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    Share tips you've picked up for better writing

    It seems like the majority of us here are writers in some capacity. Share some quick tips and tricks you've learned over the years. It can be about anything from technique, to dealing with writer's block, to doing research for characters/worldbuilding.

    #2
    I'll start with a few easy ones
    1) Get into the head of your character. Describing what your character is thinking is just as important as describing what they say and do. In some circumstances, it may even comprise the majority of the chapter.
    2) A lot of people are afraid of plot devices and stock characters because they seem overdone and cliche. Don't be. It's easier to write them in as needed, then, at some point in the near or distant future, flesh them out more and make them more believable. As long as you are able to do this and give them an interesting backstory, most readers will readily accept them without too much criticism.
    3) It's important to have some level of conflict between some of the characters, but it's easy for writers to become trigger happy with this device and end up with cheap, immature banter that causes readers to roll their eyes. It's a little more acceptable if your audience is considerably younger or you're writing a comedy, but in general, adult readers want to see characters dealing with real problems, not problems which could be solved just by talking about it directly.

    Comment


    • [redacted]
      [redacted] commented
      Editing a comment
      I can't imagine writing any story without getting into the head of my characters.

    • Vive
      Vive commented
      Editing a comment
      I especially enjoy the second point you've made. I think at a certain point anything could be considered cliche or overdone, but honestly, doing something different just for the sake of doing it different is just as lame. If one takes a quick look at TVtropes one can see that there are categories for pretty much anything. Who cares, though, use it to your advantage. Maybe it can be nice to combine a couple tropes. In the end all writing contains cliches, overdone stuff and tropes. It's pretty much unavoidable.

    #3
    Also hi, I have writer's block right now.

    Comment


    • [redacted]
      [redacted] commented
      Editing a comment
      Technically I have been writing some, but every word just comes out wrong or I can't get this scene right so I'm unable to progress. The idea is to not get hung up on editing or revision before you're done with the first draft but it's really hard for me to get past something if I'm not semi-happy with what I've written. I hate this so much. And the worst is I have an idea of what I want to happen, but I can't write it. So instead I have been trying to draw my characters lately. I think that having other creative outlets can be good to keep the flow of inspiration going, but the lack of story-progress does bother me.

    #4
    1) Plan out your structure beforehand.
    I enjoy taking shortcuts. Even in academic writing I often just wanted to go and write, building out a whole structure feels like a pain in the ass, but it genuinely helps and can save you time. It also helps to check if your reasoning is consistent. I think the same can work for books. It's good if you can determine what you want to happen in your book and then you can flesh out the how and adjust the how to fit the general structure you wanted to write.

    2) Take breaks, do other stuff
    For those times when you really get stuck on something and can't find a way to keep writing. It's good to just take a step back and do something else entirely. When you relax and don't necessarily focus on anything in particular -- for example when you're showering, your brain makes use of the default mode network. Your thoughts are more associative and it can help to see things from a different perspective.

    3) When in doubt, just write
    it's a lot easier to working with something than nothing. Often people say: "I was thinking this, but when it came to it I couldn't do it". Thoughts in your mind that have not been formed into something concrete like words on paper can be treacherous. Sometimes it's good to just write, even if you feel like crap even if you're not sure. Write a lot. Then at a later time you can look and see what is usable and what isn't.

    "Distress, whether psychic, physical, or intellectual, need not at all produce nihilism.
    Such distress always permits a variety of interpretations."

    Nietzsche

    Comment


      #5
      O gosh. I spend so many hours every day writing and I have no idea how to answer this. I don't even know if my book is good or not. For all the effort I put in... I'm just not happy with it. But others seem to enjoy it, and I've come a long way in my abilities as a writer. It's unbelievable where I started and where I arrived. I've made a billion mistakes and a zillion guesses on how to be better. My own system is pretty complicated - maybe one day I'll have the wherewithal to explain it in words. But here's what I got for now.

      WRITE NO MATTER WHAT
      The best and most solid advice I can give is, just fucking write. Every damn day. Write, write write. Your work might suck but if you write and write and write, you will be more skilled by next year than you were last year.

      WHAT'S NOT ON THE PAGE
      A story is beyond what the audience reads. It's also backstory, world building, character building, family influences from their past.. things that aren't on the page but the more you know as an author, the more believable those characters are.
      If you can't stand your project at the moment, or you can't write, then work on characters or world building. For instance think about their background, the world, systems of language for names, other immersive things aside from actually writing - so that you stay connected to the project, but you can still take some weeks to address another part, and not just find yourself staring at the same pages every day.

      BACKGROUND CHARACTERS CAN BE SYSTEMATIZED & USED AS TOOLS
      I use enneagram and Jungian systems and other archetype systems for background characters. I don't do this with my main characters. I give them full personalities and type them AFTERWARDS. This way they're complex, and they can be difficult to type, like real people. But the side characters can be "an archetype" or an energy that needs to be introduced. I'd suggest changing up systems so you don't end up with a bunch of 2 words, 3 words, 4 words etc. Think in terms of Jung, Enneagram, DND classes, Astrology - anything you can think of - and just try to encapsulate that type in a few words for background characters.
      If your important character is describing another unimportant character, use the opportunity for them to evaluate traits that reveal their own biases. So, maybe a very rigid protagonist girl might not see another girl as rigid, even if other people would. She might however see an average hippyish girl as a sloppy messy "uncaring" person. A character who hates everyone and thinks the world is boring and she's all alone, is not going to go around seeing beautiful traits in most people around her. Etc. I've found that describing unimportant characters reveals a lot about the main character's mood and mindset, so if I think of it as "She's describing an 826 with Te" then there are some objective words you could use to describe this, like "energetic, justice fighter" whatever... but if your character is timid and anxious she might say "an overbearing woman" or "she was so loud, I couldn't hear myself think."
      These are opportunities to flesh out your main characters... dont' miss em! I used to miss them because I focused so much on the important relationships whereas everything else just had to be 'described accurately.' So as basic and obvious as this sounds, I decided to share it.

      IF THE WRITER ISN'T LIVING, THE WORK WILL BE FLAT
      LIVE. And write about it. Even if you're writing fantasy, you can take your emotional experiences to another world. If you don't live, your book will show it. Challenge yourself to be better in real life if you want to write better material.

      THE ONLY GOOD REASON TO BE A WRITER IS BECAUSE VISIONS EAT YOU ALIVE
      I would not "write just to write." I only write music or books because if I don't, the visions will eat me alive. I am a vessel through which they emerge. I work hard to polish the vessel to do justice to my visions.
      So when I say "write every day," I'm talking to the people who are being consumed by a vision. If someone is writing "because they want to be a writer" - they'd be better off becoming a banker. It's much more lucrative, and probably easier.
      However, if you do have a vision, work at it every day. It's not going to manifest itself. The vision or dream may be beautiful but it takes relentless work to bring it to life.
      Last edited by Animal; 09-07-2021, 11:17 PM.

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        #6
        Reading Stephen King’s book “On Writing” improved the way I write by orders of magnitude. Anything I would say could just be found there. It’s also just a great read all around and I recommend it to people all the time. One example of a suggestion that had a lasting impact on me is to try and avoid adverbs wherever possible, as well as anything redundant. It’s amazing how much fat can be trimmed on a second draft while leaving the power of the message intact. Readers don’t always need to be spoon fed specifics that they’re better off picking up on their own. A first draft, however, should probably be judgment free until it’s finished.
        When it comes to writing your first novel and trying to get published, King reminds us that even his successful works were initially rejected many times when he was starting out, and persistence in the face of self doubt is what got him where he is now. Another (paraphrased) quote that stuck with me was something like “Think of all the times you picked up a NY times best seller and considered how awful it was and felt you could do better.”
        I’m not sure if I even have an original idea to contribute to this thread, except perhaps that my best writing has dealt with issues related to my own personal struggles, and that is hardly a novel (pun) method of writing.

        Comment


        • Animal
          Animal commented
          Editing a comment
          Second draft? I'm on my 5000th draft. I feel dumb now.

        • [redacted]
          [redacted] commented
          Editing a comment
          pff, it is kind of funny whenever I read a published book, and see prose that would have made me feel like my text was irredeemable garbage if I had written it.

        #7
        this one is probably controversial, but I'm not a fan at all of "write something just to write". as practice? sure. as art, no. the best art needs to come to you. you have to be inspired by something first and then wish to manifest it in writing.

        Comment


        • Animal
          Animal commented
          Editing a comment
          I also would not "write just to write" or "write music just to write music." I only write music or books because if I don't, the visions will eat me alive. I am a vessel through which they emerge. So when I say "write every day," I'm talking to the people who are being consumed by a vision. If someone is writing "because they want to be a writer" - they'd be better off becoming a banker. It's much more lucrative, and probably easier.
          I added this to my post in case it was unclear.

        • [redacted]
          [redacted] commented
          Editing a comment
          I think writing just to write can be useful if you are working on a book because there are periods where you will be more or less inspired by the story (and there are parts of the story that will feel like such a grind to get through), but writing only while inspired is likely to leave most of it unfinished. So there are times I feel like I'd rather die than write anything and sometimes I will put the writing aside while I let inspiration refuel, but other times I just have to forcefully shit the words out on the page so I have something to come back to rework into magic later.

          of course it starts with a spark of inspiration, but the entire process won't always feel as inspired.
          Last edited by [redacted]; 09-08-2021, 06:55 AM.

        #8
        Bal, do you think Hemingway was inspired? Or Shakespeare? I tend to think they were workhorses of their craft. So what came first, the desire to craft or inspiration? One or both of these is true.

        Comment


          #9
          I think the distinction needs to be made between people who "Want to be a writer" and force themselves to write, and people who are inspired, but still have to work hard even when they're uninspired, in order to get a project done.

          Personally, I'm extremely inspired by my vision, but there are parts of the process that aren't fun. I do them anyway. It really is perspiration 99% of the time, to get a difficult project done. But the inspiring parts make it worth it.

          I would not advise anyone to become a writer if they aren't being eaten alive by a vision. It's much more lucrative to be a banker. If you want to make money there are better ways. If you want to be famous, go on youtube and create drama and controversy. Writing is not very lucrative and takes a lot of time, and makes you fat sitting at the computer all the time. It's shit unless you're doing it for the love.

          Comment


            #10
            Anyway, on the subject of getting inside your character's head, it can be taken further than describing what they are thinking. Depending on the type of pov you are writing -- like if it's from a particular character's point of view, then you are always in their mind. Especially with first person, everything that happens in the story will be colored by that character's way of perceiving the world, though you can do that kind of thing with third person as well.

            So when describing things, focus on the details the pov character is likely to notice. That can add a lot to the characterisation.

            Comment


            • [redacted]
              [redacted] commented
              Editing a comment
              Ah, I see Sanderson's got a similar advice here:
              https://youtu.be/wIt4PIdaLsE?t=3450
              Sounds like a good exercise for stronger characterization.

            • inkreservoir
              inkreservoir commented
              Editing a comment
              I saw a writing challenge once that suggested for neurodivergent people (autistic, ADHD, etc) to try rewriting a scene to specifically highlight the details that you think you yourself would pay attention to. I haven't had a chance to try it yet but I feel like it's a cool exercise even if you aren't neurodivergent that would help you see side by side how a scene can change depending on the way the POV character perceives it/what they perceive about it.

            #11
            Find a medium and method that works for you. Novels are not the only medium that exist for writers. Personally, I love working collaboratively with others, and even though I need to write to nourish my soul, working away alone for hours and hours and hours on a story that is entirely original and entirely mine has never worked for me. For a while I thought maybe the only kind of writing that could sustain my interest was fan fiction, but realizing I could work on bigger projects with others such as scriptwriting made me realize that I do have a lot of original ideas to contribute, I just don't like writing alone 😌
            Last edited by inkreservoir; 09-25-2021, 11:47 PM.

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              #12
              Another thing is to just read a lot, and when you find a book you really like, analyze what makes the writing work so well. And especially if there's something in particular that you struggle with, it can help if you find an author who is really good at those things. For example, I struggle with writing action, so when I come upon an engaging action scene in a book, I take a moment to get a sense of what makes it work.

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