1. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,032
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Location:
    A Place with no History

    General Writing Tips

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by A.M.P., Nov 25, 2013.

    This is just a post I'm writing out of tedium and procrastination.
    It'll be a compilation of good old fashioned writing advice for the new ones amongst us.

    Nothing here is a fact but my personal opinion and matters I've seen being agreed upon by many.
    So, take this with a grain of salt, and if you disagree or have other opinions or whatever, please post them below but do not argue with everyone.

    This is not meant to start fights about who's right or wrong.
    I cannot stress that enough.
    This is just tips that some new writers may find helpful.
    Feel free to dispute their validity with actual facts and examples and not-baseless arguments or "I read so and so in a book".
    No arguing, dammit!

    Those who know me will probably see familliar advice in here.

    *

    Rules of Writing

    1. Grammar
    2. See 1
    3. Anything but these are thumb rules.

    Everyone will say there are "rules" when it comes to writing and in a sense it is true.
    Many of you have probably Googled this and found a plethora of different answers.
    Most of these rules are to be taken by the thumb and not as a law.

    Except for grammar.
    Gotta have good old grammar.

    Even those who say that Character A needs to surmount obstacle A and B to reach goal A to make a proper story are full of it. Not all stories have conflict, in that sense, in them. You might recall hearing friends talking about books or movies where nothing happens and they hated it. Usually, that means the book wasn't about growth or conflict.

    Odds are you want to write fiction and more than likely something exciting and action packed.
    So, disregard the above.
    This was just a note that not all stories are the same at their basis and serve perhaps an alternative reason to exist than mere entertainment.


    How do I Learn to Write Better?

    1. Write, write, write
    2. Read, read, read
    3. Pick up books on writing, especially narrative and style.
    4. Join a writers group but do NOT partake, if possible, in peer reviews if the main body is but wanna-be writers who know as much as you do. If they're published or very experienced writers, than eagerly seek them out as they will have legitimate cultured insights.
    5. Critique the work of others. If you can spot things that don't work in someone else' work than odds are you'll be less likely to make them yourself or find them in your own writing. Interestingly, the more you grow, the more you will be able to spot in a critique. This can be a rough gauge on how much you're improving.



    I've Never Really Written Before...

    My advice, depending on age group and experience, is to start with fanfiction.
    The worlds are premade, the characters are premade, and the general workings of it all as well. That's three huge things you don't have to think about.
    As a new writer, you can focus on narrative and dialogue instead, which I find are often the weakest points most writers tend to have as they start out.
    Typically, a high school education will not prepare you for fiction writing outside of a few short stories they have you write to see your grammar more than anything else.

    Those with more experience, knowledge, or who feel brave enough, feel free to jump right into your favorite fiction genre. Start with simple stories and realize that odds are everything you write is nothing but exercise so don't plan your magnum opus just yet.

    Honestly, just begin to write, it's not scary.
    It's harder at first but it does get easier.

    Now, a lot of writers will advise picking up a copy or two of certain titles to help you learn.
    I highly agree.
    However, write a little short story first.
    Then, go ahead, read those books and see how a pro's advise reflects on your first attempt.
    Like this, you will have strong and personal examples on what to work on.


    I want to be the next Tolkien or Danielle Steel!

    I want to be a rockstar!
    I wanna be famous and adored!
    Good for you, now start working on it and hopefully you'll one day get lucky enough to be one of the few who break it so big.
    99% of it isn't talent.
    Too many amazing artists in any genre or workers in the big business world fail to scratch the floor of the top dogs. Not because they're doing something wrong but simply it takes luck and recognition to get there.

    If you doubt me, for some reason, look at all these idol TV shows or talent reality shows. So many amazing talents and voices that do not have platinum record deals while we watch at home wondering how some talentless hacks managed it and not them.

    But honestly, if you want to be famous, find another rocket to get there.
    Writing's infamy is a rather abstract concept than literal like the mainstream.
    Just a generalization though, some are rather popular in the mainstream.
    Like G. R. R. Martin ... he wrote the first book how long ago before it suddenly exploded?

    Fun fact: If you look at Steel's publications, she tends to write 2-3 books a year! Make what of that as you will.



    I Gots Difficults, With The GRammers...

    Oh, sweet silver skies...

    For whatever reason you have difficulties, bad schooling, 2nd-3rd language, simple ignorance, you have Google.

    Use it.
    Articles on basic grammar ABOUND the first dozen pages.
    If you need more advanced techniques, you have libraries filled with information.

    However, realize this: bad grammar will ruin you as a writer because no one will be able to stand reading your work.

    If English is not your primary or language of fluency, then write in whatever tongue you know best! You can always get a translator and retain publishing rights in "English" countries after publishing it in others language speaking countries.

    Yes, English will reach more readers but it might be just better to get a translator as a lot of personal expression and style may be lost in a language you aren't familiar in using.


    My Writing is Amazing, Why Can Only I See It?

    Because it's just you.
    Like hundreds of American Idol failures, you talk smack in front of the camera and yell "My momma says I'm the best and I'ma keep doing what I do's cuz I gots raw talent and the judges are too afraid to see it. What the fuck they know? I'm Lisa with two S' and you'll be hearing from me soon."

    I'd die of embarrassment if I was them.
    And good riddance.

    Odds are, you are not the wordsmith equivalent of Mozart's inner ear.
    If you are, well hot diggity.

    If you cannot learn that you ARE making bad choices in how, not what, but how you write then you will never grow as a writer and repeat the same mistakes that make readers pass over reading your work.

    This is where practice, educational books, and experienced readers (Beta Readers, Editors, other Authors) come in. They can help.

    Don't do the first thing they tell you to do but LISTEN.
    They aren't spouting words for no reason, they're trying to explain why this and that doesn't work.

    Your writing will evolve over the years, that's expected.
    It's a craft and perfection is a reflex not a skill.


    I've been told to change this and that...

    But you're not sure you want to.

    Good.
    Do not EVER change a single word just because someone told you to even if it comes from Stephen King himself!

    However, ask yourself some questions instead. Yay...

    Who told me to do so?
    A friend? A lover? An experienced reader? An acclaimed author?

    Game time: Which of these is most likely to know about what they are advising?

    Why should I?
    Have they shown me why it's wrong or needs changing?
    If yes; critical think about it.
    If no; probe them or try to figure it out (You won't always have the luxury of being given any reasoning)

    Do I agree or does it make sense?
    If you can't argue back with clear reasons based on facts and reality, then maybe you have to admit they have a point. There is no shame in it.
    Do not ever get defensive against a critique because you're trying to protect the originality and style (or your personal voice) because obviously the critique popped up for a reason. Sometimes, things have to change and you need to accept that.

    However, don't be afraid either to keep what you believe is right.
    You need to find the balance between giving in to professional advice and understanding there are no rules when it comes writing (aside #1).


    I Wrote THIS Many Words

    Good job.
    Now go back and edit the whole thing.
    Odds are, they'll be a trash full of cut phrases, shredded paragraphs, and burnt chapters.

    DO NOT EVER define your personal satisfaction, success, or whatever by how many words or pages you've written. They're meaningless. A 700 page book is no better or worse than a 100 page book. The story was told and well told. That's all that matters to a reader and it should be the same for you.

    The only time this should be a concern is when you have a strict limit.

    Now, don't fret if you can only write 200 words a day before getting exhausted.
    You'll eventually write faster and more and more each day with practice and perseverance.
    Writing is not about finishing a novel, but writing it.

    Also, do not worry about your chapters being short or your prose not withstanding the test of time. There is no set amount of quality required. Sometimes, it's on purpose and sometimes it just so happens that way.


    This Will Be My Epic Trilogy of 600 Pages Each!

    How many times do we hear about someone planning three books ahead when they have barely written chapter 1 and developed nearly nothing to get them that far?

    A trilogy isn't better than a story that flies solo.
    And a big book no better than a skinny one.

    Yes, you may think you've got something that big bubbling in your brain but until you got everything fleshed out odds are that will change and spouting it just makes you sound ignorant and useless dreamer.

    Start working on book 1 and see where it goes.
    Maybe it will end up being a trilogy.
    Maybe all that "filler" content you didn't plan yet won't actually happen.

    Book 1, chapter 1.
    That's your start and it's what you should focus on.


    When Should I Start Writing?

    Whenever, really.

    Some people get inspiration and ideas AS they write.
    Some need to look at art or listen to music.
    Some dream stuff up out of thin air.

    If you're in the mood to write then write!

    Of course, a bit of planning can't hurt or forethought after you edge back from the edge of your seat.

    Start with an idea and roll with it.
    You will learn how best you create a story as you try.

    World and Character Building

    In my story I want elves, dwarves, humans, dragons, dark evil overlords that had been dead for a thousand years but just came back after an evil summon ritual to take over the world. My character is a sexy 16 year old who's actually the child of a angel/demon/god and has red eyes with super powers and...

    HOLD IT!!!!

    Enough of that over the top Anime and cliche crap.
    It doesn't translate well in books.
    Cartoons and video games, sure, but NOT BOOKS!

    Sure, a good writer can make it work, but, trust me, he would not build it the way I just wrote it.

    Do not cram more things into the story than you need.
    Seriously, don't.
    It adds nothing as they aren't part of the story rendering them useless.

    World building is about knowing what you want to happen in the story.

    Let's say you want your atypical adventure novel with white knights and dark lords from Hell.

    A good question would be where did the bad guy come from and why?
    Then, how will the character save the world?
    An enchanted sword hidden in the cut-off Elven lands.
    But it needs reforging by a dwarven mastersmith.

    Okay, that's a start.
    You now have a use for the elves and dwarves.

    Now, what is the bad guy trying to do to win?
    Is he aware of the hero that will bring him down?
    Is he slowly poisoning the land with dark magic?
    Is reality collapsing unto itself?

    That's the threat factor.
    It will most likely somehow tie into why the main character goes on a quest to save the world.

    Now, why does this main character seem to be the chosen one who will bring back peace?

    And you keep going, building piece by piece how all the main events and characters intersect to create your story.

    Now, creating compelling characters isn't much different.

    A rule of thumb for me is to start with a quality and extrapolate it.
    Such as, if a character is meant to be loyal to the bone I will exaggerate it to the point it becomes somewhat problematic.

    Then you have to think why is he so loyal. He certainly wasn't born with the loyal cartilage fusing inside his soft and squishy body. There's a story there. A back story...

    Now you need characters to help, impede, and support the character. Maybe a love interest.
    You build them the same why giving them a reason to exist and building them according to the use in the story and their fictional environment.

    If they were born to a woodsman, odds are they'll knowledgeable about forests and be hardy.
    Royalty? Refined and collected in their thoughts.
    Street rat? Fearful and opportunistic.

    As you build your world, you'll find unique things such as naming, culture, the way people talk might pop into your head. Your characters will obviously need to reflect these changes as well.

    As you write and you tweak your world, so will your characters change.
    Don't forget them the characters aren't YOU. They are themselves and unique to wherever you decided to drop them.


    Magic Systems

    A big favorite of many.

    There are three types of magic systems that are commonly used these days.

    1. Mystical (Typically wielded by the baddies and supporting characters, it's shrouded in mystery. Think of how it was used in fables)
    2. Exploratory (Magic is more common but the rules are a flimsy at best)
    3. Refined (Magic has strict rules and very specific uses)

    Mystical magic would be like the story of Rumpelstilzskin or the Red Dwarf. It exists but isn't a tool that the character can use and often has to fight it. Also, Game of Thrones utilizes this.

    Exploratory would be akin to Harry Potter where the rules are never overly defined and sometimes even seem contradictory. Also, Sword of Truth series.

    Refined would be like The Black Prism series or any D&Desque games you may know.

    An important note would be to realize that a strong presence of magic in the world has obviously morphed it. It's not something that exists in a vacuum of space that some utilize but never actually affected the culture or the history of the world.

    It's the equivalent in terms of impact as science. It changes shit.

    Your story doesn't need magic to be epic.
    Use it as you see fit but remember that magic is a tool and NOT a solution.


    How to Start and End a Scene

    Readers, namely in fiction, read to be entertained.
    So, you want them to pull them into the story.

    Start your story as LATE as possible.
    No one cares about the mundane waking up routine of a character unless there's something very special or peculiar about it. Something HAS to happen.

    Same goes for Prologues, they are used to set up a mood or a flash of action and intrigue and inject it instantly. However, most stories can easily do without and prologues are there to look fancy.

    As the beginning of your scene, the reader, to be drawn in, needs to know who, what, and where.

    You don't have to state "Joan was outside attempting to break into a house."
    Being literal is boring for you and the reader.

    "The trimmed hedges of the estate rustled in the cold night breeze. It was one of those nights where a sense of foreboding loomed over any experienced thief and which he could not shake."

    So in that, reader knows they're outside, what time it is, that a home is being vandalized, a very rich home in fact, the character is a male and a thief, and that he is nervous or that shit is going to go wrong.

    There, boom, bang, readers is experiencing a story.

    You can dilute the information in a few paragraphs but if it's not there by the second page (Even that's a bit late) than you're doing it wrong. What possible thing of interest could there be that isn't related to what's actually happening that very second in the story?

    Now, to end the scene, is knowing the ending of your story.
    If you want your character to triumph over evil, ask how does this get him from point A to Z?
    Well, he gets caught by the owners, chased around town, and thrown in jail.
    He makes a buddy there that helps him breakout if helps with another heist.
    The victim of the heist so happens to be the owner of a priceless gems that just so happens to be needed to summon the evil overlord of doom.

    Okay, so this is how your scenes should end. Somehow getting A to B.


    Double Imagery

    Not a big thing here but some people don't realize they do it.

    You cannot describe the same thing twice and even less so in a different way.

    It will snap out the reader as he realizes he just imagined the same thing twice in different ways and just read something redundant which didn't even make any sense.

    "Sarah broke out of the water, her eyes red. As she came up for air, she blinked the water away."

    Wait.. she already broke out of the depths of the water so why is she again coming back up for air?

    Double imagery!

    *
    I think this is all my insights...
    At least, all I could think of at the moment.

    Hopefully some will find this helpful.



     
  2. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Hell of a monologue, Hal.

    [​IMG]
     
    GoldenGhost likes this.
  3. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,032
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Location:
    A Place with no History
    @Cogito
    What's the reference?

    And am I the deer with the bull's eye?
    Meaning I painted myself with it and I shouldn't be surprised at the sudden shotgun of argumentative posts?

    Damn, Cogito is deep.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    I didn't get his reference either. I appreciate your effort @A.M.P., even if I will have to read it later to comment more specifically. Sharing what we know is a good thing. :)
     
  5. ChaosReigns
    Offline

    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2013
    Messages:
    1,090
    Likes Received:
    455
    Location:
    Canterbury, Kent, United Kingdom
    @A.M.P. thanks for that post, i tell you what, there are certainly some things i can pull from there!
     
  6. stevesh
    Offline

    stevesh Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2008
    Messages:
    968
    Likes Received:
    646
    Location:
    Mid-Michigan USA
    This is probably the best post I've seen on a writing forum. Beginning writers should read and re-read it and pay particular attention to the first item: grammar. Almost all readers will stop reading your story after encountering a couple of grammar or spelling errors.

    <pet peeve>One way to practice good spelling and grammar habits is to follow those rules in all the writing you do, even in forums like this one. It amazes me to see how many writing forum members (not just this forum) seem to be incapable of constructing a simple forum post that doesn't contain some grammar or spelling error, and those of us here are people who want to publish their writing. ^^^^ Capitalization counts, too. </pet peeve> Sorry, I had to get that off my chest.
     
  7. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    ...'twould seem so...

    ...probably...

    ...as i see it, those who want to give advice to others on how to write well should make sure that what they've written on the subject doesn't contain grammar glitches and other flaws like the many that jumped out at me ,as i scanned your very lengthy post...

    Damn, Cogito is deep.

    ...yup!... [sometimes]
     
    GoldenGhost likes this.
  8. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,032
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Location:
    A Place with no History
    @ChaosReigns
    Glad you found something of use in that rambling :D

    @stevesh
    I always write as best as I can even while texting. It's more a force of habit than anything.
    Though, simple mistakes never jump out at me so I'm terrible at editing what I wrote.
     
  9. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    the vital importance of finding one's own mistakes with a careful proofread and being able to edit one's own work should certainly be included in any list of 'general writing tips' don't you think?

    and shouldn't those who hand out such tips be able to demonstrate that they can put them to good use in their own writings?

    would you respect the tips offered by a math professor, if the examples he included contained mathematical mistakes?
     
  10. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Do as I say, not as I do?
     
    A.M.P. likes this.
  11. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,804
    Likes Received:
    7,322
    Location:
    Scotland
    I enjoyed reading that, for various reasons...
     
  12. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,032
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Location:
    A Place with no History
    Yeah, I think advice and opinions are just as valid despite any mistake in their presentation.
    I'm not trying to convince anyone, just take it and go.

    Thank you? lol. :D
     
  13. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,804
    Likes Received:
    7,322
    Location:
    Scotland
    You're welcome, @A.M.P. I do love a good, solid rant! Some of your word choices were really funny ...Sweet Silver Skies. I had a chuckle at your tone throughout. With the exception of your stance on Prologues, I pretty much agree with most of what you said, as well. Nothing wrong with giving out your opinion in a way that makes people smile. You've put a few good ideas of your own into the mix of well-known tips, I suspect.

    One point you made I've not heard made before, but it makes sense. People who are not fluent English speakers should probably write in their native languages and get the whole thing translated later. People WITH perfect English struggle to get published. Why create another barrier? I always feel sorry for people who appear on this forum who can't write in English very well, and who are asking for help. I am so impressed with anybody who TRIES to write in a second language—and there are a few prominent members who do it extremely well indeed—but if you can't, you can't.

    Are you wearing your target t-shirt yet?
     
  14. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,032
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Location:
    A Place with no History
    @jannert
    Yeah, I see quite a.few.people. Here on the forums that aren't fluent in English but still.choose to write it. I think its good they are trying and learning but I believe myself that they'd learn more on writing.fiction get further along the process without the added difficulty of a new language.

    Actually, I don't.think I'll be needing it. No real sniping yet. :p

    btw, wrote this on my phone; forgive the extray.sprinkling of typos.
     
  15. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,804
    Likes Received:
    7,322
    Location:
    Scotland
    Dots, dots, I'm seeing dots...
     
    GoldenGhost likes this.
  16. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,032
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Location:
    A Place with no History
    I'm so sorry :(
     
  17. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    [​IMG]
     
  18. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,724
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    Now you're just being Wakko ...
     
    Šarraku and jannert like this.
  19. GoldenGhost
    Offline

    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2012
    Messages:
    505
    Likes Received:
    58
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Of course the advice can still be wise and valid, if the presentation has flaws.

    But let's be real, if I have a teacher showing me how to write while his prose and demonstrations are rife with mistakes (even the little ones), I'm going to be less likely to take him or her, and their advice, seriously.

    I can throw you all kinds of my regurgitations on buddhist philosophy, maybe even sound wise beyond my years and present to you an image that makes me seem as if I know what the fuck I'm talking about, but more than likely, the reality of the situation is, I'm talking about eg0-deflation and liberation from selfishness, while immersed in a self-absorbed and egotistical rant.

    Does that mean you should avoid taking chances, like you did with this post? Not at all. For me, I learn best when I'm attempting to teach people things, even things that may be wrong, and even if I make a ton of mistakes, because the amount of knowledge I lack and the mistakes become that much more apparent, and easier to correct.

    Yet when it comes to communicating things in a way that resembles absolute understanding, or concrete ways of doing things, I've always tried to make sure my understanding is pretty solid and fluent, before I characterize my information as such.

    The writing mantra show and tell, comes to mind...
     
    jannert and A.M.P. like this.
  20. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,032
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Location:
    A Place with no History
    @GoldenGhost
    Very true, maybe I should have worked on the post harder.
    I honestly just wanted to post this, thought about it all day at work (was very bored) and once I did it I was very satisfied.
    I'll try to work more next time around and resist the urge to post too soon ^.^
     
    jannert and GoldenGhost like this.
  21. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,804
    Likes Received:
    7,322
    Location:
    Scotland
    I agree with what @Wreybies said, but I did really enjoy your rant all the same. Lots of good ideas there, although there were a few that didn't work for me. Typos and other goofs? Well, yes. Keeps us humble, eh?
     

Share This Page