Hi! New here... I've lurked awhile, though, and finally decided to join. I love writing but I don't have any stories sufficiently finished to join a Group yet, so I decided to wander around in here for a while until I do. I'm always looking for good writing tips to help me improve.
Posts: 13 | Registered: Jan 2001
New member signing in here. I'm 27 and am returning to writing after a long absence away from it...college and graduate school pretty much depleted my mental energy for writing, although I kept coming up with ideas. My current project, which I'm about to start on once I've developed enough of an outline and backstory, will (hopefully) be my first science-fiction novel. Previously I've only written short stories and non-fiction essays, so this will be a new experience for me.
[This message has been edited by Shy Ghost (edited January 22, 2001).]
Well hello, Shy Ghost and Waxwing. I was a lurker who's moved into the light too. Welcome and let us know if you've got any problems we can help solve (or any solutions to problems for that matter.) There seems to be a lot of knowledge floating around here, although I can't necessarily claim to own any of it :-)
"If this is the best of possible worlds, what then are the others?"--Voltaire Jessi
PS everybody: That reply by OSC kinda blew me away too!
[This message has been edited by Jessi D (edited January 22, 2001).]
'College and graduate school pretty much depleted my mental energy for writing.' Shy that's npt what I really want to hear right now. I would like to hear any tips you might have on writing short stories (I couldn't do it to save a life). I'm sorry, OSC replying is still so cool! I can't get over that. Easily given a happy, me? JK
Posts: 503 | Registered: Sep 2000
quote:Shy that's npt what I really want to hear right now. I would like to hear any tips you might have on writing short stories (I couldn't do it to save a life).
Well, I didn't mean to bring you down, JK. I was just providing an explanation--a lame excuse, really--for why I was largely inactive as a writer during the last several years (with one small exception, as I will mention).
During a four-year period between 1989 and 1993 I wrote about thirty short stories. Only two were published, both in small-time literary magazines produced by the schools I was attending, and neither paid a thing. I didn't really spend much energy trying to get most of them published anyway. I can scarcely consider myself an expert on writing and the creative process, and so I would invite you to take anything I say in this reply with a grain of salt. I can only report what has worked for me.
I started writing because I felt like it. No one suggested it to me, and no one encouraged me to start doing it. I have been a voracious bookworm since early childhood, and had always wanted to create such works of my own, and share the stories that I invented with others. I never took a creative writing class until I was in college, and the last few short stories I completed before "the Quiet Time" (as I think of it) were for that class. Therefore the tips I'll report to you are largely the product of trial and error, and the occasional happy accident.
First, you should be big on reading. While I can't prove that every successful writer is also a bookworm, I simply cannot imagine someone being a successful writer without having some exposure to the products of other successful writers. And I don't think it is enough to just read a handful of excellent writers in just one genre. Diversify! Science fiction, fantasy, horror, western, mystery, and "general" fiction each have their own prime examples of outstanding writers. The only genre I've never sampled is romance. Also try out some non-fiction. Most of my non-fiction reading relates to science and history, and not only might you learn something fascinating, you may discover a story idea or two. Ten years ago I didn't read much non-fiction. Today that category accounts for about half of my reading.
Second, have a way to record ideas as they occur to you during the course of the day. I keep a small notepad handy, and when one hits me, I jot it down before my addled brain lets it slip away into neurotransmitter oblivion. I type it all into a Microsoft Word file that is solely dedicated to notes. This file is a motley assemblage of titles, character names, ideas, fragments of stories, and whatever else that I find interesting enough to put in there. It doesn't even have to sound like a story idea to belong in there. It could just be an interesting comment that I heard somewhere, and perhaps it might make its way into a story it inspires.
Third, when you write, try to resist doing any major editing until you've done the first draft. Just get that initial draft out and then worry about improving it. I had to learn this the hard way, as relatively short stories took forever to finish because I was constantly revising before ever reaching the last page. There have been a couple of occasions where I decided that I had nothing but a mess and started over from scratch, though. The key is, when you start writing something, just keep writing it until you're done.
Fourth, make a habit out of writing something every day. Even if it is not something you would ever get published, just write something. During the last several years when I wasn't writing fiction, I kept up my writing habit by maintaining a journal, and working on essays which were largely autobiographical. Although I didn't write in the journal on a daily basis, I did try to keep up working on something. I enjoyed writing those essays so much, particularly the one where I write about the connection between my growing up severely-to-profoundly deaf and my love for the movies, that I still plan on writing them on the side as I return to writing fiction, even though I strongly doubt they would ever be published.
Fifth, your family and best friends may not be the best sources for critiquing your work. I know that OSC's wife is apparently an integral part of his process, and it's great that he has someone so close to him who can provide objective analysis of his work, but my experience has been that my family and good friends are often too biased to say anything that could be construed as sounding negative. If you know someone that you can trust to be honest and objective, great.
Sixth, try writing during a time when you are unlikely to be interrupted. Unplug the phone if you must. When I was younger, I typically wrote when the rest of the family was off to bed, or when I was the only one home.
Seventh, there are a few good books out there about writing. All of these books I encountered after my fiction output quieted in 1993. OSC has written a couple of excellent ones, which I'm sure you already have heard about. Others I have found insightful were The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King, and the delightfully titled Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block. These books are gold mines of information, and have helped me to get back in the saddle.
That's all I can think of for now. Again, I emphasize that despite the number of short stories I've written, I cannot be considered an "expert" on writing, and you are free to disregard anything I've written here.
[This message has been edited by Shy Ghost (edited January 23, 2001).]
Shy, as someone who is gearing up towards university, I didn't really want to hear that comment. But actually, now that I've heard it, I plan to be the opposite of it (well, not the exact opposite, because then all I'd be doing is writing, which happy proffessors would not make. Nor happy friends, nor me...) Anyway, what I actually wanted to say was, Shy, your advice echoes that which I've already heard, largley from 'experts' in the field. If you do what you say, then no doubt I'll be seeing your name (whatever that may be) on a book or in a mag real soon. First, you say, read. Okay, but diversifying into mainstream, romance, western, etc. is difficult for me cos I don't like any of them! So far, the only books I've been able to enjoy are SF and F. I'll work on it, though. Editting is a mjor fault of mine, in that I don't stop. I might open the file and scan down to where I left off, but stop a moment to edit a blatant mistake. Then I edit a not-so-blatant one, then an personal-tastey one, and before I know it I'm editting, not writing. I find writing my ideas down at the end of the day more helpful, plot-wise. In my thinking, if a plots stayed in my head all day, I like it enough that it should stand a first draft. If it didn't, then it never would have made it through. I do write a diary, almost every day, but I do it cos I like it. I never thought of it as 'keeping up the writing habit'. Family and friends bad critics, tell me about it. I could write total rubbish and they'd still smile, nod, and say 'it's nice!' I think I heard somewhere that there was no such thing as an expert on writing, rather someone who's just been doing it too long. JK Posts: 503 | Registered: Sep 2000
quote:Shy, as someone who is gearing up towards university, I didn't really want to hear that comment. But actually, now that I've heard it, I plan to be the opposite of it
I wouldn't say that you would have the same experience with writing that I did while in university. What happened with me wouldn't necessarily apply to someone else. Going to college does not have to be synonymous with not writing. If I'm not mistaken, Michael Crichton wrote a book or two while still in medical school.
quote:If you do what you say, then no doubt I'll be seeing your name (whatever that may be) on a book or in a mag real soon.
I hope so. I try to follow the advice I wrote earlier, but I'm not perfect.
quote:First, you say, read. Okay, but diversifying into mainstream, romance, western, etc. is difficult for me cos I don't like any of them! So far, the only books I've been able to enjoy are SF and F. I'll work on it, though.
I wouldn't recommend reading a book just for the sake of reading. It has to be something that interests you. That's why I've never read romances. None of it interests me. I've only read one western novel, and that was Lonesome Dove. Most of my fiction reading is science fiction and fantasy, since that's the genre I'm most interested in. But it never hurts to get a taste of other genres.
quote:I do write a diary, almost every day, but I do it cos I like it. I never thought of it as 'keeping up the writing habit'.
If I was only to use the journal to keep up the writing habit, I would have discontinued writing in it once I resumed writing fiction. However, I find it still useful to make notes in it regarding what's going on in my life. Reading entries from 6 years ago gets occasionally interesting. The passage of time can change perceptions quite a bit.
On the subject of using a journal as a writing tool; it works. I use mine much like that. I do find that when I actually write my fiction, the journal changes into a record keeping tool about what it is I am writing at the time. It sorta morphs back and forth, like that.
I've tried for years to start a diary proper, but it's never worked. I started again this year, and it's actually working. But I swore from the start that it would not degenerate into something like my notes folder. My diary is meant to be about me, what I've felt and had happen to me. I may mention how my writing's going, or whether I had an idea I'm psyched about, but I keep details in a little folder. Mainstream fiction hasn't ever interested me I'm afraid, Shy. Guess I'm doomed... And seeing as I'm kinda new to the whole uni/college thing, I didn't know whether going to uni meant no writing. Guess I know now... This is totally off-topic, but I was wondering how many British people are members of this forum (the reason for my asking being the Britain topic on Young Writers discussion - so far it seems to be only YBOS and me!). Keeping non-relevant as usual (I've got new socks), JK
Posts: 503 | Registered: Sep 2000
Does wanting to live in Britain count? Oh well, I'll keep clicking the ruby slippers "anywhere but home, anywhere but home". Should we maybe start a different post so this new person topic doesn't wind up being something else entirely? Or maybe we could make a new Role Call since this one is working frantically toward its third page. Really, I suppose I should just stop worrying and leave such intricacies to someone who understands these matters.
Interesting perspective, Kathleen. I suppose, if you take it further, living in general would be research, right? Whatever, it sounds like a good attitude to take pre-uni. Thanks. Jessi, wanting to live in Britain kinda counts, although I was more thinking of generally British people. One of those idle thoughts that blindside you at 1:20 on a Tuesday afternoon... JK Posts: 503 | Registered: Sep 2000
People, people, wake up! This post is in the past, live in the now! New topic, very exciting, replaces this one so we don't have to wait hours for it to load. Ooh, I know I've got goosebumps(!) Write about what you know. Funny idea if you're a Science Fiction or a Fantasy writer. Or even a Horror writer. Just an idle thought (and I bet you know what they say about those, eh Kathleeen?) Move to the new topic people. This one's dead. JK
Posts: 503 | Registered: Sep 2000