View Full Version : Learned Tips!

Kyle R
June 26th, 2012, 01:26 AM
Is there something you recently learned that has helped your writing?

Care to share it with the rest of us? :D

June 26th, 2012, 01:46 AM
Not to overuse fragments.

June 26th, 2012, 02:05 AM
I need to watch how "pretty" I try to write. I want to be so poetic and write with frills that catch your breath, but what I'm doing is using waaaayyyy too many adjectives and confusing my reader's with prose that doesn't need to be there. I definitely don't want them scratching their head and saying, "HUH? What the heck is 'waves of turquoise dreams weaved through the hearts of the majestic angels' gossamer wings." LOL ... well, I'm not that bad... Well, I don't think.

Kyle R
June 26th, 2012, 02:23 AM
I learned that I need to resist the temptation to rewrite and change the story before I've finished writing it to completion.

This epiphany came about after I had spent the past week writing seven different versions of the first half of the same story. I finally slapped myself and said "Just finish the story first! Then figure out what needs fixing!"

So: write the draft first. Then begin to rewrite. Don't rewrite until you've written the whole story first. Be okay with first draft imperfections. :D

June 26th, 2012, 02:41 AM
I've learnt that art forms lend to each other. I have a writer friend I basically grew up with - we spent a year or so apart from each other, in which time I gave up writing to pursue music. He stuck to writing, I got serious about music and he got serious about writing. When we got it back on, I got into writing again. I found that my writing was now extremely rhythmic and lyrical, because I'd now got that perception, that angle - it was as if writing had just been turned around to a totally new dimension that matches up with the ecstasy of music. As if I was playing in a different mode, if you get the reference, ahaha. I got into Poetry, and subsequently he got into Poetry, and our works have become increasingly poetic, with word-painting and economic, stark and vivid images. What we're doing feels really connected and beautiful... He's also learning spanish and wants to become a translator of spanish poetry, already working on a book of translated poems by a previously untapped spanish poet by the name of Angél. I've found his work has become extremely influenced by the spanish language, even though I don't understand spanish language.

Kyle R
June 26th, 2012, 02:47 AM
I've thought about all the things you mentioned before, Kar, and I agree with them completely. Before getting into writing I was a songwriter/guitarist.

I believe the more you explore creative outlets, the more you develop the areas of the brain responsible for imagination, language and creativity. So, when you branch into other forms of art--like music, painting, dancing, (et cetera)--your brain makes new connections that carry over skills from your previous creative insights, even if those skills were in a completely different field. Like your sense of rhythm being transported over from music, morphing into a rhythmic use of words.

June 26th, 2012, 05:09 AM
Thanks to a Grammar Girl article, I've just learned the differences between parentheses, dashes and parenthetic commas, and when to use them. I do feel a bit silly for not having known this already, but everyone has gaps somewhere...

Parenthesis are used as an aside, or like a whisper. They are used when the information enclosed is not essential to the sentence (or to give additional information).

Parenthetic commas are for when you want something, such as a non-restrictive clause, to simple blend in without drawing attention to itself.

Dashes do just the opposite, placing emphasis on the element or clause. They can also be used in the same way you might use a colon. When I read this I came to a startling realisation--that I have been missing out on the power of the dash!

June 26th, 2012, 05:38 AM
"Sit down and write."

I've always found that to be the best advice I've ever gotten.

June 26th, 2012, 01:44 PM
Well, these aren't recent, but anyway...

-- I have a simile and metaphor bin. Sometimes they just pop into my head -- or I'll find I have too many of them in a particular story, or one isn't quite right for the tone of a story, so I'll copy and paste it into a Word doc for later use. I take them from my poetry and put them there too.

-- Forums are a great place to do research. For example, one of my characters was restoring a classic car. I went to a forum for the particular car and asked about common problems and how you go about fixing them -- just to add some realism to the dialog etc. I've found that people are happy to help. Everyone loves to talk about whatever it is they love. Sometimes I just lurk about -- I had a character who was a nurse addicted to pain pills, so I went on a nursing forum and read personal comments from people who'd dealt with that. There's a forum for just about everything -- I haven't hit a wall yet.

Oh -- and here's a good forum if you have question about a city -- especially little details:

City-Data.com Forum: Relocation, Moving, Local City Discussions (http://www.city-data.com/forum/)

June 26th, 2012, 01:53 PM
It's its boring you to write it, it'll bore you to read it too.

Terry D
June 26th, 2012, 02:20 PM
Writers are magicians waving their word-wands above the hat of imagination and pulling out story rabbits. The best do this while simultaneously making themselves disappear.

June 26th, 2012, 03:26 PM
Be subtle, do not underestimate the reader.

Jon M
June 26th, 2012, 05:39 PM
Everything is better with no pants on.

June 26th, 2012, 05:44 PM
Tell that to the judge.

June 26th, 2012, 05:55 PM
I learned that I need to resist the temptation to rewrite and change the story before I've finished writing it to completion.

I'm like that too.

June 26th, 2012, 06:50 PM
I've learned that there as many different ways to write as there are writers and stories. I have my methods, but if it doesn't seem to be working for this particular story, try something else. There is no universal Best Way.

June 26th, 2012, 07:04 PM
I learned that "I'm just writing this for myself and I don't care what happens as long as I finish the story!" is complete bunk. I can't believe how badly I want to be published now that the first draft is done.

June 26th, 2012, 07:13 PM
Stop fraking procrastinating and write something.

Edit: No, he didn't say frak, just me censoring. :concern:

Edit2: I wonder if there are any sci-fi shows that are as good ?

Edit3: If you're still reading this, then STOP and go write something.

June 27th, 2012, 07:05 PM
Everything is better with no pants on.

Changed my life.

Grape Juice Vampire
June 27th, 2012, 09:26 PM
Finish a draft before you edit, and if something is just not coming out, but there's something else wanting to, write that instead even if it's gonna happen a chapter or two later.

June 29th, 2012, 10:47 PM
If theres a scene that I dread writing, that I feel is going to bore me or bring me down, and I can't get excited about it, I take a step back. I analyse the scene and basically... If I were a Grip on a film set, I'd adjust the camera angle to one that's entirely different. I'd change the lights to a totally different hue, and switch to a wider or more narrow lens. Changing the point of on look of the scene to something that I'm more excited writing about works very well for me.

June 29th, 2012, 11:02 PM
I've been writing pretty much the same story for the past couple of years. Every time I reboot it, I'm sure that this one's going to be the final version. I have yet to reach the end of the story with any of the reboots. On the upside, I think I've finally learned my lesson.

No matter what you think of your work now, you're guaranteed to think differently in a month.

Olly Buckle
June 30th, 2012, 02:04 AM
There is often no need for all that research people tell me they do, even when you don't know you can usually be non-specific and sound like you know, for example I know nothing about what the Gobi desert looks like, sand, rock, what colour, the only thing I know is it is dry.
"Gobi. The sun rose above the horizon, the first rays of dawn bringing the colours back to the dry desert floor."
The sun always comes up everywhere every morning, and everything loses its colour in the dark, which colours come back the reader will supply for themselves, because they supply it it matches their experience perfectly and they say "Thats a wonderful bit of description, it's just like that."
Rather than looking up what you need to know to make the point, think what you already know and consider how you could use that to make it instead, it gives your writing a more original slant as well, people tend to lddk up the same stuff..

June 30th, 2012, 03:04 AM
Sure -- if you’re writing about the Gobi Desert and the story doesn’t require any other details about that environment -- none -- other than where the sun rises. If it doesn’t -- and that’s not likely -- then why would you have the story take place there in the first place?

If you’re writing about the Gobi Desert, you’re going to have to know something about it. If you haven't been there, you're going to have to do some research -- that is if you want your story to be credible to people who do know about it.

I do research when it involves something where the details matter to people who know something about the subject – even if that represents a small percentage of potential readers. I can’t stand the thought of a single reader being taken out of a story because I didn't take the time to get it right.

"Sounding like you know" only fools people who don’t know -- and that's not good enough for me.

Olly Buckle
June 30th, 2012, 08:28 AM
You have me wrong Joseph, by 'sounding like you know' I don't mean feed them false information, that would really be stupid, I mean feed them the information you do have so it sounds as though you have more. That is not all I know about the Gobi, it is a desert, it will be cold at night and hot by day because of the low humidity for example, and it is the area inhabited by the Mongols, so I have an idea what any people might look like. If I were including a particular marque of vehicle in my story (as you mentioned in an earlier post) yes, I could go and look up the specific problems with it, or I could say something along the lines of,

"every marque has its specific problems, and Johnny knew his vehicle well, it didn't take him long to confirm his suspicions of what the problem might be this time and get on with fixing it."

No doubt you can tear into this specific example as well, it is always easier to attack the example than what it is illustrating, but most stories are about people, not about things, and most readers do not have the specific knowledge the author does not posses. Word it right and as I say, the readers with knowledge will supply it for themselves, and think how clever you are knowing, the ones who don't are unlikely to be all that interested in exactly what made the car break down, that is probably secondary to the frustrations of the driver for most readers and gets skipped over, skim read. Unless you were very skilful fitting it in it may well also sound clunky if you just looked it up.

I wrote a short about an aboriginal in the Australian desert once, never been there, or know anyone who has. I know it is a desert and it is called 'The Red Heart' because it is in the middle and that is the predominant colour (literal those Aussies). I looked nothing up before I started, yet one of the members who is Australian made the comment that he would have taken me for a native if he hadn't known better. Argue with the specifics if you like, but the principle works.

June 30th, 2012, 10:23 AM
When I finish writing for the day, I don't end my last sentence. I leave it halfway completed so that when I come back to my laptop the next day, finishing it will be easy. Instead of wracking my brain to think of a new sentence, I finish the old one and kick-start my creative juices for the day ahead.

June 30th, 2012, 12:06 PM
Olly, I’m not suggesting it’s about lying. It’s about not knowing and making assumptions.

You’re talking about some superficial level of description where the details are so generic they don’t matter. That’s a no-brainer. Some stories demand more than that -- and in those cases, you have to do research. It’s pretty much that simple.

There are things that make a desert a desert – the Gobi included. But there are also things that make a particular desert unique or different than another dessert -- if you want to include any level of detail or description that creates a real sense of place, you might have to know when you’re crossing that line. If you’re making assumptions – you may cross it and not even know it.

And it’s not a question of “attacking” your example. If the story requires a brief exchange with a mechanic -- you’re probably going to need to throw in a detail. If you know about cars -- great. If not -- research might be required -- even if that just means a quick Google search or asking a friend. Yes -- it’s possible I could “word it right” but there are times when being vague doesn’t service the story -- so I put a little effort into it so it is right. Again, it’s not about “most” people either – it’s about people who happen to know. I don’t care if that’s one person.

Otherwise, it’s silly to assume that someone is doing research he doesn’t need to do -- which is what you did in your first post. How do you know? As a reader who’s not familiar with the details – it’s going to go unnoticed. But people who do know will notice if it’s wrong.

June 30th, 2012, 12:26 PM
I'm with JB on this one. Nothing is more important than making your writing sound credible. If, for instance, I'm writing a scene about racing, I need to know the specifications of each car in the race. Will a 1970 Chevy Chevelle 454 SS beat a 1967 Ford GT500 in a straight one-mile course? I know from earlier research that the 454 SS is one of the quickest (acceleration) muscle cars ever produced. Without research, however, I have no idea how fast it will reach sixty or a hundred mph, nor do I know if it has enough speed to keep the GT500 at bay. If I decide to make that up, my book will be ridiculed by those in the know.

Nothing spreads faster than a bad name. Do the research and avoid falling into that trap.

Olly Buckle
June 30th, 2012, 12:58 PM
There is often no need for all that researchI agree, sometimes it is necessary, and I suppose it depends what sort of stories you are into. I am not the 'hardware' type, if an author started going on about muscle cars I would as likely put the book down, mind you I did have a GT500 once, a Suzuki, probably the fastest bike I ever owned in terms of acceleration, a 500cc two stroke it was really scary, almost no suspension and you had to fight to get it round corners, find a bit of straight road though and wow! Take your breath away. Those were the days.

June 30th, 2012, 03:40 PM
Sometimes it's just a matter of being able to add atmosphere. As my characters are traveling through Europe, it's nice to be able to say they can see the Alps. But how am I going to know where exactly they can see the Alps unless I spend a lot of time in Google Maps street view?

Or for another example, there's a particular mountain in Spain named Montserrat (serrated mountain). I picked it at random to use in my story; but for research, how would I have known it looked nothing like other mountain ranges?


Olly Buckle
June 30th, 2012, 05:10 PM
Okay, hands up, give in, research is really handy .... sometimes.

June 30th, 2012, 07:20 PM
Okay, hands up, give in, research is really handy .... sometimes.

I'm siding with this. It's useful, provided the subject, place or environment features at least somewhat heavily in your work, and of course, it depends on how much you know about said thing in the first place. You can, however, use your technique (expanding on basic absolutes, giving the illusion of a greater ken) to make it work.

My tip would be to write down useful metaphors, similes, analogies, or even fragments of description for future use. I have several notepads filled with snippets, which I occasionally browse through. I also have two huge ruled notepads which contain sayings, maxims, allegories, poetical excerpts, proverbs, and everything else. It really comes in handy. It also serves the purpose of firing me up to write.

Kyle R
July 1st, 2012, 12:20 AM
I do something similar to that, phil. I have several note-files on my cellphone with snippets of dialogue from people that I've found interesting. I'll hear some funny sentence or strange opinion, and I'll whip out my phone and text it to myself for future reference.

Sometimes I'll have my characters say the lines in stories. It's kind of like I'm stealing little pieces of people's personalities and then injecting them into my fiction to add some authentic life into it. The strange thing is, those real-world speeches are often the more bizarre and idiosyncratic than any fictionalized dialogue I could come up with!

Oh and, something I just realized: avoid exposition like the plague. Keep the story moving forward, not backward. Your reader wants an experience, not a history lesson.

Olly Buckle
July 1st, 2012, 06:32 AM
and text it to myself I hadn't thought of that, useful.

snippets of dialogue from people that I've found interestingThis made me think of several things.
Putting the things together that go together, though it is fairly obvious here, why would you want to save random snippets from interesting people?
Look through for things you can leave out as obvious, dialogue will always be between people
Practice the best you can manage eyery time you sit down to a keyboard, even if it is only a random post, practice may not make you perfect it will improve you.

I would suggest " ... files on my cellphone with interesting snippets of overheard dialogue," Kyle. But that's me, concise and precise is what I aim for.

Kyle R
July 1st, 2012, 06:41 AM

But I consider people, and the things they have to say, just as interesting and useful as any fact or snippet of research.

Some study subjects and record facts, I study conversations and record words. Some individuals are verbal poets.

July 1st, 2012, 08:08 AM
Putting the things together that go together, though it is fairly obvious here, why would you want to save random snippets from interesting people?
Look through for things you can leave out as obvious, dialogue will always be between people

I have three things to say about that.

First of all, similar situations have similar dialogue. For example, I stole the line, "If I die, I can be replaced," from an anime and used it in a battle scene, simply because I really liked how it sounded. I engineered a scene where it would fit, and the effect is pretty good. No one who didn't know the source to begin with would think it out of place.

Another use for saving dialogue is to establish realistic context for those words or similar ones. One case that I can think of is the day that I graduated from college. I was in a loud area with all of my classmates, and someone came up to me and told me in a low voice, "I'm so proud of you." The moment struck me, because the intention was clearly, "You, personally, mean enough to me that I'm happy for your success." The sentence wasn't meant to be overheard or anything like that. It was simply one person to another voicing something because it was genuinely felt. I included a scene in my book with those exact words and that exact feel because of how much it meant to me, and how it's still stuck with me.

Finally, sometimes interesting dialogue can evoke a certain feeling that I want to replicate, even if I have no intention of reusing the exact words. Take this excerpt, for example.

"I think there is something rather dangerous about standing on these high places even to pray," said Father Brown. "Heights were made to be looked at, not to be looked from."
"Do you mean that one may fall over?" asked Wilfred.
"I mean that one's soul may fall if one's body doesn't," said the other priest.
"I scarcely understand you," remarked Bohun indistinctly.
"Look at that blacksmith, for instance," went on Father Brown calmly; "a good man, but not a Christian - hard, imperious, unforgiving. Well, his Scotch religion was made up by men who prayed on hills and high crags, and learnt to look down on the world more than to look up at heaven. Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak."

I love those lines, because they caused me to realize how important perspective could be. Someone may derive feelings of greatness (or humility) from position alone, and that's an intriguing concept to me. It's yet another thing that made it into my story because of dialogue that I've saved.

So, recording dialogue can be useful, as long as you're careful about it. Of course, that goes for any aspect of writing: do it poorly and it won't help you one bit.

Kyle R
July 1st, 2012, 08:27 AM
I like that excerpt, Gamer.

And I agree with your post, especially about the way you capture not only words, but the emotional resonance that came with them. That's where the real power lies, IMO--in the meaning you assign to it.

Olly Buckle
July 1st, 2012, 10:16 AM
Good points but maybe it wasn't as obvious as I thought.

snippets of dialogue from people that I've found interesting.It is the snippets that are interesting, not the people, yet the snippets and the interest are at opposite ends with the people in between, that makes it sound like it is the people who are interesting rather than what they say. It is the snippets that are interesting, so interesting and snippets should go together. As soon as you do that it becomes obvious that the people are superfluous, they don't really fit any more, and are implied by 'dialogue', so you can leave that bit out.

I was in a loud area with all of my classmates, and someone came up to me and told me in a low voiceThis is interesting, it makes the point that emphasis can be given by being the opposite of the expected, if he had slapped you on the back and announced it loudly it might have been more conventionally impressive, but it wouldn't have made such an impression.

Kyle R
July 1st, 2012, 07:31 PM
Good points but maybe it wasn't as obvious as I thought.
It is the snippets that are interesting, not the people, yet the snippets and the interest are at opposite ends with the people in between, that makes it sound like it is the people who are interesting rather than what they say. It is the snippets that are interesting, so interesting and snippets should go together. As soon as you do that it becomes obvious that the people are superfluous, they don't really fit any more, and are implied by 'dialogue', so you can leave that bit out.

I appreciate you editing my forum posts, Olly, though there really is no need for you to do so! You're essentially telling me things I already know, while mistaking my informal (and yes, often incorrect, I'll admit) speech for ineptitude. I assure you I imbue my fiction writing with much more consideration than I apply to my forum posts. But I will keep your advice and corrections in mind.


Another thing I learned:

If a draft is giving you problems, feel free to start a new draft from scratch! By that I mean, not even referencing the previous draft, but simply starting with a blank sheet of paper and writing the story from the beginning again.

I stumbled onto this advice from someone in the forums here, I don't recall who (if you could pop on and say, "That was me!", I'd appreciate it). He mentioned writing a piece from memory, to capture the essence of the story without getting caught up with the minor details.

So far, the approach has been working brilliantly for me.

Olly Buckle
July 2nd, 2012, 08:53 AM
I appreciate you editing my forum posts, Olly,Sorry, Kyle. Please don't take it personally, it was simply that the post reminded me of the point and provided the example, I appreciate it is conversational language and not really to be analysed too closely.

July 2nd, 2012, 05:25 PM
Here's a tip for you all:

When smoking, never use the same tip twice.

July 2nd, 2012, 05:36 PM
Here's a better tip:

Don't smoke.

Olly Buckle
July 2nd, 2012, 06:36 PM
staying on topic is a good tip, sometimes I look at what I have written and about two thirds of it is just me pushing my point of view or massaging my ego. Take it away and the actual message becomes clear.