Writing Tips

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Writing Tips

Post by Kesteven on Sat Aug 22, 2009 9:15 am

I found the describe your style thread pretty interesting, but most interesting were the little tricks people said they used to avoid traps and make their writing more interesting, and I thought that deserved a thread of its own.

I guess there's really no substitute for experience both in reading widely and writing a lot with good critique, but I often find keeping particular guidelines in mind as I write helps a lot, even if it's just as an intermediary before I master the principles behind them. So, what kind of rules or tricks do you find work for you? How did you overcome the traps and hurdles you've faced?
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Re: Writing Tips

Post by Digital Muse on Sat Aug 22, 2009 10:05 am

My biggest downfall are long, rambling sentences. So when I proof, I look for every 'and', then either break that sentence up or use another 'joiner'.

I also find that having an outline to give me a blue print to the story or book keeps me on track. Mind you, that outline can change and grow as more ideas pop into my head, but it really helps make sense of the progression.

Lastly, my favorite tool when I write, is doing character sheets for every character in the story. This gives me a back ground, personality quirks and powers (if applicable) for each character to ensure they are consistent throughout the book.

Oh! Most important of all? Proof read, proof read and proof read again. Then give it to someone else to proof. Nothing is worse than giving a reader a story that makes their mind jerk to stops when they're reading.

I have many more little tools or tricks when I write, but those are the most useful.
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Re: Writing Tips

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Sat Aug 22, 2009 11:58 am

Every writer should read The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. Very Happy

And oh wow! I make character sheets, too! Shocked Coooooool! cheers
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Re: Writing Tips

Post by Digital Muse on Sat Aug 22, 2009 12:08 pm

*runs to look up those references! Never stop learning is my motto. Very Happy
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Re: Writing Tips

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Sat Aug 22, 2009 12:55 pm

I'm reading it now. It's like everything I already knew and loved about the little particulars of English, put into words and made into concrete rules and patterns. I keep telling everybody it's "different from," for example, and it's in there! xD

Apparently it's got quite a history, this little book.
I definitely think it's a must-read, now that I know it exists. Clap
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Re: Writing Tips

Post by Digital Muse on Sat Aug 22, 2009 1:42 pm

Before I discovered role-playing, I wrote everything out and called them thumbnails.

Sheets are far better!
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Re: Writing Tips

Post by Lord Saladin on Fri Aug 28, 2009 4:05 am

Strunk and White's Elements of Style is indeed a good book, with a fair bit of history, but don't take everything it says as gospel. As writers, we are artists who use words instead of paint. No-one tells a painter how to run his brush over the page, so writers shouldn't be told how to put their words together.

Of course, grammatical rules and syntactical standards are useful for ease of understanding and getting your message across effectively. But, we should all be aware that such books - which are now quite antiquated - are not the be-all and end-all of how to write.

Personally, I find the guide, How to Say Nothing in 500 Words, a very useful one despite it being written in the 50s for college students. Most of what is said can apply non-academic writing too. That and it's a funny read.

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Re: Writing Tips

Post by Kesteven on Tue Sep 01, 2009 6:22 am

Hmm, those were pretty interesting. I wouldn't dream of following the prescriptions of Elements of Style to the letter; I feel that "How to write like somebody with a handlebar moustache" would have been an accurate retitling. It's a useful insight though, and I might well bring aspects of it to bear next time I find myself stuck with a paragraph which seems plain or indefinably wrong somehow.

Although I've had my share of battles with the English language though, I think most of the barriers I've faced as a writer of fiction have been from the point of view of storytelling. I'm still fairly new to writing so I don't have any amazing insights to share, but I think lot of my problems stem from my tendency to write as if I'm player and GM in an RPG campaign. As a player, I'm always thinking for the characters, trying to find them ways to succeed in their situations. As a GM, I'm always trying to work ways to succeed into the situation. Because I'm both people at once, every challenge I produce, I immediately solve, and henceforth comes uninteresting writing.

I suppose it's less of a trick and more common sense, but I've found that the easiest way to beat myself at my own game is to cheat. Firstly, after performing my normal 'present situation, formulate action' dialectic, I return again to the situation and covertly alter it to subvert the character's response (for example, if a character gets into a fight with a thug, the thug could turn out to be the boss's son. That particular one gets overused, but the same principle can be applied more subtly). This allows for more tension without compromising the realism of the response, and also adds depth to the situation. Secondly, I make some situations for which there simply is no 'right' decision, and that bad things will happen whatever the character does. While this might be considered bad GMing, it's sensible storytelling.

While this approach risks turning the character into a punching bag, it's much easier to get the balance right coming from that direction.
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Re: Writing Tips

Post by Aurethius on Mon Oct 19, 2009 9:22 am

I'll toss out one I don't hear very often from writers.

"Don't be afraid to swear."

Vulgarities have their uses. They are a different kind of literary spice by virtue of being taboo, unprofessional and eye-catching, depending on your audience. I use swear words when it serves my purpose.
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Re: Writing Tips

Post by Digital Muse on Mon Oct 19, 2009 9:33 pm

I will curse if it suits the character, definitely. White-washing the language, in my mind, makes you lose credibility as a writer. Most of my characters have their own vocabulary quirks. And I write them as they would speak, for good or ill.

My character's dialog is an extension of their personality; Jinx is frenetic, choppy catch-phrases. Moira is refined, erudite and sophisticated, Damon is hard-boiled, coarse and swears like a cook uses salt and pepper.
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Re: Writing Tips

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Tue Jan 26, 2010 4:40 am

Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing, Hermes!! Very Happy
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Re: Writing Tips

Post by MetalEgo on Tue Jan 26, 2010 1:12 pm

A few years ago I was googling something like "How to describe a laser gun," or something silly like that. Google is like the Oracle of the 21st century. Anyway! I stumbled across this site that belonged to some sci fi writer I've never heard of, and she said, "AVOID... UM. ADVERBS." And I don't know why, but that one short, easy tip slammed into my head with like cosmic force, and now I can't tell you what a gerund is, but I can tell you to avoid... um, adverbs. And that's just about all I can tell you. They have their place, in some scenarios, sure! But compare!

He slammed the door angrily.
to
He slammed the door.

They're both grammatically correct, but... We're not retarded, you know? We probably know the door-slamming was in anger. Give the reader some credit. Second! I think the second sentence is "louder" than the first. Kinda like the old "show the reader, don't tell them" mantra.

Uh, what else... Have you ever read The Jungle Books? Fucking awesome. Sure, everybody talked like, I don't know, 1600's royalty, but the impact was the same. And Don Quixote! Sure, I read a translated version, but the story was still alive. I still laughed, I still gasped in mock-terror. And all those Jules Verne books! Journey to the Center of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues, didn't we all still yell stuff like "Don't go in there!"

On the other hand, modern writings like the Twilight series, and the Sookie Stackhouse novels, and even, like, Animorphs, you just don't get the same high. Nothing against Animorphs, I love Animorphs, but it's why I write in. Short sentences. That aren't grammatically correct. Like some fourteen-year-old with ADD. Sometimes.

^ Exaggeration.

Mock ye not the men with handlebar mustaches! D'=
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Re: Writing Tips

Post by empowermint on Sun Apr 11, 2010 7:04 pm

On Strunk and White: http://chronicle.com/article/50-Years-of-Stupid-Grammar/25497 If you can ignore the raging-teenager writing style it is an interesting article.

Variations on the character profile: http://www.andyshack.com/2009/07/09/writing-characters-using-the-proust-questionnaire/

Has anyone experimented with E-prime? http://www.asiteaboutnothing.net/w_eprime.html
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Re: Writing Tips

Post by Guest on Sun Jun 06, 2010 2:04 pm

Yeah, my character sheets are 7 pages long. Smile

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