Atium

Advice for new writers

15 posts in this topic

I was wondering if anyone had advice for new writers, that they would be willing to share?

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Atium said:

I was wondering if anyone had advice for new writers, that they would be willing to share?

Like, just general advice?

 

I guess some general places to start are:

- read, especially outside your comfort zone but within your genre. Get a feel for what the common tropes are, where the market is, and where your idea sits 

- be cognizant of your own biases and interrogate your writing for them

- join a crit group that gives real feedback, not just back pats. Back pats don't get you anywhere

- grow a thick skin

- learn patience. Publishing moves at the speed of glaciers on a planet that isn't massively roasting with climate change

- finish. Whether it's a novella, a short story, or a book, just FINISH it. You can edit later

- edit. All first drafts suck. All second drafts suck. By draft eight or so you might have something worth sending out

- engage with the writing community - a lot of which is on Twitter these days. Make friends. Make connections. Learn the lay of the land

- never be afraid to ask for help!

4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Umm

Don't be an English major (says the person with an MA in medieval and renaissance lit).

 Ok, on a more serious note, write every day, read every thing you can, don't censor yourself when writing first drafts, ever, and never let people see that uncensored writing. It's okay if second and third drafts are horrible. Let people read those though, because you need their feedback to make those drafts better.

Don't get too attached to anything you write because a lot of stuff is going to need to get axed, but don't actually ever delete anything -- just move it to a different file, a parking lot or grave yard or island of misfit toys words. 

Sometimes you need to run with an idea to get it out of your system knowing and then later let go of it so you can make it into something worth reading. 

Don't take short cuts or rush the process, because it never ends well. 

Write what you care about, what you are passionate about.

Draft selfishly and revise for your readers. 

2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To add to the excellent points made by @kais and @shatteredsmooth, I recommend watching Brandon's writing lectures online, and listening to Writing Excuses. There are at least three sets of writing lectures (write about dragons playlists - two different years, and camera panda) and several years of writing excuses podcasts.

 

Just don't get bogged down by continually rewatching the videos, or feeling you need to keep looking up more about writing. The best thing you can do is to write and then fix. Write and then fix, as it is hard to fix something if there isn't something before you to fix. You can spend time designing the plot and setting, you can spend time reworking the same page as much as you like, but if you want to get published, then you first need to have a complete book. And to have a complete book you need to write it. Write with a schedule, or write when the mood takes you. Write a few words each day or write in a big clump, or write differently on different days. Just write :-)

2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also, characters have to be interesting. You can’t sell a book with boring characters.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Conflict! All stories are conflict! Conflict in every scene! Conflict in the hearts of your characters!

And use exclamation points sparingly. They're tacky.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is all great advice, and important to follow, however the first and most important thing (to reinforce what @Ixthos said), is to write and write and write and write, then write some more; share it with people, get critiques then go back and re-write, edit, revise then move forward again.

You're a writer right up until you stop writing.

 

3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/24/2018 at 10:52 AM, Ookla the Apostate said:

Conflict! All stories are conflict! Conflict in every scene! Conflict in the hearts of your characters!

And use exclamation points sparingly. They're tacky.

While this is true, YA / New Adult / Comedy can get away with a lot more use of exclamation marks and interrobangs (question mark + exclamation point, and perhaps my favorite piece of punctuation).  I find myself having to write them all in as I want them in the first draft, and then have to edit them out later as I use them to an EXCESSIVE degree. 

Also, following more explicitly about conflict, every scene should have both emotional and plot-related conflict in general.  Every scene MUST have one of the two; if it has neither, then you know it's filler that is not needed.

Lisa Cron has talked a lot about 'the third rail', and using it to drive story and plot and characters, in various blogs and also Story Genius (a great resource to use when creating a novel).  Essentially, every character but especially the main character of the story should have some major goal--what they think would bring them perfect happiness--as well as a misbelief about the world which prevents them from achieving this goal.  This misbelief will have been established and reinforced throughout their life.  The story, however, is the world knocking on their door and forcing them to see how and why they're wrong.  Every scene with the character needs to touch on that rail in addition to the normal plot and story stuff.  Looking at Way of Kings, Kaladin wants his friends and family to be safe--that's his goal.  His misbelief is that all lighteyes are inherently evil.  His story, then, becomes one of challenging or reinforcing that belief.

The other major thing to take away from Lisa Cron's book is that every character, no matter how major or minor, has their own motivations and desires.  While the reader may (and many times shouldn't) ever know what they all are, as the author you need to have much more clarity.  The more major the character is, the more you need to know about them.  Even the most minor characters in the most minor scenes requires you to know why they are there, what they hope to achieve, and what the results of the scene will cause them to do (maid enters to clean the room, sees the hero violently dialoguing with the villain, and then flees--to summon the guards that arrive a few minutes later).

2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, kaellok said:

Also, following more explicitly about conflict, every scene should have both emotional and plot-related conflict in general.  Every scene MUST have one of the two; if it has neither, then you know it's filler that is not needed.

What about scenes that provide infromation that will be used for later conflict? Should I cut those?

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Atium said:

What about scenes that provide infromation that will be used for later conflict? Should I cut those?

Infodumps generally need to serve a secondary purpose, yes. High fantasy/epic fantasy not necessarily though, as the 'world' is considered a character in the high/epic fantasy genres and therefore you can get away with some extended worldbuilding just for the sake of worldbuilding.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Atium said:

What about scenes that provide infromation that will be used for later conflict? Should I cut those?

I agree with what @kais said but  have something to add: ask yourself if you can think of another way to convey that information. Can you spoon it out in smaller doses, scattered throughout different scenes? Can it come up in dialogue without feeling forced? How important is that information? Will the reader understand later scenes without it?

There are instances where you do need a scene like that, where the readers just directly need some info so they can get on with the story without getting lost, but often, there are more subtle ways to work in the info in. As a writer, it can be hard to make that distinction and one of the reasons why critique groups and beta readers are essential. 

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

A Guideline, and then a Practice:

 

(1) Show, don't tell. 

You've (a) probably heard this before, and I'm (b) hardly qualified to relay it considering I never finish anything I try to write, but in addition to the usual advice to keep your hand tight, I find a lot of people in Newbland -- myself included -- tend either to rely overmuch on character thoughts, or simply info-dump motivations and the like. Once they're past that stage, they info-dump through dialogue: witty though they may be, characters speak of the plot, all the plot, and nothing but the plot. 

This is a matter of preference to some extent -- I for one sometimes find even Lord Sanderson's early books a bit too fond of simply slapping us with information (I know Elend isn't sure whether he's doing the right thing, now show him doing something genuinely awful so we question it too) -- but I think the general rule is to ensure the characters never convey directly to the audience or each-other anything they or the person to whom they're talking already know, and that the narrator never directly conveys anything the characters wouldn't care to convey themselves. Of course, it all depends on the type of narrator. First-person narrators will obviously tell a bit more if they're sufficiently chatty. Personally I'm fond of the old Dostoevsky trick -- the omniscient narrator whose personality influences the story but who may or may not be a character in it, only revealing himself with phrases like "I believe Mistress Vin was rather afraid at the moment," or "Our Heroes ..." -- which does let me cheat on some of these things. In any case, the more the reader has to figure out, and, by means of your expertly (or in my case, horribly inexpertly) placed breadcrumbs, is prodded to figure out, the more they'll pay attention, and the more certain aspects of the story, especially dialogue, will feel realistic. 

 

(2) Experiment! 

All the other posters have said some great things -- write a lot (I need to take this advice), and read things you find exceptionally well-written -- but I for one have found great value in simply trying out entirely new writing styles. What happens when I forbid myself to use the word 'was?' Interesting things, I tell you: horrible and clunky things, but interesting things I can use nonetheless. If you're of a lyrical bent, play with cadence. I couldn't stand Ernest Hemingway after I read Farewell to Arms -- I'm more a Mervyn Peake sort of fellow -- but I found a good rhythm for battle scenes when I modified his own Artisanal Incoherence and added a dash of Jeff Shaara: it annoys the hell out of me if I use it for more than a few pages, but those pages hit like a ton of bricks. Even if you're not into strange and distinctive character voices or complicated wordplay, try to shake things up a little. It doesn't have to be prose; if you find your protagonists are all sniveling young urchins with a heart of gold, write a nobleman looking to cap off a long battlefield career by slaughtering those peasants over the next ridge while he recites Boccaccio. 

 

Anyway, hope this helps, and Happy Writing!

 

 

Edited by Severian4Scadrial
1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.