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Halrloprillalar

You can call me Hal.

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Every day, in every way
8-ball
prillalar

I'm sure we all want to improve our writing -- our fiction. Certainly, my writing has improved from when I started. But I want to be more consciously working on that. I'd like to make my stories more emotionally complex, for one. So now I just have to figure out how to go about that.

As well, I'd like to make some of my stories more plotty, which is not my strong suit at this point. I suppose there, all I can do is read up on plotting and try to do it.

One thing I did try this year is to "pre-edit" less when I write. I have a tendency to agonize over every sentence and it's hard to get a rhythm going. I'm trying now not to worry if each sentence is perfect as soon as I write it and to take more time in revision. I'm not as good at this yet as I'd like, but I think it's helped me. contrelamontre challenges were certainly good for that.

Is there anything specific that you do or have done to improve your writing? Exercises? Books you've read? Change of style? Have you tried anything new recently or do you plan to?

I'm not a resolution-making person, but this seems a good thing to think about as we head into the new year.


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I've been blocked for a couple of years now. It's hard to get started on a piece, especially if I don't believe I can finish it. When I finally started putting words on screen again, I started carrying a notebook. If I get a paragraph, or a sentence, or anything that crawls into my head, I scribble it down in the notebook.

I read a lot. I think, as far as style goes, Dorothy Sayers is still my idol, but I don't believe you can write like that today and have readers accept it. Sometimes I try to write like that anyway and to hell with readers.

One of the things I try to do is kill adverbs. I write till I get to a stopping point, and then I go back and start killing adverbs. And as many adjectives as I feel are superfluous. Also, if I'm reading and something in what I'm reading irritates, I immediatley suspect that I might have the same flaw in my writing, so I go back and check for that.

I really agree about reading. Even if you're not analysing as you go, reading good prose will help you absorb what makes it good. (I love Sayers too.)

Adverbs are tricksy. They can really be overused -- whenever I read any of the HP books they start jumping out at me. But I don't think that means you should kill all of them either. I think people make too big a deal of "show don't tell" and sometimes a well-placed adverb can save you lines of unecessary "show".

Reading Sayers taught me how to use colons. I had a very solid grammatical background -- and both my parents were teachers -- but there are some details I simply didn't grasp or never used. Hemingway is actually, whether you like him or loathe him, a good teacher as well. He's more of a journalist, but he does show a clear simple use of English phrasing.

And you're right about "show, don't tell". In some cases, that's the best way -- especially if you're trying to dramatize some emotional moment, I think. But there are definitely times when it's better to just say "she dressed swiftly" instead of detailing what clothes she chose and how she donned them.

I mention that because my personal bete noire is a story I typed for a zine years ago in which the author took an entire paragraph to explain just how the heroine put on her belt. *headdesk*

However, just to be contrary, I would say that if you wanted to show your heroine's character, you could describe her lying down to zip her jeans and saying to herself that she wouldn't be able to sit down the entire evening...

I haven't commented in your journal before, so, hello!

What you said about contrelamontre; that's true for me as well. It's helped me get over the 'agonising' stage and made me realise that I could write something in an hour and not have to go back over it for endless edits. I could just leave it and be fairly happy that it didn't make people want to stab their eyes out. Of all the writing excercises I've done (which is not many, admittedly), it's been one of the most useful. The other good thing was doing NaNoWriMo, as it forced me to plot and it forced me to write large amounts very quickly. I was scared of plotting- constructing one seemed a thing of great mystery, but now it seems at least doable.

I haven't commented in your journal before, so, hello!

Welcome! And congratulations on doing NaNo -- I'm impressed. How did you go about concocting your plot?

Thanks! NaNo was a great deal of fun, but very hard too.

I started thinking about the plot about a month before, but it wasn't until the last week in October that I really settled down. I made charts! And timelines, and character notes, carefully noting what was happening inside each characters head at certain points in the timeline. I'd never used techniques like that before and found it an important prop as it helped me to remember important plot/character points and gave me something to refer back to when I got a bit lost. And it seemed to work. About halfway through writing I got stuck in the plot and had to spend about 3 days rethinking the middle and end parts of the story. I went back to my charts and timeline and rewrote them. Spending time mulling over the plot rather than writing was more valuable at that point than simply churning out words.

The plot changed as I wrote the story, but starting out with a fairly firm idea of where the story was going helped a lot.

Is there anything specific that you do or have done to improve your writing? Exercises? Books you've read? Change of style? Have you tried anything new recently or do you plan to?

Hmm. this is a very interesting question because it asks us to look at what we *do* when we write, which is a little bit like A) stopping to watch yourself tie your shoelaces (which for me means I forget how to tie my shoelaces) or B) performing your own autopsy. ;)

Let's see. . . *mulls* Well, for one thing, I read good stuff. I read a lot of good stuff--fanfic and otherwise--and, once I get over the deep self-loathing that this usually inspires, I try to remember what I liked so much--usually a mood, or a certain texture of writing--and then I write out a passage or two from texts that inspire me in my little book and caress it with my eyes until the ink wears off to remind me what I'm looking for in my own writing. Then, I read your "First Stargate Story" to remind me not to mention either Jack's knees or Daniel's eyes more than 100 times per story ;D

I also have a good beta who tells it like it is and I take her advice. Someone who will tell you you aren't making sense is an excellent writing aid.

The best thing that I've done recently, though, has been the drabble, believe it or not. That process of paring down and paring down until all that is left is the essential core of the idea and the exact words needed to express it (I'm talking in the ideal here, of course, since I've not come close to achieving this yet) has been a very valuable exercise in clarity and precision and nuance. My new interest in haiku has done the same and is part of the whole process of working toward my personal goal of writing suggestively and clearly without beating an idea to death or overwriting until it oozes. My sins are many; the road to non-oozing intelligent prose is looooooooong. *g*

Thanks for the cool question. Now, dish: what do *you* do when you write?

B) performing your own autopsy

This sounds like a fic idea. Hmm.

I like your idea of writing down inspiring passages. I've not done that, though there are particular authors who I look to for ideas about technique: Chaim Potok for style, Vikram Seth for characterization, Daniel Pinkwater for all around craziness.

The best thing that I've done recently, though, has been the drabble, believe it or not. That process of paring down and paring down until all that is left is the essential core of the idea and the exact words needed to express it (I'm talking in the ideal here, of course, since I've not come close to achieving this yet) has been a very valuable exercise in clarity and precision and nuance.

I completely believe it. I've drabbled a lot this past year and it's been quite good for me too. kestrelsan and I have been talking about finding the heart of a story first and then deciding the best way to tell it. It occurred to me that I should try drabbling my story before I write it -- try to get the bones of it into 100 or 200 words. I actually did that for one piece and it helped a lot. Perhaps I'll try it for the piece I'm about to embark on.

Thanks for the cool question. Now, dish: what do *you* do when you write?

I meant to include this in my first reply. :) I think the best thing for my writing over the last year and a bit is having a writing partner. (I don't mean a co-author.) We meet (online) every week and we discuss what we're working on and ask each other hard questions about it. We talk about writing in general. Sometimes we do writing exercises to work in individual things. (Also, we gossip a lot. *g*)

Having input into a story as it's being written or even beforehand, rather than after it's done, is extremely helpful. And giving that input to someone else has really helped me too.

I do still toss off short things and post them without any beta. And I'm starting to wonder if I should be doing that. Sure it's fun. But maybe that's why I'm feeling stalled and stagnant. Maybe that energy should be going into something with a little more depth.

(Of course, maybe I should be writing the Great Canadian Novel instead of fanfic, but I don't think that's going to happen any time soon or late.)

Ramble, ramble.

Hmmm. Well, my writing was lovely and emotional when I started posted fan fiction, but it sucked rocks in the technical department, so I went out and bought several books and read them, to figure out how to improve incidental things like story structure and plot. Heh. Also, Strunk and White's Elements of Style was the best ten bucks I ever spent. *g* But after that, I think it boiled down to:

- finding good betas who were really, *really* hard on me (they are getting harder to find these days, so I had to resort to joining an aspiring pro crit group)
- trying something new with every story so as not to get into a rut, including writing narratives that move backwards in time, back and forth in time, not in a linear fashion, writing from different character viewpoints, incorporating metaphors and so forth
- taking a single flaw and working at improving it with each story (I'd work on writing without adjectives, then writing without crutch words, then pronoun confusion, etc)
- reading a lot of the good stuff for inspiration

In the new year I plan on working at not getting caught up in the dreadful self-loathing and procrastination that causes me to stop writing and/or not post finished stories.

Well. *reads comment* That was honest. *g*

One thing I did try this year is to "pre-edit" less when I write. I have a tendency to agonize over every sentence and it's hard to get a rhythm going.

Have you always done this, or is it something that you've started having trouble with recently?

I went out and bought several books and read them, to figure out how to improve incidental things like story structure and plot.

Do you have any particular recommendations?

trying something new with every story so as not to get into a rut, including writing narratives that move backwards in time, back and forth in time, not in a linear fashion, writing from different character viewpoints, incorporating metaphors and so forth

That's really commendable. I've not made as much of an effort in that direction as I should. Metaphor, maybe, though. I've found that a story works better for me when I find something to base it on, whether that's a metaphor or an idea or an emotion.

taking a single flaw and working at improving it with each story (I'd work on writing without adjectives, then writing without crutch words, then pronoun confusion, etc)

Again, admirable. Now I think I want to be you when I grow up. :) Tell, though, what do you mean by "crutch words"?

Sometimes, especially when writing sex, I feel like I'm just re-using the same vocab over and over and if anyone read more than three of my stories in a row, they'd call me on it. It came home to me when I wrote "Blood Will Tell" and I had to write the torture scenes, because all of a sudden I was writing something that was actually very like a sex scene, but for which I had *no* vocab at all. It was very stretching for me.

The "pre-editing" is something that I've always struggled with, with serious stories. (Humour/parody is entirely different and really comes quite easily.) And I did the same thing with academic writing too. I think part of the problem is that the sound and rhythm of the sentences is quite important to me and so it's hard to just put down what I want to say.

Really, writing is hard and not very fun (which explains why it's easier to stagnate than improve). Sometimes I wonder why it's my hobby. But I do enjoy the act of creation.

Really, writing is hard and not very fun (which explains why it's easier to stagnate than improve). Sometimes I wonder why it's my hobby. But I do enjoy the act of creation.

Maybe I should start a "Why Writing Will Probably Kill Me" support group. My list of reasons why I *shouldn't* write is getting loooonger and loooonger. Which just makes me want to do it *all the time*. Perversity, thy name is woman.

But I really just wanted to commend you on your icon, which rocks twelve ways.

This was a really, really cool post of yours. I'm enjoying it treeemendously!

But I really just wanted to commend you on your icon, which rocks twelve ways.

Thank you! It was made for me by the lovely laurashapiro.

Hi there!!!

A little word tonight:

HAPPY NEW YEAR !!!!!!

Bisous!

And Happy New Year to you!

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You always seem so organized and on top of things. :) I imagine mystery plotting must be a special challenge. I'm sure you're equal to it.

Thanks for such an interesting topic. I'm just starting to write after doing beta work for the last couple of years, and there have been some great ideas and comments. Since I edit online and at work a lot, I'm having a very hard time getting any momentum going because I keep wanting to stop and revise every three or four sentences! That, and I sort of compose stories in my head while commuting, but then my brain is so far ahead of my typing that I get frustrated.

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