather than you want to/need to write, then perhaps you're not the right kind of person.

    The necessity of research depends on what you're writing and how realistic you want it to be. If you're writing within your own experiences research probably isn't necessary, however when writing about things you've never experienced and striving for realism research becomes far more necessary.

    I don't know what you expect but first drafts are only the basis, you cannot have good writing without drafting. If by some fluke you're writing is amazing on the first draft, drafting will make it even better. Drafting is a crucial part of the writing process. Trying to get everything perfect first time around could be holding you back. Just write it doesn't need to be perfect right away.

    Characters need to be believable. Stick figures are not believable. Characters don't need to be fully formed and four dimensional before you set pen to paper but developing characters is another integral part of writing. You need to know them and how they'd react.

    As for original ideas it depends on why you're writing. I'm influenced by ideas from everywhere but these ideas do not define my writing. Being inspired by elements of media isn't a bad thing but slightly tweaking a story isn't good for anything beyond writing uncreative fan fics.

    I used to have a lot of trouble sticking with anything for more than 1000 words or so.

    Take the story idea I had when I was a kid. I always wanted to write this story. Over a lot of years I modified the idea so it wasn't entirely like something an eight year old would spit out but other than having the story become more mature I didn't cut anything out from the story. It ended up as a massive blob trying to contain every creative idea I ever had. Whenever I tried to write it I would just get overwhelmed and barely make 500 words. In the end since I couldn't bare to scrap an idea I was so invested in I stripped it down to the bare essentials, leaving myself with little more than the antagonist and protagonist. As soon as I took this I had the basis for a story I could write.

    I also used to be really into writing one project and then I'd get a new idea and start planning that etc, starting a cycle. I'd end up wasting so much time on stories I'd only be interested in for anywhere from a few hours to a week and having literally no ideas I'd stick with. Most of these ideas didn't get beyond the planning stage. because my enthusiasm ran out. Now if I'm inspired by something I try to see where it fits, is it a whole new idea, can I work it into this project? Then, this probably seems silly, I do nothing. The ideas I'm not really passionate about I'll forget within a few days but with the ideas I am passionate about I'll actually have a better idea from trying to ignore the idea for a week than spending an afternoon planning it all out and getting it out of my system.

    If you find yourself planning a lot and not going anywhere then stop. Get inspired and jump in with the bare minimum. The only wrong way to write is to keep on doing things that don't work. (not just for you, for the readers, publishers etc.)

    Don't try to write too big. If you're inspired with a character don't fit them into a series, fit them into a scenario and see that leads.
     
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  4. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    If you truly believe the will is there, my suggestion would be to change tack. Go about it in ways that don't come naturally. You've said yourself, the way you are going about now it isn't working. I've had these problems, they can be worked around. I'm not there yet, but I can tell my experimentation is taking me in the right direction.

    I tend to work jigsaw fashion. I have my initial characterisations, my locations, an over-arcing theme. Then I just play about about writing up ideas, starting to fill out the corners and the outer edges. As I do this, little by little, the overall picture starts to become more apparent. It can be a little discouraging sometimes, when I'm staring at a piece, but I'm not sure where to place it. Sometimes it makes me think that what I've written is useless, but it's just that I'm not seeing it in context.

    I find this interesting. You say character development is important to you, but it strikes me that by planning events so rigidly, you are limiting yourself. You are giving yourself, and your characters, a helluva lot of dots to connect. I've been there, it ends up discouraging, intimidating, and seriously has me scratching my head not knowing where to go next. I don't know how others do it, but I give my characters space to do their own thing. I try not to overly handle them in that respect, I grow into them. There's no greater joy to me, than when I get a flow going, and my characters as good as write the scenes all by themselves. Because these scenes and situations are truly character driven, they start providing the dots rather than having to go on a trek to find them.

    Personally, I work better when I let the story reveal itself, rather than attempt to rigidly tell it. But that's just me. ;)
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2013
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  5. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Like Obsidian, it strikes me that your biggest problem seems to be character development. Look through the threads on that topic and see if you can flesh out some characters -- totally unrelated to the preplanned plot you've designed for them. See where that takes you.

    And as far as research, that really depends. You might need very little research. And research doesn't necessarily mean hours and hours in a library or traveling on a plane and investigating something personally. It might be something as simple as a google search, to find out how a city your character visits is laid out. Or what big tourist attractions or types of food are common in Vietnam, because one of your characters visited that country. Or how long a disease might take to kill a character. The answer to a question you might want to research may only take five minutes. It's also possible you might not need any research.
     
  6. Taillin
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    Taillin Member

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    Thanks for the responses guys. Many people I've talked to in the past 'scold' me for getting ahead of myself like finding endings etc far before I get into the story.

    Thank you everyone for your input I'll try a bunch of the things you've advised :)
     
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  7. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    According to some people around here, there's several that must be read at all costs...
     
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  8. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    At 25, some life experience and exposure to quality literature should already be providing you with more to go on than simply adapting ideas from movies, anime, and video games.

    The very fact that you asked this question tells me you're not just content with being a viewer. You'd like to create. However....reread what you wrote. If you were thinking about trying out for the basketball team, I'd say you've been eating too much potato chips, and it shows in your lack of energy.

    Get in shape, first.

    Based on personal experience, for whatever its worth, it sounds like based on where you are, to get to where even a decent majority of posters here are (and I'm referring of course to their excerpts in the workshop) its going to take you at least 12 months of hard work.
     
  9. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    That's because ideas are easy. The story may be razor sharp in your head. But once you have it you face several problems:

    We can't just tell the story aloud and record the words because that kind of storytelling is a performance art. As you read the result you know where to pause for emphasis, whisper, shout, change the delivery or modulation to add emotion. You know when and how to visually punctuate via gesture, use expression to illustrate emotion, etc. So, you can add the necessary emotion to the words as you read. But the emotion isn't inherent to the words, and a reader can't either hear or see you as they read those words, which means te emotion will be missing.

    And we can't use the report and essay writing skills we learned as part of the general skill called writing, because that's a nonfiction technique.

    What that means is that we need to use other techniques that are better suited to, and developed for, fiction for the printed word.

    You're right. There aren't because there is no set of rules to writing fiction. But there are books that can give you a better understanding of the problems and how others have solved them. If we don't know how to provide context for the reader, as part of what they read, for example, our reader won't have it and the story falls flat.

    Think in terms of tools. Sculptors use the same tools to remove stone in the way needed for the task at hand, be it delicate or "grab the sledge and whack away" violent. But how they use those tools defines their personal stye. And what they use them to create defines their creativity and visualization—things unique to that artist.

    But if you and I decide to become a sculptor without learning the craft that's been developed over the centuries we're in the position of owning stone-age tools and trying to build a computer. We can always decid not to use a given tool. We can reshape a tool to fit our needs. But how can we use the tool we don't even know exists? How can we ask questions when we don't recognize that there is a problem?

    So keep writing and planning, by all means. It keeps us off the streets at night. But at the same time, take advantage of the advances made by the thousands who have gone before.

    You might be interested in this article on scenes, and this one on how to place the reader on the scene in real time. They can be a little like trying to take a small sip from a firehose, but chew on them for a bit and they may give you a better idea of how to organize and present your story ideas.
     
  10. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    It's funny to me you choose to use that analogy. I was discussing process the other day, and I chose to use one myself. I didn't think in terms of sculpting using stone or marble. I thought more along the lines of moulding clay. Sculpting in stone, you start with a large mass and you chip away at it. For a beginner, or someone who has little experience, that big block is intimidating.

    Sculpting with clay is different. You start with a malleable mass. I think of the clay as everything I've ever been told or read on the subject of writing. Some of it might not be necessary, but it's good to have it to hand nonetheless. Then I take small handfuls of what I've learned and start to build something new from it. It takes time, and gradual application, but the sculpture will start taking shape. You'll find some techniques will further your ends better than others, but that's not to say that you shouldn't know them anyway.

    I'm still green as a sprout. For me, it's a never ending quest to 'get it right'. Yes, it can be hard going, frustrating, time consuming sometimes, but lets not forget the joy it can bring too. It's as much a trial as you chose to make it. You can guarantee for every time you trip and fall, countless others have done the same. There are precious few people so naturally gifted that they inherently know how to avoid the pitfalls. It's an acquired skill. For the rest of us mere mortals, it takes time and and a willingness to learn.

    How many times have I asked myself the same thing? I just turn that question around. Why shouldn't I be the right kind of person for this thing? I might not have been to start with, but every little piece of information, and good advice is playing its part in making me the kind of writer I want to be.

    Back to the clay analogy. I'm not just learning to mould my stories. I'm learning how to mould myself into someone who thinks like a writer.

    Like I said up thread, I do think this might be your particular stumbling block. It's a good that you have a potential end in mind. I just think you need to become a little more flexible in your approach. There are many routes you can take to get to the same place. A-B, will get you there faster, but sometimes taking a little diversion can reap benefits. It's only once you start writing that you realise what needs to be done. You need to have something down before you can start to understand where your work is lacking, or for that matter to start recognising your strengths. If you only see your failings, you'll get discouraged and down tools.

    As it stands, I'd say that's a fair assessment. I'm not being mean, I promise you. At the moment your mental creativity is counting for nothing because you can't get your ideas down. You are a thinker, not a doer. But, that's fine. At least you are starting to realise what is holding you back. And now you've identified the problem, you can start figuring out ways around it.
     
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  11. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    With writing, just like with everything else, the best way is to 'fake it 'till you make it'. Don't analyse your beginner ways of doing things, and take them as 'this is the way I do things'. This is the way an inexperienced you does things,because you don't yet know how to do things differently or better.

    Think about what kind of writer you want to be, how you wish you could do things, and then do them. In the beginning, everything you write will seem ridiculous, or at least not up to par. But here and there you'll surprise yourself with an interesting way of saying things. This means that you have a writer in you after all. Keep going. It takes a million words before you can confidently write something others will enjoy reading. Everyone has to go through that learning curve. If you persevere, you'll get there.
     
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  12. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Finding an ending before the story is fine, in my opinion. Be careful there that you don't think there's only one way to get a story down. Some people work from A-Z (eg. beginning to end), others write notes and jump between scenes and only later figure out how to connect them all. Still others plan in detail from chapter to chapter. Yet others just write without planning whatsoever and just throw in whatever they fancy, worrying about the loose ends later. Having an ending can be a very good thing - it gives you direction, and it makes editing and deleting things a lot easier because you know what your story must achieve.

    I'd say detailed events, however, is not character development. Character development is in how your character grows from the events, and the truth is, sometimes the growth is not as you have planned. I'd suggest you try writing some dialogue for your characters - you have your events, after all. How would the dialogue between characters go in the situation? Dialogue can shift really fast and then you can see how your characters will actually grow. The planning part is like the gardener planting something. When the plant actually grows, you need to let the plant go where it may, to a certain extent. Don't push something so hard that you end up suffocating it. Have your plan, but let it breathe, give it room to move, to change. Dead things don't move and change. Living things do.

    I'd say you are creative - you've got tonnes of ideas going. But maybe your method doesn't actually fit you as much as you think. Maybe your problem is thinking too much about it. Sometimes that can cause a block as much as anything. I've had scenes where the entire thing - all 1000-2000 words of it - was completely stilted because I was trying too hard to push it in the way that I want it to go, or feel that it should go. When I deleted the whole thing and just "let it go" - a sort of come what may attitude and nevermind if it's utter bull - usually it comes like magic and the scene is pretty good.

    Confidence is really half the battle. Write with the belief that you're excellent, and actually that will carry you through. A certain measure of self-belief is healthy, and especially when you're just starting, you need to believe you're good enough for this. You'll wreck your own stories and dreams if you don't. The truth is, as with any art, you need to learn, to train, to practise - LOTS - before your work will be truly presentable. And then the professional standard is yet another tier. It's not possible to start out writing like a pro. You'll write crap, lots of crap, before you can get there. But here's the thing, if you believe it's all utter crap, you'll just be too discourage to carry on before you get there.

    So, while listening to criticism and realising there're always things to improve, also realise that you have talent - you have potential - you just need to polish it, that's all. It's ok if it's crap because that's not where you'll stay as long as you keep writing. Believe that you're good, and that one day you'll be so good that people will pay to read your work. Believe in that. You have time enough to get really critical of all your work later! We are often our own harshest critics.
     
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  13. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    I have to disagree. There is no other profession I know where that would work. Design computers without knowing Boolean Algebra and logic design? Hell no. Plumbing? High wire walking? Race car driver?

    Every profession has its craft—the things that aren't apparent by viewing the end product, the tricks-of-the-trade, and more. I've watched films and TV for seventy years, but I'll be damned if I know how to direct one, or write a script. I've been eating out for that long, but it didn't teach me how to use a chef's knife or how to prepare The Trinity, of Cajun cooking. So why would reading novels teach me to write them? And why would simply trying to write, endlessly, give me those secrets? Won't it be more like casting bad habits into concrete? Seems to me that avoiding those bad habits in the first place makes more sense. After all, the history classes we took didn't make us historians, not our math classes a mathematician. Is it reasonable that the general skill called writing that we're taught there is universal to screenwriting, journalism, tech-writing, and fiction, with no additional specialized knowledge needed?

    We all love to read. We all are sincere and dedicated when it comes to writing. So what? If we want people to see us as serious writers we need to do more then be known for not smiling. We need to find mentors, even if those mentors are dead people who speak to us and impart their wisdom via the printed word. We need to take steps to dig out what the editors we plan to submit to look at as "good writing." We're the supplicant's remember, and it's their football, so they write the rulebook. Doesn't it make sense to at least read it?
     
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  14. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @JayG: Erm, every writer already has the prerequisite knowledge, ie. they know how to write. You trying to direct a film, you don't have prerequisite knowledge so you cannot compare the two, it's not the right analogy.

    To give you an example with being a doctor, and it's the same with any other chosen career in the beginning. During medical school, you learn all these facts, practice mock consultations, mock drug chart writing, assisting in the theatre even having your own mock patients, but everything you do is supervised and not real. In a sense, this is 'fake it till you make it' style of education anyway.

    But it goes even further. There you are, your first day at work. The safety net is gone, everyone is looking to you for decisions, and you are screaming deep inside. You don't really know how to be a doctor yet, you have some idea of it, you've been 'faking it' in med school long enough, but it takes you at least three to six months of actually working as a doctor, to become confident in managing any condition job throws at you. During those six months, you feel like a bit of a fraud, but you can't go around all insecure, that just wouldn't do. So you 'fake it 'till you make it' so to say. I am certain every other profession, post-University, is the same.
     
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  15. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    Even in fast-food jobs you have to fake it for awhile. People aren't born knowing how to deal with tills and stuff and there might be someone helping you but sooner or later they throw you into the deep end.
     
  16. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    @EllBeEss At Hardee's they just threw me in the deep end. Nobody showed me much of anything other than what a few dated "educational" videos showed told me (which, according to management was the WRONG way to do it anyway.) Hell if I knew how to assemble a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast biscuit when I got there, but when the place gets swamped you have to learn on the fly, often times by just watching what others are doing and trying to emulate it the best you can. Or pulling out a pile of ingredients that look right and praying you put them together right.

    Sound familiar?
     
  17. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    Yeah. Very. When i worked at KFC it was literally this is the till, "next please" and then everyone disappeared.
     
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  18. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    Jazzabel, Hi there, I looked up write on my pop up dictionary and if you mean that writers can 1 mark (letters, words, or other symbols) on a surface, typically paper, with a pen, pencil, or similar implement : he wrote his name on the paper. Then I would agree with you, but if you mean to say they can all; 3 compose (a text or work) for written or printed reproduction or publication; put into literary form and set down in writing, then I would say you are wrong.

    For the record, I can't write, but I can read and I can tell you that the OP will have a difficult time writing with his current set of skills.

    JayG is a very smart man with sage advice.
     
  19. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Most people aren't aware of it, but public schooling was established during the industrial revolution because employers had no reliable source of new employees who could read, write, and do simple math. As a result they were forced to train them, themselves. So from that time, the primary focus of public schooling has been training people to be useful adults with the necessary skills to provide employers with a labor pool of new hires with a predictable and useful skill set. In other words, the traditional three Rs: read'n, writ'n, and 'rithmatic.

    After all, what kind of writing do people do on the job? Almost universally, it's author-centric, fact-based, and dispassionate nonfiction: reports, essays, and letters—writing meant to inform.

    And what's the goal of fiction? To entertain. To stir the emotions of the reader. See the problem? That requires a character-centric and emotion-based approach to writing. Not only is it not taught, we're not even told it exists.

    No. We do not learn to write in our primary education. We learn a set of general skills adequate for beginners learning a trade of profession. Your history classes didn't make you a historian, nor math classes make you a mathematician. If the writing we learn in English class made us writers most of the new members of the writing profession would be new high school grads. But there are damn few eighteen year old best selling writers throughout history. And they certainly wouldn't offer four year majors in commercial fiction writing if the skills they teach weren't necessary.

    Face it. If it was a matter of some magical ability that's innate within us you're screwed because you're not yet published, in spite of knowing all you need know. We all are.

    But you're not, and the good news is that the compositional techniques of the professional writing fiction for the printed word are no harder to learn than those of nonfiction. So if you take the step of learning the specialized knowledge and the tricks-of-the-trade of the fiction writer you stand as good a chance of success as anyone else.

    When you submit your writing your competition—and there are at least a thousand others vying for that publishing slot—includes people who have been honing their skills for decades. Many have been mentored by a successful writer. Many more have chewed their way through the library's shelf of fiction writing books. Some have attended writers retreats and attended conventions. Does it make sense to enter such a competition with the attitude: "Well, we all learned how to write so there's nothing else to learn, there."?

    Why not? You believe you can learn to write fiction with no more specialized knowledge than the reading we all learn coupled with reading novels. Why should directing be different? Didn't we learn how such stories are structured and the approach to use by viewing? And how about script writing. If writing is writing, and you've watched TV and film, why doesn't it apply? Why aren't you ready to write for the press? Could it not be that there are a few tricks that the pros take for granted that we didn't learn in English class or by reading? Given the number of writers called "no talent hacks," it seems there might be.

    Any profession has its specialized knowledge, things that aren't obvious till they're pointed out. Every profession has things that will not make sense till after you learn them and place them into use. Writing fiction is no different. One of the basics—something we're not told in English class—is that on entering any scene, the reader wants to know three things quickly in order to have context: Where am I in time and space? What's going on? Whose skin am I wearing?

    Those points aren't obvious, as can be seen by the majority of postings on any writer's site. But if we already know how to write...

    It would be truly wonderful if we could achieve competency simply because we work hard and have a pure heart. We all, after all, deserve to be successful. But this site, like so many others is filled with nice hardworking people who sincerely want to please readers with their story. They all believe in their stories, and they've all put so much of themselves into them that it hurts when people even suggest that they might be flawed. But in the real world, of every one hundred submissions to the average acquiring editor/agent, they call 75% unreadable because they're still using those writing skills we're given in school. And of the rest all but three are viewed as amateur (their term, not mine) So obviously, what we call writing doesn't mateh up with what the publishing industry calls writing. If you haven't yet read it, look at this excerpt from, How to Murder Your Mystery. Read the editors comments quoted, and see what he has to say about how editors feel about our work.

    Sorry to be so long winded about this, but our teachers giving us the impression that writing is writing, and that we already know all we need know, is the single largest obstacle we face when we turn to writing. I saw it at work in over 95% of the submissions to my manuscript critiquing service. And it is, quite literally, a career killer.
     

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