1. Blikewater
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    Blikewater New Member

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    Starting from scratch

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Blikewater, Feb 2, 2016.

    Hey there,

    I have always had an interest in writing, but I was never great in school and confidence never used to be my strong suit so I never fully got into it. When I was younger I used to write short stories all the time.

    I'd like to get back into it however I basically have no idea how to write proper fiction. I know there are editors who can structure your writing properly and what not, but when I try to write I always second guess myself and get locked up cause I don't know how to express the story from a readers point of view. My biggest problems are grammar and structuring my story's properly. When do you say "said Johnny", should I be saying "he said"? Can you use either too much? I feel like I do that sometimes and it seems a little over kill. Even knowing where to break up paragraphs and add special characters like a period, comma, italics, etc.

    My question is. Does anyone know the best way to get these very basic aspects down? I have found little tid bits here and there, but these days there are so many sites and peices of software/videos to walk you through all things writing, I just want to start with the basics of mainly fiction writing. But even more so just proper story grammar, formatting, layout.

    I hope that makes sense and I hope this finds someone who knows of a very good source to help me out.

    Thanks for taking the time to read,
    Brad
     
  2. R.K. Blackburn
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    R.K. Blackburn Member

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    Read a lot of fiction by various authors. You'll develop a sense of what reads well and then you'll be able to edit your own work more productively. Then offer it up for critique and keep your mind open to the criticisms that you receive. Then edit again and again until you're pleased with the work. In my experience the "he saids" and the "she saids" disappear into well written dialogue and are only necessary to insure that the reader is absolutely clear as to which character is speaking. A lot of qualifiers in dialogue builds a plaque that just clogs up the flow of the conversation. If you write: "I was just joking," he smiled wryly, then delete everything except the "I was just joking," as long as it is clear who was just joking. And make sure your dialogue is adding something that clarifies and advances your narrative. Don't just throw dialogue in to make it clear that your characters can talk.
     
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  3. Blikewater
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    Blikewater New Member

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    See, that right there is some great advice. Thank you for really describing what you mean well and giving me examples. So is there not anyone yet who has gathered common concerns for new writers and put it into a book/online course?

    Thanks for your tips I will practise them.
    Brad
     
  4. Holden LaPadula
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    Holden LaPadula Member

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    I second his advice. It's impossible to be a writer without being a reader! :)
     
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  5. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    I agree with what's been said so far, though I'd also add you might want to learn about punctuation as well as grammar. If there is a course you can do - I did a Diploma in Media Studies, but I'm unsure of what's available in your part of the world - then that will help, because you will have to submit work to your classmates in person, at times reading out loud to them and receive feedback, some of which may be undiplomatic.

    I'd suggest that if you're interested in a particular genre, then that's where you should direct much of your efforts, although reading outside your genre will prove interesting too. You need to read not so much for enjoyment, but to see how the writers use their words.

    If your interest is short stories, then you will need to plan these, and learn to value each word, because you won't have many to work with! If you want to write novel-length works then Author's Salon has some excellent articles. Reference works like the Cambridge Australian English Style Guide, and The Elements of Style provide excellent advice, but are not the sole source of information.

    Don't be disheartened if your first attempts need a lot of work. Mine certainly did, partly because I was writing as I would the results of a scientific analysis, and I had to learn how to write in a more engaging manner.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2016
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  6. nastyjman
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    nastyjman Contributing Member

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    For punctuation, a good book to read is Eats, Shoots and Leaves. It's a funny book that teaches you the basics of punctuation.
     
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  7. Elven Candy
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    Elven Candy Contributing Member

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    My mom has that book. She said it's hilarious and quite helpful.
     
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  8. kateamedeo
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    kateamedeo Active Member

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    The best advice has already been given - read :) Read fiction and books on writing craft. There are so many wonderful books on writing and 'how-to' manuals that you can find anything that interests you. I just got a couple of books from Amazon, one for self-editing and the other one on dialogue. I am sure you can find some of the craft books in your local library. You do not have to consider them as a 'writer's bible', read, absorb the advice and use what you think is good for you.
     
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  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'll second @R.K. Blackburn's suggestion. READ. Develop the reading habit, if you don't already have it. Instead of watching TV, read. Go to bed with a good book (one you like) and read yourself to sleep. There is nothing that will teach you faster than reading for pleasure. You'll find yourself painlessly developing a feel for how it's done, how stories look and sound, what dialogue looks like on a page, etc. If you get sucked into stories yourself, you'll know what a good story feels like to a reader.

    You can also do what @kateamedeo suggests, and get hold of some 'how-to-write' books—but I must say, while they are very useful at certain stages of writing, you do have to already know the basics beforehand. They aren't going to teach you grammar or punctuation or things like that. And unless you can instinctively recognise story structure, what character development is, what dialogue should sound like, you'll end up floundering. Do make sure you also read the kind of stories you like, and the kind of stuff you would like to write yourself. That's really the best way to develop an 'ear' for what works and what doesn't.

    I must also second @nastyjman 's suggestion about Lynn Truss's book Eats, Shoots and Leaves. Don't just skim it, read it from cover to cover. It's a very lively book, lots of fun, and the examples she gives are excellent. It doesn't read like a textbook at all—which it's not. It's more or less a lengthy rant against bad punctuation. But you can do a lot worse that get familiar with the issues she brings up.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2016
  10. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Read.

    Write.

    Study writing. Go to the library and look in the 808.3 section. You'll find lots to study.
     
  11. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    As other have said, read a lot of books. Also play write, meaning write for fun, nothing serious, just to play around. I do this a lot. Just yesterday I wrong a few paragraphs of a story I plan to work on next and then I deleted the whole thing because i didn't really like it. Sometimes I get inspired by a picture so I'll write a 500 word short story, if you want to call it that, and just keep it on my computer with no intention of showing it to anyone. This will allow you to practice writing so that you can develop a style and get comfortable with it.
     
  12. TopherT
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    TopherT Member

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    I read one of your posts and you recommended "Writing the breakout novel Workbook" - I'm currently reading it, It's definitely a good read. I would also recommend "Stephen King: On Writing". Definitely the best best on writing that I've ever read, and trust me, I have real a lottttttttttt.

    Oh, Lawrence Block also knows what he's talking about,
     
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