1. RebeccaBrown
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    RebeccaBrown New Member

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    My confidence just self combusted.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by RebeccaBrown, Oct 19, 2012.

    I was a little bit doubtful about my writing, as I'd only ever let my friend and English teacher read it, so I decided to get a thrid opinion from my mum.
    Two words:
    Confidence. Suicide.
    My mum's training to be a teacher, so spoke her mind. I know I'm not the best writer, and I know it was a first draft and would end up getting changed anyway, but was it really that bad?
    I've decided what my problem is, through my mum's criticism, that I know too much about the world and the scene, so sometimes just assume the reader does too.
    I have a habbit of starting off with nothing, just what the characters are doing and revealing things about them later on, through speech etc.
    She also told me I'm way too descriptive.
    So, does anyone have any advice on describing effectively (without boring the reader), and subtly revealing aspects of the plot without just putting it out there as, "BOB IS A... HE'S DOING..."
    Any adivce welcome!
    Thanks! :)
     
  2. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the chapter on description in "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Browne & King is quite good. But, see the disclaimer in my .sig.

    As an educator (not in Fiction writing), in the long term your preparedness to receive honest criticism on your current limitations and strive to address these problems is more important than how good your writing is at present. Very few people can just "do stuff" out of the box, but if you can get into a position where you're regularly improving, then if you can keep that up, you'll get there.
     
  3. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Forget your mum for a minute - what does your English teacher say about your writing? Mums can 'sometimes' be over critical.
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Personally I'd never let my mum read it - of course mum and dad will both be reading my novel once it's actually finished, but I'm apprehensive even of that and it'll be a piece of work I hope to publish and for the world to read. Of course it doesn't help that my parents have no idea how to write - they have their creative side but it is not in writing. My mum and dad keeps telling me I'm taking too long to finish, that I'm not working hard enough at the novel (I write almost every single day) and yesterday, in my mum's attempt to encourage me, she told me, "Just don't write so much!" (in order to finish quickly - what she doesn't get is that my novel IS finished and I'm only editing, and I actually only have 69k words which is even under the minimum average!)

    Either way, I think it's great you're so willing to take on the criticism despite what it's done to your confidence - your confidence will build again, it's perfectly normal to feel deflated and well, basically hacked to pieces after a negative response. The key is what you're already doing - which is, taking the criticism on board regardless of how you feel, and working hard at improving. You WILL improve, it is an uphill climb but hey, when you get to the top, it'll all be worth it :) And you WILL get there!
     
  5. inkyliddlefingers
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    inkyliddlefingers Member

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    I agree totally. Learning to take criticism without wanting to jump of a cliff is a really important aspect of a writer's growth. That said, criticism from someone close to you who isn't afaid to pull punches can be a dry doughball to swallow. I never let my husband view my work because we come from two ends of the spectrum as far as writing is concerned. His ideas are so far from mine, and we are such strong characters, passionate about our reading/writing, so things can quicly come to the boil!

    Try to detach yourself a little from your work. Also try to detach your mum/teacher from the advice given. Take what you feel will help and discard the rest, without rancour.
     
  6. Thromnambular
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    Thromnambular Member

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    This is just my opinion, but having someone sugarcoat things can be way more devastating than being told their real opinion.

    If you find out the hard way that someone was lying to you when they told you that your writing is great, it will suck a lot more than this.

    Try to always look at the bright side.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, i do... i mentor writers of all breeds and my standard advice is to READ!

    read the best works of the best writers and you'll see how they do it... that's a much better way to learn how to write well, than reading all the how-tos ever written on how to write...
     
  8. RebeccaBrown
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    RebeccaBrown New Member

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    Thanks for all the help everyone! I've been thinking about it, and have a much better idea now, so I can thank my mum for that!
    Thanks for the encouragement! :)
     
  9. Knarfia
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    Knarfia Member

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    Kurt Vonnegut once said, "Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae." In other words, maybe what you wrote just wasn't your mom's cup of tea.
     
  10. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    There's a quote by Michael Chrichton: A book isn't written on the first draft, but by editing, editing editing. It seems discouraging at times when you're on your sixth draft and it doesn't seem right.

    What makes a good book, beyond your skills with words, is how tight it can be edited to make good flow.

    As for writing confidence, and getting better, there's no magic bullet other then to work, work, work.

    I am of the same school of thought as Mom. Look up the top-50 novels of all time, and read as many as you can. The craftsmanship inside will give ideas, and teachings, on how to improve.

    CK
     
  11. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    I only take criticism from published, objective fiction authors who work in the genre I'm in.

    Arrogance, by the way, is very useful when it comes to dealing with criticism. Just remember to switch off Arrogance Mode when editing or you will fail horribly.
     
  12. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    and arrogance has a terrible way of biting someone in the rear too. Not a good thing to have in anything one attempts.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    does that include 'self' published ones?

    btw, plenty of really awful writers do get published traditionally... would you accept advice from dan brown, james redfield, or chris paolini?
     
  14. runningfree
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    runningfree New Member

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    I've got a fragile writing ego too. For the longest time, I WANTED to write but I had a friend in high school who everyone mooned over and she was good at writing and she was very certain about it. (Looking back now, she talked herself up really well but...whatev.)

    I've grown somewhat stronger in my writing self recently but I still get hurt sometimes when I get a rough critique, especially when the story is near and dear to my heart.

    I don't show my rough draft TO ANYONE. It's in the rough stages, it's disconnected, it's a pile of puzzle pieces that doesn't make sense to ANYONE except you because only YOU can see the entire picture. I don't even give rough drafts to my writer friends.

    I polished a piece TO DEATH recently and for the first time, showed it to my mom. I love my mom - I'm very close with my family but their honesty can be a scary thing to face. They're not MEAN but it really stings when I've written something and they don't react...at all. It's like performing in front of a dead pan audience. Yipes. Sometimes knowing that it came from me seems to be a set up for boredom. :p
    But on this piece of writing that I'd polished up A LOT and gave to my mom, she actually liked it! So it was all good.

    Subtly bringing out things will come with lots of re-writing. The more you re-write and go over it, the more options that will come to light for spinning your yarn in an intriguing way.

    Have some chocolate. Soak in a bubble bath. Sulk for a few days and get it out of your system. It's okay to feel bad about it...for a little while.

    Then pick yourself up. Glue your butt to a chair and edit that piece of writing or start something fresh. But don't STOP writing. It's like a mystery - the more words you have on the page, the picture starts to become clearer and you can see what it is you want to say.
     
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  15. Fife
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    Fife Senior Member

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    I can sort of relate to your predicament. In my last job, my first solo assignment was providing a formal response to certain requirements--essentially questions. My response was about 8-10 pages. When I sent my paper to be reviewed, some of the more experienced guys sort of snickered because the usual response should be 1-2 pages. It's unfortunate that many schools and colleges teach students to write 'x' amount of pages--their intent is great, but it usually results in compromising a very valuable attribute: conciseness.

    I think many people will have different methods and philosophy on writing. My personal opinion on the matter is that every single sentence you use must have some sort of significance. Every articulation or description must have some sort of reason why its there. In movies, there is an editing phase where filmmakers cut out scenes that they didn't think were appropriate--and in some cases, they pain over having to remove a scene they thought was very pivotal for the sake of time. I imagine it is the same for stories. So go ahead and write and write and write your chapters out. Once you've completed your draft, chisel it down. Cut out the parts that are not necessary. Combine ideas or use symbolic actions that allude to what you are trying to tell the reader. For example, mentioning the color of leaves could indicate the season and the time of day. The way someone slurs their words could indicate they are drunk. You don't have to tell us he's drunk--we already made the assumption. Readers are smart. If you give them a puzzle set with a few missing pieces, they will use their imagination to complete it. The only thing you want to avoid is room for your reader to make the wrong assumptions--unless that is exactly what you are going for.
     
  16. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    Really? It's worked fine for me so far. And I did mention that you should switch it off when editing, right?
     
  17. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    And more then just I have said that. I stand by my words completely. Arrogance is a terrible thing to have because guess what! THERE'S ALWAYS SOMEONE BETTER. Thus, it's very unbecoming.

    Very.
     
  18. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    There's always someone better? I doubt that. My writing's the best in the world, and I'll stand by that statement until time turns to dust and the world ends and the dead crawl from their graves. And maybe not even then.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you're joking, right?
     
  20. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    I hear you! I think this is one of the most difficult problems for writers when they're world-building (especially for the first time.) The advice that helped me most was to simply read books that deal with similar settings and themes. It helps, truly.
     
  21. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    I really hope you're kidding.
     
  22. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I want your peanuts.
     
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  23. Rafiki
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    Rafiki Active Member

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    Well I'm feeling frisky tonight, which is curious considering my head cold. MORE NYQUIL!

    Why in heaven's name would you show anyone your first draft? You were either hoping for one of two things, a masochistic rending of all your hopes/dreams (unlikely) or a heap of compliments that would do little more than feed your ego. Oh well, I suppose it doesn't matter, we all have things that we enjoy be praised for, heavens knows I do.

    In High School you are taught a very formulaic form of writing that is actually incredibly unpleasant to read. Example: "The tall lecherous man lewdly revealed his long red tongue to the innocent fresh faced youthful students with whom he was currently enjoying thoughts of vigorous disgusting acts of varying kinds." Get the idea? Turns out writing adjective, adjective, noun, repeat , is not a formula for success. Who knew? I certainly didn't, and it took me many (smackdowns? wrist slaps? catholic corrections?) in order to understand this.

    Sometimes writing "Bob is a... he's doing..." is the WRITE (get it? Its a pun! HAHA) way of doing things. Read Cormac Mccarthy, turns out that sentence structure hating sadist is pretty good at it. Read All the Pretty Horses, should give you what you need to know. Watch the descriptions, and try not to let the "and's" fool you, his imagery is really good and the use of subtlety concerning the character's plight is phenomenal.

    Where did I put that happy blue bottle?
     
  24. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    To the OP:

    some things I have learned from successful writers who teach at my uni... And I find them very basic and helpful.

    -good economy: meaning, use as few words as possible to get to the point. Omit the mundane. Readers want some kind of reward for sticking with your book, if you drag it out longer than you should, they will put the book down and walk away. As you're reading your work, look for words you can delete, sentences even.

    -flatter the readers' intelligence: they're not stupid, so don't treat them like they are. You can put a few hints in there without spelling something out. Makes them feel good. Remember, the best piece of writing manipulates the reader. Writers=master manipulators.

    -good verbs: many will say a sentence is fuelled by the verb. You need to put time and thought into verbs, and in my personal opinion, I do my best to not use 'was'... 'the door was red' or 'he opened the red door.' Different verb. Gets us somewhere. Stronger. Verbs make or break a sentence for me.

    In terms of description, as I said, flatter the readers' intelligence. There is something called psychic space -- the readers' psychic space with regards to a piece. It refers to the amount of space in their minds they can relate to, and the bigger the better. It's hard for me to explain, as you can tell. The best way for me when I consider it is: when I'm reading a piece, does the author's description map out in my mind nicely, or is it all crammed?

    Secondly with description, you don't have to describe everything, totally, set in stone. Leave some for the readers. Describe what is only necessary. Furthermore, write was is only necessary.

    When you're writing, an easy way to apply these points if you find them helpful is to simply ask yourself questions.

    Are the readers getting rewarded? Is this word absolutely necessarily? What about this sentence? Am I over describing? Am I being overly clear? Is there a better verb?

    Hope I help...

    There is no formula for good writing, but I just use these little rules that resonate with me.
     
  25. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Arrogant people never improve. And yes, Python, you do need to improve - we all do. Why else are we here?
     

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