1. sarkans

    sarkans New Member

    Aug 2, 2013
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    How do you pick what to write about?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by sarkans, Aug 16, 2013.

    Do you just write anything that comes to your mind? Do you have specific topics that you see as ''good topics'' and write about them exclusively? Do you write what sells the best? Or maybe you learn from classics and try to write about and as they have written?

    There's another question that has been on my mind lately. How do you pick what is worth to be written about? What criteria do you use? What are you trying to put in your stories (and other things that you write)?

    What do you think is the key to writing pieces that get published in the best of literary magazines?
  2. thirdwind

    thirdwind Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Jul 17, 2008
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    Pretty much.

    Not really. There are so many interesting things to write about, so there's not really anything specific I focus on.

    No. What's hot now may not be hot a year or two from now. Trends come and go. Besides, I'm not a big fan of any of the bestsellers of today.

    Sort of. A lot of classes have universal themes, so I feel like a writer can't help but write about those themes. I don't, however, try to copy their style or subject matter because those things can seem very old-fashioned by today's standards.

    Anything that interests me is fair game. But not all ideas can be turned into a complete story/novel/poem, so I try to make sure the idea is interesting enough and that I know enough about it to finish whatever I'm working on.

    Good writing, but I certainly think there's an element of luck involved. It also helps to have good credentials. Some of those magazines are extremely competitive and tend to draw on more established writers.
  3. Thomas Kitchen

    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

    Nov 5, 2012
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    I'm Welsh - and proud!
    Do I write anything that comes to mind? Yeah, with the exception of a children's book and my work-in-progress novel. With those two, I wanted to tackle specific issues. Otherwise, it's just my head going, "Ooo, that sounds like a good idea." ;)

    Do I write what sells best? No, but I do take inspiration from what does. For example, I'm working on a zombie short story. I don't plan to publish it; it's just a project. I also write for gaps in the market, if I feel that I can meet the need.

    What do I pick that is worth writing about? Human lives are worth writing about. You don't have to have a theme in mind to write a good story; usually, one will develop as you invest more time in the particular project in which you are involved. As long as you write about humans (or at least non-humans with characteristics that humans can relate to), then it doesn't matter. Someone will like it, and that means it is worth writing about. I personally like to put sad things in my stories. I find sadness is one of the most powerful emotions, and I use it to gain the attention and respect of the reader, and thus they gain my respect. But it's up to you what you put in your stories - not everybody has to be a depressing bum like me. :p

    As I said above, write about humanity. People-watching is a great exercise. Simply sit in a café, order a cup of whatever, and watch. Look at how people move, interact with themselves, with each other. How do they speak? What are the different dialects and accents out there? Gain as much information as you can. Then, once you begin to write your stories, you'll know how humans behave and you can write about far more realistic, three-dimensional characters. Your story can be the most far fetched idea in the world, involving turnips, a white pig, and several robot dandelions. But if your readers cannot relate to your character/s, you will lose their attention altogether. I believe characters are the most fundamental thing in a story.

    Hope this helps you. :)
  4. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Jun 13, 2010
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    Queens, NY
    I write about what is compelling to me at a given time. The basis for that judgment varies, almost infinitely. It may be a memory of a past experience that I think can make a good story. It could be a person I know who I think could be the basis of an interesting character. Or maybe a place that is rich with story potential (an advantage of living in New York City). Or a current event. Or a historical event. You can observe situations in your everyday life and realize that they could serve as the basis for a story.

    I once had a very hurtful experience with a band I was in, and decided to write a novel about middle-aged musicians as a way of coping with it. As a coping mechanism, it worked quite well, but it did not yield a publishable work.
  5. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Dec 30, 2010
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    Whatever I find interesting. I don't so much care about what sells best as I care more about what makes a good story, what makes it satisfying, at least for myself and generally. When I read, if I come across something particularly beautiful, I always reread it several times and try and commit it to memory. Of course I always forget, but I believe the process to be useful nonetheless - you never know what sinks down to your subconscious that will resurface in a few years' time.

    As for literary magazine - the trick is see what they publish, what style and tone and content they're looking for, and the preferences of the editor. As for the rest, just write a good story, and write it well. When you write well, your story will eventually sell itself.
  6. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

    Aug 10, 2013
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    I write to make myself think and for the pleasure of it. Sometimes I just write anything that comes to mind and sometimes I write about something I have spent days, months, or even years, pondering.

    I have never had, nor tried, to get anything published. I guess though that if you love what you do and that love grows then you may be lucky enough to get something published. I write first and foremost for myself and only change what I have written in order to better express what I aim to express. I do not believe it is good to pander to the needs of others, rather it is good to pander to your own needs and express them well enough to find that common human ground.

    Being human is what interests me. I am not completely sure what that even means but I have fun enjoying the process :)
  7. Yoshiko

    Yoshiko Contributor Contributor

    Jun 14, 2009
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    If I wrote everything that came to mind I would never leave my keyboard - and that would be boring.

    I write the ideas that excite me most. These are the ideas that completely take over my mind without me actively trying to think about them. The main character of my next writing project has been on my mind for several weeks now and he won't go away. I've sketched him a couple of times in attempt to sort of get him 'out of my system' but he doesn't leave; I see scenes from his life play out in my dreams every night. I'm hooked on his story and that's why I'm going to write it.
  8. T.Trian

    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

    Mar 12, 2013
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    Mushroom Land
    My one guideline is to have something to say. That means that a lot of my writing is fueled by opinions, life views, politics etc. although I portray the issues in a very down-to-Earth, character-driven way. If I don't have anything to say, it's better I say nothing at all. The same applies whether I'm writing stories or songs. Some of my views are a bit controversial or at the very least divide opinions, so I don't really give a damn whether those views alienate some readers or if they help me gain a bigger audience; I write what I like, and if someone else enjoys it, it's a bonus. Luckily a writer's enjoyment and enthusiasm often shows in his/her writing.

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