1. Glen Barrington

    Glen Barrington Active Member

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    Novel Development 'Concepts'

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Glen Barrington, Sep 26, 2018.

    Right now, I'm reading "The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction" By CS Lakin. Just in the first chapter, I've found a couple of points she makes, that I clearly needed to work on.

    My question to the membership is do you find books of this sort helpful? I'm pretty new to fiction writing, though I've had a blog for years and have written some short stories in the past, do other people need this sort of help, or am I just SO new that I need the obvious stuff pointed out to me? I think I've got a lot of work ahead of me before I can start writing.
     
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  2. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Never honestly read anything on how to write, apart from parts of one on bad writing, because it was hilarious, as well as Stephen King's On Writing, because it was recommended by loads of people. Anyway, I have no idea. I know what I know by reading novels I enjoy and writing shitloads. However, I see nothing wrong with reading "how to" books. Both ways are fine, and with the help if solid advice maybe you'd reach your goal faster than someone like me, who tends to prefer trial and error.

    I often find the "how to" genre far to waffly. They ramble on and on and in the space of 10 pages there might have been 1 single actually useful point. Don't have no time for that kinda waffling! Also, when you're a novice, it's hard to know which advice is good and which can be ignored, and which should be applied on a case by case basis. You can usually tell who's a newbie when it comes to critique if you get comments like, "See, just add 5 adjectives to the sentence to make it more descriptive! 'The blue dress' just reads so dull." Or, "Gasp. You used 'whispered' rather than 'said'. Delete it at once!"

    I'm paraphrasing of course. But those who home in on a rule and then wave a red flag any time he sees it broken are those I will usually ignore the advice of :p Good advice should be grounded in context, style/voice, and the writer's purpose for his choice.
     
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  3. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    I'm with @Mckk on this one. I never took a course in creative writing, though in doing my professional technical writing, we had a NAVAIR style guide that we "should" observe, that had some good points. "It" for example, is almost a banned word in technical writing, since it evades responsibility, and may mean different things to different readers. We always spelled out what we were talking about, never"it", even though it might make the techno-prose sound very repetitive. Passive voice was also verboten, "the audio voltage level should BE adjusted after installation" by whom? Use "The technician should adjust the audio level after installation," assigns responsibility

    That said I have learned a HUGE amount about writing on the different back and forths here. POV, character arc, planning vs pantsing, how much description is too much/too little, exposition vs. narrative, narrator's voice vs. characters' voices, on and on. I knew none of those things when I first signed on here. I have always been a voracious reader, however, and I seemed to have picked up a lot of rules by osmosis from what I read. Especially, I applied styles that I liked, so they were natural to me, my voice.

    One major point is that there are no hard and fast rules in writing, but before you choose to break a rule, you should know the rule, and why you want to break it. So magazines might help in that, as well as this site and others
     
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  4. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I don't know if I find them helpful, but I can't seem to do anything without reading about that same activity--whether or not I use any of the advice I'm reading.

    On the shelf to the left of my desk, I have, all about writing:

    The Kite and the String
    The Hidden Machinery
    The Way of the Writer
    Talking About Detective Fiction
    Telling Lies for Fun & Profit
    The Passionate, Accurate Story
    Steering the Craft
    Techniques of the Selling Writer
    bird by bird
    .....why the bleep do I have two copies of Steering the Craft?
    Writing Alone and With Others
    The Writer's Notebook
    The Writer's Notebook II
    MFA vs NYC

    That's ignoring Kindle books:

    Escaping into the Open
    The Forest for the Trees
    The Getaway Car
    Pulp Fiction
    On Writing
    Wired for Story
    Write Away
    Write to be Published
    Writing Fiction for Dummies (it was free!)
    The Artful Edit
    Writing the Novel from Plot to Pixel

    and a couple of books on revision seem to have vanished somewhere.

    Soe of these are really good. Some are a waste of space.
     
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  5. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think these books are good to read BUT I recommend you read them after you have written your story/novel. That sounds like idiotic advice, but it worked well for me. I had never taken a creative writing course in my life (although I am an experienced reader with a BA in English) so I didn't know beans about 'writing.' I just sat down and wrote my novel. I told myself beforehand that I would write honestly, not worry about what anybody else was going to think of it, and write what I would want to read. I did that with a great deal of enthusiasm, and wonder of wonders, I produced a novel I was reasonably happy with.

    However, once I started showing it around, all the flaws came popping out. I had some fantastic beta readers (who are writers themselves) set me on the path to improvement. And THEN I started reading how-to books. I've discarded quite a few of them over the years, but my writing shelf still contains seventeen of the ones that really helped me. (Not counting reference books, dictionaries, thesaurus, etc.)

    The reason I suggest writing first is that when you read one of these how-to books, you then know exactly what they are talking about. (Oh, shit, I did that. Oh, now I get why that didn't work.)

    Since you've already written you can apply what they say to your own story without worrying about 'rules' bogging you down and blunting your original vision for the story. Instead, you look at your story with their tips newly in mind and you can immediately see how to improve what you've written. Instead of providing a list of 'don'ts' that can narrow your first draft's vision and enthusiasm—and make you so scared of making mistakes that you hamstring your imagination and word flow—reading the tips afterwards illuminates what could have been done better after the fact. This provokes enthusiasm, rather than dampens it. You know you can write a novel, because you just did. Now you just want to make it even better—and these books can show you how.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2018
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  6. DeeDee

    DeeDee Contributor Contributor

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    All books on writing are useful. If you read too many it starts to become repetitive but it's really amazing how every little thing is covered. Well, most little things :read2: :read2::read2::read2::read2::read2::read2: I like seeing different aspects of the same thing being explored, too. Repetition makes perfect, or something :-D

    Did reading those lead to a successfully published novel? :rolleyes: :D
     
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  7. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Still writing my first novel. :)

    I have to read about whatever I'm doing, especially when it's new. When I started sewing, a gazillion books. When I started gardening, a gazillion books. Now I'm comfortable with sewing and gardening, and don't need nearly so many books. (A big box of sewing books is headed for the used bookstores as soon as I get around to putting them in the car.)
     
  8. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I've only read a couple: On Writing, Bird by Bird, Creating Character Arcs by Weiland, The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Maass, and The Anatomy of Story by Truby

    I think they are all great books, and I got something from all of them. I'm still reading the last one, and it is great.

    For me, the issue is that even if the book is full of good advice, I'm already going to be interested in writing what I want to write. If I'm writing all the time, I'll pick up a couple tid bits that I didn't think of before, but ring true and immediately help me. I'm paying closer attention to Truby while I'm working on my new outline.

    Think of someone walking into a professional cage fight. Imagine giving that person a 300 page memoir about cage fighting which contained descriptions of the 200 most critical skills and how the author feels about them. Even if he read the whole book, he'd probably only pick up a couple things he'd use, that he didn't already know, and only if he was training all the time. Even if the whole book was correct, you wouldn't expect it to dominate his behavior either training or in the ring.

    In some ways, writing is like that. You don't know for sure what obstacles will get in your way, how you will fight with yourself about what you are writing, or what issues will come up in the story organically that you didn't count on. It's a dynamic situation and it's hard to hold it all in your mind without a ton of practice, so how big of an influence can reading a book of advice be? Probably some. It's probably good to do. But thinking and doing are the main parts.

    I think.
     
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  9. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I think the more novels you read, the more the information being talked about in the how-to books is going to make sense. You can read all the how-to books you want, but you can't forget to actually read the novels too. It's really important.
     
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  10. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Contributor Contributor

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    Absolutely.

    If you read a lot of them, they are useful. And if you read them as guidelines it is good.

    Read until saturation point and then some. Use Youtube lectures, tutorials, interviews...

    Reading is the besta way to learn from masters, from mistakes already made, from history, from...

    Read about structural work, archetypes, monomyth, self management of working process, markets, editors, publishing houses, self publishing, creativity, influencing, stealing, self editing... Read it all. Read it twice. And then some.

    And after & during reading... Make Good Art!

     
  11. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Contributor Contributor

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    If you read one book about some aspect of writing, you might learn rules that strangle your writing.

    If you read ten books about same aspect, you learn usefull guidelines, that help you use your own creativity to go forward and find your own style.

    If it is worth doing, it is worth overdoing.
     
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  12. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    @jannert, is your novel available? I certainly owe you a read and review!
     
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  13. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Totally agree with this. The more input the better. If you read LOTS of how-to books, you'll get ideas, but you'll also get over the idea that there is only one way to write a book!
     
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  14. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Getting there, Lew (if domestic upheaval and house repair could just go away for a while.) Had a big breakthrough just last week, and I think I finally see a way to deal with the problem I've had with one aspect of it. Damn. I was prepared to announce it 'finished' until my last beta reader pointed out an issue ...and I knew he was right. This involved re-imagining part of it, which I found difficult to do at this stage. It's not a major change, but I think it will be crucial. Now, if the world would just go away for, like, 5 days.... Not going to happen this week, but maybe next?
     

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