1. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    Writing Process

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by GoldenGhost, May 18, 2013.

    Has anyone ever run into the problem of sounding smarter than you really are? Especially in your writings? I find myself constantly writing in ways I wouldn't normally speak, and it's causing an overabundance of words and nonsense to show up, while also furthering technical problems since I'm attempting to be 'awesome.' It seems that I cannot get the idea of fiction being "art" or "literary" or whatever, out of my mind, so when it comes time to actually write, I'm always trying to make every word and sentence sound as if they are artistic or literary feats, and then what comes out is always just the opposite, and plain horrible. It seems one of the problems is due to a complete lack of confidence in my own ability Can anyone relate to this? If so, how did you deal with it? Any thoughts are welcomed and appreciated. /discuss
     
  2. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'll write a thousands words tonight and go to bed thinking it's great, then tomorrow I'll read through it and wonder what I was smoking. I think it's pretty normal to spew up a dictionary on your writing pad and It will probably take half dozen rewrites and edits to make it into something worth reading. Don't worry about it.
     
  3. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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    I feel for you, GoldenGhost. I was that very same way when I was younger. I started writing a novel when I was 13, finished it when I was 19, and then self-published it. I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread (so you're ahead of there, knowing you're overdoing it) and everyone just let me think that. Finally, though, when I was 20 or so, someone finally told me it was sh*t. I was crushed. I don't think I wrote anything for a year afterward. However, once I came out of my funk, I was better for the experience.

    Understanding what you're doing is the first, best step to recovery. Realize that flowery and overly-artistic writing probably isn't doing you any favors. Try to force yourself to write simply. Read some Ernest Hemingway (I highly recommend The Old Man and the Sea) to see how effective bare-bones writing can be. :) What I recommend most, though, is looking at what's out there. Read and study other writing. Don't just read it for the story but pay attention to how it's written. That's helped me a lot in my journey. :)
     
  4. SquigglewithMeaning
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    SquigglewithMeaning New Member

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    I find I slip into this a little bit too, but I also feel it makes the writing process fun and sets my brain firing off with more ideas for imagery and connections. I'd say write how you write then sort out things that sound too over the top in the editing process :).
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I don't think my problem is exactly that. I do write stuff I think is great and it looks a lot less great the next time I read it. But since I see constant progress in my work, it hasn't been overly devastating.

    I do have a problem writing a 17 yr old, though, because I'm smarter than that now. ;) I want my protag to be precocious when it comes to insight about how people come to believe false things, but I'm struggling to find the right balance.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I write in ways I wouldn't normally speak, but that's because I'm trying to write as smart as I am - I'm afraid of sounding dumber than I am. I sound dumber than I am when I speak. Most people do, I think - it's very difficult to hit upon exactly the right word, the right image, the right sentence structure and paragraph organization when one is talking. There's no time to edit, revise, rephrase.

    On the other hand, I don't write in a way that just demonstrates that I have a dictionary. I don't use long or obscure words if I can help it. Sometimes, though, such a word is exactly right, and there are no short words that will do as well. If my readers occasionally have to look something up, I don't mind. It's for a good reason.

    And what's the matter with attempting to be awesome? There's enough mediocrity in the world; we could use more awesomeness. The trick is to get it right! :)
     
  7. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    i agree, i do sometimes find that if i try and think about what i write, i try way too hard to be 'awesome' yet when im not thinking i come up with some pretty rad ideas and if im lucky, minimal editing, but most of the time there is a ton of stuff wrong, like wording etc...

    I walk in the orchard, masses of gravestones are laid, paving a death like unpredictability to the depths of my thoughts this is the tradition I think to myself, after three years of their death, my ancestors get transferred here, to the devils orchard. I look round, the blackened bark contrasting and contradicting the bright green leaves and blood red apples.

    The wind that whipped round the trees left a whisper in my ears, the voices of my past, my ancestry comes to life, one which I crashed into, and no doubt ill crash out of. I shake my head, this is all a dream, I tell myself and raise my hand to my forehead, my horns were there


    thats an example of what i can get, if not thinking, its probably not 100% (like most things) it has also been said that

    Art is never finished, only abandoned
    you may find that, on occasion this comes into relevance, and i assure you, i shredded a 49 paged 20k words manuscript id written because it was that bad! we all have times were we produce utter rubbish and some times where we produce some of our best work
     
  8. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    I find I write better than I speak. I was diagnosed with a communication disability where I would have problems speaking what I am thinking. I found that writing was an outlet for me to express my ideas and thoughts on paper. I had to learn how to do so by writing continuously and reading what I wrote. Unfortunate for me I had problems reading and telling my professors or my sister (who helped me a lot) what I was reading. It was as if I could not absorb the text into thought. I still read, however I found in high school and college that the books that were offered to me I had more of an interest. I could not understand the purpose of reading "My father's dragon" "Harry Potter" or "Holes" (to name a few examples).

    When it comes to writing no matter what my writing always evolves. I have been writing a story since high school and I noticed quickly that my writing changed both with language and with concept. I do catch myself trying too hard to sound impressive and in reality it is not me. It does not sound like I am writing it and it bothers me. Do not write to impress. Write for yourself.
     
  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds like perhaps what you need to do is research - if possible, go on student forums and see how people of that age group talk. If you have any friends or nieces and nephews of that age, talk to them, hang out with them, ask them what they think of life and purpose and God and everlasting love and see what comes out. What occupies their minds? What concerns them? What are their blind spots? Then afterwards, dig out the parts that are suitable for your MC and adapt from it. Watch some TV shows meant for that age group - Glee, perhaps? Those shows capture millions of viewers of a similar age group - what is it that they're doing that captures the attention of that group of audience? What themes and issues do they raise? And of course, read books that follow particularly realistic protags that fit your age group - again, what's the tone of voice, what questions do the protags ask, what struggles, how do they deal with conflicts?

    Research is your answer, I think :)
     
  10. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am as clueless as the rest of you, but I assume what every writer is striving for (whether they know it or not) is to be able to write with ease. It doesn't matter how you sound, but that you sound authentic. Flan and chocolate chip cookies are both valid deserts, and both can be made from scratch, or from a factory. I'm assuming most people would prefer the more natural, fresh kind, as opposed to artificial.
    Once you can pump out words without even thinking, and make it sound good, you're getting somewhere. Obviously editing comes later. I think this applies to a lot of different things, as well. "Just being" will trump over thinking, once you have developed the necessary skills, at least.

    Now, forget your audience for a minute, and consider only yourself. I think just letting your fingers go is rather therapeutic, and allows you to create a connection between yourself and the realm of words. Trying your darndest to sound smart interrupts that process and is not enjoyable.

    Another thing to consider is that extravagance is only one route to impressing your reader. Maybe your audience won't be reading your stuff with bug eyes, but it's still possible to give them an awesome trip, if you can make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

    Use what you have when you're writing. If you want bigger literary muscles, read.
     
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  11. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    i think the best way of finding ease, is by finding a genre and style that suits you, or is as a damned good fit as possible... which is why you see me write horror over any other genre, it may be because ive been to dark places in my mind in my past, but i feel it easier to use that to stem my writing process than trying to force something that in essence, wont work
     
  12. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    This is pretty much what I was going to say word for word. :p

    Writing is art. It's just a different medium to work with and another way to express ideas and emotions. There's nothing wrong with viewing it as art. My advice would be to not try so hard. Relax a bit and let things flow more. I think sometimes it can get stiff sounding and over elaborate. Not unlike a painter tweaking a painting to the point of ruining it (speaking from personal experience :p) Try to loosen up a bit and trust yourself. Strive for balance in your work and it will work out well. :)
     
  13. jeepea
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    jeepea Member

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    Finding one's own voice is a problem for every writer in the beginning. I don't think it necessarily comes down to sentence construction or vocabulary so much as it depends on the needs of piece your are working on. I can't say when it happened to me, but I remember realizing one day that writing had become much easier because I was only thinking about my story and its plot and characters and hardly noticing how I was telling that story. It isn't that expressing a thought had become any easier, it's just that I had stopped separating how I was writing from what I was writing and let my priority be the story itself. If you read a lot and are writing the type of thing that you enjoy reading, then you'll eventually let go of preconceptions about how a 'writer' should write. You'll find your own voice and writing will become much more fun. Unfortunately, this takes time, but you can speed up the process by writing as much and as often as you can and doing so with careless abandon.
     
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  14. DungeonBrain
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    DungeonBrain Banned

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    I believe this depends on the tone and voice of the story. If the POV characters are very educated, it might make sense. As with a writer like HP Lovecraft, the prose tends to sound stodgy and academic, but then his POV characters were all of that and more, so it fit.

    This said, if you have very un-educated characters, I don't believe you should dress your prose down-- but I would think the narration might come off somewhat more concise, nothing too complex, especially when describing the character(s) motivations and thought processes.

    Anyway, if it fits the story, it fits the story. If it doesn't, start paring it down.
     
  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    What you are doing is a process. The magic isn't going to sparkle from your pen in silver gilt glamour across the page. No. It's more like a smithy at his bench, pounding and reheating the iron uncounted times until the shape is just right.
     
  16. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    I think it's okay to be wordy as a beginner, I mean you have to start somewhere. The good news is that you now can identify you are being wordy/purple prosy/whatever, that's improvement. Also, being wordy is much better because you just need trimming, otherwise limited vocab could mean much much more hard work. I know this from experience. English is not my first language so limited vocab sometimes drives me crazy.
     
  17. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    The quickest and easiest way to knock this problem on the head is incredibly simple. And it works!

    When you write, pretend you are telling the story to a specific person you know. Pick a person you think would like the story you're telling, and just pretend it's them in front of you all the time. It really helps.

    Just be careful to choose the 'right' person, or your prose can take some strange turns. I pretended to tell the story of my novel to my sister, because I used to tell her stories when we were children (I'm 5 years older.) What happened, was my novel started to sound like it was written for a child, or at least in a way that a child could understand! NOT the tone I was looking for. Once I forced myself to write for my sister as an adult, the problem just evaporated.

    I double-dare you. Try this. It really works. You will not sound arty or pretentious if you're talking to a friend or family member, so your story won't come out sounding that way either.
     
  18. squishytheduck
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    squishytheduck Senior Member

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    I do this too. It works for me in science writing because no Harvard professor is going to fault you for sounding turgid and pretentious, but I usually spend a lot of my fiction editing time paring descriptions. It's always been easier for me to trim fat than try to put more in so I wouldn't worry about it.
     
  19. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with this. I'm a little worried that what I grew up thinking was ordinary prose is now being considered "arty." John Updike and Saul Bellow died only fairly recently, and they were both bestsellers in their time; when did that kind of writing start being considered "arty"? There are limits to this idea that the simpler equals the better.

    Hemingway is usually held up as an example of excellent prose because he was "simple" and "direct." Some of the people who say that about him should read him a little more closely. He was as capable as any "arty" stylist of the 100-word sentence, and he was even known to use (gasp!) semicolons!

    There is more to being a good stylist than simplicity, and there are times when simplicity is not called for. William Faulkner used a kind of bardic style to elevate his poor Southern white-trash (if you'll pardon the expression) characters into the realm of the mythic. JRR Tolkien's work would be laughed at if he'd written it in the style of a modern gritty noir story.

    Part of the art of writing is pairing the style with the subject, or, for the ambitious writer, viewing the subject through the lens of an unexpected style.
     
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