1. GB reader

    GB reader Senior Member

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    Are we predisposed to write in a specific mode/style?

    Discussion in 'By Writing Form' started by GB reader, Jun 5, 2018.

    I started a year ago. I want to learn how to write. I sat a goal, a novella in 24 months. No idea about what.

    The advice you get on learning how to write is, write. So i practise by writing short stories. I had problems finishing them. So I started posting to the contest here. I force myself to post something each month, both flash and sort.

    Now I am 14 months into this. Not an inch closer to a novella. I assumed that it would be hard SF or space opera or thriller as this is what I read.

    But…

    Does it really help to write short story in preparation for a novella?

    I can't see me writing 20000 words the way I handle say 3000 words? (usually shorter)

    And…

    Looking back on what I have written I find that most of my stories are sort of the same mode.

    Although I try to follow the prompt they all tend to be small, cute, romantic, funny stories involving relations between two or three characters. There are usually fragments of my experiences inside them. Of course exaggerated, bent, taken out of context, but still, I can see it.

    Is this the true storyteller in me? Should I force myself to write in another way than I “naturally” do?

    I can't see my mode/style fitting hard SF or thriller or space opera.

    Can't say I am upset about it. I will give it three years, and we will see what comes out of it. But could some of you experienced writers say something about:

    Does it really help to write short story in preparation for a novella/novel?
    Should you force yorself to write in another way than you “naturally” do?
     
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  2. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I think revising short stories and getting feedback on them is the fastest way to learn to write decent prose. There is a lot that goes into writing a longer book like pacing, character arc, and plot, but no one will read it unless you learn to write pleasing sentences. In my opinion, that's the main way short stories help--getting reps on revision and feedback.

    As far as getting a novella on paper, you just have to make sure that your idea for the story holds enough water to fill the pages. If the story is too simple, you'll gas out. If your story seeds are strong enough, then it's just a matter of sitting there and grinding it out on the daily.

    I saw a meme earlier where someone likened a first draft to filling a sandbox with buckets of sand, so you can play in it on revision. Seemed like a nice way to think of it.
     
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  3. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Member Supporter

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    There's a thousand strategies, but I think you've chosen a perfectly reasonable one. It's what I'm doing, so of course I say that, heh. With short stories, polish what you have and get editor feedback. Peer feedback is great, but see what gets picked up and why. I've gotten some really unusual advice that way.

    Think in terms of scene. In your average short story, 3-5000 words has to be wrapped up in 2 to 4 scenes, depending on your wordiness. You've gotten used to shaping stories around that limited structure, and you're having a hard time thinking of anything that doesn't fit that shape. If you want to expand, think in terms of multiple scenes. You don't just reach a crisis and resolve, you reach multiple crises, each more devastating than the last. You should follow scene/sequel structure, so really each crisis is two scenes: the lull building to tension, the action/release. If you're going with 3 Act structure, that's 3 pairs of scenes, plus an intro and denouement--now you're at 8 scenes minimum (8-10000 words). That's close to a novelette.

    Try a couple stories like those. The big thing (and what I'm rambling and maybe not saying) is to think in terms of scene. You have to move to the larger structures to get a larger story. The conflict the character faces comes in waves. If you elaborate those points, they become a story unto themselves, nearly episodic. If you were Dumas, you would break the chapter right there because it has a certain completeness even though the story is still being told. Then you can have each act of the story expand to multiple scenes. (You'd be writing a long novella/short novelette.) Look into building character arcs, that will shape the scenes.

    If you just want to practice, go and write a single scene from an imaginary novel. (Not everything you write has to be complete and publishable.) That way you're not over-invested in its outcome and you can feel a scene leading into a bigger story.

    Oh, and anytime you want to add words without adding padding, add a subplot. Each subplot fattens the scenes you have and demands a scene or two of its own.
     
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  4. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Short stories are only really a stepping stone if they get you writing on a regular basis and finishing things on a regular basis. You can get in the habit of knowing how much weight and words to give to the beginning, middle and end. But do you know how hard it is to sell a short story magazines or literary journals? I said this in another thread; it's probably harder to sell a short story to The New Yorker than to sell a novel to one of the big publishers. I don't know what your publishing plans and goals are, but that could weigh in on where your time is best spent. However, I would never discourage anyone from writing short stories. I absolutely love the form. I've been writing them for years. Although I am published, I probably wrote at least a hundred stories (probably more) before that happened.

    A novella could be viewed as a long short story and there are journals and magazines that publish novellas as well. What's troubling is that you haven't been working on it. Maybe you don't want to write a novella? One idea is to try NANO. I think they have a summer NANO, too. If you sign up on their website, it tells you how many words you have to write each day to meet your goal and tracks your progress. And you finish in a month. I've tried it before. I couldn't get a novel done in a month, but I did pass 20,000 words each attempt which you say is your novella goal.

    I have to disagree with @Seven Crowns about the number of scenes in a short story and that the way to write a novella and a novel is just to continue. I think a short story is vastly different than longer works. It's a different kind of story and story telling and they're framed differently. In a short story, you really have to think about the story occasion. Why is this happening on this day and what does that say about all the days before and after it? And even though I believe you can have as many or few scenes as you want, in short stories there is always a story occasion that grounds the piece. In longer works you can have several occasions that might be equally important to the story, though, I have read a novella with a single story occasion.

    To address your other question, I don't think any writer is stuck writing a certain way or a certain thing. Sure, some writers seem to have recognizable styles, but others don't really. I don't really understand what you think is limiting you. You can write whatever you want whenever you want. It's good that you're a reader because, I believe, that is equally or more important than writing practice. Being an avid reader helps us implement structure and sometime a borrowed style into our own work. So if there is something you want to write or a way you want to write, read more things like that. There are definitely fantasy and science fiction magazines putting out novellas.

    One more thing -- two years is way too much time to give yourself for a novella. That's probably why you haven't gotten anywhere with it. Writing a page a day or something like that you should be able to bang out a first draft in three to six months. When I wrote a novella it took me about five months and that was with rereading and editing along the way. Sadly, nothing came of the novella for me, but I hope you have better luck with your project.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2018
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  5. DeeDee

    DeeDee Senior Member

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    Do you believe in having a choice or do you always need somebody to tell you what to do? The human mind is so complex, there isn't one advice that fits all. If somebody benefits from writing in a completely alien genre, then it doesn't mean that you would benefit from such a thing as well. Try and see if your writing gets any better. If it doesn't, then life's too short for that, innit. Do what you enjoy doing, write the books you like writing. It's the same if you go to learn to play an instrument. You may want to be a rockendroll musician and the teachers may try to teach you how to play classical music first. Some would benefit from that and others won't. Results vary. It works either way, see which method works for you. The "write! write! write!" advice stems from the old saying that practice makes perfect. The more you do of something the better you become, although arts are a specific thing that also requires a bit of talent. So if you 've spotted you've got a talent for something you can also start with working on that specific talent, rather than practising random things. Whatever you write, the more writings you produce, the more your mistakes will become obvious (maybe!), so you'll have more specific things to work on. Find where you struggle - plotting believable endings, or building awesome character arcs etc. Everybody has their own strong points and weak points. Most of those don't depend on the mode/style, so it doesn't really matter which style you're going to be writing in. But, obviously, if you write in your favourite mode/style then it's going to be more fun. So, why not have fun with it? :crazy:
     
  6. GB reader

    GB reader Senior Member

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    Thankyou all.

    You have all supplied useful information.

    I have read so many books during the almost 60 years since I learned to read. But I have not until a year ago felt any need to write. My writing is mostly a desire to know how to write.

    The two years to write a novella was planned to maybe practise and learn how to write for eighteen months and then six months to write. The eighteen would also include enough reading about literature so that I can say it's a reasonable good novella.

    The short stories I write in one go. I know the story when I start. Of course some of them get a lot of editing but still. I am now seeing that this technique will not work for a novella.

    Every short/flash I have written taught me something. But it's not only the writing that you learn from it's the finishing of the story. To decide that this is it, I must leave this behind an write something else.

    This year I have finished fifteen flash and ten short stories. I feel the latest of these are getting reasonable good. But now I fear I have to write maybe ten novellas before I can write a reasonably good one. This will take years. That's the reason I asked about the usage of writing shorts. Maybe I should have started with a novella and then I might have written two during this year.

    The second question is more complicated. Most advice you get says “Write a book that you would like to read yourself.” The stories I have written is not what I usually read, but I really enjoyed writing them. So I feel split. Maybe I like to read one kind of stories and like to write another. Or; I have read the wrong kind of stories all my life!

    I am frustrated but not worried. This is just for fun, and I will probably never publish anything. I can do whatever I like.
     
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  7. irite

    irite Member

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    I think you summed it up in the last line. What would make it fun again? What would remove the frustration? I think the 2 answers are connected if not the same answer for both.

    Maybe where you write? When you write? Why you write? As long as you are happy with what you write about, then change the other factors and see what helps
     
  8. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    IDK.
    Maybe a those that write in similar or same genres are, but
    you can write what you want. You are only limited by what
    you think you are.
    Key to it is to never give up and try new plots and stuff like
    that. :)

    You can write what you want, and with enough time and
    work at it, you will figure out what you like to write. :)
     
  9. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    Thank you for that, @deadrats. It's one of the best 'explanations' I've heard, of how a short story differs from a novel. (I don't know about novellas, because I'm not really sure what they are. Their length seems to be morphing into the lower-end acceptance word count for novels these days.)

    Maybe a novel is more about the progression of an issue, while a short story is about the result? Dunno.

    There is a difference, though. And I think it's a mistake to assume that writing a short story is a good prelude to writing a novel. (If you master short stories, you're ready to tackle novels?) Somehow the idea has crept in there, that short stories are simply shorter novels, and that it means you can finish one faster. Nope. Doesn't work like that. They are two distinctly different forms. The use of prose can be similar, but the organisation and conception are not the same at all.

    I also sometimes hear beginning writers saying they'll start writing children's books, then progress to adult ones! Again, two different forms. One does not necessarily lead to another. Children's books evolving into adult books not the same as a child becoming an adult, but I think the progression is often (mistakenly) seen that way.

    My own feeling is you should write the form you most enjoy reading. If you mostly read adult novels but decide to write short stories because you think it's easier, I think you're going to struggle. Ditto the opposite. Don't be afraid of 'wasting time' writing a novel while you're learning. You won't. Each chapter is likely to improve on the previous one, and you can put it all right after you've finished, during the edits. If a novel is what you want to produce, read them, think about the form they take, and then write them.
     
  10. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I never read romance until I started writing it. Once I started hunting around as market research I found there are some romance authors I really enjoy, so now I read romance as well as the other genres I used to read.

    I wonder if, in your case, we're not looking at genre so much as style or mood? I think it would be hard to write a "small, cute, funny, romantic" hard scifi or thriller novella, but I think it would be great to read that mood of writing in space opera. Han & Leia bickering and making up in the early days of their partnership, with droids and space battles all around them? I'd read that!

    Because, yes, I think at least in my experience there is a predisposition toward a certain... weight, maybe?... of writing. I'm most comfortable in the middle of the road. I can write sad scenes but then almost immediately want the mood leavened; I can write silliness but then always seem inclined to drag things down a bit. There are other writers I've read who absolutely DRENCH their writing with angst and pain, while others can keep things dancing along, happy and fluffy, for a whole novel. It's not a scientific study, but I'm a pretty middle-of-the-road person (emotionally stable, etc.) so I think I may write the way I feel.

    If you're feeling pretty light and warm, it might be hard to write something as heavy and cold as hard scifi?

    The length thing? I don't know. I started with writing novels and I hardly ever write short stories (although I do like novellas, for times when there just isn't enough to the story to justify the longer length). I think I agree with @deadrats that there's a fundamental difference between shorts and novellas/novels, so I'm really not sure if writing short is a good way to practice for writing long.
     
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  11. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Contributor Contributor

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    I approach each chapter of the book I'm working on as if it were a sort of... short story.

    Every chapter must first hold up its share of the broader narrative arc, but it should also have its own arc, own hooks, its own life. And most times I definitely do not write the way I feel, nor wait around till I'm in a certain mood to write a particular scene. The story and characters demand of me the full spectrum of emotions, and as such, I'm often called on to alter my "natural" tendencies/style to better tell the story at hand. A perfect example... the chapter I'm currently working on requires an old fashion, and quite bawdy sea shanty be sung. I've never in my life written a song, much less a specific kind of song that has its own traditions and meter. But alas, I am writing it and it's turning out bloody great! I can hear the four rough sailors playing it on crude instruments, while Adeline madly plucks her mandolin... man-oh-man is she going to catch hell when the woman who's chaperoning her on the voyage sees her in such bad company!

    If your goal is to become a better storyteller, than you best abandon whatever warm bed you've made for yourself and get out into the cold!
     
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  12. GB reader

    GB reader Senior Member

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    I am overwhelmed by your response to my questions.

    The real problem for me is that I had no idea about what it is to write.

    For some time I have known that I couldn't use the same technique (painting it my head and write it down) to write a novella. I have also suspected that I can't construct it the same way (just make it a long short story).

    This is a little setback. I will have to study more. Then I will give it a go.

    However, being non native and very inexperienced in writing I have learned so much from short story. A lot of SPAG stuff. A lot of English stuff. A lot about writing dialogue. Some stuff that I should have learned if I ever had attended a creative writing class. I also found flash very useful. I think shorter is better and having to get under 500 words is good practise.

    I would like to thank all of you, but I will only say that when @BayView said that you could make a space opera cute, funny and romantic. For a short time thought YES, I can do that. After a few minutes I wasn't so sure anymore, but thank you for those minutes.

    “May the dream be with you,” said @bay as she stepped into the Falcon.
     
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  13. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    You can DO IT!!!!

    (I'm not saying it'll be easy. I think there's a lot of harm done to new writers by the idea that writing is always instinctive and is a skill you either have or don't have. I'm not saying there's no element of raw talent involved, but there's also a need to practice and reflect and experiment and learn. That takes time. Even if you can't write a cute, funny, romantic space opera YET, that doesn't mean you'll never be able to.)
     
  14. GB reader

    GB reader Senior Member

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    How hard could it be?

    Once upon a time in faraway galaxy there...
    ...
    ...
    ...
    ...and they lived happily forever after.

    A pure fill in exercise, the beginning and the end already given!
    Thanks @bay.
     
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  15. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    I was literally just about to say this.

    I grew up reading fantasy novels. Eragon, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the Broken Sky series, the Redwall books, stuff like that.

    I now write raunchy gay romantic comedies.

    I don't even like romance. It just happens.
     
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  16. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I had a similar experience. The book I finished recently has a romance between two women. I didn't realize they were into one another when I started writing, and originally started off thinking of some vague kiss at the end between the main POV character and one of the women. Once I got started writing, I realized that not only was the romance between the women, the book was going to have to focus on it a lot in order to be true to itself. So, the last year or so, I've been reading nothing but romance: big names like Nora Roberts, as well as tons of self-published lesfic.

    I wish I could find the meme this guy posted. I remember the text though. "Nice epic fantasy. It'd be a shame is someone added a deeply emotional relationship to it."
     
  17. Irina Samarskaya

    Irina Samarskaya New Member

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    In my anecdotal experience: I suggest you don't waste time with small stuff and focus on the dream. It's difficult to want to complete or seriously invest in something that's essentially just a mental fling.

    On the other hand, a big project is like an eternal companion: they follow you wherever you go and you follow them (and I do mean that plurally because it can balloon quite quickly!), and after a while I (to use myself) am just subconsciously thinking about my work without having to actually think about it.

    Will that work for you? I suspect it will. In the wise words of Dan Pena: "Just Fucking Do It!!"
    And you'll be all the happier!
     
  18. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I love horrors but I'm too quirky to write a straight horror. Ditto for romances and I love reading romances. I've found that writing (for me) is a curious set of contradictions. I don't write what I tend to read. Short stories come easier for me than novels. My novels are more serious in tone than my short stories. But my style remains pretty much the same whether I'm writing a novel or a short story.
    Nothing really prepares me for anything but short stories did reveal my style and allowed me to realize it and not stifle it. On the other hand short stories can tend to be used as slice of life scenarios so don't look at them too much as what you're geared to write it might just mean that the flavor you bring to them will also creep into your genre novels.
     
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