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Thread: Be gentle, it's my first time

  1. #11
    L2me, not to take away anything from what JustRob says, structure is important to story, but, to get anywhere, you have to enjoy writing and you have to write with some proficiency. Like other things, that only comes with practice. The act of writing is the creative part. The story is the residue of the writing. Some will say that the story is the creative part and the writing is just the mechanics to get there. I donít see it that way. There are different ways of telling a story. I donít use outlines for fiction, I develop characters and let them tell their own story. But good writing skills are essential.

    Most writers make the same mistakes when they start out. So write your guts out, put it up here for critique and you will get some great advice on things to avoid and things to focus on. And because there are so many members here, you will get all kinds of advise, some will chime with you, some will not. But itís all good feedback and it will help you to hone your skills better than trying to fit your writing into a predetermined box. Sometimes you start out to write one story and you end up writing another story. Itís important to be open to that.

    Good writing makes for authentic storytelling. Putting the story before the writing can make the writing forced, convoluted and unnatural. Itís important to smell the flowers along the way. I wonít spend more than 5 minutes with poor writing. I donít care how good the story is. If it isnít written well, Iím not interested.

  2. #12
    L2me --At times like this, I'm fond of quoting stodgy old Sir Philip Sidney's first sonnet in his 160-poem sequence, "Astrophil and Stella":

    Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,

    That she, dear she, might take some pleasure of my pain,—

    Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,

    Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,—

    I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe;

    Studying inventions fine her wits to entertain,

    Oft turning others' leaves, to see if thence would flow

    Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburn'd brain.

    But words came halting forth, wanting invention's stay;

    Invention, Nature's child, fled step-dame Study's blows;

    And others' feet still seem'd but strangers in my way.

    Thus great with child to speak and helpless in my throes,

    Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite,

    "Fool," said my Muse to me, "look in thy heart, and write."

    It's about 450 years old, but it's still damned sound advice, which Tim echoes above. We're all different and approach the act of writing in whatever method works for us. I'm writing a couple of novels, one of which features a hitman. Initially, I tried to stifle the idea of such a character --for the past 10 years, there have been movies, novels, TV shows etc, all about "hitmen" and snipers. I'd just be beating a dead horse. But that's thinking about markets and saleability. It has nothing to do with WRITING. And that damned character would not get out of my head. So I simply let him take over. With no thought of plot or intent or relation to other characters or fitting into a whole structure, I just let him have his way with me. I wrote and wrote and as this character fleshed out and became an individual, HE started to manifest strange traits never seen before in a hitman. Etc. etc. This "motiveless" method works for me and I find it keeps my focus on WRITING, not on slotting characters into a pre-determined Plan or outline. I am not advocating this method. I'm not even giving advice. I'm just telling you about a 'way of doing' that works for me and might be of some value to you.

    Welcome aboard!



    ________________________________________________

    "I believe in nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the Truth of the imagination". Keats, ​Letters

    "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main . . . any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls -- it tolls for thee. " John Donne, Meditation XVII

  3. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by clark View Post
    Thus great with child to speak and helpless in my throes,

    Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite,

    "Fool," said my Muse to me, "look in thy heart, and write."
    I agree entirely with my seniors here. In fact Sir Philip Sidney's words above applied directly to me at the time that I began to write my novel. At the outset I wrote to a friend, who happened to be a renowned university lecturer in English literature, that some errant muse had overwhelmed my mind and compelled me to write when I had never had any ambitions in my life to do so. The heart is traditionally the seat of the soul, but modern psychologists would identify the unconscious mind as the real pathway to it, at least those who even acknowledge the soul's existence. Since writing my novel I have discovered that the unconscious mind knows far more than it can impart to us consciously, but by free writing, from the heart so to speak, we enable it to guide our thoughts and words in subtle ways. This process literally gives the words soul and transcends any technical guidance that can be read here and elsewhere. Nevertheless, as has been said, you have to have such techniques to hand to convey effectively what your heart is telling you.

    I didn't consciously develop my story and certainly never actually wrote an outline, but as you mentioned having one I put my remarks here within that context for your benefit. In fact it took me a long time to discover what the real story line was in my work because it was so complicated, much like my unconscious mind evidently. What amazed me was that I couldn't have created such a convoluted but apparently flawless story line by any conscious process; it had to grow of its own accord at the back of my mind like Sir Philip's child above. It was also in my case an unwanted child, so I had no qualms about aborting it by hastily putting it into words in my entirely novice way. I just wanted it out of my mind. However, when I wrote it down and read it back I saw aspects of perfection in the details just as one might see perfection in an aborted foetus, for that was exactly what it was, and I had second thoughts about whether I wanted this child to go full term. That was in 2012 and even after spending years as a member of WF I can't say that I've definitely come to a final decision about that and the work remains unfinished. In the story itself at one point a couple affected by some undefined influence find their minds literally sinking down into their hearts, from where they are able to share their thoughts in an incredibly close way as though they have become a single person. My literary expert friend wrote to me that it was a remarkably compelling love scene, to use his exact words a "graphic, powerful depiction of the act of love through her bodily reactionsóvery good here, romantic, violent, erotic, physiological, and philosophical all at one go." The story being persistently self-referential, it was analogous to what the writer and reader are jointly attempting to do, to get inside each other's minds to share an experience and apparently in his case I succeeded, which astonished me given his credentials. You'll get plenty of advice here not to attempt to portray the act of love, but as a complete novice somehow, writing purely from the heart, I cracked it. All the technical writing tools and devices in the world can't achieve that alone, only mimic the effect, but nevertheless you have to have them to hand or you too will be "helpless in your throes", which is apparently how you are currently feeling. Give it time.

    L2me, I suspect that you may have already discovered the key aspect of writing that drives it forward, your muse. The tricky part is becoming an adequate interpreter for that muse, which is all that a writer is to my mind. I may have a certain advantage over many people in that respect because I apparently have a condition now called aphantasia, an inability to visualise anything in my mind's eye. That might seem a severe disadvantage to a writer and certainly not conducive to having one's work described by an expert as "graphic", but actually as I perceive everything in my life and imagination within my mind as abstract information structures without using any visual representations, it is relatively easy for me to put them into words where others might have problems describing their visually conceived images. The truth is that the readers paint the pictures in their minds guided solely by the writer's words. The minds of most writers contain a trinity of thoughts, images and words, but mine has only thoughts and words, which is of course why I frequent this writing forum despite not being a writer as such. In a way I am totally at home here.

    One final thought. There are many kinds of readers who look for different things in literature. That is evident even from what we have collectively written here. I consider the most important character to create in your mind is your target reader, the person whose mind with which you want to connect. Certainly you can take Shakespeare's approach and play to the pit as well as the balcony and my expert friend would applaud you if you did, himself being devoted to the bard's work, but that may result in an uneven compromise if you are not adept enough. Choose your market and type of reader and make your pitch to them, not writers. Writers are readers too though.

    The problem with advice on writing is that there's far too much of it. Just do it and let us see what you come up with and we can take it from there.
    'Sharing an experience creates a reality.' Create a new reality today.
    'There has to be some give and take.' If I can take my time I'm willing to give it.
    'The most difficult criticism that a writer has to comprehend is silence.' So speak up.

  4. #14
    JustRob --

    I liked the way you put it:
    The truth is that the readers paint the pictures in their minds guided solely by the writer's words. The minds of most writers contain a trinity of thoughts, images and words
    (I'd like to explore the idiosyncrasies of your singular creative process another time). Yes, I think that works nicely for readers of fiction OR poetry, but--trying to yank my remarks back to L2me's interests--there is a fundamental difference between poets and writers of fiction. I'm primarily a poet and when I write a poem I have not the slightest concern for the reader. My sole concern, to the point of monomaniac passion, is to try and capture the VISION in the words that simultaneously release the vision and imprison it, because every word is a limitation of feeling.At this stage the process of vision/words is everything. The reader does not exist. The reader starts to factor in during the first edit or during the first workshop, which of course is a 'group edit'. When I look at a word or phrase and say 'ah! that contradicts such-n-such' in S1' I'm no longer solely the poet; rather, I am functioning more as a reader/critic. The reader--even if only the poet--is critical to our sense of the whole poem, but, for me as poet, atany rate, not even a factor in the creative process.

    All of that notwithstanding, I agree with your statements:
    the most important character to create in your mind is your target reader, the person whose mind with which you want to connect.
    . . .and. . . .
    the most important character to create in your mind is your target reader, the person whose mind with which you want to connect . . .when writing fiction. Like you, I get in there and become their scribe, let the characters unfold in their own world, let them write themselves. While that process is going on, however, I am consciously thinking about character consistency, plot development, language level, congruity, believability, and all of these factors are relevant at the writing level only because of the reader.

    I also think fiction writers hope to publish their books and make money. Poets do not suffer this delusion



    ________________________________________________

    "I believe in nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the Truth of the imagination". Keats, ​Letters

    "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main . . . any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls -- it tolls for thee. " John Donne, Meditation XVII

  5. #15
    I always figure I’m writing to people like myself. People who would be interested in what I’m interested in, people who like to read the kind of stuff I like to read. People who would write like me if they wrote. So it’s easy. I don’t think about it much. Why would I write for red-necks or entomologists or Hereford breeders?

    That being said, I am constantly asking myself, is this believable? Does it have the ring of truth. If there’s anything I can’t stand, it’s magical thinking. If I get even a whiff of inconsistency, I’m on to the next book. That doesn’t mean I don’t like fantasy or surrealism or magic realism. I love it when it’s done well, which means that the context of the story or the poem develops sufficiently to suspend my disbelief. Then I have no problem with flying horses or talking animals or whacked out characters, as long as the greater context of the work creates a world in which these leaps are consistent. But if the author tries to dazzle me with hyperbole or trick me into the unbelievable, I call bullshit.

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