1. Head
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    Head New Member

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    So, what am I supposed to do?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Head, Dec 3, 2012.

    Apologies if this has a readily visible answer.

    I just arbitrarily decided to start writing, yesterday I scrawled a short "artistic" story about nothing at all in a notebook.

    How do and did all you more seasoned types proceed?

    Should I begin by reading some "serious literature" to get a grounding?
    Shall I scrawl a hundred more 200ish word "stories" in what I'm sure would be pointless and bad style?
    (That's the advice I would give to someone beginning my board game, go).

    Describe characters and wait for some kind of artistic lightning to strike?


    Some guidance, please?


    NB. I lack any training in English past grade 10 (probably a decade ago) but like to read when I have time, also I'm not connected to a local community.
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Read and write, both. Don't describe characters and wait for lightning to strike - just write, and write, and write, whether you feel inspired or not, and accept that your - that everyone's - first few hundred thousand words aren't going to be particularly good. But don't start out trying to be artistic; start out with direct, clean, clear prose.

    In addition to reading for pleasure (I wouldn't go for the "serious literature" unless you enjoy it, and if you do I'd recommend modern literature), you could do some reading about writing, to give you some new ideas to shake up your writing as you go along.

    Editing to add: If you feel the need to communicate with others, to have occasional feedback, you could start a blog. You won't get criticism on a blog (people who don't like your blog won't comment; most people who do like your blog still won't comment; the ones who comment will probably comment to compliment), but slowly learning what makes people respond, and what doesn't, is also information about how successful your writing is.

    And of course, when you've fulfilled the requirements you can request critiques here.
     
  3. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I just kept writing. That may sound mundane and obvious, but probably because it is.
     
  4. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    If I was going to start from scratch, the very first thing I'd look for is a character with a desire for something they don't currently have. It could be something physical (as mundane as needing a glass of water to drink, or as obvious as a bar of gold for money), or a piece of information (a formula for the cure for cancer, or a poison that will kill all living things), or emotional (contentment, joy, pleasure, revenge). As long as the character wants that something, doesn't have it, and has other characters in the way of them getting it, you have a story to tell. How you do the rest is up to you.

    As for the prose, we all need help at some point to improve our prose as even the best of us don't get it right first time. But if you've been away from writing for a while, I'd say don't worry about that right now. Write some stories however you can. When you've done a few you'll start to get a feel for things needing improving. That's when you learn you need to have things like a dictionary, a grammar rules reference and a thesaurus to hand. Those will help get you through the basics. Your style of usage of those 'rules' is something else, and that's where forums such as this become useful, as we can help with how well (or not) your style is developing.
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Write any stories you feel like and make them as long or short as you feel like. It doesn't matter. I started writing at age 9 - do you think I gave it much thought or planned or worried about length, style and quality? No. I just wrote, and that's how everyone starts :)

    Believe that it's good, even if it's not - if you didn't believe it you just wouldn't write. I don't mean you should deny all facts and take no advice or critique thinking you're perfect. I mean, turn off the critic inside you and believe in yourself, at least for as long as you're writing. Then later you can turn on the inner critic and edit to your heart's content
     
  6. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Like the others it all comes down to just writing. Writing has to be a passion first. So find a story you feel passionate about and start writing it. Don't worry about technique. Ignore rules of grammar and spelling and whatever. Ignore the great literature and the styles of long dead authors. All of that can come later.

    It's not about whether it's good or bad. Not at the start. It's only about whether you want to write. Whether it is a passion of yours. And it's not everyone's.

    For the present if you want to write, you just write. Later you can decide if you want to continue it. If you want to write well. Then you can worry about all that other stuff.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    What CF said about "artistic". Most writing that tries to be "artiistic" is painful to read. Just tell a good story.

    The best way to educate yourself as to what makes good writing is to read. Read older and newer. Read different genres. Read for the love of the written word, but also go back and re-read whatever strikes you as really, really good and make notes on WHY it struck you that way.

    Also, participate in critiquing others (through the Writers Workshop here, for example) because in learning to do that, you learn to critique yourself, an important aspect of good writing.

    Good luck.
     
  8. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Basically agree with already stated - read things you enjoy (just try to read more - advice for everyone ;)) and write with abandon at first. I've yet to see someone get on a bike for the first time and qualify for the Tour de France - instead they wobble and weave and fall down a lot. You don't even have to try to come up with a Grand Idea - take some little family happening and write a short story about it. If it sucks, big deal - you're learning how to tell a story. That, for me anyway, is the greatest challenge for a writer - grammar and spelling can be learned by nearly anyone willing to get the books and study. Learning to be a story-teller - that's what makes the difference between a decent writer and a great one.
     
  9. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    I know what u mean, when u want to start you talk to people or google what it takes and the list of things you should have done is ridiculous and can really put you off. You begin thinking a wow should i have written short stories, should i have read Shakespeare. In my case, i was like should i even not write my first draft on a computer. Then one day i thought "ahh screw it" and just started writing and never looked back. Yeah im not the most amazing writer and my knowledge has holes, but the more i try the more I improve. And when i get stuck I might pick up a book and read it like 3 times to see how they do it, and that made me just want to read more for the love of reading. So by starting i was able to steer my learning in the direction I felt benefited me and my style.

    Yes reading and short stories do help but dont force yourself (u'll just resent it), find the road for you. You might even think of 2-3 short stories etc. because you suddenly got the bug. Dont be afriad, we are all different and one last note the self help books just scare you into buying them.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    first, decide what it is you want to write... then take ed's and shadow's advice... they said it all for me...
     
  11. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    100% agree with everybody. If you don't have much reading experience I'd even recommend reading books you don't like. Try to fight off the initial disgust of a book's style, subject, language and cover-art and you might start enjoying it after you endure a few pages. :)

    And what you should always keep in mind - fight off the need for originality!!! You may find yourself copying the style and reworking the subjects of works you've just read. Nothing wrong with that!!! If you don't do it consciously, it's still gonna happen. That's why there are backspace and delete keys on the keyboard. And multiple save options in MSWord. And unlimited amount of forests to cut for paper... :D
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i sure hope that green grin guy means you were being sarcastic about 'unlimited...forests' bb...

    to avoid wasting our fast-shrinking treed areas of the globe, when you print out drafts, or anything you will not be sending out to anyone, reuse those pages after you've done what you need with them, by printing on the other side...

    i do this with mine and it saves me money, while saving this at-risk natural resource...
     
  13. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Naah, who needs them damn trees! They block my view of the radioactive concrete wasteland Earth should be! :D:D (double grin)

    I usually print drafts double-side, and in 10pt font size, with narrow margins except the right margin (need some space for the red pen!). I calculated that averagely gives me about 45% more paper to print. It's less than if I just do it on the screen - but then again, using red pen on the screen is a mess! :D
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, .5" margins all is also a good idea for drafts... as is the smaller pt size, if you use courier and can read it comfortably...
     
  15. thedarkknight
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    thedarkknight Member

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    I think the most important question is:

    WHY do you want to write?

    This makes all the difference. To use your analogy, if I start playing Go, what is my goal? To have fun? Be competitive? Become a professional? Depending on your answer will depend on how you proceed.

    Think about it. If I said to you "I want to swim, what do you recommend?" How would you answer? Would you wonder if I didn't know how to swim and just wanted to learn to float and scuttle across a pool? Or wonder if I wanted to swim better so I could participate in Triathlons? Or wonder if I wanted to try to make my country's olympic squad?
     
  16. Head
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    Head New Member

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    Thank-you for your words of direction everybody, as the mood takes me I've been scratching down more little short stories, mostly inspired by everyday happenings.

    In what I guess is a positive feedback loop, it's making me more excited about what I'm reading (Collected Stories of Frank Sargeson right now).

    I'm writing in a notebook, using a pen. Is this a mistake I should break now because it clearly won't transfer well to higher volumes? I don't really have any aesthetic disagreement with tapping away on a laptop (though people will tell you I'm scared of technology).

    Hmm, I would like to be good at it. I don't think I'm familiar enough with writing right now to make a call where I want to end up, though I will certainly think more later.
     
  17. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    Write any way you feel comfortable with. Every piece of work (unless you want to write just for your own momentarily pleasure) needs to be reread, rewritten, edited and polished so many times that retyping at one of the stages isn't anything to worry about. It might be even to your own advantage, because when going through it word by word, you can better feel (and, if needed, correct) the flow of your sentences.

    So, whatever works best for you.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!

    i often write and edit in pen on lined writing pads, before transferring the work to my laptop...
     
  19. Hwaigon
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    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Second to the right, and straight on till morning.

    I would say the main thing is that you write. The medium is just an off-the-cup matter, I would say. I keep a diary and the logs are handwritten,
    sometimes in English and I find it beneficial, no matter the form. Also, your way of writing is the old-fashioned (only in the positive) and if this
    stirs the positive emotions in you, I say why not ? :)
     

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