I want to try out a new feature in the Community Spotlight articles I write every month. I'm calling it "Community Wisdom." Here's how it works.
1) You learn something about writing. It can be surprising, funny, makes you think, interesting, important, trivial, whatever. It can be old knowledge, new knowledge, a theory, a question, a proverb, or whatever else you can think of.
2) You post it here in a few sentences. It doesn't have to be Twitter-short, but concise. Find a way to personalize it to your writing life and experiences.
3) I'll post some of the ones I like in the Community Spotlight article, with your name attached.
There are no requirements on content or experience level. You can be brand new or well cooked. You can write your experience as advice or as a recollection. Doesn't matter. The only rule I want to lay down is that we don't use this thread as a debate hall; if you want to debate, create a thread for it. That doesn't mean there is no interaction, but I don't want the thread to get derailed.
I'll start, to show you how easy it is.
Today, I remembered how important it is to read as a writer. It seems like common sense, but maybe it's too obvious for us to remember all the time. I've been making time to read short stories again, and all of a sudden, I am back in writing mode. It really was that easy for me.
And... done. Want to give it a try? I won't be offended if it doesn't catch on, but I thought it might be a fun experiment.
I really like this idea. I'll go.
Today, as it happens, I was talking with someone about exposition, telling not showing, and all that. And to make a point I brought up a first draft of my WIP from over a year ago. And it was so bad. And I mean. So. Bad. I cringed, couldn't read it all. But the WIP is doing so well now.
So first drafts, especially for discovery writers, I think should be allowed to suck. Get the idea down. Revision is what will make it good.
I find in meeting characters, standard precautions for dating are needed for long term courtship. In that, I find I prefer I rather know less about the character, I want my stories to be a date that could never be.
The writing concept might not be to obvious.:/
My piece of wisdom is ripped off from a member of a writing group I'm in--but I thought I would share since I thought the advice good.
Don't be afraid to fall into melodrama when writing a draft. You can cut the cruddy stuff later, and hopefully you got some real emotion on the page.
That one always gets me, love the quote.
As a psuedo diary of the imagination of biographical themes, feel free to base some aspects on yourself, provided your depiction isn't perfect. You can always change the names later. But it gives your story that little bit of realism to enhance the believability of more magical components.
Like I did for example in my YA novella.
Got another one.
Even though I'm very much not an outliner, after going at some discovery writing, having an outline can be useful for revising. Or just completing.
Example: a relationship plot and a mystery plot, these both need beats. And these beats need to be paced well. Times when characters move closer or further away. Times when pieces of information are discovered, and new questions presented. Having an easy-to-reference outline can be very helpful, even if made after you've free-written half a book or more, to make sure things are doled out appropriately.
You can't look at the tens upon tens of thousands of words at once to see if everything is paced well. But a few pages of bullet points? Easy to skim and analyze.
Doing this helped me smooth out my plot a lot.
Alright I don't know if this count, but this was a reaction I had to a submission full of paranthesises that I read the other day.
I can't stand paranthesises they're the embodiment of words missing in text still being in the text.
Like a writer writing out all of those words he/she was too cowardly to put into the actual story but still by adding the paranthesis admiting that it was written cowardly
Just wrote this in another thread. Guess it counts as good advice... :)
When critiquing don't just tell someone that something doesn't work, tell them why it doesn't work. Suggest how they could fix/improve it. Suggest being the key word here. Everyone has their own style and quirks, so consider suggestions that compliment the authors style and what they are trying to do.
A piece of advice I just thought of ... Might not be quite what you're looking for but figured I'd throw it in anyway:
Connect your writing time with sights and smells. For some reason, I'm most encouraged to write during the fall and winter seasons. So when I'm trying to get into the writing mode, I turn on my wax burner and put a holiday scent on to melt. The smell is enough to remind me what it feels like to let the words flow through me. I also try to write facing my backyard, because it looks out over a lake, and I find inspiring views help open up that creative flow! Soon you'll begin to connect writing with sights and smells like these, and can utilize those to spur on a writing session even on the worst of days.
@Jimothy Definitely! :-)
This one actually is an old tweet of mine. Succinct.
- - - - - - - - - - -
"Writing what you know" is about as much fun as having an affair with your spouse.
^^^This should be said on the first day of freshman comp. Of course nowadays a quote like that might get you fired. Everyone's so fucking sensitive.
^ Wait until you get tenure.
Also, I think convincing your wife to have an affair with you might be one way to make things exciting. Just saying.
That said, while I like it, (most of us don't "know" exciting things that go in books, that's why we write them and read them) I like it with the caveat of doing some research, talking/listening to the experts, etc.
However, writing about things you're passionate about will probably come through in your writing, so don't neglect that either.
Haha, yeah, I'm not saying that writing what you know won't make for good literature, just that the process isn't as exciting as jumping into new territory is. For someone like me who's not getting much financial benefit out of my writing "hobby," it's essential that I'm having a good time while doing it, that the writing of it is its own reward.
I've noticed that a lot of people I talk to think foreshadowing is some clever thing where you tell the reader the answer without them noticing. Example: Peter Baelysh (GoT) foretells how certain people will die, "...at their dinner table, in their beds, on their chamber pots..." (note, I don't know if this is in the book, but the TV show, you can google it.)
But that's not the kind of foreshadowing you need. Foreshadowing is laying the groundwork for something to happen so that it's not some out of left field, deus ex machina, nonsensical crap. It's the show the gun in act 1 if you shoot someone in act 3 thing.
So, if we look at GoT again, the Red Wedding would not have been a very good moment had a certain massacre organizer not been established as: one, a real asshole; and two, having been very offended by the victims. Without those things being established earlier on we would have been shocked, but really disappointed in the story. As opposed to still shocked, but also saying to ourselves, damn, should have seen that coming.
So! Foreshadowing is not about leaving clever little riddles for the reader (unless you want to because it's fun). It's about making sure things make sense in hindsight.
It's never too late to start.
Are you the type of person who has always had a lot of creative talent? Who has a way with words, but was so busy with living you just never bothered with writing?
Even if you never see a penny from it in this lifetime- wouldn't it be good to get some of those great thoughts in writing? Wouldn't it be great to see all of your best thoughts put down clearly, efficiently, and shared at least with others who care about such things?
You never know what you can accomplish with your writing. It could just be a great therapeutic tool, and nothing more. Or you could even change the world. But you never know unless you try.
A lot of the best authors were not published or celebrated until late in life. You were given this gift for some reason. Use it! I wanna read your stuff:)
Avoid asking, never ask twice, if someone offers make them offer twice, never bring up when someone doesn't follows through, never work with people who don't follow through on offers.
Good as advice Dwayne.
Write a travelogue, then embellish with magic.
The great majority of the time, when I come across the word "still" in something I've written and cut it, it's better.
I've learned not to let the feeling that I need to write eclipse the real world and people around me. I know how important it is to cultivate your craft by writing relentlessly. But I also know now that if I neglect my life and relationships, let my self-esteem go to shit, not only will I not want to put my ass on the chair and pen in my hand, but I won't know how to access emotion, won't know how to capture anything. Live life to have something to say. Then say it. A hard balance to strike. Reminds me though, now and then, to put my book down, close my notebook, get my head out of the clouds and actually go talk to people. Get my feelings hurt. Experience, before I can't anymore.
In the LitReactor Writers Compendium, Stephen Graham Jones said: "Brilliant people are all over the place. People with something to say, though? Not so much. As for how to have something to say, though? Live as many lives as you can as fast as you can. And pay attention, and forget to pay attention, lose yourself, so that you have to write your way back again and again." I love that.
Wow. Thanks man. That was so good.
Glad you thought so. :)
Sometimes I make myself feel so guilty about not writing every chance I get. But pretty much all of my favorite writers have mentioned how 'being a writer' is more than just writing. If you need to write, then you're working on writing even when you're not. I've typically been a more active reader than writer, so when I don't have the motivation to sit at the computer or scratch in my notebook, my mind defaults by finding patterns and themes all around me.
And Palahniuk said it right, well I forget exactly how--but: find the kernel of an idea, maybe something that embarassed or hurt you, and 'crowd-seed' it; talk to other people, tell them your kernel, and they'll give you their own, unique version of that thing. When I'm in 'write mode' I tend to forget that everyone else, all the people not trying to be writers, they are full of stories too, that just pile up in their memory, waiting to be shown off. And by finding themes between you and other people, you find connections to weave into bigger ideas. There's so much good work to be done before you even start finding your hook and raising action and all that, just by fleshing out vibes, thinking, taking notes.
Thanks so much for all of the great advice. These are things I always forget about too. Not the default looking at patterns and themes. I do that too. It's like something that haunts you once you start writing. But the part about the kernel seeding. I had forgotten all about that! Since I'm reading new essays all of the time, I don't revisit the old ones enough, I forget good nuggets like this one.
You should check out the threads, 'Should I keep writing?' and 'How do you do your research?'. I tried to give advice on both of these, but it pales next to yours! Great insights. Thanks again!
Redd Tramp: I love that idea by Chuck Palahniuk! Love him and love his advice! Thanks for posting that.
I've learned that rejection will not kill me and that I had some delusions about what my writing life would look like. I've learned to step back and really evaluate what my message is and what I want it to be. Writing has been with me in every phase of my life, and I've grown over time and so my work has to, too.
I have also learned that I need to make time, even just to write crap that I may hate and that I need a recorder in the shower because for some reason I do all my best writing in the shower in my head which is lost about 5 minutes after I'm out.
Ooo, to piggyback on the shower idea (good place for me as well), a tip on dialogue: have imaginary conversations with yourself. Maybe even imaginary friends. People sometimes use dialogue the way new writers cast secondary characters- just to fulfill a role. Don't do that, just talk like people talk with the invisible character next to you, see what happens.
Did you know that a LOT of writers take a walk everyday? That's a great time to hash out your thoughts and prayers, or whatever makes you tick. I get my best ideas when I walk my dog in the woods everyday.
Stephen King still walks everyday even though he almost got killed one day by a distracted driver. In the essay he wrote about it, he said roughly, IDK the exact words; That if it wasn't for writing, he never would've walked again.
Funny relationship there between walking and writing.
I got one. Any advice you find from strangers on Twitter can be safely ignored. You would think this would be common sense, but I've had more than my fair share of know it alls saying there is not an adult in the world that can remember their childhood in enough detail to write YA retrospectively. Excuse me, that's not writers advice, that's a sweeping generalization.
Going against the grain and saying don't be afraid to write autobiographically either, so long as you change the names of characters and add enough fictional elements to make it not an autobiographical anymore. To not do so is one of those myths that has done more to hurt writers than help.
Just saying this because you won't believe some things that get touted as advice by psuedo-experts. Keep it to grammar essentials please. The rest is processed horseradish and sourkraut.
Turned into more of a rant than I intended.:/
Also a walk sounds peachy! Thanks.^^
Don't forget about irony.
Here's one: When you write, don't forget about your reader.
Piggybacking on the piggyback by @Thuggish":
During a creative writing course this week, I heard the following:
"If you ever get stuck while writing about your character or about how he would react/sound during a scene, take him out for a coffee and ask him".
Does that mean I should go sit in Starbucks with a notebook and mutter to the wall? Or write a scene in which my character goes for coffee and answers personal questions? OR: should I find a comparable real person and pick their brain?
@dollface: I think the connection might really lie in expending physical energy, using your body. Walking is definitely special because you can slip into the cracks in your head, go on auto-pilot, or watch your surroundings; but I think what it is is our body feeling the warmth of having been used, leaving your mind free to explore without worrying about your anxiety or whatever.
Expending that energy, to me, has always felt kinda like reaching that golden zone of insobriety where you just relax and can breath, and your ideas bring a smile to your face instead of feeling too vague.
That's a beautiful way to put it. And so true.
@Redd: When I heard this during the course, what I thought of was just taking a break from the paper (screen) and going back to the dossie you have about your character. That way you can be "guided" by the character instead of the particular scene. I guess writing a scene where said character answers some questions, though not for the actual story and more like a research file, might be an interesting way to further develop him/her. What do you think?
writing is rewriting...an oldie but a goodie
Yeah, I agree with that, L. L. The character should inform the story that unfolds. The better you know the character before you start, the more plausibilities--and non-- you see. Also, in a class here on LR on crafting interesting characters, one of the homework assignments was to do that kind of thing; write your character in a totally normal setting, like getting change at the supermarket, and find out how they act, how they talk, their body language, what they buy, if they make small-talk or not, etc. I've only done it once or twice, to be honest, but it's a great exercise.
I'm pleased as a poodle puppy in a pink, puffy pullover how this thread is working out.
I realize this should be common sense but: don't feel like you have to consult TV Tropes to write. The goal should be to innovate, not pontificate about current 'tropes'.
Tropes ignores the nuance between stories: two guys going for a trip to go fishing, will feel drastically different if it's a horror or comedy, with a murky area in dark comedy.
Two men are out fishing when a mermaid surfaces and offers to grant them one wish. The first guy jumps up and says, "I wish this entire lake were made of beer!"
"You idiot!" the other says, face in his palm. "Now we're gonna have to piss in the boat!"
That's the comedy version.
^ That's not bad.
I'd say when it comes to tropes, use them if appropriate, but KNOW when you are using them. They exist for a reason, but boy do they get old fast if abused. Make them your own, and make sure they work seamlessly with your story.
Also, thinking on the spot here, I think TV-specific tropes are often the worst ones.
Maybe do a little trimming in the future as this grows to only keep the relevant posts, but this was a really great idea.
I think that TV tropes comes from the same school of thought as me, namely there are no new ideas.
While it's a good plotting approach for beginning writers, there are other plotting options besides the hero's journey. For example, you might have mini-episodes that follow a hero's journey. But then the macro-structure follows the Bad Luck Cat plotting method.
There is a main character that's a cat, we don't know why it suddenly appears. Various people have lost their lives after seeing it. Ten main characters experience the cat, but have subtle inconsistet descrepancies. Is the cat real? Or of the mind.
This revelation brought to mind with me reading Wind Up Bird Chronicle.
Even better if the cat spans time: French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, Russian Revolution, McCarthy Era, future disasters of large scope.
I'm not sure if this one will apply to everyone, or just works for me.
When in doubt, cut the comma and use a new sentence.
I've returned back to how I was before joining the water cooler. It's good to have some sort of core philosophical tenants, even you must avoid didacticism in order to find a less intrusive way to explore it.
Least you need to know: Having a philosophy is not bad, it's how you use it.
Erp accidental double, weird lag time on my internet. All this to say it is perfectly fine to have your own core philosophy too.
When you are really stuck, fall back on an old acid trip... Or any experience I suppose!
Bittersweet Children's Adventure
WTH, it's not I've never used a computer before... Sorry about that!!
Are you sure you don't mean this for Game Of Threes? In either case I enjoyed it. Is Be Well Friend the prompt?
Sometimes ideas can be generated by reading a lame book, or watching a bad movie, and thinking about how you would have done something better.
Other times, reading an excellent book, seeing an excellent movie, (maybe somewhat similar to what you're working on?) can kick you out of a writer's block and get the juices flowing again.