1. Hysteria1987
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    Hysteria1987 Member

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    Resources for "learning" to write

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Hysteria1987, Jan 13, 2012.

    Hi all.

    Today I'm going to bring you a question that seems very simple, but to me seems quite difficult. And that is... how do I write?

    Don't get me wrong, I fully expect the primary answer to this to be, "put pen to paper and see what happens." And I understand why that would be. Practice makes perfect, after all, but therein lies my problem.

    I've been writing for years, mainly things for myself, and mainly projects that never got finished. But then something happened and I decided, time to take this seriously. For a little under a year now, I've been writing a new project, a sort-of sci-fi novel that I intend to do as best I can with a view to eventually being published. And quite frankly, I'm not real happy with what I've done. The ideas keep flowing, and I keep writing to get the basic storyline down, but the quality of the writing itself is not so good.

    But I write in isolation, reason number one why I stick my head in here, and while it is true that practice will make me better, without context all I may be getting better at is poor form. I came to the conclusion that, in this state, I don't know whether what I'm doing is right or wrong, so I'm not really learning anything. Granted, I understand that developing one's own style is important, but I feel the need to see how it's done- I feel I need a starting point, and something I can develop on and add my own personal touch too. Right now it's almost like I'm being taught to swim by being hurled in the sea =P

    Now, what I feel I'm looking for- a real step-by-step detailed thing on exactly what to do to achieve a particular goal (real basic, for utter beginners, would be preferrable), or writing exercises where there's a visible, measurable scale of outcome and improvement- seem to be non-existant. Maybe it's just my search terms, or my somewhat overbearingly exacting wants here, but I've had no luck digging anything up. I'm really just looking for a starting point, a real basic this-is-how-we-write something I can latch on to, learn and ultimately build my own method from.

    So, does anyone have a particular recommendation for such a thing? Suggestions for exercises or measuring improvement in proper form? I've read through some of the stickied links (been about half a year since I was last here, and hence since I last read them), and will read through more when I get the time, and while there are some real handy hints in there, what I'm looking for at the moment is a little different. Maybe this is just the fact that I've been a student for most of my life coming to the fore; if there was something I needed to know before, I'd go find a resource and study up on the proper form.

    If anyone has a resource to this end they'd like to recommend, I'd much appreciate hearing about it. And of course, thanks for reading my text-wall =P
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what you seem to be describing is a good creative writing course... there are some good ones available online, if there are none of the 'real' kind in your area... the best you'll find are the 'gotham writers' workshop' courses... a bit pricey, but worth every penny...
     
  3. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wish something like that existed, and maybe it does for non-fiction writing. The thing with fiction though, is that we all have different styles of writing. Some of us are verbose and use flowery prose while others are minimalist, and everything in-between, and all other variations. I don't think it would be possible to write a "how to write fiction" book like one you are talking about. The best would probably be to read grammar books and read novels written in various styles to see what you prefer, and then maybe copying them, using them as training wheels of sorts, until you find your own voice.

    A writing course like mamma suggested is also a good idea. I'm taking an English lit and grammar course in college right now, and I feel like my writing really has improved. Maybe because my grammar and my understanding of sentences has gotten better or because I have read a lot more books in styles that I wouldn't have read otherwise (though please don't pick too much at this post, as it's very late and I should have gone to bed a few hours ago). I think the best thing to do is read a lot and find people willing to read your work as well (such as this site).

    Our teacher has also been forcing this mantra on us. The four Cs:
    Be clear, concise, complete, and correct!
     
  4. Hysteria1987
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    Hysteria1987 Member

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    *Facepalm* Man, this seems so obvious now =P You know, I never did think of an actual course, so focussed was on online resources. I keep thinking about doing a course for the guitar, but I never made the association with writing. Thanks for the suggestion. Even if it's not going to be exactly what I was after with this thread, this could well prove to be the better option.

    Online courses may prove the better option for me, so long as there's regular contact, as between the guitar, full-time work, exercise and a social life, I don't have a lot of free time. So much I want to do, and so little time to do it in... =P


    When I was a kid I read a lot of my dad's old fantasy and sci-fi, authors such as David Gemmel, David Eddings, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and so on. Now I find when I read I notice a lot of this style stuff, and how it differs not only between authors but genres too. Interesting stuff, even if I find it interrupts my enjoyment of reading sometimes =P Perhaps I should take note of scenes that are similar to ones I'm trying to write, and copy them word-for-word to try and see if I can get in the author's mind, so to speak. And of course, it'd adjust my own style too, which at this stage I don't consider a bad thing. Perhaps grammar books, as well as the courses mammamaia suggested, should be my next courses of action.

    And I posted my own original post at quite late too, I can't quite remember exactly what I said =P

    Thanks for the replies and advice guys.
     
  5. Granville
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    Granville Member

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    Writing in isolation is ok. It's feedback on your work that will help you identify weaknesses and improve. I don't know about anyone else, but I have been known to regurgitate in solitude for weeks over something I've written and without ever identifying what's wrong it just keeps looking worse the more times I read it. So, I would consider putting excerpts of your most problematic stuff out for opinion and critique. Let others who read your works objectively and with a view to assisting you in identifying where you need to improve.
     
  6. Hysteria1987
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    Hysteria1987 Member

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    I agree that there's nothing wrong with writing in isolation- in fact, that's probably the only way I could do it, I get distracted easily =P The problem was that writing that way was all I did- I would need, as you said, experienced people to give their views on it. At this point I'm not so sure about posting online due to the whole publishing thing, but that may change later, and the need is still there.

    I did find an online writing course last night that I liked the look of, though- I'll have to ask some questions about the very issues you raised here, about how much communication there'll be, and I'll have to compare against other courses, but so far so good. And I wrote a good portion of a chapter last night that I liked- I think I was missing a lot of imagery, and that the writing was a bit too plain, but this one seems to have worked well. Then again, it may be because I'm writing from a character's viewpoint who is heavily sedated in a hospital, which makes things easier, but still, I like where this one's at.

    Things are looking up =P
     
  7. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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  8. Hysteria1987
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    Hysteria1987 Member

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    Sure is a lot in there =P Thanks for the link, I'll start giving it a look over now.
     
  9. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    I think practice makes perfect yes but writing is a personal journey and assuming that with 'writing and writing' one gets better is easily said then done.
    I often think up ideas of how one would go by keeping up with the momentum of writing and never fearing of one day not being able to writen, so this is what I came up with.
    Firstly motivation and the need to write because one feels better about it is crucial.
    Writing should become second nature to us and so in order to ensure that it stays that way one needs to find ways to make it so.
    Secondly Writing Exercises are one way of igniting the needs to write and keeping lit forever.
    In exercises I mean engaging the mind, the imagination and the words, language, to become three entertwined elements forever natural to us.
    I find the following tips quite useful and work for me
    a) writing against the clock.
    setting yourself a time limit and writing something to beat the clock is a very good exrcise that keeps the mind sharp and focused and helps you find your pace.
    (it worked for me)
    b) writing up concepts and metaphors against visuals is a very useful tool because it enriches your vocabulary.
    c) visualising ideas and writing them up as a PERFECT, flauless is also excellent.
    d) writing up little speeches and reading them up OUTLOUD to yourself is a good motivator. I tend to bounce off my own voice if you like.
    Hearing yourself read your work is important because it gives you an idea of how it sounds and how it would come cross if you heard if somewhere else.
    e) visualising your writing as if it was 'a piece of live film' is also a good projector of what your writing and your ideas looks like.
    f) singing your pieces of writing is also a very good exercise because it teaches your mind to tune in words just like we tune in with music and remembers lyrics from songs.
    It relaxes the mind and free it from anything that might block or slow down your pace or ideas for writing.
    g) pace is also important when writing by that I mean learn to 'air' your timing when you write. I find keeping a same pace quite useful because I can think imagine and write at the same and in harmony.
    You might be a slow, a brisk or an umpredictable writer, whatever it is you must find your pace and keep it that way.

    I hope this helps a bit.:)
     
  10. Hysteria1987
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    Hysteria1987 Member

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    It certainly does help, so thankyou. I want to treat this as something I can study at and meet visible milestones.
     

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