1. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    How do I take a step up?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by DefinitelyMaybe, Nov 9, 2015.

    My writing is inconsistent. Sometimes I'm happy with bits of my prose, but sometimes it's poor. Any story by me will have better bits and worse bits.

    What sort of things can I do in order to write stories with more consistency? I need to bring my A game to every line of whole stories.

    Editing doesn't do it. Continued editing doesn't improve the stories after a while.
     
  2. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    I assume this is your first draft. If so I wouldnt be TOO hard on yourself. Yes you want to write good stuff but remember that this is just one draft out of several so you will have a lot of chances to make what isn't so good, good. Also what is your writing process like? Are you working with a goal to get X amount of words done per day?
     
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  3. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    2 things I've always found helped:

    1. Read more
    2. Write more

    Seems simple, because it is, but I've yet to find any exercise or structure that works better for me. If you want to raise your game, just keep playing.
     
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  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    All I can advise is, write a lot. With NaNoWriMo, I've been forcing myself to write every day, though I've abandoned the word goal and am just doing "pieces" of writing. In nine days of writing and more than a dozen pieces, I've written one short piece that I'm quite pleased with, and one that I'm moderately pleased with. The other were just practice, and will mostly be thrown away. Edited to clarify: But I didn't KNOW that the good one was the good one, and the others were just practice, when I was writing them. I just hoped that one or more might be good.

    I've been reading Elizabeth Gilbert's book on creativity, and she is of the "butt in chair, and once in a while inspiration might visit you" mindset.

    I realize that you may not be talking about inspiration, but instead about writing quality. But for that, too, I would advise, "Write a lot."
     
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  5. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks very much for the replies.

    I'm not writing a novel, I'm writing very short fiction. Hence, I am writing, rewriting, and rewriting again, quite a bit of stuff. I don't have a word count target per day. I typically write fiction from 100 words to about 1500 words.

    My goal was originally to submit a lot, which I have done. And I intend to keep on doing that. I think that the bits I get right are OK, but there are flaws in my stories that I can't fix.

    I'm reading a lot. There are certain places that I would like to target in the future, and I read everything they publish. I'm also writing a lot. But recently it seems to me that I'm producing plenty of material, but it isn't improving much. The improvements I make are fixing obvious problems, e.g. over-use of adverbs, etc. In hindsight, I think that my improvements have been that I'm producing stuff of the same quality, quicker. But what I need is to produce more professional quality prose.

    I'm writing a lot. But if I slow down, the quality doesn't really improve. It's getting beyond the patchiness that I'm having difficulty with.
     
  6. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't want to join the chorus here - but part of it is to keep writing. The more you write, the better you will get at writing. It's like any other skill - practice, practice, practice.

    Also, find other writers and get feedback from them before you decide anything is "bad". There is definitely such a thing as bad writing, but it's impossible to judge your own stuff (the stuff you hate is never as bad as you think, and the stuff you love is rarely as good as you think).
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2015
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  7. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that an important part of improving my writing is to identify to what degree and in what ways I am deluded. Your 'it's impossible to judge your own stuff' is part of that.
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Another thought: You say that editing doesn't help after a certain point. Is it possible that you need to edit more ruthlessly? Or maybe that you're in a sort of plateau, having trouble recognizing the next area that needs improvement? Or maybe try some purely artificial editing games, like forcing yourself to cut the word count by fifty percent? Maybe you just need some kick to get your thinking shifted and back on the road to change and improvement.

    If you haven't been submitting to the Review Room, you could try submitting a few pieces.
     
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  9. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have been submitting to the review room. The feedback is useful, but it is a skill to make use of it. Which I'm not sure I can do particularly well yet.
     
  10. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    In my experience that also requires practice. And honestly I find myself implementing suggestions more in future writing than whatever piece people were commenting on. Granted, I'm doing a first novel so my revision pass hasn't even started (that's going to be a mess).

    Another thing you might do, if you're not already, is make sure you do more critiquing of other people's work. That helps you articulate what does and doesn't work, and why - then later you can catch yourself if you're making the same mistakes you call other people on. You also learn new ways of doing things, and sometimes find that other people stumble on things that you didn't even realize were possible stumbling blocks. I think I probably learn more about writing from critiquing other writers than I do from any of my own stuff.
     
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  11. ReproveTheCurlew
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    ReproveTheCurlew Member

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    As the others have suggested, I believe practicing editing might be what you need most. Personally, I am rubbish at it, but if you just force yourself to do some basic edits you should get into it, I suppose, like cutting down the word count, completely rewriting sentences which don't work and things like that. Other than that, the only thing worthwhile is writing and reading masses of material. Practicing analysing and critiquing other people's work also really, really helps, as Lemming pointed out. Learn to get deeply involved with other people's material, then you'll get an eye for what you should avoid in your own writing.

    All the best
    Reprove
     
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  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    For myself, I've largely abandoned the idea of steps up. Not because I don't want to improve, or don't think/hope I can, but because I don't think it's the right metaphor for writing. At least for me.

    I think when you're an absolute beginner, there actually are steps. You understand general plot structure. Huge step. You figure out the basics of POV, verb tense, dialogue attribution, or whatever else, and each one is a huge step. Totally clear that you've made an improvement.

    But once you get past the really basic skills, I think the steps get a lot harder to see, if they exist at all. Partly, I think, because you start getting into things that are subjective. Pretty much everyone can agree that a piece of writing that has none of the basics figured out is not good writing. But once you're reasonably solid on the basics, it's harder to be sure what improvement really is.

    There isn't one fixed target of "publishable writing" that we can all work toward. There are dozens of targets, or more, and the bastards are moving around all the time. So what's right for one genre or market at one time won't be at all right for another genre or market or at another time. What's right for one author, with one style, won't be right for another author with another style. If you put all the variables together you don't get a nice two-dimensional graph with a staircase of gradual improvement toward perfection, you get a three- or even four-dimensional monstrosity, with hundreds of data points and varying scales and fluctuating targets and... and, hopefully, you get a general trend of moving your data points closer to whatever your target of the moment is.

    So, I'm not saying there aren't things you could be doing to improve your writing, by whatever standard. Reading, writing, critiquing, getting critiqued, exhaustive self-reflection--it's all good. But I'd also say that you may drive yourself to distraction if you spend too much time trying to climb stairs that aren't really there.

    (Was that a bit too much? I do like to milk a metaphor completely dry...)
     
  13. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    For sure! I am constantly reading and I especially read the genre that I am currently writing so when i hit a point that I just can't write well anymore, i take a break and I read or do something else other than write, then I come back and hour later and continue. this helps.
     
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  14. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would also recommend critiquing other works on a regular basis, if you aren't already, and even if you don't post them. You aren't attached in any way to other writers' words, so you can be a lot more liberal in editing. But the more you do that kind of editing, the more comfortable you become applying it to your own work. At least, that's how it went for me.
     
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  15. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I critique, in my head at least, a lot of works that are published. I'm trying to understand more about what it is that makes them publishable, while the overwhelming majority what I write isn't. I can see some things, and I must admit that I think that getting the language and imagery right is probably more important than having the world's best and/or most original idea. At least, that's what I think. But, I could be utterly deluded as to the quality of my ideas.
     
  16. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    I would get proficient in one model of storytelling and practice, practice, practice. The journey model works for me: read thewritersjourney.com and kalbashir.com
     
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  17. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    1. Write your critiques out.
    2. You're not deluded at all, you need practice. All critiques are of equal weight if offered constructively.
    3. You need to know what works for YOU, not just what works in some objective sense.
    4. Critique stuff that ISN'T published - there's more mistakes in first drafts. Learn what those mistakes are so that you don't make them. You can only get that experience by critiquing other people's unfinished stuff.
    5. From a totally self-serving point of view, people will be more likely to critique your stuff if you critique them in return.
    6. Look up some proper critiquing technique in advance so you know what to offer (not hard).
    7. Join an in-person writing group if you can. You get a higher level of commitment and support in real life compared to online. Nothing against online groups but it really helps to have writing friends who get to know each other and have a glass of wine and critique on a weekly basis. Friends invest in each other.
     
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  18. Nym P. Seudo
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    Nym P. Seudo Member

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    Writing is strange. So many people pursue it that distinguishing yourself as above average seems like a borderline impossible task. The simple fact of the matter is that being good at anything, no matter what it is, takes an exceptional amount of time. I'm in the same camp as the hat man. Read more. Write more.
     
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  19. pyroglyphian
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    pyroglyphian Member

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    I think an important part of improving at anything is to seek enjoyment in it. Play, we've discovered, is a child's way of learning; it's no less true for adults. Sometimes it's good to forget the destination and just enjoy the journey.
     
  20. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think things definitely work better when I'm playing. Some of the things I'm happiest with have been written in forum threads, rather than being things written for publication.

    Recently I subscribed to an online critique thing. They send you work to critique in the post, but it's different from here. Some rather odd things are sitting in my mailbox waiting for me to critique them. I'm going to give one of them a go now.
     
  21. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I've learned the most from critiquing and being critiqued. I'm getting much better at identifying what's wrong with my writing, which is the biggest hurdle to overcome IMO. Most competent writers can fix problems easily once they know they're there, and understand why they're problems.
     
  22. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    Sounds to me like you need fresh eyes on your story . . . a new perspective. You don't seem to have found what works for you or the masses. Post a scene. Notice I didn't say post a "chapter." Post a scene and get feedback. There are times that we are too critical of our work. Fresh eyes will either confirm the problem or dismiss it as oversensitivity.

    Hope that helps.
     
  23. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Here's some things I do -
    1. Let my writing sit a bit before editing.
    2. Keep notes when I critique others to examine why & how, I believe, they blew it.
    3. Read poetry - it helps condense my prose & capture emotion and tone
    4. Look at pictures on ebay & pinterest & any where on the computer - seeing all those shapes and items helps me make fresher connections for metaphors.
    5. Be more observant in my daily life - take notes.
    6. Sharpen what I'm good at - if I can never fix what I'm lacking in at least what I'm good at will shine
    7. Access where I'm lacking, usually it's a matter of meaning. I try to unpack a scene - even a sentence - and get to the nitty gritty emotion/tone. Sometimes words must be shoved aside and I need to refresh myself on what I was going for. Meaning gets lost sometimes in trying to over manage it.
    8. Eliminate micromanaged movements, heighten fresh details.
    9. Read every author I admire.
    10. Look at art - it's inspiring to see others revealing their style.

    I.e. this isn't a recipe for success. I don't know if anyone can force their writing to the next level.
    What you want to do mainly is to recognize your own style and sharpen it. Your good points.
     
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