What do you do to improve your writing?

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Auro-Cyanide
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What do you do to improve your writing?

#1 Post by Auro-Cyanide » Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:20 am

I'm not a writer (lol) but I love good writing, so let us talk about it.

Everyone can write. Everyone can draw too. But we all know that if you want to get beyond stick figures, you have to do two things. Practice and study. I'm presuming writing is exactly the same.

So, what do you do to improve your choosen craft, the written word? Do you try to read a wide range of books? Do you try and write a certain amount a week? Do you listen and analyse people's speech? Are you super studious and actively study syntax and grammar? Something else entirely?

I haven't honestly heard much about it, and I wonder how different people approuch it :)

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Re: What do you do to improve your writing?

#2 Post by Fawn » Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:44 am

For both art and writing I do this: Look at other people's stuff, take it apart, see what's good and bad about it. Then, emulate the good and make sure you don't do the bad.

I focus on the bad first and try not to make mistakes at all. Sometimes they're not really mistakes, but things I don't like. If I find a mistake or something isn't PERFECT, I do it over again, unless I'm too lazy then I just do my best to edit out all the bad I can.

Put yourself in the mind of a very picky person who will realize every tiny mistake you make. Have that persona in your mind while you're writing and have it take a good hard look at what you're doing. Do not be nice to yourself and hold yourself to the highest standard.

Also, read a lot and use as many resources as you can. After all, most of them are free and unlimited here on the internet!

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Re: What do you do to improve your writing?

#3 Post by JustAnotherMe » Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:56 am

Not a writer too!! But I can do writing because I'm such a dreamer and I can imagine a story whenever something hit my imagination. XD I don't know why but my brain got divided into three parts. Sometimes I like to draw, sometimes writing, sometimes, even make a crappy song in a minute on my piano XP. (I have times for that. Night for drawing, day for writing, morning for music and that include me singing the songs played on mtv)

My writing skill all just based on my hobby reading novels and mangas. I never deliberately study grammar or how to write before (now I need to learn because I write for my game though I still need help from editor and co-writer). And guess what?? If drawing stick figure is the same like what I can do with writing before, I guess now I can draw a thing that someone could actually tell that it's a male or female /^o^/ yayyy for that!!!

What I learn: making a skeleton. Making a timeline. Q and A around the main story. Polishing a character. Making different paths.

Well, just that. Now I want to learn on how to write a poem, a lyric to be specific, because I'll need it for my game too... (I don't even know what stanza means)
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Re: What do you do to improve your writing?

#4 Post by Sapphi » Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:59 am

I'm on a huge classic literature kick right now... :mrgreen:

So, my method of improvement is like this:
"Hey, self! Why can't you write more like Charles Dickens?! Get it together already! :x"

Seriously, writing from the 1800s seems like it's so much more pleasurable to read than modern stuff. I think it's partly due to the unfortunate tendency of modern writing to use extremely short, choppy sentences (presumably for impact, to sound "hip", but instead just is annoying, and I groan every time someone uses a sentence fragment in place of a real sentence).

It seems like I'm not alone in liking older writing styles, either... my mom leaves her Harlequin novels everywhere, and I like to flip through them for a laugh. The books are written in like, the 1980s, and use phrases like "She coloured slightly" :lol:

Of course, they still contain much shorter sentences.
"It is [the writer's] privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart,
by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride
and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past."
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Re: What do you do to improve your writing?

#5 Post by psy_wombats » Thu Nov 24, 2011 1:13 am

I've always "improved" by receiving feedback. It's very hard to get better if you're stuck in a closed loop and you are your only reader. There's nothing like criticism to help identify weak areas.
Sapphi wrote:Seriously, writing from the 1800s seems like it's so much more pleasurable to read than modern stuff. I think it's partly due to the unfortunate tendency of modern writing to use extremely short, choppy sentences (presumably for impact, to sound "hip", but instead just is annoying, and I groan every time someone uses a sentence fragment in place of a real sentence).
Some of us do this because we prefer that style.

But no, in all seriousness, there's nothing wrong with a more elaborate, extended style, it's just that it takes a lot of practice to not overwrite with that method. I've never paused to consider how sparse an amateur's prose was, but very often there are issues with overly flowerly and poetic language getting in the way. It comes down to a difference in preferences, and recently a compact style is more popular. That's not to say there aren't modern poetic writers either; just try reading Zafón or someone, it's alive and well.
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Re: What do you do to improve your writing?

#6 Post by Sapphi » Thu Nov 24, 2011 1:49 am

Well, I don't particularly like flowery writing either. I recently read Lolita and I found myself skipping over pages of the abundant description of the countryside of America... I just couldn't take it.

This is an example of the kind of choppy writing I don't like. It's too dramatic and fragment-y for my taste.
"He pulled her to him, clutching her tightly. Stubbornly. Desperately. Then and there, he resolved that he would never let her go. No matter what."
But on the flip side, I also don't like this sort of thing either. It's too elaborate and silly. It's the kind of writing that makes me skip paragraphs.
"Like a frightened child, he wrapped his arms around her tiny waist, his white-knuckled hands clutching at her as if she would blow away with even a whisper. He was a poor, delirious addict, and she was every drug his tortured mind could hope for, a beautiful and glorious overdose. This he swore to heaven and earth: she would remain with him. No matter what might happen in those bleak, stale hours before sunrise, he would keep his arms firmly around her."
What I think would be along the lines of something better:
He took her in his arms and pressed her against him.
It's simple and to the point. I don't like when writing tries hard to make me feel that a scene is important or dramatic. I think that in context, if the story you're telling is powerful, the scene can be powerful even without lots of prose or highly stylized writing.
"It is [the writer's] privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart,
by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride
and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past."
— William Faulkner
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Re: What do you do to improve your writing?

#7 Post by natsumachi » Thu Nov 24, 2011 1:59 am

Like with other skills, daily practice is important for me to keep my writer brain fit. XD In the early stages (and then every now and then as refresher), studying grammar is good foundation.

I don't really read a wide range of books, but still read regularly. Basically the sort of authors, styles, genres that interest me, and that I admire. And analysing the text is definitely part of learning what goes into the sort of writing I enjoy reading, and aim to write.

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Re: What do you do to improve your writing?

#8 Post by psy_wombats » Thu Nov 24, 2011 2:39 am

Sapphi wrote:Well, I don't particularly like flowery writing either. I recently read Lolita and I found myself skipping over pages of the abundant description of the countryside of America... I just couldn't take it.

This is an example of the kind of choppy writing I don't like. It's too dramatic and fragment-y for my taste.
"He pulled her to him, clutching her tightly. Stubbornly. Desperately. Then and there, he resolved that he would never let her go. No matter what."
Haha, we're in agreement then... I'd call this weak and the revision offered as preferable. The difference between compact and stuttering is pretty clear.
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Re: What do you do to improve your writing?

#9 Post by Auro-Cyanide » Thu Nov 24, 2011 3:01 am

@Fawn, Aww, you shouldn't be so hard on yourself. It's hard when you want to be better, but I think you should take enjoyment from small success too :) But I agree, it's a bit of a driver when you have that little voice in your head tell you that you can be better XD

@JustAnotherMe, that's good to see you learning :) You seem to be quite passionate about figuring out more stuff. I think a stanza is similar to a paragraph in writing, so a portion of the lyrics or poem that go together?

@Natsumachi, oooo practice! I think this is a big thing. Ever since I finished high school and uni and I don't write as much, I'm pretty sure I got worse -.-'

@Sapphi and Psy_wombats, I agree, I am a very big fan of efficent writing styles, so not overly flowery or too choppy and repetitive.

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Re: What do you do to improve your writing?

#10 Post by lordcloudx » Thu Nov 24, 2011 5:34 am

I just write whenever I please. When I am working on a particular story, I tend to get in just a few hundred words each day -- no exceptions.

I don't really feel that there is a need to improve in creative writing since it's a lot more subjective than art wherein people can make conventions and in some cases narrow it down to a precise science. In writing, you just need some rudimentary skills and a whole lot of imagination. Of course, just like any other skill, you do notice some nuances in your technique that seem to press the right buttons on a significant amount of readers and you begin to cultivate your skills to play up to these strengths.

In any case, I think that all writers should at least be able to competently write in any genre -- even in ones that they're not entirely comfortable with. So I guess my personal self-improvement technique is to write in a genre that I've never tried before.
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Re: What do you do to improve your writing?

#11 Post by Death_HUG » Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:17 pm

I'm definitely not a writer xD So I study really hard by reading books, manga and even some VN! Then I usually analyze what they did and if I like what they did, I'd try to incoporate that into my own writing >.< After that, I'll usually try to re-write somethings and then hopefully try to write atleast 1,000 a week.

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Re: What do you do to improve your writing?

#12 Post by Desu_Cake » Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:48 pm

Just like for art, for any writer looking to improve, I would suggest imitation. Pick a writer you like (Or for hard mode: a writer you don't like) and attempt to copy their writing style. Then pick a different writer and repeat. It can give great insight into your own writing style and influences as well as theirs, and can help you find flaws (by comparing your work to theirs).

My main problem with writing is including details. As in, I don't. Which makes everything I write really, really short. Also, the fact that I'm ungodly slow doesn't help either.

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Re: What do you do to improve your writing?

#13 Post by Camille » Thu Nov 24, 2011 2:43 pm

Re: Sapphi & psy_wombats: I think that style is a really big part of writing. If you're just writing exactly what happens in as simple a way as possible, then what's the point? D: I mean even Hemingway spices up things a little bit. I remember reading this article by a writer who asserted that "writers should never use verbs to describe speaking other than 'said' or 'says' because it's pointless" but I think that descriptive language really helps get the point across in a meaningful way. Dickens sometimes described things a bit too much because he was paid by the word and Victor Hugo is just ... well. Let's not talk about him. 8D But I think nowadays, whenever something is described in detail, there's usually a reason for it. The writer wants to draw your attention to something. Even the short, choppy, fragmented way of writing can be useful sometimes. (though I don't really like the example given, haha, I have seen it used effectively before) I like more descriptive writing, in general, because then you can imagine the scene exactly in your head. If it's just something like
She clung to him tightly.
That doesn't necessarily tell you much about how that scene looks. There's a lot of different ways to cling to someone.

I dunno, personally I suppose I change my writing style to suit whatever it is I'm writing. How I improve? I write a lot. Every day. On Dreamwidth, there's a lot of writing challenges that I participate in on and off. I like to write for different prompts, put my characters into different situations, and mash them up to see what happens. I find that when I practice writing my characters (like with my BCM warm-ups) I get a better feel for them. They come alive in my head and then when I have to write them in my VN, I know them better. I also read a lot of different kinds of books in different languages and genres. I read non-fiction, science textbooks, novels, manga... Now and then I read books about writing or grammar, but not very often. I think with writing there's a lot of artistic license involved. (I mean just look at E.E. Cummings' work) Everything I've read has influenced me in some way or another.

So I suppose the method of "improvement" kind of varies from person to person but I think a big part of it is just writing as much as you can and seeing how other people respond to it. Get betas, get friends to critique your work. Don't be satisfied with your current state--if you want to improve and work at it, you will.
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Re: What do you do to improve your writing?

#14 Post by Applegate » Thu Nov 24, 2011 6:11 pm

Auro-Cyanide wrote:Everyone can write. Everyone can draw too. But we all know that if you want to get beyond stick figures, you have to do two things. Practice and study. I'm presuming writing is exactly the same.
It's exactly the same; writing isn't some kind of magical skill people are born with naturally. You cannot one day pick up a pencil and draw the most gorgeous and appealing picture ever. Much the same way, you cannot pick up a pen and write a thrilling story of justice conquering all else and whatnot.
Put yourself in the mind of a very picky person who will realize every tiny mistake you make. Have that persona in your mind while you're writing and have it take a good hard look at what you're doing. Do not be nice to yourself and hold yourself to the highest standard.
I find myself partially agreeing and disagreeing with this; I agree you need to be critical of your own work and try to do the best you can, but being overly critical of your work and obsessing over writing one piece just the right way is liable to make you not move forward much at all. Perfection is often hard to attain, and if you attempt to attain it even in writing, you may end up never writing a finished story at all.

Camille, it is theorised that things like, "he said" are read over and are inobtrusive because everyone knows the meaning or some such, so it is preferable to just write "said" everywhere. Naturally, depending on the type of writing it is possible more colourful ways of describing the way he speaks are preferable.

Detail depends on person and story; some stories demand a significant portion of its writing is dedicated to feelings or location, whereas others might not put any stock in it at all.

Personally, what I do to improve my writing is to write every day, no matter how senseless or little it is, and I read articles about writing or talk to writers about writing.

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Re: What do you do to improve your writing?

#15 Post by Taleweaver » Thu Nov 24, 2011 6:28 pm

Me, I write. I improve my writing by writing. Anything. Business proposals, short stories, novels, visual novels, anything. Practice makes perfect, I guess.

I also read a lot, I take a look at what other people do, how they do it. And sometimes, I copy a little something from others and play with it until it's something I can claim my own. I guess that's what writers do.
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