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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » A writing technique that's really working

   
Author Topic: A writing technique that's really working
Smaug
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Okay, many of you probably already do this, but I just decided to give it a try this morning. I've been working on getting an old unfinished novel finished (some of you may remember my posting about that a few weeks ago). Well, I've been reading Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson and I've just been inspired by his rich detail--even though I'm having a difficult time keeping track of what's happening in the book.

Anyway, I decided that I needed to figure out a way to flesh out my story more--give it more details etc. So what I did was copy the current paragraph I was working on and pasted it onto its own blank page. Then I just rewrote the paragraph from scratch, without having the rest of the prose on the page waiting for me. I was able to focus on just that one paragraph. I was very pleased with the result. With this approach, I think I can make my book much better--one paragraph at a time.


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genevive42
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It depends on what the story actually needs. If you're sure that the plot is solid and character development is fine, then going through and adding world a little at a time isn't bad. But remember that the world you flesh out will contribute to the overall story in ways you hadn't expected. So a new environmental detail you add halfway through could cause changes before and after that you have to address. Don't just think you're dabbing a little more paint on the canvas. If it's effective paint, it can and should effect the plot (sometimes).

But, I'd make sure that your structure and story are solid before you worry about details. You could end up spending time refining a scene to perfection only to find that you need to cut it to make the plot work more effectively.

Just my thoughts.


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MartinV
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These days, I write mostly on Notepad. You know, the tiny writing program that comes with the Windows. Then I copy/paste the text into Word where the entire story is written. The reasons are simple: Notepad opens up much faster than Word, you don't see the old text which would mess the picture you just had in your head, and you don't waste time with finding the end of your old text, the font, the size etc.
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sojoyful
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I write in Notepad too! I like it because there are no red lines under all my made-up words and names, because I'm not tempted to run a word count every other sentence, and because I lose all sense of page count. Basically, Notepad removes distractions.

As for writing one paragraph at a time, that would be difficult for me, because I love writing the transitions from paragraph to paragraph. If I didn't know what was coming before or next, how would I ensure that the words linked smoothly? But that's just me.


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Smaug
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Well, I'm not going to that extent. I'm keeping track of what's just happened in the prior paragraph--I'm just doing a rewrite, but keeping the same meaning to the paragraph. The details I'm adding are more sensory details--what the landscape looks, feels, smells, sounds like--you know, that type of thing, and the characters' feelings about those surroundings, and how they play into the story itself. Yes, I think some of that will effect the plot and may create the need for a change. I'm hoping that if so, it's a better direction for my story, and I'm thinking it will be because overall, I'll be more into it--more into the heads of the people who populate my book than I have been in the past and that really can't be anything but good.
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KayTi
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One technique to fix a problem story is to read the story again, to put it in your mind, and then put it aside and rewrite it from memory. Often you can find that your mind puts a much better, clearer story together when you go at it a second time. Most writers call this "redrafting" and it's something I've seen kdw here recommend before.

I sometimes write on a teensy tiny little old PDA I got cheap right before smartphones came out. I have the PDA (a Palm Pilot) and an infrared collapsible keyboard. Total weight is maybe 6 ounces, size is about a trade paperback (though there are two pieces-the pda and the keyboard.) I write in the basic text program on the PDA, then after a writing session I copy/paste the text into another program (after syncing it to the PDA software.)

I wrote my first novel this way and it was phenomenal for giving me just enough screen space (maybe 100 words worth) to tell what I was writing about but not so much that I could be distracted.

Maybe I should pick it back up...it's been a while.


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Smaug
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Rewriting from memory was suggested to me in the earlier thread I started. I know, it sounds good--but to start over sounds--well, it sounds like I don't want to do it...at least, not until it's a last resort. I may have reached that brink now without knowing it.
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LDWriter2
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You learned something that can help, very good.

In this case it could be what works for you. Different writers have different techniques, some they worked out on their own, some they borrowed from others to learn what they have to learn.

If it works for you go for it. Even describe it to others-like you have done-because it could help other writers. Good job.



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dee_boncci
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I've been thinking some lately about the approach that KayTi mentioned, and it got me thinking ...

Sometimes I think word processors can get in the way. There was a time not so long ago (when manuscripts were typed on paper) that a writer was perhaps not so sorely tempted to reuse draft material as-is simply because it was there with nothing identified as "wrong" with it. To create any kind of revised draft where substantial changes were made, a complete retyping of a larger portions of material was required, allowing an opportunity to rewrite stuff that was "okay" without the appearance of creating extra work.

Over time I have gotten better about cutting material that does not contribute to a story, but not so good at retelling material whose essence has survived the cut. Now I'm inspired to give this a try.

To the OP, that seems like an approach with some merit, although care should be taken as I think it is valuable to coerce all of your description and setting into serving your story by using them to reveal your character(s) to the reader and to enhance the story's mood. So KayTi's suggestion is a good one, that is, be sure to review and be familiar with the section of the story in question so your rewritten paragraphs don't lose context.

By the way, your remark about being inspired by the rich detail but having trouble following the story is worth contemplating while trying to balance richness of setting with the actual story that occurs within that setting.

[This message has been edited by dee_boncci (edited November 13, 2010).]


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rich
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I'm sure most, if not all, of you do this anyway, but everytime I open up whatever I'm working on, I immediately "Save as..." with a number at the end of the file name. So when I started from a blank page, and I've got a title, it's Patriots. The next day, I open it up and it's Patriots2; the next day, Patriots3, and so on. I find it refreshing that I can be 20k words in, or 50 pages in, delete entire paragraphs or pages, without worry. I have been able to go back and take chunks from earlier versions--say, Patriots4--and put it where I think it's appropriate/working in Patriots25.

(Plus the numbers tell me how many days I've been working on something.)


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Smaug
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That's an interesting way to do it, Rich. I may give that a try.

I sure appreciate all the comments. I need to spend more time here as you are all very helpful. Besides that, reading threads at writing sites such as this one, helps me focus on writing instead of time wasting.


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