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Stauderhorse
01-02-2009, 02:50 PM
Writing snippets of things and short stories and poems here and there has always been a hobby of mine. I always thought that, even though I'd never really learned the "right" way to craft a good story or poem, I was pretty gifted at it.

Once I hit 18, though, I slowly came to the realization that pretty much everything I had written was...awful. Uninteresting, childish trash. So I resolved to write a story that would resonate with anyone who read it. At 18 years old, I wrote a story about a young man with an overbearing, emotionally abusive mother, and how he finally finds freedom after her death.

It took me six months to finish it up, and I was so proud of what I had done. It was the best thing I had ever written. I sent it out to a few writing magazines for publishing, but no one took the bait. Oh well, said I, I'm sure if I keep trying I'll get it published. It sat on the shelf for a year, and I picked it up to read it once more. It was really, really terrible. Plotless, pointless, melodramatic pap. I couldn't believe I had been so proud of it. This was the best thing I could churn out? Really?

I haven't written anything in a while now, because every time I start a story, a little voice pops into my head. "This is going to be terrible. You are a bad, bad writer. You're going to end up being disgusted with your work and throwing it away." The thing is, I really do enjoy writing. I love seeing my ideas develop and end up on paper. I can't enjoy writing, though, if everything I turn out is awful and embarrassing.

What can I do to improve my skills? Take a creative writing class? Try to emulate other writers' styles? Are there books that will help me become at least mediocre? I know at least a few of you are writers, so any help you could give would be immensely appreciated.

Hunter Hawk
01-02-2009, 02:58 PM
What can I do to improve my skills?
The stock answer is "read more".

I had an old rhetoric professor who told us that one exercise back in the day was to take a well-regarded piece of writing and just copy it word-for-word several times in longhand. The idea was to get the flow of the rhetoric engraved into your psyche.

Elret
01-02-2009, 03:06 PM
The stock answer is "read more".
This.
But also, write more. Every day, just write. Allow yourself to write complete and total crap.

I think taking a class is a good idea. You might also find some books on writing exercises helpful. There are lots of websites full of aspiring authors out there and those are bursting with inspiration, encouragement, and tips.

And while this is definitely not for everyone, if you haven't already I would suggest you look into The Artist's Way (www.theartistsway.com). Its purpose is to help you overcome whatever is blocking your creativity, such as in your case your (probably unfounded) conviction that you're no good.

Good luck!

Cuckoorex
01-02-2009, 03:06 PM
The stock answer is "read more".


Yep. Every instructor I ever had who was also a decent writer said that the key to writing better was to read as much as possible. Not only do you start to pick up on the tendencies of good writers, but you can more easily recognize bad writing and apply those observations to things you have written.

I would add that it is important not to fall in love with your own work too much; it can be difficult for any creative person to give themselves a truly objective self-critique, but it's a valuable skill to attain. All too often writers and artists become a little too pleased with some particular passage or rendering and fail to see the big picture. This is why it's important also to get feedback from people who are not intimately connected with the piece.

That's what she said.

Elret
01-02-2009, 03:10 PM
All too often writers and artists become a little too pleased with some particular passage or rendering and fail to see the big picture. This is why it's important also to get feedback from people who are not intimately connected with the piece.Agreed. This is where you might find a class helpful, too. Forcing yourself to put your stuff out there for feedback, good or bad, will probably be incredibly hard, but if you allow yourself to really absorb the advice you get, you'll learn more than you could on your own.

Just Ed
01-02-2009, 03:15 PM
The stock answer is "read more".Well, that, and of course "write more" as well. King's On Writing is a good place to start, but almost every piece of advice I've seen from professional writers is that a writer writes, period. And many of them will say they face a crisis of confidence frequently regarding what it is they are actually writing, as well. But they persevere. I've felt I could write (I've written a couple of pieces of short fiction) and maybe even sell, but I lack the perseverance and will power to develop whatever talent I may have.

overlyverbose
01-02-2009, 03:20 PM
Yep. Every instructor I ever had who was also a decent writer said that the key to writing better was to read as much as possible. Not only do you start to pick up on the tendencies of good writers, but you can more easily recognize bad writing and apply those observations to things you have written.

I would add that it is important not to fall in love with your own work too much; it can be difficult for any creative person to give themselves a truly objective self-critique, but it's a valuable skill to attain. All too often writers and artists become a little too pleased with some particular passage or rendering and fail to see the big picture. This is why it's important also to get feedback from people who are not intimately connected with the piece.

That's what she said.

I agree with all of this wholeheartedly. Read, read, read and write, write, write.

I'd also say that, if possible, find yourself someone you trust who can critique your writing. And never take it personally if someone rips your work apart.

There are some locked online forums that you can go to in order to find other authors to commiserate with and who can provide you with additional tips. I'd caution you, though, that if you're tempted to find someone there to critique your work, you should never post it on the forum unless it's a locked-down forum with a limited number of authors that explicitly states that the work is not considered "published." Posting your work to an open online forum is considered publishing it, even if it's a draft and you're asking for a critique. If what you're looking for is to make money on your writing, loopholes like that can cause you to lose money on your work, since it's considered a reprint even after being posted for critique. You can get money on reprints, but obviously not nearly as much on a new work.

pepperlandgirl
01-02-2009, 03:34 PM
I haven't written anything in a while now, because every time I start a story, a little voice pops into my head. "This is going to be terrible. You are a bad, bad writer. You're going to end up being disgusted with your work and throwing it away." The thing is, I really do enjoy writing. I love seeing my ideas develop and end up on paper. I can't enjoy writing, though, if everything I turn out is awful and embarrassing.


I have good news and bad news. The bad news first--that's never going to go away. Most writers hear that sentence, or a variation of that, all of the time. Hell, I've been hearing it for the last 10 days and I'm working on things that are already under contract.

But the good news! That little voice might be right, but it doesn't have to be right forever! I've written some truly awful crap. Crap that I'm deeply embarrassed over--crap that people still have access to, even. But the only way to get over the crap is to keep writing. I once read somewhere that you need to write a million words of crap before you start to get to the good stuff. I think that's probably true. It's like picking up an instrument. You are not going to be Eric Clapton when you pick up a guitar for the first time...or the first hundred times...or maybe even the first thousand times. George Harrison practiced on his guitar until his fingers bled. I always keep that in mind when I feel discouraged.

If you are serious about improving, then you need to sit down and write every single day. Even if you are writing "I don't know what to write" over and over and over five hundred times. You need to get to the point where writing is part of your daily routine, like taking a shower or eating dinner. You need to get to the point where you feel uncomfortable and out of sorts if you aren't writing. One hundred words a day. Five hundred words a day. A thousand words a day. 15 minutes a day. Whatever works best for you--but set your goal, stick to it, and write.

Finally, you don't have to share your work with anybody right away. Who gives a fuck if it's awful and embarrassing? The writing police won't throw you in writing jail. Tell your internal editor to shut the fuck up and then get to work. Forget about publishing. Forget about receiving the love and acclaim of everybody who reads your work. That comes later. Or it might not come at all. Because even if you manage to get yourself published, there will be reviewers and readers who hate you and think you'd better serve the world be shoveling shit. So just write. Because you can't control how people will respond to you. Hell, there are people on this very message board who say that Shakespeare is an over-rated hack. If Shakespeare can't please everybody, what shot do you or I have?

Just write (and read) and write some more. Ignore all the writing books except King's On Writing. Don't take a creative writing class if what you secretly want is a captive audience and validation about how good you are.

RealityChuck
01-02-2009, 03:50 PM
Read more Write every day. And I mean every day. No excuses. When you finish something, set it aside. Write something else while waiting. After a time, read it. Pay attention to everything that doesn't work (if you can't see anything wrong, you're either a genius, or your not looking carefully enough). Edit the hell out of it to remove the bad parts. Look for a good writing group. If they have nothing but praise for your story, it's the wrong one. You want to know what is wrong.

Cuckoorex
01-02-2009, 03:55 PM
Well, that, and of course "write more" as well. King's On Writing is a good place to start, but almost every piece of advice I've seen from professional writers is that a writer writes, period. And many of them will say they face a crisis of confidence frequently regarding what it is they are actually writing, as well. But they persevere. I've felt I could write (I've written a couple of pieces of short fiction) and maybe even sell, but I lack the perseverance and will power to develop whatever talent I may have.

I agree with this; now, keep in mind that I'm approaching this from the perspective of a professional illustrator as opposed to a professional writer, but it seems that there are several parallels to be found in the creative process and development in both arenas: observe, create, repeat. I was told by one of my illustration instructors during sophomore year that most artists will create dozens or even hundreds of bad drawings for every fairly good drawing that they end up with. The artists that tend to have created large numbers of good drawings very often have simply persevered and drawn more.

Fish
01-02-2009, 04:08 PM
I agree with the notion of "read more" and "write more." What's important, in my opinion, is to read and write with purpose.

First: understand story structure. Read Greek and Roman myths, read fables and parables. Read histories. Read the classics (such as Sophocles and Shakespeare). These stories have survived for centuries because something about them works. There are elements to certain stories which repeat, which satisfy. As much as I personally avoid it, the TVTropes is Joseph Campbell for the Internet generation; the former (in my opinion) promotes dissection of stories without a fundamental understanding of them, but it's on the right track. The more you read these kinds of stories, the better you will recognize them when other writers shamelessly plunder them.

Second: understand what your story is about. Reading about myths and story structure is a boon, here; it enables you to see the enduring and essential elements of your story. I'm not saying that every incident of self-sacrifice has to be written as a Christ figure, or that every incident of parthenogenesis is necessarily a Zeus-Athena relationship, but if you know those myths then it becomes your choice to echo them or avoid them at your option.

Third: watch how other writers put the plot into the hands of the characters. Rare is the story over which the protagonists have no control whatsoever. Observe how the characters' choices affect the outcome of the story. That's not to say that Fate or Karma or Random Chance never enters a story, but there's a certain satisfying symbolism in what the characters choose to do about it all.

pseudotriton ruber ruber
01-02-2009, 04:09 PM
A challenge I give to my ambitious writing students that goes beyond just "read more" is to imitate some writer you admire, and do it systematically, as if your goal above all else were to publish this somewhere AS him or her. Most of them don't do it because, even if they try, figuring out how that writer puts his or ideas together, and constructs sentences, and creates dialogue, and proportions dialogue to narrative, and selects backstory, and the zillion other things all writers do (and for them it nearly always subconscious, not the result on choosing) is real WORK.

But it's very useful work, even if the immediate result is a bad watered down imitation. If you show it to a careful reader of that professional writer, he may even be able to point out what is lacking in your attempt.

Markxxx
01-02-2009, 04:12 PM
One thing I did was take books I was dissatsified with and rewrote passages of them. Then I'd ask people to compare the two and see what they liked about my rewrite and hated about the rewrite.

There is a difference between good writing and good storytelling. Even a big difference between types of storytelling

I love the "quilt" books by Jennifer Chiaverini. The interesting thing about this author, when she writes characters that are evil or just bad, she IS SO interesting. You can't put the book down. Then when she writes about a good character she gets very boring quickly.

Whenever Chiaverini writes about faults and woes she shines. Then comes the good guys or the resolution, I often find myself rooting for the bad guy in her books, because they are JUST that more interesting.

Hunter Hawk
01-02-2009, 04:20 PM
A challenge I give to my ambitious writing students that goes beyond just "read more" is to imitate some writer you admire, and do it systematically, as if your goal above all else were to publish this somewhere AS him or her.
Ah, good old "Lovecraft pastiche syndrome" :)

(Lots of people think H. P. Lovecraft was an awful writer. And true, he had all sorts of faults--but you really start to develop an appreciation for his skill after reading a few bad imitations.)


Actually, Stauderhorse, if you're looking for a little sample throwaway exercise it might be interesting to take a crack at revising "The Eye of Argon". It's a godawful piece of writing, but there's actually an interesting little story lurking inside it.



ETA: Or...err...what Markxxx said.

Cuckoorex
01-02-2009, 04:27 PM
A challenge I give to my ambitious writing students that goes beyond just "read more" is to imitate some writer you admire, and do it systematically, as if your goal above all else were to publish this somewhere AS him or her.

I wonder if this works for fans of Gil Orlovitz... :D

Seriously, though, this is also a great exercise. Again to use visual arts as a parallel, one of the more instructive exercises during foundation year was an assignment to replicate a famous work of art, then "diagram" the work using tracing paper with the goal of discovering the underlying structure of the work. How does the author/artist use certain cues to direct the reader/viewer to see/read/feel what is intended?

wonky
01-02-2009, 04:39 PM
Writing snippets of things and short stories and poems here and there has always been a hobby of mine. I always thought that, even though I'd never really learned the "right" way to craft a good story or poem, I was pretty gifted at it.

Once I hit 18, though, I slowly came to the realization that pretty much everything I had written was...awful.

This gives me hope. You'd be astonished at the number of people who think, way past 18, that they are simply naturally gifted at ~Poetic Feeling~ and ~Writing from the Heart~.

I can't do much other than echo the reading and writing recommendations. Tons of people think they can write poetry without liking poetry, which strikes me as weird. You don't generally see people in other media/genres that try to create what they don't like, but poetry attracts some very strange thinking.

Cuckoorex
01-02-2009, 04:45 PM
I can't do much other than echo the reading and writing recommendations. Tons of people think they can write poetry without liking poetry, which strikes me as weird. You don't generally see people in other media/genres that try to create what they don't like, but poetry attracts some very strange thinking.

I think that part of the reason for this is that there are many people who have encountered poetry that doesn't seem to follow a particular structure; they read something that, to them, seems like just an off-the-cuff collection of words that evoke certain images or feelings...then they think, "I can do that!" and off they go. This is kind of like the phenomenon of people seeing abstract art and thinking, "my kid could do that!"

Cuckoorex
01-02-2009, 04:56 PM
I mentioned Gil Orlovitz before; you can read a few pages from his Diary of Alexander (http://cgi.ebay.com/1958-GIL-ORLOVITZ:-THE-DIARY-OF-ALEXANDER-PATIENCE_W0QQitemZ110326701689QQcmdZViewItemQQimsxZ20081216?IMSfp=TL081216111001r1119) Patience here...I know at least a few people who have tried to read a few lines of Orlovitz's work and just scrunch up their brows and say, "It's just random words!" Yet I don't think that it's nearly so random as they think.

On the other hand, trying to emulate this sort of work as a fledgling writer might be a Bad Idea. Not that you expressed a desire to do so...just sayin'.

wonky
01-02-2009, 05:17 PM
I think that part of the reason for this is that there are many people who have encountered poetry that doesn't seem to follow a particular structure; they read something that, to them, seems like just an off-the-cuff collection of words that evoke certain images or feelings...then they think, "I can do that!" and off they go. This is kind of like the phenomenon of people seeing abstract art and thinking, "my kid could do that!"

Yeah, that's plausible. I'll admit, I still have that reaction when I read Gertrude Stein.

Lavender Falcon
01-02-2009, 06:26 PM
In addition to the excellent advice already posted, I'll say that persistence pays off. Of all the published writers I know, most either wrote multiple manuscripts before they finally wrote the one that sold, or they had a job that required them to do a lot of writing before they sat down and wrote a novel. Very few of the people I know wrote one novel and found an agent/publisher with it.

Writing a novel is an incredibly complex task, when you think about it. There are the mechanics, of course--good spelling, punctuation, etc. But then there are things like plot, character, pacing, conflict, etc. that have to come together well to keep a reader enticed the whole way through. Every once in a while, you run into someone who seems to have an intuitive grasp of story, and all of that stuff just falls into place naturally for them. Most people have to practice a lot to figure it out, however.

The good news, as I said on another recent thread, is that writing is like working with clay. If you don't like what you end up with, you just reshape it until you get something that works. You aren't going to run out of words, after all.

Tarwater
01-02-2009, 07:16 PM
When Hunter S. Thompson first started writing, he spent hours at his typewriter. Doing nothing original. He spent those hours copying The Great Gatsby. The entire thing. He wanted to get a feel for Fitzgerald's style, for his dialogue, for his characters, and for his exposition. It's already been said, but learning how other writers write is one of the most important things you can possibly do when you're first starting out.

Also, buy this: Understanding Fiction (http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B000KMGBRE/ref=dp_olp_used?ie=UTF8&condition=used). It's a collection of short-stories, some good, some bad, but all written by authors you should recognize. After each story, the editors provide a detailed analysis of the characters, theme, and plot. If the story succeeds, they will explain why. If it fails, they will explain why. By the time you've finished the book, you'll have a greater understanding of how fiction works. It's almost seventy years old. It's out of print. You might be able to find a copy at your local library, but if you can't, you owe it to yourself to purchase it. Read it. And then re-read it. Takes notes, too.

Two more things:

1. Write truthfully. In his essay "The Art of Fiction," Henry James writes that a good novel will "compete with life. When it ceases to compete as the canvas of the painter competes, it will have arrived at a very strange pass."

Be objective when you write. Be sincere.

2. Your fiction will rise or fall on the strength of your characters. Don't be sympathetic. Don't make them caricatures. And don't make them vessels to transport an idea from chapter to chapter, either. If you start a novel with anything but your characters in mind, or if you think you're going to use your characters to make a point, you will fail. If you want to make a point, write an essay.


Writing is hard work. Don't give up. Even the most revered writers had a difficult time, and they often found themselves writing garbage. This is not unusual. You will write garbage, too. But don't give up.

Hunter Hawk
01-02-2009, 07:30 PM
Oh, another note on the "read more" advice: If you're one of those people who tends to gravitate to a particular genre (fantasy and SF fans seem to be particularly prone to this), be sure to read material from outside your comfort zone.

For example, I was once at an author's event for Tim Powers (notable fantasy author) and asked him for recommendations on what to read, and the absolute first thing he suggested was Tristram Shandy.

And don't forget that people like Tolkien and Cabell has solid foundations in the classics.

Stauderhorse
01-02-2009, 07:43 PM
2. Your fiction will rise or fall on the strength of your characters. Don't be sympathetic. Don't make them caricatures. And don't make them vessels to transport an idea from chapter to chapter, either. If you start a novel with anything but your characters in mind, or if you think you're going to use your characters to make a point, you will fail. If you want to make a point, write an essay.

Now that you mention it, I think this is one of my biggest problems. I tend to come up with a plot long before I consider any characters, and so they become incidental rather than integral to the story. One thing to work on.

This all sounds like great advice so far. Thanks to everyone!

Spice Weasel
01-02-2009, 07:45 PM
I have good news and bad news. The bad news first--that's never going to go away. Most writers hear that sentence, or a variation of that, all of the time. Hell, I've been hearing it for the last 10 days and I'm working on things that are already under contract.

But the good news! <sheer brilliance>

This is phenomenal advice, and I really can't describe how much you've motivated and inspired people like me, pepperlandgirl.

The truth is, Stauderhorse, you're probably going to always hate the things you write. That's pretty much how you can guarantee you're a writer. I'm horrified by some of the stuff I've written. That's kind of a given and I don't think it goes away just because you score a book deal.

Read, read, read, and write, write, write is the best advice there is. There's no other way to become an expert on writing than to live and breathe it. I was a much better writer as a young teen than I am now, and that's largely because when I was a young teen I devoted anywhere from six to eight hours a day writing. Nowadays I'm lucky if I can get in an hour or two.

Though if I may recommend a book I love, The Courage to Write. (http://www.amazon.com/Courage-Write-Writers-Transcend-Fear/dp/0805074678) It's less about how to write and more about why to write, but for sure it will light a fire under your ass. Most importantly, it will make you realize you aren't alone in your writing anxiety. We really are a neurotic bunch in general.

Fish
01-02-2009, 08:03 PM
Now that you mention it, I think this is one of my biggest problems. I tend to come up with a plot long before I consider any characters, and so they become incidental rather than integral to the story. One thing to work on.
You could do worse than to analyze the storytelling model of a show like (don't laugh) Star Trek.

If you are a plot-first kind of person, and I am, then the first step is to contemplate the meaning of your plot. What are the symbols, what are the themes? Where is it going? Then ask yourself, "What characters do I need that will best tell this story?"

Next Generation did this passably well. They would have a story about fatherhood, let's say. Who are the characters with father issues? Worf (whose father was dishonored), Data (whose "father" was his creator) and Wesley (whose father was dead). Got a story about duty and loyalty? You could do worse than to pick Picard (the captain) and Wesley (the ensign). Like an artist choosing paints from a palette, the writers could select the character most appropriate to the theme.

Similarly, if you're telling a story about (for instance) black slavery, you could select whatever character and time period that is most emotionally resonant for your purpose: a freed slave; a slave trader; an Underground Railroad worker; an abolitionist; a recently acquired slave; a person of mixed black-white descent; you get the idea. Telling a story about slavery from the point of view of (for instance) two whites from Connecticut just doesn't have the right resonance.

But the character has to have nuances and depth. Using a caricature to tell your story is like an artist painting in red, yellow, and blue. It does the job but it ain't got soul.

Hunter Hawk
01-02-2009, 08:15 PM
Oh, another piece of advice from a different old rhetoric professor:

"Writing is never finished, only abandoned."

Spice Weasel
01-02-2009, 08:39 PM
If you are a plot-first kind of person, and I am, then the first step is to contemplate the meaning of your plot. What are the symbols, what are the themes? Where is it going? Then ask yourself, "What characters do I need that will best tell this story?"

Got any advice for a person who creates compelling characters but flounders around with plot?

Fish
01-02-2009, 09:15 PM
Yes: you go the opposite direction. You ask yourself, "What situations would most greatly challenge, or frighten, or change this character? How can I push this character out of his comfort zone? What can I do to raise the stakes for this character? Where is this character's crisis point and how do I get him there?"

If you have a character whose main theme is self-deprecation that is, she always puts others first, never asserting herself, never taking decisive action of her own then you find ways to force her into decision-making situations. If you have a character who is highly moral, force him into a moral quandary. If you create a character whose chief characteristic is faith, arrange the plot in such a way as to give him doubt.

People are so very interesting when they don't always get what they want. :)

wonky
01-02-2009, 09:28 PM
Yep. Ya gotta torment your characters to get them to do things. Rats in a maze, baby, with food, electric shocks, and mint (because nothing's more evil than mint).

Spice Weasel
01-02-2009, 09:51 PM
Yes: you go the opposite direction. You ask yourself, "What situations would most greatly challenge, or frighten, or change this character? How can I push this character out of his comfort zone? What can I do to raise the stakes for this character? Where is this character's crisis point and how do I get him there?"

If you have a character whose main theme is self-deprecation — that is, she always puts others first, never asserting herself, never taking decisive action of her own — then you find ways to force her into decision-making situations. If you have a character who is highly moral, force him into a moral quandary. If you create a character whose chief characteristic is faith, arrange the plot in such a way as to give him doubt.

People are so very interesting when they don't always get what they want. :)
Well, this is basically my standard MO, but I tend to do it much more haphazardly and without regard for the character. I sort of do the metaphorical equivalent of throwing them in a bottle together and shaking it up to see if I can get 'em to fight. But what you're suggesting is a lot more focused and deliberate, and to be frank kind of sadistic. ;) I will definitely keep it in mind and appreciate the input.

kunilou
01-02-2009, 10:11 PM
There are two separate but related questions here:

1) How do I become better at the craft of writing?

2) How do I become a better storyteller?

I'll pass on the storytelling part, since my background is in communications writing, not literary writing. But for question #1, in addition to reading more and writing more, the answer is to tear it up and rewrite it. Edit mercilessly. Take out every word that isn't a noun or verb and then put them back one by one until you have only the words necessary to make your point clearly. Tear it up and rewrite it to emphasize one thing at a time (character, atmosphere, exposition, etc.) then add the other elements in until you achieve balance. Get a thesaurus and experiment with synonyms to broaden your working vocabularly. Take out all the narrative and focus on the dialog -- do your characters sound like real people? Do they all sound the same? Then look at your narrative -- would those sections work better as dialog?

There's more along the same lines but the advice is simple. Rewrite!

Fish
01-02-2009, 10:43 PM
Well, this is basically my standard MO, but I tend to do it much more haphazardly and without regard for the character. I sort of do the metaphorical equivalent of throwing them in a bottle together and shaking it up to see if I can get 'em to fight. But what you're suggesting is a lot more focused and deliberate, and to be frank kind of sadistic. ;) I will definitely keep it in mind and appreciate the input.
Oh my yes, it can be very sadistic. It's like the difference between putting giving your snake another snake to play with, and giving your snake a mongoose. :)

And if you can arrange it so what will challenge Character A is what Character B wants, and vice-versa, then you've got a great conflict.

Little Nemo
01-02-2009, 10:57 PM
One exercise that I think would be useful is to take a book you like and rewrite it. Do something like rewrite a book that was written in the third person and make it a first person narrative. Or rewrite it from the point of view of a minor character. Or change the genre it was written in. This exercise will help you learn to understand the structure of an existing story while also making you create your own work for the rewriting.

pepperlandgirl
01-03-2009, 12:08 AM
You're welcome, olivesmarch4th. Occasionally, I have something worthwhile to post around here. ;) I consider myself a writer by trade and a teacher by training, so I try to help people when/if I can.


There's more along the same lines but the advice is simple. Rewrite!

Indeed. I used to have terrible habits. I overused "that," I had a shitload of sentences that were in passive voice, I loved "could" constructions (he could feel her laugh versus he felt her laugh). I adored adverbs with every fiber of my being (she said excitedly!). I knew these things were "against the rules" and most good writers would tell you to avoid them, but I didn't understand why. Until I realized, "Oh yeah, it makes my book suck." So after every single thing I wrote, I made myself go through and rewrite every single sentence. When you have a full length novel, this can be very tedious. But before too long, it became second nature to edit out the adverbs, to use active construction with my sentences, and to eliminate words that don't add anything. When I started working with my writing partner, I broke her of similar bad habits (she loves the "so....that" construction so much it makes my eye twitch). I have a naturally sparse style anyway, and taking these steps really tightened up my prose.

When I start a story, I tend to think "What would it take for Character A and Character B to fall in love with each other?" Not because I write romance--I write romance because that was always my starting point. I throw them in a situation and see what happens. Some people need to take a methodical, structured approach (my writing partner for one). Some people balk at anything like structure (me). You've just got to figure out what works for you and that might take some trial and error.

Cat Whisperer
01-03-2009, 12:14 AM
Post on a message boad A LOT! No, seriously, this is writing, too, and doing it is a good exercise if you're willing to do it properly. I've been doing this for eight years, and I have never written better in my life.

And don't use the same non-common word twice in the same paragraph.

Horatio Hellpop
01-03-2009, 12:28 AM
Look at bad writing and decide what you don't like. Does the writer have you, the reader in mind? Does he present information in a clear, understandable manner? Does he make literary/cultural references that you, the reader, are likely to get? Does he convince you one way or the other whether you should like or care about the characters?

As a backhanded anti-example, track down a copy of Michael O'Donoghue's oft-reprinted "How to Write Good."

wonky
01-03-2009, 12:29 AM
And don't use the same non-common word twice in the same paragraph.

Or book. Lookin' at you Stephen R. Donaldson!

Madgolf
01-03-2009, 12:31 AM
According to Kurt Vonnegut JR:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.*

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Sefton
01-03-2009, 07:33 AM
Remember how you used to write in junior high school? The same bland, commonplace verbs, the same repetitive sentence structure?

Once you've finished a scene or chapter, read over every paragraph and sentence. If anything seems like something a junior high schooler might have written, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

Martini Enfield
01-03-2009, 07:53 AM
There has been some excellent advice in this thread which I'm going to take on board for my own writing.

My problem is that I'm a non-fiction writer for the most part. I can produce a publication quality 2,000 word article on pretty much any military firearm you care to name without any trouble at all.

Non-fiction, on the other hand, I struggle with, because I get bored with the effort of writing the story. I know the characters, I know the plot, I know how it ends, but I just get... tired of trying to write it all in a way that conveys what I already know to the reader in a way they're going to find interesting.

I've managed a handful of short stories (around 2000 words) that I'm very happy with (and have had some positive feedback on), but have had no luck publishing so far- there's just nowhere to get the sort of stuff I'm writing published (Historic Adventure for the most part) here in Australia as far as I can tell, and overseas publishers haven't been much more receptive. I just don't really know what to do with my writing, to be honest, so I know how the OP feels.

Spice Weasel
01-03-2009, 01:15 PM
There is ton of good advice in here. There seem to be enough writers on the Dope that we might consider starting some kind of monthly check-in thread. ''Whatcha Writing? January 2009.'' I don't know how many would be into that... we could share our progress and pitfalls and exchange advice. I could certainly use something like that to keep me motivated.

Lavender Falcon
01-03-2009, 02:40 PM
I've managed a handful of short stories (around 2000 words) that I'm very happy with (and have had some positive feedback on), but have had no luck publishing so far- there's just nowhere to get the sort of stuff I'm writing published (Historic Adventure for the most part) here in Australia as far as I can tell, and overseas publishers haven't been much more receptive. I just don't really know what to do with my writing, to be honest, so I know how the OP feels.

Check out Duotrope (http://www.duotrope.com/).

Influential Panda
01-03-2009, 02:42 PM
"A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." --Thomas Mann, Nobel Laureate for Literature

Stauderhorse
01-03-2009, 05:38 PM
There is ton of good advice in here. There seem to be enough writers on the Dope that we might consider starting some kind of monthly check-in thread. ''Whatcha Writing? January 2009.'' I don't know how many would be into that... we could share our progress and pitfalls and exchange advice. I could certainly use something like that to keep me motivated.

I'd be interested in something like that; it would keep me from getting lazy.

lobotomyboy63
01-03-2009, 06:09 PM
Back when I was in creative writing group, the mantra was "You have to write a million words (before you'll be a good writer)." I wrote a lot; it helped. You'll have those breakthrough moments and hopefully they inspire you to continue.

It helped me to have a deadline, too. If you can buddy up with someone, or commit to posting something in here, maybe that will push you.

Now, as to the matter of publishing....

I once took a workshop led by a published writer. Her advice was to ask first, write later. She would write to editors to see if an idea for an article would fit their publication---if not, she wouldn't write it. It seemed silly that she would write a letter that might be as long as the article she wanted to sell, but she was adamant on this. Her final words of the workshop, looking directly at me, were, basically, "Don't write something if you have no market for it."

Granted, that's mercenary but the alternative is to spend hours writing something that will just end up in the slushpile.

pseudotriton ruber ruber
01-03-2009, 06:22 PM
Back when I was in creative writing group, the mantra was "You have to write a million words (before you'll be a good writer)." I wrote a lot; it helped. You'll have those breakthrough moments and hopefully they inspire you to continue.

It helped me to have a deadline, too. If you can buddy up with someone, or commit to posting something in here, maybe that will push you.

Now, as to the matter of publishing....

I once took a workshop led by a published writer. Her advice was to ask first, write later. She would write to editors to see if an idea for an article would fit their publication---if not, she wouldn't write it. It seemed silly that she would write a letter that might be as long as the article she wanted to sell, but she was adamant on this. Her final words of the workshop, looking directly at me, were, basically, "Don't write something if you have no market for it."

Granted, that's mercenary but the alternative is to spend hours writing something that will just end up in the slushpile.

Dumbest advice I ever heard (outside of "Stick your finger in right here.") for fiction, that is. Ask a fiction editor this question and his response is always going to be, at best, "Write it and I'll see."

Hunter Hawk
01-03-2009, 06:38 PM
I just saw this book (http://www.amazon.com/Youre-Fooling-Anyone-Laptop-Coffee/dp/1596060638) in the bookstore today. It looks like it may be of interest, so you may want to see if you can take a look at a copy.

lobotomyboy63
01-03-2009, 06:39 PM
Dumbest advice I ever heard (outside of "Stick your finger in right here.") for fiction, that is. Ask a fiction editor this question and his response is always going to be, at best, "Write it and I'll see."

(I assume you mean the published writer's advice)

For example, the writer in question had published a piece in a kiddie mag (Ranger Rick, IIRC) about how they train rescue dogs for avalanche situations. She showed us the letter, which specified how many words they wanted, what they'd pay for it, and so on. She also had the finished, published piece.

Her attitude was, I think, that if you do it for a living this is how you need to approach it; after all, if you don't publish you don't eat. IIRC she made a couple hundred dollars for the piece, so obviously it was one of many.

If it's a hobby or your pet dream, you'll still eat. But it seems wise to get advice and direction if you can, especially if you're working on something lengthy.

pseudotriton ruber ruber
01-03-2009, 06:45 PM
It's ok with non-fiction. That sort of letter is called a "query letter" and people ask editors of non-fiction pieces if they're interested in reading an article on a specific subject.

But it makes zero sense with fiction or poetry, which what the OP is writing. The editor wants it if it's brilliantly written, and doesn;'t want if it's a piece of crap. He has to see it to know which it is.

Tarwater
01-03-2009, 06:53 PM
Another thing: writing is a private act.

Workshopping your work is important, but sharing your progress and talking about your work before it's ready to be shown is an unhealthy exercise. Don't do it.

wonky
01-03-2009, 06:58 PM
Another thing: writing is a private act.

Workshopping your work is important, but sharing your progress and talking about your work before it's ready to be shown is an unhealthy exercise. Don't do it.

Unhealthy in what way?

pepperlandgirl
01-03-2009, 07:10 PM
Another thing: writing is a private act.

No. It's not.

Workshopping your work is important, but sharing your progress and talking about your work before it's ready to be shown is an unhealthy exercise. Don't do it.

Sure it can be a private act. And many people consider it that. But writing is a lot like sex--you can get all the advice you want on the best way to do it, but ultimately, you got to figure out for yourself (another way it's like sex: You start out doing it for free but before you long, you're getting paid ;) ). I have a writing partner and I work very, very closely with her, even on my solo stuff. We have a true collaboration, and I trust her opinion completely. Many people have trusted "beta" readers who help in any and all stages of the writing process. A writer might need somebody to read for grammar mistakes. A writer might need a reader for plot concerns. A writer might need to engage in a series of workshops with a beta reader who might act more like an editor. You can't go through the history of literature without finding copious examples of authors who owe debts to friends, editors, and fellow writers. I wouldn't say that T.S. Elliot had a particularly unhealthy relationship with Ezra Pound, would you?

If you prefer to work alone, there's nothing wrong with that. If you prefer to be part of a dialogue while you're working, there's nothing with with that either. If you get so wrapped up in what somebody else thinks that you lose your own direction and goals, then you need to set better boundaries for yourself.

Tarwater
01-03-2009, 07:22 PM
Unhealthy in what way?

I don't know. It's hard to explain. You become a talker instead of a writer. Your work suffers from discussion. It loses clarity, and it can be hard to recapture. You doubt things you shouldn't be doubting. You lose perspective.

I know editors who advise against heavy revision for similar reasons. Writing is delicate. When you start doing anything but writing and reading, when you start involving other people in your process, other opinions, it turns you around. You don't write the same.

Writing is about forming habits that work. Habits are the most important thing to a writer just starting out, and I can't think of a worse habit than surrounding yourself with other writers. They're a bad influence. They can poison the well.

wonky
01-03-2009, 07:26 PM
I don't know. It's hard to explain. You become a talker instead of a writer. Your work suffers from discussion. It loses clarity, and it can be hard to recapture. You doubt things you shouldn't be doubting. You lose perspective.

I know editors who advise against heavy revision for similar reasons. Writing is delicate. When you start doing anything but writing and reading, when you start involving other people in your process, other opinions, it turns you around. You don't write the same.

Writing is about forming habits that work. Habits are the most important thing to a writer just starting out, and I can't think of a worse habit than surrounding yourself with other writers. They're a bad influence. They can poison the well.

This sounds like hooey to me. Sorry. I've dealt with so many people who somehow think that they have this authentic, fragile little voice and if they read other people's poetry or follow anyone's advice or workshop it will all be inauthentic and somehow less theirs and less special and, I dunno, divinely inspired or something.

If your writing is delicate, there's something wrong with it. Punch it in the face.

Tarwater
01-03-2009, 07:40 PM
I wouldn't say that T.S. Elliot had a particularly unhealthy relationship with Ezra Pound, would you?

Eliot was already a successful poet before he met Pound. He may have received advice on the revision of his work, but Eliot certainly wasn't asking Ezra for advice when his poems were still in the early stages of incubation.

If we're going to talk about students of Ezra Pound, we should mention Hemingway, who in his memoir A Moveable Feast, said something similar to what I've been talking about. On reading an unfinished work to his friends, he wrote:

"When they said, 'It's great, Ernest. Truly it's great. You cannot know the thing it has," I wagged my tail in pleasure and plunged into the fiesta concept of life to see if I could not bring some fine attractive stick back, instead of thinking, 'If these bastards like it what is wrong with it?' That was what I would have been thinking if I had been functioning as a professional although, if I had been functioning as a professional, I would have never read it to them."

And in Green Hills of Africa:

"Writers should work alone. They should see eachother only after their work is done, and not too often then. Otherwise they become like writers in New York. All angleworms in a bottle, trying to derive knowledge and nourishment from their own contact and the bottle. [...] Once they are in the bottle, they stay there."


This sounds like hooey to me. Sorry. I've dealt with so many people who somehow think that they have this authentic, fragile little voice and if they read other people's poetry or follow anyone's advice or workshop it will all be inauthentic and somehow less theirs and less special and, I dunno, divinely inspired or something.

If your writing is delicate, there's something wrong with it. Punch it in the face.

That's not what I'm saying. Workshopping is important. Criticism is important. But wait until you have something complete before you show it to other people or talk about it.

Lavender Falcon
01-03-2009, 07:42 PM
I don't know. It's hard to explain. You become a talker instead of a writer. Your work suffers from discussion. It loses clarity, and it can be hard to recapture. You doubt things you shouldn't be doubting. You lose perspective.

I think there is a balance in there. I do see what you're saying, I think. I've run into writers who are so paralyzed by needing to know what other people think that I doubt they get anywhere. A lot of writing is about voice, and finding your own is what makes for a compelling story.

But as Pepperlandgirl says, if you allow other people to run over you that way, the problem is in boundaries (and perhaps confidence). To say that you shouldn't ever involve other people or it will ruin your writing isn't true for many writers.

I've done most of my writing alone, and if it stayed like that until I found an agent/editor, I'd be perfectly comfortable with it. However, I happened to run into someone about a year and a half ago who was a perfect match for me as a crit partner. We give each other high level feedback on "what works/what doesn't." However, neither of us tampers with the other's voice. Early on in our relationship, he did question my tendency to choose certain types of words, but he dropped it pretty quickly once he got into the rhythm of my voice, and when he realized I wasn't going to change that.

We mainly look for problems with continuity, clarity, and logic in each other's work. Although the changes I've made based on his input are minor in the scheme of the entire work, those changes have greatly strengthened my novel, and he hasn't altered my story from what I wanted to tell at all. In fact, he hates the decision my protag makes in the end, but he also says it will work for my target audience. There's no pressure to make it different, although he did give me a suggestion for how to strengthen the acceptance of the ending for people with his perspective. Actually, I had intended what he suggested to be apparent all along, so what I took from his feedback was that I hadn't done a good enough job with my own idea for that part of the story.

My crit partner and I both take great care to respect each other's integrity as writers, and it works well for us. He's got a big ol' thank you coming in my acknowledgments if I'm ever published. I certainly wouldn't accept just anyone as a crit partner, though. It has to be someone who already gets me as a writer and who works with me, not against me. I hope I offer him the same. I love his writing so much that I will be just as thrilled if his work sees publication as I will for my own. I would never want to damage his voice in any way.

pepperlandgirl
01-03-2009, 08:00 PM
Eliot was already a successful poet before he met Pound. He may have received advice on the revision of his work, but Eliot certainly wasn't asking Ezra for advice when his poems were still in the early stages of incubation.

If we're going to talk about students of Ezra Pound, we should mention Hemingway, who in his memoir A Moveable Feast, said something similar to what I've been talking about.

I admire Hemingway a great deal, but just because he did better when he was writing alone doesn't mean everybody should. You could do everything Hemingway ever did, and avoid everything he avoided, and mimic his method and style completely, and you'd still never touch his brilliance. So why get hung up on what he said?

And I was referring to Pound's influence on The Waste Land. Clearly, Eliot was not finished with it when Pound read it, even if he thought he might be.

You said but sharing your progress and talking about your work before it's ready to be shown is an unhealthy exercise--my concern is that I don't know what you mean. If you agree that workshopping and critique is important, when would you say that it's important to invite somebody's opinion? I think that the right time is when the author says, "I need a second opinion" whether that's before the first word is ever written or after the sixth draft is polished.

pseudotriton ruber ruber
01-03-2009, 08:57 PM
How about this: you should workshop your stuff only when it's as good as you know how to make it. Don't bring your stuff unfinished, unpolished, unrevised, un-sweated-over into a workshop so people can tell you to give proofreading a shot, or to avoid glaring contradictions in your basic plot. It's an insulting waste of time to the people in your workshop, who will read your stuff less carefully in the future, and worse it's an insult to you that you felt incapable of making it as good as you know how to.

Could we agree on that? Because maybe that's what Tarwater is saying. It's certainly what I would point out as a major pitfall of too much workshopping too soon.

wonky
01-03-2009, 09:00 PM
Could we agree on that? Because maybe that's what Tarwater is saying. It's certainly what I would point out as a major pitfall of too much workshopping too soon.

Well, yeah, and unhealthy too if your fellow workshoppers decide to beat you with a stick. :)

Tarwater
01-03-2009, 09:07 PM
I admire Hemingway a great deal, but just because he did better when he was writing alone doesn't mean everybody should. You could do everything Hemingway ever did, and avoid everything he avoided, and mimic his method and style completely, and you'd still never touch his brilliance. So why get hung up on what he said?

And I was referring to Pound's influence on The Waste Land. Clearly, Eliot was not finished with it when Pound read it, even if he thought he might be.

You said but sharing your progress and talking about your work before it's ready to be shown is an unhealthy exercise--my concern is that I don't know what you mean. If you agree that workshopping and critique is important, when would you say that it's important to invite somebody's opinion? I think that the right time is when the author says, "I need a second opinion" whether that's before the first word is ever written or after the sixth draft is polished.

Hemingway's opinion on writers being solitary wasn't unpopular or uncommon. It very much jibes with advice given by other writers.

I think Pound's influence on The Waste Land is a good example of what I'm talking about. Eliot had spent a considerable amount of time on the poem before Ezra's first reading, and most of the changes he made at Pound's request did nothing to alter the poem in a fundamental way; they were issues of clarity, of length, not of style, content or theme. If you're at the stage when you need a second opinion, then okay. There's nothing wrong with that. So long that you're confident your work is strong enough to withstand criticism and revision.

I've seen many promising writers undermine their gift by allowing other people to influence their work, or by talking about writing instead of sitting down at a typewriter and writing. Writing is form of personal expression; it's not a team sport. Nobody knows better than you what you're trying to say. Be skeptical of their opinions. More often than not, they are wrong.

What I guess I'm trying to say, in addition to what prr has said above, is that discussing your writing with other people is a good way to homogenize it, and that's not a good thing.

pseudotriton ruber ruber
01-03-2009, 09:13 PM
And I think what Tarwater is complaining about--hell with that, I'M complaining about workshops in which that is the standard of craftsmanship. If everyone is bringing little baggies of dogshit into the workshop, and everyone else is saying kind and gentle appreciations of how cute that baggie of dogshit is tied up, then the rare person who's working hard and presenting only carefully revised stuff is the one whose time and effort is being wasted. Sadly, all too common, especially among beginning writers.

Martini Enfield
01-03-2009, 09:13 PM
Nobody knows better than you what you're trying to say. Be skeptical of their opinions. More often than not, they are wrong.

My wife wonders why I won't share what I'm writing with her. And as I've politely explained, "You don't like the genre I'm writing in, and you don't understand it."

wonky
01-03-2009, 09:13 PM
I've seen many promising writers undermine their gift by allowing other people to influence their work, or by talking about writing instead of sitting down at a typewriter and writing. Writing is form of personal expression; it's not a team sport. Nobody knows better than you what you're trying to say. Be skeptical of their opinions. More often than not, they are wrong.

You may know what you're trying to say, but it takes other people to figure out if you're really saying it.

What you're writing in this thread, again, strikes me as the sort of thing people say when they want writing to be something mystical and precious rather than the product of hard work and the process of elimination.

wonky
01-03-2009, 09:15 PM
And I think what Tarwater is complaining about--hell with that, I'M complaining about workshops in which that is the standard of craftsmanship. If everyone is bringing little baggies of dogshit into the workshop, and everyone else is saying kind and gentle appreciations of how cute that baggie of dogshit is tied up, then the rare person who's working hard and presenting only carefully revised stuff is the one whose time and effort is being wasted. Sadly, all too common, especially among beginning writers.

I'm not getting the same thing from your posts and Tarwater's.

pepperlandgirl
01-03-2009, 09:48 PM
And I think what Tarwater is complaining about--hell with that, I'M complaining about workshops in which that is the standard of craftsmanship. If everyone is bringing little baggies of dogshit into the workshop, and everyone else is saying kind and gentle appreciations of how cute that baggie of dogshit is tied up, then the rare person who's working hard and presenting only carefully revised stuff is the one whose time and effort is being wasted. Sadly, all too common, especially among beginning writers.

That's a problem of the workshop, not the problem of the writer who is bringing in "dogshit." Beginning writers--well, a lot of writers--have absolutely zero sense of their own work. They are incapable of being objective. If you tell a new author to never bring in anything less than perfection, they're going to freeze with terror and probably never show their work to anybody for any reason. That doesn't help anybody. To me, it reads as absolutely meaningless advice that won't do anything except make people afraid to show their work.

What you're talking about is something that is systematic of too many workshops, and has nothing to do with how revised your work is before you bring it in. Too many people who sign up for workshops and creative writing classes want validation. But more importantly, people are afraid to hurt other people's feelings. There's this bizarre belief that everybody who churns out any sort of crap should be handled with kidgloves, and this belief goes under the heading of respect, though it's really not. I would suggest finding a workshop that's something more than a weekly circlejerk, rather than hiding your work away and refusing to get feedback until you have a "finished" piece--whatever that means.

Tarwater
01-03-2009, 10:17 PM
What you're writing in this thread, again, strikes me as the sort of thing people say when they want writing to be something mystical and precious rather than the product of hard work and the process of elimination.

I'm spending way too much time talking about this. But okay. Let's try this.

When David Foster Wallace was in college, his creative work was almost universally deplored by his teachers and fellow students. He would turn in a story, and after he got it back, attached to it would be a note written by his instructor that said, basically: "We hope this isn't the type of writing you're going to produce. We'd hate to fail you, but if this is what you're giving us I really don't see how we have a choice."

And then he published his first novel while he was still in school. It was hailed as being one of the most inventive novels of its time, and it received significant attention from the literary community, almost all of it good. His professors were now praising him. They were sending him their manuscripts, asking for feedback.

The problem was this. His teachers wanted work of a certain dimension; they wanted it to deal with themes and characters they themselves would write about. It didn't fit their definition of good writing. It didn't jibe with their groupthink mentality.

Receiving constructive feedback is one thing; allowing other people to write your novel for you is something entirely different, and it's often difficult or impossible to tell the difference between the two. I've been to graduate workshops all over the country, and I can tell you with no uncertainty that writers are among the most narrow-minded people in the world. They'll attempt to impose themselves on your work, and if you're showing it prematurely or without a clear understanding of what you're trying to accomplish with the piece, they will succeed.

Shalmanese
01-03-2009, 10:32 PM
This Ira Glass Video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hidvElQ0xE) might be interesting for you.

pseudotriton ruber ruber
01-04-2009, 06:33 AM
Beginning writers--well, a lot of writers--have absolutely zero sense of their own work.

These are people who have no business in any productive workshop. They need writing classes, lots of them, where they will get sharp practical vital criticism from any semi-competent writig instructor. Only after getting their manuscripts severely critque do they generally begin to assimilate the raw essentials of presenting a manuscript for criticism, and only then are they going to get anything at all out of a workshop other than wasting people's time.

But they see "Writing Workshop" and they go "Hey! I'm a writer! That's what I need!" and they think that's where you go to learn the basics. Too often, because there are so many of them, it turns out to to be true.

Fish
01-04-2009, 06:56 AM
The problem was this. His teachers wanted work of a certain dimension; they wanted it to deal with themes and characters they themselves would write about. It didn't fit their definition of good writing. It didn't jibe with their groupthink mentality.
I can't agree less. For every author — or poet, or playwright — who is the brilliant revolutionary to whom rules apply not, who can leap intuitively into the great artistic beyond without discipline or training, there are five hundred of them who only believe they can do so and would, in fact, seriously injure themselves on a pair of parentheses.

I am a firm believer in the axiom that one should know the rules before one sets out to break them.

don't ask
01-04-2009, 07:23 AM
Well my advice is - write like you did in the OP. I found it perfectly readable and your voice engaging enough the read the post.

Their are hundreds of books on how to write. I know two people who claim that reading Elizabeth George's Write Away got them over the hump. And Stephen King's On Writing is just a great read.

You can't ever stop the little voice in your head, sort of radio free Stauderhorse, but you can learn to just acknowledge the negative messages and get on with what you intended doing.

There are a million different ways and one will work. Maybe NaNoWriMo next year will free you up. Have a look (http://www.nanowrimo.org/) and start planning.

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