1. hummingbird

    hummingbird Member

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    Creative Writing for Technical Writers

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by hummingbird, Oct 11, 2018.

    Hi all,
    I wondered if anyone had faced similar and had any advice.

    I've wanted to write novels all my life, and from childhood (starting around 8 years old even) through college I started several novels, but I wasn't serious enough about it so never completed one. Now I am more serious and would like to give it another try. I'm sure up to this point the story belongs to many here.

    But the challenge I feel like I face every time I sit down at the computer is defaulting to technical writing. I've had to do technical writing as a part of my job for the past decade, and I feel like I've lost the ability to put creativity into my writing. It tends to be very concise, fact-driven, overly-logical, straight to the point, following precise formats prescribed by my job. Great for sharing information, but doesn't work in storytelling. I am bored reading my own stories, lol.

    Does anyone have any advice for re-finding that creativity and breaking out of a decade long habit of technical rule-based writing?
     
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  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Would it help, may just as an exercise, to write in first person as a person very different from you?
     
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  3. hummingbird

    hummingbird Member

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    That's actually a very good idea! Just enough of a break from my standard way of writing that it might trigger some of my more hidden creative side.
    I will have to give it a try. Thanks!
     
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  4. SolZephyr

    SolZephyr Member Supporter

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    Believe me, I know your pain. I only ever wrote a few chapters of fiction back in undergrad before switching to pure technical writing for the next 10+ years. My brand was scholarly articles so I always feel the need to explain every detail about things to make sure that there isn't any confusion, but that's not exactly good for story flow.

    I've found it helps to go back after writing a section (maybe wait a couple of days) and see how well it reads to you. I find it's easier to see what needs to be changed when your in reading mode vs writing mode, but that's just me.
     
  5. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Member

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    Start with studying things that are not technical but have a systemic structure & dynamics.
    - How motives evolve?
    - Story structures.
    - Character arch types - both basic types of them: narrative and social.
    - The socio-emotional structure of human beings.

    Cognitive structures of technical writing are rigid. If you study things that have flexible but existing cognitive structures you get tools to loosen the structures you use while thinking and writing.

    Read humour that has two simultaneously existing truths that exclude each other.

    Technical writing is a bit like pumping iron in a gym using all those machines that allow you to use only one trajectory. It makes you sttrong but stiff. Now you must flex a lot before you start to move in a smooth way.

    - Intellectual flexing.
    - Stylistic flexing
    - Flex you views, the way you observe.

    Technical writing demands a lot of intellectual work but in a very single dimensional way. Too much of it does make you to be institutionalized to single minded intelligence. So you might need few years of very multidimensional thinking before the world starts to open to you.

    So the road map looks like this:

    1. Narrow rule based world. ==>
    2. Add more rules that have connections to structures and dynamics but not much connections to the first world. ==>
    3. Add the world of those rules. ==>
    4. Add the anomalies of that world. ==>
    5. Add another worlds that are inside of that world you added.
    6. Remember to flex in every step. And now... Flex more.
    7: Write.

    You can write stories in steps 2-5 but those stories won't find much audiences. It will be more like practising. Practising is very good, but don't fool yourself by thinking it is producing. It is not. It is practising.

    Go all the way to past 6 before you start the real thing. Then you are ready.

    If you know any creative multidimentional thinkers, ask they help. It can be very difficult to someone with technical writing background, but do it anyway.

    Creative multidimentional thinkers use to make an impression of not serious, not "professional", not... but don't let it fool you.

    They live outside dominance hierarchies and often competent hierarchies also*. Identifiers of those hierarchies are jokes or tools or decoration or... to them. And quite often they let it see. It is one of the many ways they test and evaluate you while you think that you evaluate them.

    It is a bit like two sided mirror. They see through it, and you see some of your own expectations in a twisted way. And they see how you react to that. And you don't seee that they see it.



    * Supreme intellectul and creative competence is outside hierarchies. The top level of value hierarchies has a processual nature. It is qualitatively different than other levels. That is why it always has a bit childish and "easy" nature.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  6. DeeDee

    DeeDee Senior Member

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    Imitate. Pick your favourite books and try to write something in the style of those writers.
     
  7. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale The Caliph of al-Abama Contributor

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    Or imitate Asimov, who suffered from the OP's issues also. Suffered all the way to the bank :)
     
  8. hummingbird

    hummingbird Member

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    How do you balance this with the frequently-given advice to just power through the first draft?
    Does this not break your internal flow of the story to be editing while you write during the first draft?
    I have attempted to write an entire story in my current form with the expectation that I'd edit the heck out of it later - but I get too bored in that case, everything is flat and I can't get emotionally involved. But I'm afraid of editing too much as I go, as well.

    Yeah, I've pretty well determined at this point my first draft of a novel is going to be a throw-away. Just a learning piece to play with. So I'm not putting any pressure on myself to produce something great.
    MAYBE it'll be able to be re-written entirely into something later, or more likely it'll just be tossed forever. But I know it's not going to be some great work of fiction to start with.

    Thanks for all your other tips. I will definitely be trying to incorporate what I can. At this point I think EVERYTHING is worth trying, until I find what does or doesn't work.
     
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  9. SolZephyr

    SolZephyr Member Supporter

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    Personally I have a hard time with the "power through" approach. I don't go back and rewrite every section, but when I feel like I'm not happy with them I try to. Recently there was a big part that I wasn't happy about but couldn't figure out what was wrong, so I did the "power through" approach and moved on, but I eventually realized what the problem was after thinking about it for a while. In that case the issue was very large, so I asked the community if I should go back and change it, and most of them said yes. Most of them didn't specifically say to change it immediately, but I'm of the mindset that if you know you're going to change something you might as well do it. It helps me out by letting me not worry as much about the quality of what I've already written so I can focus more on what's next.

    I also have a pretty detailed outline that for the most part I stick with, which I think helps keep my internal flow in tact. I don't stick to the outline religiously (this next section I'm about to start I'm throwing the outline out almost entirely because I think the plot's theme was way too similar to other subplots, and those need to have that theme for the sake of the overarching plot), but for the most part I adhere to it.

    ^example of me over-explaining when I write in that last paragraph btw
     
  10. Lew

    Lew Member Supporter Contributor

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    I feel your pain, @hummingbird! I have done technical writing as an officer, then an engineer, for the Navy, and while my technical writing gets high marks for volume, clarity, and the speed with which I can crank out a 200 page document, properly formatted, ready to print and distribute, the best complement one can ever get on technical writing is that it does not put the reader to sleep. And I never took a course in creative writing.

    I picked up a number of skills doing my technical writing, one of which is very rapid editing on the fly. I hit the return key, and immediately scan the preceding paragraph for typos, SPaG, mis-statements, etc. And my fundamental outline is to proceed from the simple to the complex, a rule of thumb given me by my cab-driver father with an 8th grade education. So I have developed a thought flow that works with fiction as well, because that is what you are doing there as well, going from the simple, the introduction, to evolving complexity of the plot. Learning how to do document layout, headers, footers, and all of the tools available to you in Word, that is a plus. Most of my documents begin with a purpose statement: who is this document aimed at, and what should they take away after reading it? Having that thought in mind, though not explicitly stated, helped guide my thoughts through fiction. In fact, perhaps it might not be a bad idea to add the purpose paragraph to your novel: who is your audience, and what will they learn from reading your story? That will focus your writing on your objective, just don't forget to flush it on the first edit!

    So you have acquired a lot of skills that will carry over to novel writing. I have done one thing differently in writing fiction. My technical writing is preplanned exquisitely before I start writing. I have the chapter headings, sub-chapters, sub-sub-chapters, all laid out, then I start filling in the blanks. I absolutely refuse to do that with fictional writing. Instead, I allow my characters to tell most of the story, and often I am as surprised as the reader at how a chapter turns out. The last chapter of my first big (240K word) novel, though I had had it in mind for most of the 20 years while it was in work, well, that wasn't quite how it happened. My characters were much more mature than when I first thought about how to end the story, and they told it differently than I thought they would. I am challenged by my sequel, which is ten or so characters scattered around the world of 2000 years ago, who have to individually come together in the Middle East in time for the Roman invasion of Mesopotamia in 115AD, of course not knowing there is a reunion coming. And there are major historical events that my story has to align with. So I am doing more pre-planning than I did with the predecessor and I am stalling out a bit.

    I recommend the power through approach to writing. Edit a paragraph after it is written and and the chapter when finished, then mark it as done and keep going: my wife and I review each other's work that way. Get to the end, then go back back and edit it. I find that editing is critical, while writing is creative, and I can't have both modes in my head simultaneously, it stalls me out.

    So good luck, technical writing is not a negative, it brings a lot of positive skills to your story-telling toolkit
     
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