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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Flow --- is --- the devil

   
Author Topic: Flow --- is --- the devil
Zero
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Well I find two things are particularly important in stories I write.

1) The story
2) How it is told.

I am a master of the first part, I suppose anyone could be.

The second it vastly more challenging. And, it turns out, despite how it feels when I am writing, my flow is bloody awful.

I re-write, but sometimes that doesn't help much either.

What are some strategies to help with this problem?


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dee_boncci
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I think it was Hemingway that said, "All first drafts are $hit." I think it is perfectly normal that what seems so great during a creative burst often tends to be a little disorganized when you cool off and look at it.

When I go back to edit, I start by looking for what I can throw out. It's usually a lot. If it doesn't directly serve the characters acting to fix their conflicts, it goes. Next I look at what's left and fill the gaps l;eft from the cutting. Then I go back and try to understand motives: why are things happening? Then I look for what the charater is thinking that reveals his/her emotions. Last, I look at things like setting, and worry about polishing, grammar etc.


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nitewriter
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I'm concerned about this also. I think you're right, flow is very critical. A few things I've done to better the flow in my stories:

1. Cut every word that is not needed. I used to think all the words i wrote were needed, but then when you really go over the story with a critical eye it is amazing how many words you can find that are not needed.

2. Cut anything not germane to the story - anything that does not advance the story, dialogue that does not advance the story or give us needed information about the characters, Again, I've been surprised in my stories how much I can cut. This takes practice and gets easier over time.

3. Shift words around so that what you write is done in the most economical way you can think of - less is more.

4. In dialogue you can often know who is speaking and can omit the he said/she said thing. For that matter, personal descriptions, except in special cases, can be omitted. Writing about the actions of a character better conveys character than any personal description you could give.

5. Reading is a process of discovery. Write in a way where a reader can "discover" as much as he can without being told directly. For instance, telling the reader that a certain person is a selfish, cruel bastard is one thing....writing that character into a scene where he filches the social security money from his sick mother is another...but which one would you rather read?

6. To me the best writing flows so well, is so engaging, you become unaware you are reading - it becomes almost effortless.
My own favorite authors who write this way include Bradbury, Stephen King, John Updike, Ambrose Bierce, Eudora Welty to name a few. Ir helps to study your own personal favorites as to how they write with engaging flow.

[This message has been edited by nitewriter (edited March 31, 2007).]


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Antinomy
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I would like to endorse the points made by nitewriter which are very informative, and I 'd like to add this to point #6.....
To be a good fiction writer one must read good fiction writers. Often.

By reading we pick up the the tone, rhythm and cadence, as well as a writing style that can't be learned in a classroom.

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gooeypenguin
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I'd recommend this book:

The Writer's Book Of Wisdom: 101 Rules For Mastering Your Craft
By Steven Taylor Goldsberry

Link: http://www.amazon.com/Writers-Book -Wisdom-Rules-Mastering/dp/1582972923/ref=sr_1_1/002-0164615-5130416?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1175369317&sr=8-1

The author actually mentioned all of what nitewriter and Antinomy said, only in more detail, plus more.

[This message has been edited by gooeypenguin (edited March 31, 2007).]


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arriki
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Look at Browne and King's chapter on "beats" in SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS. The go on to Jack Bickham's major work, SCENE AND SEQUEL and Dwight V Swain's TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER.

All fiction consists of scenes and sequels. According Bickham.

Personally, I think there are more elements to master. Transitions and narration. But get a grip on scenes and sequels will help enormously.

Also, Dwight V. Swain (Bickham's mentor) was big on looking at each ...sentence? He believed that those scenes especially were made up of series of action-internalization-reaction groups. In short, every action causes a reaction which in turn is an action itself and causes a reaction within the scene. Before each action (or between action and reaction) are internalizations which are kind of optional. If the reasoning leading up to the reaction is obvious, then you can skip the internalization. Otherwise you are to show or explain the reaction.

It sounds complicated but mastering that has helped write scenes and stuff that work.

[This message has been edited by arriki (edited March 31, 2007).]


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kings_falcon
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Passing on advice from Browne and King's chapter on "beats" in SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS:

Read it out loud. Make notes of the "mistakes" you make in reading it. The "mistakes" often point you to a better flow. Use your ear.


Think about when you have the chapters and paragraphs broken. Are you doing it in a way that gets the most out of them?


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Zero
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arriki denotatively speaking what are his definitions of scenes and sequels?
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Tara
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After I'm finished writing for the day, and I read back over the writing in my head, reading quickly to catch the flow, and not stopping for typos or other errors. Sometimes there are these little bumps in the flow. It's like stubbing your toe. You don't notice them when you're writing, and you can't notice them unless you read quickly and pick up the rhythm of the sentences.

I can't really explain it.


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CoriSCapnSkip
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It's amazing to me how a well-written book can have dead spots and a piece of ˘rap can move along swiftly. I wish I could explain the phenomenon of "flow," but, I can't.
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dee_boncci
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I think King's Falcon has it right.

Read the story out loud. Also, pay attention to the pacing and your use of short versus long sentences, and use the two together to break monotony and for emphasis.


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Amciel
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Don't be afraid to edit with a machete instead of a scalpel. Make outlines that are extreme simplifications, maybe even just bullet points, and decided which storylines add and which detract. Even though you may love a certain scene or brilliant line don't be afraid to get rid of extra baggage. If it really is unforgettable, save it in a notebook or seperate word document for possible recycling.
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robertq
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Arriki said,

Personally, I think there are more elements to master. Transitions and narration. But get a grip on scenes and sequels will help enormously.

I've read both Swain and Bickham, and I've been coming to the exactly the same conclusion.


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wbriggs
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I never got what people mean by flow. ???

I would clarify one of niterider's points:

quote:
5. Reading is a process of discovery. Write in a way where a reader can "discover" as much as he can without being told directly.
This means "don't tell us abstractions, but give us facts so we can generate the abstractions." It *doesn't* mean "don't tell us the facts; give us vague abstractions and make us try to figure out the facts."

So the example of learning that John is a selfish bastard by showing his behavior works, but making us discover, without telling us, that John is the ghost of a blind man born in 1600...ack!


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lehollis
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I'm with wbriggs on that one, to be honest. From what I read here, I think it akin to pacing and rhythm, though the mentioned discovery process seems to be a part of it. Is it possible it's a bundle of smaller writing concepts that add up to "Flow"?
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