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 Post subject: Writing Tips
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:28 pm 
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Worlsend is primarily a horror subject, so I thought we'd share writing tips with each other. I'll go first.


Over the years, I've been reading and studying creative writing, and there are, as far as I can tell, two methods to writing a good story.

Method 1. Just write.
Free write. Start with "It was a dark and Stormy night, when suddenly" and fill in the rest. This is pretty much how I'm writing the Natch Evil comic, with some pointers on where I'm going in the back ground.

Uh...It isn't the preferred method, because you really have no control over what's happening and are sometimes prone to writer's block, but it's a good way to loosen up the mind for later.

Method 2. Outline.
Plot and plan and scheme before you actually write. Set way point in the story.
This is how I write when I'm serious. I start at the end and work my way backwards with my plot points. I say A happens, what would lead to that. Well I need B to happen for A to happen. For B to happen I need C and D.

If you're gonna do this, start with your characters and ask yourself EVERYTHING about them. Who are they? What do they like? Where did they come from? How did that effect them? Etc.

Then, you can start questioning how D and C lead to B which leads to A. It's really a matter of asking questions that you'd imagine your audience would ask.

Example:
A. Saffron Kills Laura.
Why? How?

B. Saffron Loves Laura and she kills who she loves.
C. She tracks Laura into her basement with a knife and confesses her love, then eats her.
Why did Saffron fall in love with Laura? Why would Saffron Kill who she loves? How did Saffron find out where Laura Lives? Where did she get the knife? How would Laura react to Saffron's confession? How did they meet?

D. Laura is relentlessly nice and understanding of Saffron and is the only one who can calm her down..
E. Saffron is a demon called Rhymah and even as a baby ate her mother's eyes.
F: Saffron followed Laura home after they were humiliated at school.
G: Saffron got the knife from the school cafeteria.
H. Laura, who's straight, would be very confused by Saffron and not know how to react, thus run away.
I: Laura and Saffron met in School.

And so on and So on.
This is home I wrote most of Rhymah and Iden. It goes deeper, ending with Seras imprisoning the real Saffron, Laura Dying, Nero putting a bullet in Jill's brain, and so on. Don't worry, I'll get to this stuff later in Blood and Rain, but I'm not going back to Rhymah and Iden, so might as well show it off here.

O_O What went wrong with Rhymah and Iden?!?!?!
A couple of things, all of it during the writing process.
1. I did not define my character clearly. I run and gunned it, so I started losing track of how people react.
2. I did not focus ONLY on Rhymah and Iden. I kept bouncing around with stupid stuff. This, by far, was my largest problem and I will never do more than 2 writing projects again because of it. (That's why I stopped HeartMage, BTW)
3. I Took too long. I find that with my mind, if I don't strike while the iron's hot, for me, I become VERY disinterested and bored.
4. I can't stress this enough, I did not keep all my info in one place.
Hell, Saffron's design changed twice before I gave up. That's not good.

More on the way about # 4.

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 Post subject: Re: Writing Tips
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:58 pm 
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Double Post.

The Purpose of having 3 Worlsend thread made sticky, Town Map, Characters, and Story ideas, is because I'm trying to make a community "Story Bible" so you don't have to.

But Grimmy-Poo, what IS a Story Bible?

I'm glad you asked.

Before starting a serious writing endeavor, you're going to need to know where the story takes place (setting), who's in the story (Character), and what the plans are (Story Ideas). The recommended amount of info by someone I read, was 7 parts planing, 1 part writing.

That's right. After creating your world, you only show 1/8th of it.

1/8th.

This is especially important with Horror and Mystery, because you never EVER want to patronize your audience. Everything I've written for you folks I've always told myself "They can figure it out." Anyone who's seen the Natch Evil Bible in the Crypt will know (I think Seedlet's the only one left, now) that there's a TON of the Natch Universe I haven't even eluded to. (Example, how many of you can read the code on the Natch Evil front page?)

So it is with Worlsend, tho I'll be honest, I'm holding out on you guys about the founders and the 4 beasts.


oki, a couple of short points before I stop typing for today and start drawing...

a. Always always show. Never Never tell.
What do I mean? The Audience is TOLD that Anikin Skywalker and Padime are in love in Star Wars. They only show it in only 1 lukewarm scene. On the other hand, they show that Ray, Egon, and Venkman are friends in Ghostbusters. They never tell you it. This goes back to treating your audience like they're stupid. They're not stupid. They'll figure it out if you only show it to them.

(Note: That doesn't mean you can leave out clues, tho. A story without details is pretty uninteresting.)

b. Stories are about people.
Yup. People reacting to people or crazy-ass situations. Castaway is a cool movie because it's about a person and how he feels and reacts. Big Trouble in Little China is about People being evil and other people gathering their forces and being friends and duty and shit. The Sent of a Woman is about a person taking care of another person and how they help each other. Natch Evil is about Evil people doing evil things to evil people.

I hear about keeping to the "Hero's Journey" formula but boil it down even more and it's just people. Being people.

You wanna write a good story? Just write about people. You'll do fine.

c. Finally, Creativity's biggest enemy is fear.
Stop being afraid to screw up. Stop being afraid of what people will think. You're a natchian, act like it. Yes, you're gonna screw up. I have countless type-Os and spelling errors and three stories I started but didn't finish (not proud of that). 9_9 Nope, not gonna go back and fix them, I'll just work on keeping them from happening again. Also, when I started the comic, a friend of mine said "Uh...a comic about a serial killer. They already have that, it's called Johny the Homicidal Maniac." I had to keep telling him, "Sure, but I personally haven't made one, yet."

Point is, you will screw up and even if you don't, people won't like what you're doing. It's not just the internet, dood. It's just being creative. Do it anyway.

(Note: I got my start drawing as a kid by tracing comic books. I still trace.)

k, that's all I got. Time to go back to drawing.
I hope this all helps. Also, Leave you own tips, if you have any.

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 Post subject: Re: Writing Tips
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:04 pm 
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If this is general writing tips I'd like to jump in. A common sentiment is that most people need to write about 1,000,000 words to get the feel for how to write. Thats a lot of writing but it's pretty true from what I've seen. Like any art you have to do it a lot if you want to get good at it. I'm not quite there yet but I can share my experiences so far. I probably crossed the 300,000 word mark by now so I'm almost 1/3rd of the way to getting a clue about writing. First a little comentary on Grims points.
Using the 'Just sit down and write' method like in NaNoWriMo.

I did this for the first draft of the book I'm working on and the results... are less than spectacular. I do think it leads into one important thing though, the realization that no one's first draft is a story. Well, it might be a story but it'll probably be filled with passive voice, plot holes, strange word construction, plot threads that die off, pacing problems, ect. Unless you are doing stream of consciousness poetry or something, I'd avoid it. Of course the first draft is just that, you will be rewriting it if you want it to be good. Its a fact of life.

Grim's second method (I've seen it called the Snowflake method and dozens of other names) is better. Hands down. Even if its just a basic

1: Char 1 gets super powers.
2: Char 1 goes nuts.
3: Char 1 turns themselves into a flower.

Pretty much everything Grim said about method 2 is true. Make character sketches (detailed histories) before writing a word, learn to ask 'Why?' to everything. 'Char 1 jumps onto a horse to save the princess.' 'Why?' 'One was running past.' 'Why?' 'It was set free by the evil magician.'... and so on.

Just keep in mind that you are writing to communicate ideas, probably fictional ideas, and fiction has to be constructed in some manner if you want to get the idea across.

To that end, good tools help a lot. One thing I've noticed during the rewrite is that there are lots of ideas that come and go and once they are gone its hard to remember exactly why they worked in your head. I picked up Scrivener after hunting around, it is basically a word processor for writers. You can put story chunks into thier own little files, you can store research and sketches and every chunk of a story that pops in your head. I have been using it since starting the second draft and its made everything about 100x easier. My research section that contains all the little bits of the story, outlines, dialog between characters, that I think of during the day when I can't write so I have them when I need them, I have about 20 in there right now.

Its a way to keep everything together in a package that you can move around. I write at home and on my laptop so I move it around a lot. I can also use it to generate PDFs and Word Doc's from the same text.

Read about writing, Stephen King's On Writing is pretty eye opening to the whole process. Read through Strunk and White's style guide at least once to get an idea of the general rules for basic prose.

Accept that your writing will suck and learn to turn that into trying to improve. I critiqued one of the Nanowrimo books and the author really didn't appreciate me pointing out all the plot holes, even though they asked for the harshest critique possible. I'm critiqueing a book right now that someone has been working on for 8 years and its still in pretty bad shape, but the author is taking the critisizm and trying to make it better.

Join a critiquing circle like critters.org, it shows you what a lot of authors go through to get things published and illustrates that things suck at first for a lot of people, but working on it makes it better.

And now that Grim posted while I was writing this I'd like to add that the
Show Not Tell is a cardinal rule. Burn this into your brain. And learn what it means. There will be times when a character 'tells' what happened to them, usually because it was a needed exposition but not something that had to be drawn out, and usually its a memory of some sort. But as Grim points out, always show story points. The current book I'm critiqueing is full of Telling the reader things like :

They fought again that morning and discussed the nights events.

Instead of describing the fight, or the conversation.

Keep in mind that this doesn't mean everything has to be narrated step by step, part of the art is finding the balance. I'm constantly asking myself if, when a character is remembering something, is it important enough to flash back to? Or, can the action that is implied by the paragraphs be resonably infered. Something like :
"The wires in the windows felt solid, the dried dollops of glue had a slippery texture to them but were rough compared to the smooth finish of the glass. The floor boards in the bedroom left black ash on her fingertips. The cold metal of one of the door bars felt as real as the steel plates that had been screwed into the door panels."
There's movement implied by each sentence, that she's walking around her house feeling each of these things to prove they are real. But if it was Telling it might be :
"Her survey of the objects around the house made it seem real." Telling rarely has the same impact as showing.

The less words used the better, just make sure to use enough.

Almost all the 'rules' of writing amount to 'Does this make sense when someone reads it.' The rules are there to give you insight into what usually is the case and what most readers expect.

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 Post subject: Re: Writing Tips
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:03 pm 
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Bah. "Rules of Writing"

Other than "Show, don't tell," there are no rules. Mwa ha ha!
Just look at e.e. cumings.

9_9 It occured to me that if you show too much and don't tell anything, that can get out of hand. Just look at the Catcher in the Rye, which I believe is all show, no tell.

Also, just fuck that book.

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 Post subject: Re: Writing Tips
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:49 pm 
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Thats why I said that they are just the most common, expected constructions. e.e cummings is an exception to the rules, as are a lot of things. But basic prose does follow the rules until its a good time to break them. Same way with the 'show, don't tell' it certainly can be overdone. But if you are going to write and try to get it published at all its pretty much required that you at least know what the rules are.

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 Post subject: Re: Writing Tips
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 9:15 pm 
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I dooo love to write. It seems people respond best to my writing when I'm reading it and placing the emotional points where they belong. I'm not sure how to turn that into a tip though. ^-^

That probably translates to something I've heard before:

Read your work. For God's sake read it! Out loud. To others if possible!

It's helps you edit better and it is a great source of feedback especially when starting out. I'm lucky to have gotten into the habit of reading everything I write. But that makes my posts take three times as long. ^-^;

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 Post subject: Re: Writing Tips
PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2012 4:54 am 
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Things I've realized not just as a writer, but as a reader too.
------
1: Don't always just write what you know. Write what you feel.
Don't just say "GRR! I'm angry" on the page and leave it. Make it into something that other people will pick up and look at and say "Oh, wow. The author of this was pretty mad when they wrote it... and they did so well, I'm alittle peeved on their behalf"

2: Details make or break the story, especially in writing.
If there aren't enough details to really bring a story to life, then it relies too heavily on characters to pull the entire thing up. In writing, this results in larger than life characters that tend to break immersion anyway. On the other hand, too many minor details will bore the audience. Strike a balance.
as an example
"The hero entered the pub and sat down." It's bland. Uninteresting. Empty of life.
"The hero stepped into the dim, smoky pub slowly and paused as the sounds of muffled conversation washed over him. Picking a path through the crowd, he reclined in one of the few remaining seats, the old wood creaking as he shifted position" The scene is more alive. There are other patrons, there's atmosphere. The reader can form a fairly vivid image in their mind. But really pushing for more than a couple lines of description borders on scenery porn. Not bad in a movie, but in a book it quickly becomes repetitive and dull. Make the actions live for the readers, rather than slow everything down, or skip over everything to get to the action.

3: Proofreading!
Mentioned before: If you want it to look good, proofread it. Sit down and pick over it carefully. Give it to a couple other people to pick over. Even after this, errors can happen. The main point of proofing isn't to change the story, though. It's to refine and improve, as well as to fix spelling or grammatical errors that anyone can (and will) make.

4: Noone likes a Mary Sue.
So you've created a character who's smart, fun, funny, friendly, and all around perfect? Scrap it. Burn it. Whatever. Characters have flaws. Nobody is perfect.
If they're smart are they an innocent shut in? Are they rude and introverted?
If they're fun are they trying to compensate for some past misery? If they're perfect on the outside then how ugly are they on the inside? Or vice versa?
Try to balance good traits with bad so that your characters can be identified with, and made to feel more real. You want people who read the stories to feel joy when the character is happy, and to cry for them if they lose something.
Don't just feed cliches into a grinder and then shape the blob into something resembling a character though. Make it your own character, and make it real.

5: Make the world live.
Yup. 4 and 2 should really come together for this.
You're writing a story. Where does it take place? What else goes on in this place? Who else is important? Plan out so much more that the readers will never see, and then weave little bits of it throughout the story. Mad duke? How do his heavy taxes effect the distant farmers on his land? You never need to mention the duke, but you might, in passing, mention how the local farmers are suffering. Combine descriptions of the world around,with a growing, living character, and an actual world that changes and moves as time passes and you can create an immersive place to tell a story in that the readers will come back to. They'll want to come back to know what changes between stories, how the character grows. Little things like new scars or big things like major battle... pay attention to both of them and use them with the same care in the story to make the world breathe.

And that's all for my own suggestions.

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 Post subject: Re: Writing Tips
PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2012 11:23 am 
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Proofreading and copy editing is more important than the original writing. Hear me out here, I'm sure someone is fuming about the creative process and all of that, but if you keep having sentences that trip up the reader, they'll just drop the story and move on. This is especially true of the beginning of the story. I reread the first few paragraphs of my manuscript the other day and just wanted to burn the whole thing. Thats another tip, get someone else, who's willing to critisize, to read through your stuff. Hell, in an ideal world, get 10 or 20 people to do that.

Choose them carefully though, they will probably only want to read through something once. If you have a book or a novella expect to do around 3 drafts, you'll probably need a set of new eyes for each one.

One thing I've noticed is that software for a lot of this stuff just doesn't exist. Scrivener is good for the writing side of things and it has things like inline comments for edits or comments, but once you start looking over the manuscript for proofing, there's nothing out there really. Some people have a tablet and use things like adobe acrobat to make a graphics layer over the text or try to jam things into inline comments in Word. Thats fine for general comments but damn, it sucks if you are trying to do anything other than comment on a chunk of text. I keep thinking about designs for a program that could to it, damn I'm lazy. So I guess you're stuck with the time tested method of printing out a stack of paper and going at it by hand.

If you volunteer to critique for someone just remember to have the time to do it. It's going to take a lot of it if its something like 100,000 words. I've been working on one for months and I'm only halfway through. Granted I'm also writing during this time so that's contributing to it, and Left 4 Dead 2.

Make good characters, the best tip on this is to not suck. This is one of the things that make it hard to write well and why second and third drafts are needed. When you are done with your story ask yourself, How has each character changed in their thoughts and actions. You don't always have to have character growth, depending on the genre you might not want any. If a character has a personailty disorder or you are using them to illustrate certain view points, then they might not change at all. But in general, the main character should have some kind of arc.

I think a character that has interests and hobbies, and the degree they are into that stuff, can go a long way to adding depth. If they are a WW2 buff maybe they use a few slang words from that time. If they are the evil warlord that likes bonsai trees, maybe they stab the main character in the neck with pruning shears.

The most important thing for characters is to write it down. Write down what they like and how much they like things, part of that character sketch Grim mentioned. When the character does something, does it make since that they do it. Would a coward suddenly lead an attack with no lead up to it?

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