1. Catch-22
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    Catch-22 New Member

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    So yeah, how do I start?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Catch-22, Jul 7, 2010.

    So I've elected to take up writing as something of a hobby recently.

    Fiction naturally.

    But I am have a dilemma.

    I haven't the slightest Idea where to begin.

    They say that the best way to improve your writing is to write more.

    Writing more creates discipline.

    Writing more creates technique.

    Writing more creates structure.

    How do you develop these things if you cannot get to the initial phase of writing?

    You can't. Is there anything in particular you should take into consideration while writing, any particular exercises? Any specific goals to aim for? Is there anything I should write about exclusively or is freeform writing good enough? Is there some sort of unspoken occult ritual of writers I'm unaware of? An I simply worrying too much about what to write and not the actual writing process? In the most simple and vulgar terms: What the hell do you do?

    Mind you, I was fully aware that I wasn't going to just turn into a savant overnight with this. It is something enjoyable and not a chore. But I just want to ask what are some things I should keep in mind while writing. You know, to at least point me in the right direction. Pointers, Protips, Rules of thumb, a lifeline might I request. To somebody whose actually been through this same kind of conflict if not something similar.


    Like I said aside from writing dialogues for plays and participatng in a forum roleplay every once in a blue moon, my writing expertise and understanding of the lexicon among writers is fairly limited. Hell, my grammar even sucks. I'm only making hypotheses on where I place my commas as I type this.


    For the past few weeks, there has been nothing on this earth more intimidating to me than staring down at a blank sheet of paper. I find that my nerve takes absence fro me and my senses are more than eager to follow. The excitement I felt is toppled by paranoia and paranoia begets frustration; frustration then ensues in me unwittingly gulping down several high surgar energy drinks simultaneously that sends me quickly trodding down the path of becoming a diabetic. Then the sugar crash takes a hold of me and I pass out. I wake up with a throbbing headache and my brain reduced to the consistency of lumpy oatmeal. Kind of like a really bad hangover threefold.

    Not really, that was just me being melodramatic.

    So yeah, any pointers and such you have for me would be much appreciated.
     
  2. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    Do you read a lot? Being puzzled over how to write is usually a sign the person doesn't read enough, unless you're being too critical of your writing in which case I'd advise you to simply write and ignore your inner red pen.

    Other than that, I encourage you to post something so the community can be more specific.

    Google the following, as these are common pitfalls of beginning writers:

    Passive versus active voice
    adverbs are your enemy
    purple prose
    showing and not telling

    - Andy
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Start with a character and a story. Give the character a challenge to overcome. Then write it.

    You will make mistakes, and you will learn from those mistakes. That will be true for as long as you continye to write. But you will improve if you keep at it.

    There are no magic formulas, no matter who tries to sell you five magic beans.
     
  4. Catch-22
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    Catch-22 New Member

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    I read regularly. I've just never really gotten the hang at writing particularly good beginnings though, I can do anything in the middle and roll along from there with little difficulty. Starting is just the most frustrating part. I wouldn't even say that, actually. It just requires more thought on my part.

    Thank you for the sources, I'll be sure to check them out.


    You're on to something here, Cogito.

    Regretfully, I've been told that my fear of making mistakes is a weakness of mine.
     
  5. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    As a great writer* once said. "The first draft of any great novel is ****."

    With he first draft you make your mistakes. You create your rock. With the redraft you fix your mistakes and turn your rock into a beautiful statue. Making mistakes is a natural part of the process. If you fear to make them, you'll obstruct your "flow". So, in the end, you'll probably make more mistakes.

    *Ernest Hemmingway
     
  6. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    Just write. Stop worrying about getting things in the correct form or making sure everything sounds good. Just go and write whatever it is that comes to mind. It doesn't even have to make sense. I mean, who else will see it? For me writing is an incredibly personal thing. I only show certain works and rarely would I ever want to seek publishing any of them. This is something I do to calm myself, but to you it sounds as though writing is becoming little more than a ticking box. You want to open it, but you are afraid of what is inside, so you do nothing and just stew. I believe they call that vegetation.

    In a world where people die every day in car accidents or slipping in the shower (which I'm about to go do, so wish me luck) you cannot afford to let your mind disable you. It's cheesy I know, but you have to live for today, and that means doing whatever it is that you love. If you love the idea of writing so much, then go on... write. What's the worst that can happen? Well, besides papercuts...
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Never be afraid to start in the middle. The middle, or what we think of as the middle in our conceptualization, is more often than not the actual start.
     
  8. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If it feels hard starting to write fiction you can build a writing habit in almost anyway imaginary.

    Start a diary, or a blog about cats, or write down your dreams, or write a lot off stuff at forums, or write letters to friends, or to yourself in x many years, or write whiny letters to city hall or...
     
  9. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Write what you love reading. Okay, maybe you like lots of different types of things, but let's say you're in a big bookshop--what's the section you'll be drawn to? Why? What appeals to you in these stories? What are they about?

    This should give you an idea of the stories you want to write. Sit down, and set off. Planning etc is important later, but just practise having a go at the moment. Story plots, like those plot banks on the Net, can also set you going--you'll take the story in the direction you want.
     
  10. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I agree with this. Don't try to write the perfect opening in your first draft, because what you perceived as the perfect opening often isn't so perfect after you complete the story.
     
  11. Shinn
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    Shinn Banned

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    I agree; the perfect opening (for me at least) looked like **** after I finished it. I've gone back and started the opening in the middle of the action. I think that will help :)
     
  12. Videodrome
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    Videodrome Member

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    Well I'm kind of the same as the original poster. I enjoy reading but somehow staring at a blank white page makes any inspiration I have evaporate. I mean a plain white box isn't a very mentally stimulating or inspiring thing to look at. It's like a vacuum.

    Also sometimes I wish there was the writing equivalent of a driving instructor. You don't want to start driving alone. You badly want to get in the car and drive but you want direction as you take those first few turns. You just know that once you get going you'll be okay but you don't want your first drive to end in a ditch.

    But like many people say you just have to write. So I started a BlogSpot just as a space to spew ramblings on to the page. I don't care if anyone reads it. In fact I'd almost prefer it remain unnoticed.

    What I'm doing now is to split each blog page in half by drawing a "__________________" line in the middle of it. The top half is to just throw down anything no matter how chaotic and is more like a journal entry.

    If I start to pick up momentum and ideas I use the bottom half of the blog post to try and write actual story. If I get stuck I go back to the top of the page and just ramble on some more and see if any good ideas are floating in my word soup.
     
  13. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Well everyone already pretty much said what I was going to say... haha

    Isn't it always? I find a lot of times that stops me from starting any major project whether it be writing, making artwork, or starting up my jewelry business. You just have to fight through it. There's no other solution to this really. I've found that just forcing yourself to do something is the best way to start. Even if it's just a step. One step is all it takes to get it started.
     
  14. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I hate to tell you, Catch-22, but you're writing already. Read your first post in this thread again. You have a character (you) and a problem (wanting to write but not knowing how to get started), and you've demonstrated that you can express yourself clearly and vividly in prose. That first post is the beginning of a story, right there.

    We've all had the experience of facing the blank page. It can intimidate even the best and most experienced writers. I forget who said this, but some famous person said: "Writing is easy. You just stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead."

    Even respected and successful novelists go through the same thing. E.L. Doctorow told about staring at the blank page, unable to find anything to write, and he just looked up at the wall in front of him and starting writing about the wall. This led to him writing about the house he was in, which was built in 1906, and he starting thinking about what the town was like at that time and how people wore white suits to keep cool in the summer, etc., and he just kept going, writing whatever he could think of, one thing leading to another, and that was how he started his novel Ragtime, which became a bestseller and was made into a movie.

    I find that story inspirational at times.

    A person who's scared to play a note for fear of making a mistake will never become a good musician. All great musicians, even the finest virtuosos in history, have made countless mistakes, endless mistakes. Mistakes just happen when you're on the way to becoming great. They are nothing to fear. So make your mistakes joyfully!
     
  15. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    James Michener once wrote that all of his novels started in the middle of something and ended in the middle of something.
     
  16. Videodrome
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    Videodrome Member

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    Well what if the question was "How do you become a good Photographer?" and the reply was "You just have to start taking pictures and looking at good photography."

    However on just 1 page you could fit enough guidelines to help a new photographer out immensely in understanding Manual shooting and at least getting close to a good exposure.

    It seems though that nothing about writing is so straightforward, but us beginners keep looking for something like it.

    Is there such a thing as a video documenting an author as they write a short story beginning to end? That's the closest thing I can think of to a guide writing noobies keep looking for.
     
  17. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Having dabbled in photography, I think I can answer your question. Photography is a wonderful medium, but because it is the result of several complex processes, it IS possible to come up with a set of rules for the beginner. That's because you need to know how to use light, how to frame what you want in the lense, how to use film speed and lens apertures. All of those things need to be known before you decide what you are going to photograph. But are there guidelines on what to pick as a subject to photograph? No. For that, we rely on the creativity and imagination of the photographer. No one ever wrote a primer on photography that said, "And when you have all that done, go out to a public protest against a repressive regime, and when the tanks show up, wait until everyone clears out except for one brave soul, and when he stands alone facing a tank, that's when you snap your photo!" No, the photographer had to wait for that to happen.

    We writers have it easier. We can dispense with most of the technical rules. The basic ones we live by - good grammar, good spelling, basic guidelines about point of view and dialogue and using tense consistently within the same paragraph, are mostly things we should have learned in school. Like the photographer's rules, they really don't tell us how to create.

    There are lots of guides out there, but I'm not sure they're very useful if you don't already have an idea what you want to write. I confess to being somewhat confused by people who come on and say, "I really want to write. Now, please tell me how to do it." My question is: what made you say you wanted to write? I'm not being facetious. Answer that question, and you should find yourself on your way.
     
  18. Videodrome
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    Videodrome Member

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    Well maybe I'd even equate it to something as simple as a Color Wheel. Still it's a fair answer.

    Maybe it would be more fair to compare learning writing with music. In my opinion beginners with either medium are seeking rhythm and harmony in their works. Both just want to be shown how to let either the words or melodies flow smoothly.

    Do you think being able to carry a steady beat and play in harmony as well as creating words and dialogue that flow well together something that can't really be taught? There isn't really a good guide for it other then practice?

    Or is asking for guidance in a way like asking someone to invent your writing style for you?
     

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