Cephiro

Ambitious Writer

Ambitious Writer
« on: December 31, 2012, 01:51:34 AM »
Good evening, everyone!

Most of you (all of you) are older than me, therefore more experienced. I was looking for some advice, hopefully?

Those who know me know I love to write. It's my passion, and as the title of this topic suggests, I'd like to go somewhere in it with life. Some of you, I know, have an education or degree in English and courses of the sort, so I was wondering if you had any advice for me? Any advice from anyone would be a help, really.

I'd really appreciate it. Thanks!

~ID
Of all God's creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the lash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat.
- Mark Twain

Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.
Edgar Allan Poe

suzanami

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Re: Ambitious Writer
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2013, 02:38:10 AM »
I don't know as much about the writing field, but for all creative endeavors that you want to "go somewhere with", these are the basics:

  • Write write write write WRITE.  Keep writing.  As often as you can.  You can't get better if you don't practice.  Looking back at how bad your old stuff is, is actually really motivating sometimes!
  • Read read read read READ.  See how other people use words.  Copy them.  YES, copy them.  Not word-for-word of course, but steal the voice they use, the patterns, the words.  Play with things.  Real artists steal!  Your style will shake itself out.
  • Network if possible.  Get to know other writerly types, especially if they're published. (ACTUALLY published by a company, not self-published)

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Re: Ambitious Writer
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2013, 04:39:44 AM »
Just as Suz said.  If you want to be good at something, you have to keep doing it, over and over again. Only with practice do you become better, and the improvement never ends. Also studying works of those who have come before you is essential, thus the reading anything and everything.

Two books on the craft that I would suggest reading are Stephen King's On Writing and Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing.  Both are fantastic studies on what got them where they are and have been.

Don't just read within the genre you like to write in. Read outside of it as well, even books you are unsure about. If you really don't like it, you don't have to finish it, but sometimes it is fun to read and find out why you dislike it.
Icon image by the fabulous Suzanami. Felt appropriate.

Re: Ambitious Writer
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2013, 11:58:22 AM »
You know what my problem with writing is? I start something - I have a great idea - but I always, ALWAYS, get stuck on the wording and grammar of everything. So it takes about an hour to spit out a half decent paragraph. So I end up giving up >:C Tips?!

But anywho, I agree with reading many, many books. Read until you find an author whose writing style you really enjoy/you think suits you. Analyze it. Don't passively read. Mark up your books at places you enjoy  and places you don't like so you can avoid them.

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Re: Ambitious Writer
« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2013, 01:52:11 AM »
Things I have written down as writing tips: Write, lots. Read lots. Read things you hate and work out why, read things you love and tear them to pieces to see how they work. Learn all the rules of writing (most of which contradict each other~) then break them. Make your scenes all do more than one thing. Make them do more than three things. If you love it, cut it, and see if it's necessary or if you just love the words so much you can't tell that they serve no purpose. Read writers' blogs where they talk about writing. Realise you can't write, write anyway. Read blogs by agents, editors, learn about the different kinds of publishing and decide if any of them are what you want. Work out where your weak points are, read authors who are good at those things. Then do the same for your strong points, because complacency can make those the worst of all, and all the work on things which come less naturally can make those the best. Let your characters drive you insane, but never fall prey to the idea that a writer has to be mad to be a writer. Be hard on yourself. Be patient with yourself. Be kind about your own writing while you tear it apart.

Never give up. :D

IN LESS ABSTRACT TERMS rambling while I'm doing three other things and this is all basic anyway: experiment with writing long and short forms, and with outlining and not outlining, to find the methods which feel right for you. (Sometimes, for some people, this changes every project. XD) If you keep writing and rewriting and never moving on from a scene or a project, remind yourself that a first draft is a First Draft, and a first draft is allowed to be awful - maybe try to mark things you want to change with a symbol you can search later (I use #COMMENT#) and let yourself move on. Fixing is for EDITING! :D Being able to finish things is important - being able to let go and move on to the next project is also important. ANOTHER CONFLICT. XD

If you like and want to write in a certain genre, then read a LOT of it - founding works, current bestsellers, and especially b- and c-list books; learn the tropes, how to use them, how to avoid them. What people are going to expect from your work, and how to use that - undermine it, subvert it, fulfill it, all of the above~ Learn your toolbox: metaphor, simile, imagery, repetition, assonance, connotations; use your lexis choices wisely! The online etymology dictionary is a brilliant thing for writing in english. A ginormous dictionary and a good thesaurus are fun. (I have the Oxford Shorter Dictionary, which is two large volumes. XDDD) Read closely, and critically.

Retyping/writing out a section of a work is a good exercise for seeing the actual words on a page - yours or someone else's. Also, reading your work aloud. Printing out what you've typed up and looking at it off screen can help you spot flaws - or typing in what you've written out.

Once you've written something, LEAVE IT. Let it sit until you can read the words on the page, not the words you remember writing - a month or two seems to be the usual gap. Then read it over - and THEN decide what you want to do with it - edit, rewrite, move on. (And start a new project in those months while you're waiting!)

For publishing itself, Kristin Nelson is a literary agent, whose blog and the articles on it she's written over the years are a good resource. Miss Snark's blog, too, though it's no longer updated; the nanowrimo forums have a heap of advice and conversation about writing which can be useful even (sometimes especially!) when you aren't nanoing~ Traditional publishing is a damn hard thing to get into, and I believe less than 10% of published writers can afford to write fulltime without another job - and most of them live on low wages, so finding something else to do to get money to live on and leave you the time and the brain to write is important, though probably not something to worry about yet. XD A degree in english is not needed to be a writer, or to be a good writer. Most published writers haven't been on creative writing diplomas or masters or anything like that. But some of them can be a great help! My history degree involved a lot of critical reading of sources, so that was helpful too, in a way I hadn't expected. XD

Now I seem to have rambled pointlessly for ages so I'm going to actually post this and run away despite sounding like - I don't even know. XD Someone who has thought about this too much, I think.......... (for the record? I am aiming for traditional publication, and not too far away. And the thing which has improved my writing the most? Protecting You! It was my first novel-length work which got beyond 50,000 words - mostly thanks to nano, I admit, and the fact I can't leave Clef alone. XD If not for it, and all the mistakes I've made in it, the two drafted original novels (also full of mistakes!) and the ones in progress would be far, far worse! The second may even get submitted - once I've rewritten the beginning, because I started with the wrong characters given the themes that the character arcs play on and the relationships which the climax needs to be built about....)

Re: Ambitious Writer
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2013, 05:28:17 PM »
Thank you everyone for the help! Especially down for those couple paragraphs ^^; I think I just needed that little nudge (and some spare time.) It has ended my seemingly eternal writer's block and I have a plot line outlined somewhat.

Thanks again!
Of all God's creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the lash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat.
- Mark Twain

Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.
Edgar Allan Poe

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Re: Ambitious Writer
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2013, 12:48:19 AM »
Okay....   Thought I would throw in words from another well-known author (Neil Gaiman), because I think what he says it also good advise.  I'm too lazy to try screen caping it from tumblr, but here's the text.

Quote
saraahvulgaris asked: I'm 23 and an aspiring writer currently doing music journalism but heading into writing fiction. My mother told me last night that I was too old to really be trying to climb any writing ladder and that I should start thinking about doing a job/course for the sake of it. I wondered, for the first time since I started trying to 'make it' if I really was wasting my time. I just watched your speech and you've inspired me to carry on, against all apparent odds. Thank you.

Quote
He answers: I published my first stories when I was 23. They weren?t very good. I published my first solo novel when I was 36. I?m glad I didn?t give up when I was 23.

There are very few successful writers of fiction who are younger than 23. You need a certain amount of life experience and a lot more writing experience. Giving up at the point that?s well before most people start seems a bit pointless to me.

Pretty much what we have all said,  practice practice, practice.   And observe the world around you.
Icon image by the fabulous Suzanami. Felt appropriate.

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Re: Ambitious Writer
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2013, 03:22:35 AM »
You know what my problem with writing is? I start something - I have a great idea - but I always, ALWAYS, get stuck on the wording and grammar of everything. So it takes about an hour to spit out a half decent paragraph. So I end up giving up >:C Tips?!

It may not be for you but a LOT of people have broken this habit by trying NaNoWriMo, where you write a 50,000 word story in the month of November.  There's no time to edit and waffle about wording and grammar.  Just write out the mess and know you can fix it later.  You don't have to do NaNo for this, but I know many who broke out of this by doing it.  (If you can't do 50k or you can't do November, set your own goals, do it on your own time.  Just try writing one whole story, your main goal being to WRITE, NOT EDIT.  Tie up your inner editor in a closet for a while and let your brain run free!)