1. Basic
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    Basic New Member

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    I Want To Be A Writer.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Basic, Jun 27, 2010.

    I know saying "I want to be a writer" sounds both cocky and bold, but as I begin my career at twenty years of age as a computer scientist, I yearn to not give up on my budding aspiration to be a writer! However, it is not in anyway a reality. I've spent most my childhood focusing on math, music, and computers, with English being a side-note when included. The closest I passed on writing is some positive feedback during creative exercises, while slacking off on reading catching only "The Catcher In The Rye", and a few classics on my own time (Dante's Inferno, 1984, Farenheit 451, The Metamorphosis, and for laughs 100 Years of Solitude). However, I am willing to accept a double burden and learn how to write... but how in the world can I start at 20 years of age? Everywhere I go, people seem to tell me things such about letting the creative juices flow, and just expressing how I see things. As a math-oriented person, this sounds like a bunch of garble by people who believe that anyone with a pen can write a novel. I do not believe this! I am certain there must be a way to orient your mind to the language and consistencies of assembling a novel. If you can start learning computer programming languages like Basic and HTML and advance to JavaScript and C++, surely there is a basic beginning point for someone who wants to someday become a writer, even if the ends are ten years of preparation down the line! Where do I seriously and honestly begin?

    I apologize in advance for interrupting any advanced literary talk which is occurring on this forum, as well as for my tone. I did warn you it would be bold and cocky though.
     
  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Basic,

    It has been many, many years since I've done any programming (does Pascal and COBOL provide a hint?).

    However there isn't a 'formula' that works for writing in the specific scene. There are those that ascribe to the Scene-Sequel setup, for example, but it is not so much assembling parts or a particular order.

    There are components that are required. Reading, especially but not exclusively in the area/genre you hope to write, will give examples of what works.

    There are subtleties such as pacing, effective characterization, foreshadowing, even symbolism, etc., that go along with the more solid components such as setting, conflict, theme, among many.

    Writing dialogue is more than just getting the words in, and the proper punctuation for the dialogue tags. Describing a scene or action, balancing it between too much information and slowing the scene and not enough...Which POV to select and using it effectively to convey the story to the reader.

    Some people parts or all of it come more naturally, or easily than others.

    The best thing to do is to read, not necessarily for pleasure, but to examine how successful writers have done it. And to sit down and write. Get that first draft down, hopefully after a bit of planning ahead of time (although there are those who believe that planning is a waste of time--but that's another post). I think you'll find that if you write a novel, for example, your last chapters will be better than your first, because you will improve with practice. There are some books that can give you the basics on writing a novel, and if you're really stuck, maybe borrow one from the library, but they don't really have the 'magic formula' for a successful novel in them.

    There is an art of sorts to programming. Some people are better at it than others. There is an art to writing as well.

    Hope I addressed some of your question/concern.

    Good luck moving forward,

    Terry
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Hello Basic, Welcome to the Writing Forums.

    I, too, grew up studying math and science. I worked as a research chemist for a few years, then changed professions and have been a software engineer for about three decades. A couple years ago, I decided to work on my creative writing skills, and then got serious about it. Too late to start? I think not!

    Please read How to Use the Review Room before you post there. Posting your own writing for people to comment on should not be among the very first things you do here. It is worth taking the time to see what other people have done to improve their writing, and see if some of it applies to your writing as well. That is part of why we require members to review other members' work before posting their own for review. On the other hand, there are no restrictions, other than content and copyright rules, on showcasing your work in your member blog.

    Also, be aware that posting a piece of writing on any public site, including this one, will greatly diminish your chances of selling it for publication. Removing the writing later does not alter that fact - once posted, it is irreversibly considered published. So do not post anything more than a small excerpt of any piece you are planning to submit for publication.

    If you haven't explored the site yet, you should probably do so soon. Newcomers often gravitate to the Lounge, the Word Games, or the Review Room, but there is much more to be discovered if you poke in the corners. Remember to check out our FAQ as well, and be sure to read through the forum rules, too, to avoid any misunderstandings or hurt feelings. Respect for one another is our principal mandate.

    As for the Review Room, new joiners often wonder why we do things a bit differently on this site than on other writing sites. We emphasize constructive critique as a vital writing skill. Training your eye by reviewing other people's work helps you improve your own writing even before you present it for others to see. Therefore, we ask members to review other people's writing before posting work of their own. The Review Room forums on this site, therefore, are true workshops, not just a bulletin board for displaying your work (and on that note, please only post each item for review in one Review Room forum). Also, please use the same thread for all revisions and additional excerpts from the same piece of writing. See this post, Why Write Reviews Before Posting My Work? for more information.

    And while you're looking around, don't forget to check out the RPG forum for improvisational fiction. Also try our Weekly Short Story Contest and Weekly Poetry Contest. They actually run more than one week apiece, but any member may enter, and all members are urged to vote for their favorites.

    Enjoy your stay here, and have fun!
     
  4. izanobu
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    izanobu Senior Member

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    You want to be a writer? Beginning is easy. Start writing. :) The only way to become a writer is to do it. Figure out what kind of stories you like to tell and start writing them.
     
  5. VisiblePoltergeist
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    VisiblePoltergeist Member

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    Nope, you're wrong, anyone with a pen can write a novel, but it takes creativity to create a story. There is no technique to making a story, you could either plan it out or just write it as you go.

    From what I can tell, you're probably the planner type, so I guess I can give you a starting point, it's basic and is learned in like the 1st grade, but everyone has to start at the roots. So what you do is you come up with a plot or just a simple title and write some ideas of what could happen during the period of events and work your way from there.

    From what I've heard and seen on TV, people who know a lot about math and science tend to have a bit of trouble being creative, since math and science are founded on rules and limits, where when it comes to writing, there aren't any rules, the writer can go all out and create some sort of world where people are superheroes and poop rainbows or they can stay within limits and make a world where everything is very much real with danger or relationships hang by a thread. Unlike in math or science, there are no formulas, equations and whatever else they have.
     
  6. Ron Aberdeen
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    Ron Aberdeen Banned

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    It is easy to say “I want to be a writer“, as easy as saying you want to be anything else.

    The difference between those that want to be and those that are is probably the fact, one talks about it and the other does it.

    No prizes for guessing who; or is there?
     
  7. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    You're right, you can't be a writer. Not because there is some mystical barrier which holds you back, but rather it's your attitude toward it. You talk as though you're a legless man trying to learn how to dance. Writing, in regards to fiction, is nothing more than telling a story. Before you do anything, I'd advise you to go back and read/watch fairy tales. You can practically get the whole set of Brothers Grimm stories for free if you have the Amazon Kindle. I know it sounds ridiculous and to a certain extent it is. Yet, the most basic morals we as adults have are often based in the stories we hear as children. These stories are fairly simple - often good versus evil - and provide a good start for anyone who wants to write an actual story.

    I know that it sounds stupid and I'm sure somebody will disagree, but the most mature stories and novels we have as adults are all born from the simple fairy tales. As you read and as your imagination starts to boil with idea, start writing things down. Begin to evolve as you start reading more mature stories and begin crafting short ones of your own.

    Or you could just assume only certain people can write stories. Mind you, you're capable of writing a sentence and your imagination is nothing more than a muscle you must exercise to expand, but ignore that. Accept that you are not good enough and cower down to the elitist mindset that only some of us are gifted with such talents. Forgive me if I sound harsh, but there is nothing quite as pathetic as those who would insult the very nature of our species so that they may somehow make themselves look better. It's beyond my tolerance to accept such ideas and I pray that the original poster (Basic) ignores their hissing voices.
     
  8. theSkaBoss
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    I get where you're coming from, Basic. I'm a spatial and analytical thinker, myself. That's not to say I'm what you'd call "left-brained" or anything. But my brain approaches problems in similar ways to mathematicians, and that's why I love computer programming so much. But the point is, I love to write! I bet you might be feeling that those who've posted before are just prattling on because THEY have the correct brain for writing and have no idea what it means to approach writing from your perspective. Trust me, though, that it'll be to your benefit to pay attention to what they're saying.

    So here's the specific advice I feel I can give you. If you want to approach writing embracing the side of you that thinks mathematically, then what you should probably start with is understanding writing syntax. Because your mind works like it does, it'll be a good starting point for you to get the language under your control. Learn to form sentences that have good pace, evoke the right thoughts and emotions at the right time, and say what it is you want to say.

    A good habit to be getting into along the way is to begin to hitting the dictionary (especially if it conveniently doubles as a thesaurus) whenever you encounter a word you couldn't immediately define to someone in your own words. This will increase your natural vocabulary, which serves two purposes: one, those sentences you're learning to structure will begin to carry more power as each one will be that much more unique and you'll be able to use words that are not only technically correct, but are the most fitting for the situation. (For example, compare these two simple sentences... "He liked her," compared to "He loved her." Two tiny sentences that could stand elaboration no matter which you pick, but one clearly carries more power than the other.) The second purpose is that it is a way to persuade your brain to learn and embrace the skill (you heard me correctly; it's a skill) of turning the English language into a craft, rather than any old activity. (Consider the carpenter: every common man back in the day knew how to chop down wood and use it for something. But what made a man into a carpenter was that he took the menial activity of cutting and shaping wood and turned it into his craft. You must do the same with the English language. You know how to use it to communicate. But what will make you into a writer will be that you took that menial skill and you'll treat it as a craft. Easy as pie: turning a basic skill into a craft. All it takes is the diligence to refine and hone your skills with each new day that passes.)

    The last bit of advice I'll give in this post is that everyone has something to communicate, and it's all based on their experience as a human being. I don't know much about you, so I can't say what your best writing would probably look like. Non-fiction? Historical fiction? Essays? Poems? I have no way of knowing at this point. Because of what you've said about your life, I'd guess that what you want to write is something like sci-fi. Epic fiction that stretches the human imagination, but is deep-rooted in technology and its impacts on humanity, yeah? Whatever it is that you want to write, you need to start reading it. See what's been done by the writers who've gone before you.

    If you think you might like to try sci-fi, I recommend Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. It's a classic, it's fantastic sci-fi, it's beautifully written, and every mathematical thinker I've ever met has loved it. If a different genre seems like it would be your cup of tea instead, then go for it. If you were to tell us what kind of stories you want to read in your next post, I bet you'd get a good solid list from everyone here.

    And last, but not least, don't worry. You're not interrupting some kind of advanced literary talk or anything of the sort. You're here saying the same thing as the rest of us are saying: "I want to be a writer." You're here asking the same thing as the rest of us are asking: "How can I become a better writer from the point I'm at now?" So again, no worries. Just hang around for a while. You'll find you have capacity for writing just as much as any of us if that's really what you want. Good luck with your endeavors!
     
  9. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    There is no set in stone way for someone to be a writer. Everyone goes about it differently. There's no detailed formula. You just have to start, you have to try, and you have to see where it takes you. You have to try again, to persevere, and just keep going. You have to be dedicated and you have to figure out how to be a writer. It's tough stuff.
     
  10. izanobu
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    izanobu Senior Member

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    jwatson- there is, actually, one set in stone way for every writer. They have to write. :) Thinking about writing, reading about writing, these things are good... but nothing will make you a writer until you put words on paper/screen. Writers write.
     
  11. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your post confuses me because you sound like you want to be a writer so badly...and yet it sounds like you've never actually done any writing.

    Do you want to "be a writer" or do you want to write? If it's the former, then you're not lusting after the words, the story, the characters, you're lusting after the attraction of "being a writer"--whatever that means.

    If you have a "budding aspiration to be a writer", then why aren't you writing? If you're smart enough to do computer programming, you're smart enough to know how to open MS Word and start writing. Some people have stories they want to tell, characters they want to express, ideas and mysteries they want to explore. They put fingers to keyboard/pen to paper and write...not because they want "to be a writer," but because they love literary expression.

    There's no C++ that you need to learn for fiction writing, there's simply the use of your dreams and meditations put to paper.

    Now go and do, or don't, but stop "aspiring".
     
  12. Shinn
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    Shinn Banned

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    Go ahead and write!! It's how we all got started :)
     
  13. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Exactly what I was thinking. You're already boxing yourself into linear thinking by believing there is some sort of code to be learned. It isn't. Just let your imagination run free. Just do it. Seriously. Don't be discouraged if the first thing you write isn't stellar. That's okay because writing is like anything else you have to do it in order to become better at it.
     
  14. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    There's a strong tradition of scientists and mathematicians becoming writers, and I would argue that it's precisely because they understand that creative writing and the language of science, reason, whatever you want to call it, are more closely analogous than many so-called "creative" people would like to admit. There are patterns, there are rules, there are codes, but the only way you'll find them and learn to use them and elaborate on them is by beginning to write.

    The notion that there's something, anything, metaphysical about writing really irks me. Don't get caught up in that crap. Hold tight to your analytical nature and turn it to your advantage. Write, read, think, repeat. It really is that simple. And the more you write, the better you get, and the better you get, the more you'll enjoy it.

    I sound like a terrible self-help book.
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm a programmer by profession, and a distinctly amateur writer. That should give me some context for what you're saying, but I'm having trouble understanding it.

    Part of what confuses me is that even _programming_ isn't all that cut and dried. Sure, you have syntax and rules and good practices and bad practices, but if you hand ten very good programmers the same set of requirements, you're going to get ten quite different versions of that code.

    That's with those ten programmers trying to complete _precisely_ the same task, and I'd say that it's going to be true even if they all went to school together, as long as school was over at least a couple of years ago. With almost any highly complex skill, the first classes, or even the entire college degree, is just the beginning of the learning process, and the rest of the learning is simply not that planned or predictable.

    If you're not going to school to learn to write, then that self-directed learning process is starting from the beginning. So it's up to you. There is a ton of advice out there about writing - books, forums like this one, blogs - enough to keep you reading for a very long time. But the advice will very often be contradictory from source to source, so you'll have to choose which advice to take. There's no commonly-agreed-upon path for learning how to write.

    Do you feel that your grammar is weak? Study grammar, and write a lot, and use what you're studying to evaluate and improve the grammar in your writing. Vocabulary? Study to increase your vocabulary, and write a lot, using those new words. Structure? Choose a highly structured form of writing, and write a lot, learning that structure. Pace? Read up on pace in writing, and write a lot, using what you're studying to evaluate and play with pace. You don't like your style? Try varying it, as you write a lot. Dialogue? Characters? Description? Play with them all as you, yes, write a lot.

    I don't think that you can really learn about writing without doing the writing. And while you can generally work on a piece of code until it's of good deliverable quality, you can't necessarily perfect a piece of writing until it's of publishable quality - I'd advise writing a whole lot of _different_ pieces, instead of spending too much time trying to perfect each piece.

    The other advice is "read a lot". Read lots and lots of writing, a wide variety of it.

    ChickenFreak
     
  16. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I'll have to say the same thing as others: just start writing.

    I am a construction engineer and I have grown up learning science and math. I always had the aspiration to write but never thought I have the ability to do so. But one fine day I decided to blog, sort of an online diary written in the form of short stories. Guess what, people liked it and I was even asked to write some articles for an American magazine based on my blog. That was three years ago. With the confidence that I can write a story I now am trying to learn, as Aaron89 said, the rules, the patterns, the codes.... So, write, write, write. When you read a 'how to' book on writing you might even find that you have followed the rules.
     
  17. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You need two things.

    You need to start write a lot. And to do that you need to more additional things. Love to write (however masochistically but you need to love it) or you must Need to write (to not go insane, to handle what you face in you life, to take a brake from reality, to went frustration etc.)
    The idea that you like to be a succsesful writer isn't enough. You need to be dedicated to the craft, not the goal.

    Your age isn't a problem. Loads of Nobel Prize winning writers didn't start writing to middle age or later.

    Start writing, and see if you can find the dedication to the writing process itself. If you do you will find a way to develop you skills, might be writing courses, might be books on the subject, might be forums, might be getting a lot of feedback from readers.

    The only step you need to be concerned about right now id starting to write, something, anything, poetry, shortstories, diary, blog, nonsense.... Just write.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...the same way every writer of any age has done... by writing something!...

    ...since you want to write a novel, you begin with an idea for a plot/story and then just start writing... if you're an obsessive type, you may want to start with an outline... if you're not, you'll probably jump right in and bang out some sort of beginning and take it from there...

    ...it's really that simple, though not really that easy... you don't have to make it any more complicated than that, though from your first post, i'm guessing you probably will...

    ...as one of my own 'greatest lines' goes: "Nothing is impossible till you quit and nothing is possible, until you start!"

    ...if you've read enough good novels, you should have some idea of what goes into one... if you haven't, then that's where you need to start...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  19. Taylor3
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    "Also, be aware that posting a piece of writing on any public site, including this one, will greatly diminish your chances of selling it for publication. Removing the writing later does not alter that fact - once posted, it is irreversibly considered published. So do not post anything more than a small excerpt of any piece you are planning to submit for publication."


    Plenty of people have their work reviewed online. For example, I go to a site called The Next Big Writer, in which people post novels, short stories and poetry and everyone gives and receives feedback. People get published after work shopping on that site, and I'm sure there are plenty of other sites that are just as good.

    There is so much writing out there, if your stuff is good, it seems unlikely potential agents or publishers will read it and think,

    "This is good, I would work with this guy but I happened to see he posted his work on writingforums.com, so I won't work with him now."

    Chances seem pretty small they would even know you posted it online, let alone turn you away because of it.
     
  20. Ron Aberdeen
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    Ron Aberdeen Banned

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    Screenplays I have posted for critiques and work shopping on Zoetrope and TriggerStreet have been optioned even though one of them won the Script of the Month on TriggerStreet.

    There is a shortage of great original material, certainly in the script market but beware there is not a shortage of average material.

    If your work is outstandingly original nothing will stop you except yourself.
     
  21. izanobu
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    izanobu Senior Member

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    Technically if you post your work online in a non-password protected area, you have just "published" it electronically and have then used up the first electronic rights at the very least, or so I've been given to understand. It's a bad idea to post significant portions of work you intend to sell online. If you have posted it, you should probably tell wherever you sell it to that it was previously posted, because accidentally voiding your contract could be costly (even if you think the chances of someone finding out are small)...
     
  22. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have read over some guidlines while searching for places to submit and sometimes they will include what to do if already posted online. While you might be able to find a place to sell it but I wouldn't count on it. So could you? Sure. Likely? Probably not. Why would you want to cut your chances before its even being read?

    Its best to keep what you want to publish offline and post what you don't want to publish instead.

    It helps to keep the market a bit bigger, especially when you are new.

    EDIT:

    My advice? To start writing and reading. Is it just me or is it starting to sound like a broken record in here?

    But thats because its great advice. Start reading lots of books. lots and lots of books.(oh and pick up a book on grammar... which I probably should do myself. :( )

    Also start writing. You might want to read up on some of Cogito's blog posts. He talks about some dialogue and Showing vs Telling(I think that was his blog post) Also reading up on short stories and what makes up a story. Which can be done through a few easy google searches.

    But start reading books. I am sure you can find all sorts of good recommendations on this site.

    so basicly.

    Start reading. Start Writing.

    Its never to late to start. :)
     
  23. Nobeler Than Lettuce
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    Nobeler Than Lettuce Contributing Member

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    To parrot everyone else, reading is important. For a personal viewpoint:

    When I decided to start writing seriously it was freshman year in High School. The first thing I asked myself was who I wanted to emulate, who my hero was. Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck just happened to be our focus that year, so I picked up For Whom the Bell Tolls and it was one of the most amazing pieces of fiction I'd ever read. I started to read everything those two wrote until I was blue in the face.

    Later, I read "A Moveable Feast" by Hemingway, which is a bunch of personal accounts from his life, he discusses at length the books he read and what was powerful to him. He also names a writer, Dostoevsky, who he claimed was "one of the most horrible writers" he'd ever read, but somehow, because Hemingway was like that, Dostoevsky was also Hemingway's hero. Further research indicated that many American novelists from the disillusionment era favored Russian authors and their orthodoxies.

    So, the following summer I went and spent around 180 dollars on the Russian classics. I was forced then to immerse myself in the intellectual debate of translating these works. I read many essays on Constance Garnett and her contemporaries, as well as on the new translations that promised to reveal more of the author's particularities. My first book from that was A Sportsman's Sketches by Ivan Turgenev, another one of Hemingway's favorites. After I had finished the book I realized something amazing, Hemingway had copied Turgenev's style very finely.

    The point of all of this is that instance made me feel very small as a writer. Though my ego was constantly boosted by teachers and their fondness for me and my work, I came to terms with the fact that my hero was just another man who had his own heroes, and he was just trying to do what I had been trying to do. He just happened to be more successful.

    So, if you want to be a writer, find another writer who inspires you. Just like painters, writers form "schools" of thought, and these school's headmasters are the long dead trail of cloaked figures from Hesse's Steppenwolf. What I mean by that is, you can say you're following Shakespeare, but since Shakespeare copied the stories of Greek authors, and in more than one instance reworked an ancient story into a modern play, you'd have to go further back in time and copy those writers. I think, if you try hard enough, everything just falls flat on Virgil, Homer, and their kin.* Eventually the many faces that follow the original fade into the a kind of snaking trail of men, all guided by the ones who came before.

    *That is if you're into modern English and American works. Every country and culture has their own Greek equivalent. "The Tain" or the "Tao Te Ching" or "The Analects" or any of the number of stories that have come out of ancient philosophy from Ireland to China, Arabia to New Zealand, have also influenced countless thousands.
     
  24. Paul
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    Paul New Member

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    Your background in analytical things such as computer programming is not the hobble you perceive it as.

    Every field has its own language whether it is engineering or cooking and a pattern for doing it well. Find the parallels between the strategies you know for one and apply them to the other.

    No one writes without structure or strategy, they are only unaware of them in many cases as they focus on other aspects, remember that beautiful music and beautiful math can be as simple as two different expressions of the same thing.
     
  25. Uther Pundragon
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    Uther Pundragon New Member

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    Writing does not have a age limit. You are never too young nor too old to write. It is as simple as having something to write about and then writing it. I can't say about every other writer out there, but for me, I like to write about things I would like to read about. I never write about anything that would not interest me as a reader because I would get bored with it and thus the actual writing itself would suffer as a result. You should read a multitude of genres to see what works and doesn't work for you and then go from there.

    This IS the site to use if you wish to improve yourself. I suggest reading a few of the stories in the Review Room, critique them (Note to self - Practice what you preach.), and then try to write up something of your own to post. To improve you have to have something that needs improving and that starts with a single word. If you need help that is what the other sections of the forum are for and I'm sure people would be more than willing to help if nicely asked. Happy writing.
     

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