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  1. Plaidman

    Plaidman New Member

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    Old Dog - New Tricks

    Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by Plaidman, Sep 6, 2017.

    Okay, so I'm not that old.

    I am, however, not a young man by any means. I am in my mid forties. I am also married with two kids (one finishing high school and one finishing college). I work full time and try to spend time with my family when I can.

    I enjoy reading and have for many years. I read a decent variety of genres, anything from historical fiction to fantasy to hard science fiction. I haven't gotten into much poetry reading though. But, it is one of those things in the back of my mind that I think I should try. I've also been known to read historical non-fiction for enjoyment. (Sick I know, but there it is.) I find it very interesting.

    Am I a writer? No. But, after years of reading, I'm feeling the need to create some written works of my own. That means I am just taking the first baby steps on the path to being a writer.

    I am here to find advice on getting started. After I get comfortable with the idea of posting something I have written, some constructive criticism and suggestions would be welcome. Hopefully I will get to that comfort level in the near future.
     
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  2. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Hi there! Welcome to the forum, from somebody older than you, but who shares some of your interests. I also love reading historical fiction and non-fiction. (And some fantasy and good hard sci-fi.)

    If you're an avid reader, you're already on top of the game. You will have absorbed lots of do's and don'ts that you probably aren't even aware of.

    What is it you'd REALLY want to write? Would it be the kind of book you'd like to read yourself?

    If that's the case, then really there is nothing stopping you. Sit down, open a blank document on your computer, and get started.

    Try to keep it to yourself, however, at least at first, so you don't have the weight of expectation from others dragging you down, or people getting antsy because you haven't produced a published book ...yet. The activity can be something only you know about, or something you share with your family because they want to know what you're doing closeted away for all those hours. But you don't have to show anybody your work until YOU are ready to do it. So, don't be afraid to make mistakes, to write 'wrong,' or make sweeping changes, if you decide to do so. You can start with a firm plan of how your story will go, or you can just start out writing one single scene that you've imagined, and let the story grow from there. It doesn't even have to be the start of your story. Just get something down. You can work from the middle, or even from the end.

    If you run into snags or blocks, see what you can do to figure your way out of them. Don't give up on a story just because you've hit a problem with it. Solve the problem. It will give you immense confidence to know you can do that.

    I found a wee trick that worked for me was to 'pretend' I was telling my story to a person (my sister) whom I know well. That gave it a focus, and made it easier to tell.

    Trust me. Finding out I could write a novel was the most fun I've ever had sitting down! And fun is the key, here. You're writing for fun.

    Lots of people have different writing schedules. What worked for me was setting my alarm to get up HOURS before I had to go to work (I set the alarm for 4.30am.) At that time of day, I didn't get interrupted by phone calls or anybody else wanting something. I had about three hours every day to devote to the writing, with the benefit that when I was fresh from a good night's sleep, I was able to engage my brain fully with the writing, and it didn't get distracted by all the other bits and bobs that come with a working day. But other people like to write at night, or during breaks or only on weekends, or whatever. Play around till you find what works for you.

    And good luck! And have fun.

    (Oh yes. And make sure you back up your work. Every day. On your computer, on a flash drive or two, and even print it out on paper. There is nothing more soul-destroying than losing your work, so don't let it happen.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2017
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  3. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    GIR Waving.gif
    All I know is that you write the stories you would want to read.
    Keeps things a bit fresher, and you will find your audience too. :)
    Good luck and have fun.
    Writing is a journey, so see where you end up. :)
     
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  4. Plaidman

    Plaidman New Member

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    jannert,

    Thank you for the advice and encouragement!

    I think this is probably going to be the case. I really hope to enjoy writing fiction. But, if I write something that I normally would not read, I don't think I would enjoy it.

    Having never really written anything myself before, sitting down in front of a blank page to create people, places, relationships, etc. is kind of an intimidating task. I had thought about starting out using some writing prompts and exercises to get used to the idea and maybe reduce the intimidation factor.

    This seems like an excellent piece of advice. It should remove some of the pressure to get presentable results.

    If you don't mind my asking, how do you begin writing a story? Do you plan out an entire story (or at least most of it) before you begin writing? Or, do you just begin writing and let the story flow where it wants to go?

    I have never considered creative writing as a problem solving exercise. But, I suppose you are right. There eventually will be a time when I have written myself into a corner. Finding my way out of it should be an interesting challenge.

    This seems like a pretty good idea. But, I have a question. Do you ever find yourself writing to that person instead of a broader audience?

    Again, thank you for the advice advice and encouragement! It is greatly appreciated.
     
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  5. Plaidman

    Plaidman New Member

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    Thanks! I'm looking forward to the journey. But, like any other journey, the first few steps may be the hardest.
     
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  6. DueNorth

    DueNorth Senior Member

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    As someone who started writing 'for fun' about four years ago, let me also welcome you to the forum and offer a bit of advice. Read about writing. Read short stories--you may want to try writing stories before taking on a novel. Write about what you know. Write to prompts (see the flash fiction and short story contests in this forum, for example), and write to an outlined planned-out story (try it both ways and see what suits you). Know that much of the work of writing for most writers is done in revision. Develop a routine as to when and where you write. When you have free time (waiting in line, walking somewhere, etc.) use the opportunity to "write in your head"--imagine how you'd write the scene you are in. And, I agree with the advice you've been given not to share your work too soon and to have fun!
     
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  7. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    To answer the two questions you asked:
    1) I started my first novel in the middle, with a scene I'd envisioned quite strongly. I didn't worry about how the characters had got there, or exactly where they were going afterwards—although I'd already envisioned other scenes with the two characters as well. But when I got the scene done, and realised it had 'life' I was inspired to keep writing in both directions. Like yourself, at this point, I had no idea if I could 'do' it. Seeing a scene unfold that had life, characters, dialogue, emotion and forward movement gave me the courage to go on to the finish. I feel my novel has been a success, and it pleases me and has pleased other beta readers, although I'm still tinkering with one chapter.

    My second book will be written in a more linear fashion. It's a sequel to the first one, so the groundwork has already been done and there are things in the now-backstory that can't be changed. (And I've already written four chapters in the new one.) However, I won't hesitate to jump ahead and write a scene out of order, if I feel compelled to do so.

    In a way, this method is excellent because it keeps you working on the important scenes, and not worrying about the in-between linking-up stuff, which can sometimes be better depicted in a couple of paragraphs or sentences instead of a whole chapter. In other words, it helps you avoid the 'boring bits.' Once you have your story mapped out via your exciting or emotionally active scenes, then it's pretty easy to devise ways to link them up. This can help to avoid the beginner's mistake of starting with the alarm clock ringing, and all the hee-haw that goes with starting a normal day—or other throat-clearing writing tropes that get your characters and plot from A to B.

    2) If you write for a specific person, it will end up appealing to a broader audience, actually. Hard to explain, but it will create a bond between yourself and the reader. If you're just trying to create perfect prose, while writing, your personal voice can get lost in the academics of the exercise.

    Just make sure the person you're writing 'to' is the right age and will represent your target audience. I had a small problem with my method at first. I chose my sister, because I used to make up stories and tell them to her verbally when we were both kids. However, adopting the kind of voice I used then was a bit of a mistake, as we're now both adults! So the tone of the novel came over as slightly more juvenile than I'd intended. However, that was easily sorted in the edit. Now I would choose her again, but the adult version of her. :) Live and learn, eh?
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
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  8. Plaidman

    Plaidman New Member

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    I have seen all kinds of books about writing. I have often wondered if any of them were worth reading. Any suggestions?

    I have heard this before. And, this is going to sound really dumb. I have thought about it and I am really not sure 'what I know'. That sounds really stupid, I know.

    I know what I like to read. I know what I like and don't like. I'm sure I have to know something worth writing about. I just have to figure out what it is.

    The idea of revisions really doesn't bother me much. As long as I feel like it's actually improving the story. I know I'm not going to write a best seller without putting some (probably a lot) of work into it.

    Developing a routine shouldn't be too tough. As my kids get older, my involvement in their lives is slowly decreasing. This is a natural part of them growing up. So, between that and a wife that works midnight shifts several nights a week, I find myself with more and more free time after I get home from work. Frequently, I'm at home by myself. And I even have a desk to write at. (I just need to clean it off and clear stuff out from under it.) :rolleyes:
     
  9. Plaidman

    Plaidman New Member

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    So, if your writing a story and you get an idea for a scene that could take place at another time in your story, go ahead and write the scene and work it in later. Correct?

    I suppose you could do the same thing with a character or setting idea that you get. You could at least sketch them out. Then, maybe work it in later.

    I think I see your point. If you focus entirely on writing the story instead of telling the story, you will probably produce a sort of "flat" story. One that lacks the depth that comes when the writer's voice does not come through in the written word.

    Thanks for the insights!
     
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  10. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    Hi there - and welcome from another late bloomer. I started writing fanfiction at 39 years old and original fiction in my early 40's. I'm now 46 and have one published book under my belt, another to be published in November 2017, a short story for an anthology to be published sometime in 2018, and am finishing up my 3rd book which I'll hopefully be submitting for publication in October.

    I will echo the advice to write the story that you can't find, or that you can't find enough of. Or that you loved reading but you know you can put a special twist on. I would never say that younger writers don't have anything to write about (totally untrue and unfair), but for me I found it easier to write in my later years when a) I had less personal obligations (my daughter just started her sophomore year of college) and b) when I had decades of observing human interaction under my belt.

    Welcome aboard, and feel free to ask anything that might assist you. You can do this, from one "old dog" to another!
     
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  11. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I'd never say you should write your story out of sequence, but you certainly can. If you find yourself stuck, not quite knowing how or where to start, I can't think of a better way to break that block. I know I wrote my first novel very much out of sequence, because the more I wrote, the more the story took its own shape. That's not as sloppy as it sounds, by the way. It's just that the more you write, and the more you 'see' your characters in active/emotionally involving scenes, the more you understand them and their interactions. And this can definitely influence how your story shapes up.

    For example—you might start out believing your strong, sturdy character will 'save the day.' But when you see him interacting with other characters in various scenes, you realise that he has personal issues that are likely to make him hold back at the last second, and maybe self-doubt will make him more inclined to fail than to save the day. He may still end up being a reluctant 'hero' but he won't be the kind of hero you thought of when you first sketched out your plot. This makes the story a lot more interesting, both to write and to read.
     
  12. Plaidman

    Plaidman New Member

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    Hello Laurin Kelly!

    Congratulations!!

    This kind of where I am. I have one child getting ready to graduate college and another getting ready to graduate high school. So, I am finding myself with more free time.
     
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  13. Plaidman

    Plaidman New Member

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    Interesting. I hadn't really considered that the characters that I create may not end up the way I initially imagined. They take a life of their own, and you learn who they are.
     

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