Hey everyone. So I'm going to ask some complicated questions, and then some simple questions, because my creative writing knowledge is very advanced in some ways and very laymen in other ways. But if you see a simple question, please don't just assume they're all like that and link me to a beginner's grammar lesson or something. My background is basically, on the "pros" list, I've taken lots of English classes, but almost all focused almost exclusively on grammar and expository writing, essays and so forth. That's not a pro in itself, but combined with the other pro which is that I've always picked up English easily, the state of my forum posts not withstanding, and I'm the type of person who always got near perfect scores on the SSAT verbal and SAT verbals through the years, I had tons of exposure to literature as a child, and so on. But the "cons" of my knowledge is I've never taken a novel writing classes, plus I forgot certain things I did know, which is why there is one grammar question (kind of) on here. In any case, I definitely am looking for good fundamental knowledge, even beginner knowledge if I don't know it, for the novelization/structure type of questions that I've never had any education on whatsoever. But I'm also looking for the advanced stuff in the other areas, so please don't just send me to the FAQ as some of these questions are quite specific. Here they are. Thank you everyone for your input if you have any! - How many of you write full outlines for your novels compared to having a general idea but making it up as you go? How many of the "top writers" (or however to put it) would you say use full outlines? - After introducing a character in first person, there are a few things you can do: describe their appearance immediately, give back story on them, give anecdotes about them, give them dialogue then have internal monologue anecdotes about whatever they said, etc. I'm wondering if any great writers or anyone else has ever written about the structure of this type of thing, whether there's any kind of formula that works well (i.e. introduce character, two-to-four sentences of description of appearance, then two-four sentences about back story and how the protagonist knows them, then a final anecdote related to the back story that demonstrates the core personality of the character and their relationship to the protagonist, then the character can talk and the story can go on). That way it's very organized but of course I just came up with that myself out of nowhere so there is probably a better way. - How do you structure like Hemingway, and how do you structure like Nabokov? I ask because I feel like they are opposites in the way they structure sentence to sentence, so I feel like if you could understand the two extremes, then you could most things in between. I believe I write more in style like Nabokov, nowhere near as well of course, but just in terms of how I write long sentences, and how I'm always trying to fit every whole idea into one sentence, or at least make things connect and flow really well. For instance, the sentence I just wrote. I always felt like everything just flowed better if you weren't writing one-clause sentence, period, after one-clause sentence. But when you read Hemingway, it flows despite that. It's almost like Nabokov is trying to get all the pertinent information of an idea or a joke into one sentence, like the set-up happens before the coma, the punchline happens after, and that way the whole joke is set-up and completed in one sentence so it hits harder in a way, even if the joke has ten parts and you have to write one sentence nine different commas in it. But then with Hemingway it's like the opposite. Not only is he breaking everything up into multiple sentences, but it's almost like he'll put them out of order sometimes, or leave out a piece of information from the first sentence until the third sentence. He also uses 2nd person sometimes and changes tense, so I'm curious what people think of that. For instance this passage from The Sun Also Rises: "Cohn, I believe, took every word of "The Purple Land" as literally as though it had been an R. G. Dun report. You understand me, he made some reservations, but on the whole the book to him was sound. It was all that was needed to set him off. I did not realize the extent to which it had set him off until one day he came into my office." He also does something in the second bolded area quite often which is repeat certain things unnecessarily. Instead of writing "it was all that was needed to set him off, far more than I realized until one day he came into my office," in one clean sentence, he breaks it up into two and repeat the words "set him off" two sentences in a row. This is something that's very conflicting for me because when I was young, I always asked why we had to learn all this stupid grammar, why we couldn't just write how we talked, since that's where our personality often is anyway, in our delivery. But then the more schooling I got, you get taught to avoid this at all costs. They want it concise. Why repeat the same words twice when it can be shorter? And yet when Hemingway does it it feels relaxed, confident, like it breaths better. Who's fretting over a few extra words if it reads better? I almost wonder these days if part of becoming a successful writer is forgetting all the rules you were taught, at least about things like that, and just writing in a voice that feels natural even if it doesn't follow the rules. So I'm wondering if anyone can add anything on these various questions about Hemingway. Obviously you can just tell the distinct way he writes when you read it, but I want to understand the secret sauce so if I actually wanted to sit down and write like various great writers, I would at least understand that methodology even if I didn't have the talent to construct the plots or characters or prose that they do. - The sentence, "Those that didn't know him thought he liked peaches, but he actually liked oranges," I often write out similar sentences using "but in reality" after the comma instead of "but he actually." "Those that didn't know him thought he liked peaches, but in reality, he really liked oranges (or in reality, oranges were his favorite, or "he preferred oranges"). That's just an example of how in the English language, there is often more than one option you can choose for the connective tissue of your sentences. I'm wondering if there's any resource that kind of lists all the connective tissue options and tells you which reads best under which circumstances. - Past tense in 1st person vs present tense. I usually write in past tense, but I want the protagonist's thoughts and reactions to be in the moment. In other words it's not past tense like, this is a person who lived through the story, and now he's looking back and telling it. I basically want a present tense story with the better-soundingness of third person. When it comes to describing actions, it's pretty simple. "So I went to the ball game, hoping to witness my first home run. Nothing happened until the third inning, when Fred Mungle hit a grand slam, and the crowd cheered like crazy." Well, it's simple except for one question: - Can you skip time in past tense if you want it to still read like it's happening in real time to a person, or no? For example the sentence says "so I went to the ball game." If that's happening in real time, it's basically like, we're getting into this guy's head right at the point where he went to the ball game, hoping to witness his first home run. So that means at the point we check in with the protagonist, the game hasn't started, he's there. I mean obviously you can't describe every second of being in someone's head for every minute of the day, from the moment the story starts in the book's timeline to the end of it. But once you establish a location and a time in one scene, like 'okay we're skipping to me going to the ball game now and that's where we are now and it hasn't started yet and we're going to be here in real time until I leave," then once you've established that, do you have to refrain from skipping forward until the scene basically ends, then the timeline can kind of "go dark" again and skip ahead to the relevant point in protagonist's experience? But I worry about skipping ahead in already established scenes if I want to maintain that we're experiencing this world in real time through the eyes of a person. I also wonder about stuff like this with sentences like "she went to fill the car with gas, before picking her daughter up for school," because the first clause is action, in the moment, she went to go do something, but the second part is "before doing x." The language of it on a technical level kind of implies it already happened, like you already knew. Not like she went to fill the gas tank in one moment, then after that was over, she went to the next thing in the next. It's like you're already at the end of that, you already know she went to pick up her daughter, so you're summing up both actions at once. She went to go get gas half an hour ago, plus she went to get her daughter after that, and now she's doing that and we're in the present. - So that was one of the questions about this sentence. "So I went to the ball game, hoping to witness my first home run. Nothing happened until the third inning, when Fred Mungle hit a grand slam, and the crowd cheered like crazy." The other question I had was about what tense to use when you're no longer describing actions like that, but beliefs or thought. Say the protagonist keeps going after that sentence. "Fred Mungle hit a grand slam, and the crowd cheered like crazy. I believe that baseball is the best sport, I always have, and that moment proved to me once more that I was right." I mean that's a sentence combining different verb tense conjugations. Again it's a bad example because I think you'd just write "I believed that baseball was the best sport, I always had, and that moment proved to me once more that I was right." Believed stands in for the present, and then "had believed" would be the past within writing in the past tense. But there are times with other verbs, not "to believe" but ones I can't think of right now, where it's not as clear to me, where if I use the past tense, even without "I'd" in front of it, it still sounds like the protagonist is talking about the past, what he used to think, not what he thinks now. Like maybe: "Fred Mungle hit a grand slam, and the crowd cheered like crazy. I thought that baseball was the best sport..." That doesn't work. It sounds like further in the past than "Fred Mungle hit a gram slam" which is clearly happening while he's at the game. It would have to be "I always thought baseball was the best sport, and..." but that's different. So what am I missing here and how do I write about the plot and action of my story in past tense, but still just happening now basically, but keep the thoughts, beliefs, and reactions of the protagonist in the moment? - How many words/pages is the average chapter of a novel, and how far have you guys exceeded that? I'd ask how far you've undercut that as well but my problem is writing too much (no kidding), not too little. How long is too long to wait before most of the main characters are introduced? This is one area where I do need a crash course in all the fundamental knowledge that is out there in terms of actually structuring a novel because I always hit a wall where the plot I've planned out isn't off course or anything, but the prose itself kind of gets off course, or I'm writing a paragraph about how the protag feels about something that happened on page five, only for the same topic to come up on page 25 and 35, so how many times is too many? I have a lot of major themes that are part of the story, it's very symbolic, but it's not like "first 10 pages is theme 1, second 10 pages is theme two." There are certain characters and certain aspects of the plot that lead more towards certain themes, but they're also all surrounding the protagonist from the beginning of the plot, and it's not like just a separate character will deal with a theme or discover it or bring it up to him, he has his own feelings about various things from the beginning of the story, so I have to allude to that at least a couple times early. But how many times is too much? How do I possibly balance twenty different themes from the start, rather than just kind of putting everything where it feels right in the moment and then editing once I see where everything ends up? Is there any formula or methodology that exists out there that writers can repeat or is it all just feel and I guess a more specific outline where you can not just plot out the plot and scenes, but maybe where you're going to discuss some of those themes? I'm really interested to hear everyone's take.