Some friendly writing advice :)

Questions, skill improvement, and respectful critique involving game writing.
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SelLi
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Some friendly writing advice :)

#1 Post by SelLi » Wed Jun 04, 2014 3:08 am

Hello, all. I am SelLi, nice to meet you again or for the first time.
I thought that I would try to share some friendly writing advice. A lot of this might sound basic, but I'd like to help you all write if I can, so I'm sharing anyway. This is all just from my personal experience.

I think that people get better at writing as they write, live their lives, and see other well done work that they like and find inspiring and interesting, whatever medium that is, but especially if that medium is also writing.

Something that I've found, and I know you may have heard this before as I know I have, is that you should try to write every day. Just kidding! Writing every day would be a good exercise, but realistically, you also just don't have the time to write some times. Things come up in life, and I get that. But as a general guide, it'd be good to make writing a part of your daily routine, even if you just write for 15 minutes or whatever. I've been doing this recently and I feel that it very much helps my flow of writing. If you don't do it EVERY day, the universe won't implode, but don't slack off.

For those of you who prefer to type their stories, I avoid complicated typing programs. I just use note pad. Other writing programs can be very distracting, specifically when they "help" you by underlining things, telling you that you made a spelling or a grammatical error. You will go back and do your editing later, but when you want to write, just write and don't worry about that stuff. It'll be sorted out later anyway, and if a program is constantly interrupting you, it interrupts your flow.

Another piece of advice I have is to have a loose structure of your events, not a tight structure. I find that when I have a tight structure, I treat it like a job, but when I have a loose structure, it is still structured but I have much more fun with it.

Flesh out the world that you want to create, and have key points of what's going to happen in your head and written down. Have an idea of how things are going to play out, but don't get into too many details.
Mr. Green is a murderer, and you already know that he's going to kill Mr. X. He'll probably be in the ballroom, but does it matter if he kills Mr. X with the candle stick at exactly quarter after 4 after very specific conditions are met? Or maybe you should just have "Green kills X at some point in the ballroom." somewhere in your notes for the story, and you can figure it out as you go.

When it comes to fleshing out your world and such, sometimes people- like myself- struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Somehow you might feel like your setting isn't that exciting, and will never be exciting, and that nothing is happening in your story. That feeling is crap. Instead of thinking so bleakly about your story, forget about it, go outside, and have a great day. Watch a movie you really love, and get reminded of how wonderful and magical life can be. (I also highly recommend praying.) Your setting/story/whatever does NOT have to be boring, similar to how life itself does not have to be boring. Thinking about it as boring is what will lead to it spiraling down into boredom, and you'll be glum and feel stuck and not know what to write. Your story can be exciting and alive, so remember that, and remind yourself of that when you might get down.

Another thing is to not to write to please people, and to not be proud. Sometimes, I get caught up watching some internet critic reviewing something or other and pointing out their opinions about it, and criticizing it. I find that those videos can bog me down- especially if the reviewer is focusing a lot on the negative. If someone is trying to help you by giving you constructive critique, consider what they say to you. They might teach you something great. However, in the end, it's not their project. Don't get mad at them, but don't worry about pleasing them or about "correcting your story" to fit their opinions. Also, the story should not be being made to puff up your ego. That's not why you started writing in the first place, and if it is, just don't do that. Don't puff up with pride. We should all write out of love, not for the sake of "proving" to anyone- including ourselves- how "great" we are. You love to write, right? So write out of love.

If you want to make a story, then do it, but don't rush to finish it. Even if you think you're done, look it over again and again. Wait a good long while, going over the story again and again. Will I change some things? Could this be done better? What am I trying do? Should I add more to it? What if I add this? Maybe I should change this character a little bit... oh if I do that, then this makes more sense, maybe i should tie these things together... and this character could have a father connected to someone else, or a friend I haven't mentioned...
The more time you spend writing the story, the more time you give it to grow into something greater than you even thought it would in the beginning. Trust me. Layers and layers of depth will come, and things will be refined the more you work at it.
I've been working on the same project for years and it's grown incredibly over its long time. I feel that it's more significant to take a long time making something great, than spend less time making something "meh".
But I understand that sometimes, like with nanoreno, time is of the essence and you can't pour a bunch of days/weeks/months/years into your project. Sometimes there are deadlines. However, perhaps what I said can still be taken into consideration in some way.

Think about your characters, write their backstories, write who and how you want them to be, and write scenes with them in it.
I've found that it helps to make a small sheet or two explaining the character. Who they are, where they come from, a little about their backstory -as I've said-, hobbies, their personalities, their tendencies, motivations for them, what role they're going to play in the story, and anything else you can think of that relates to them. (I personally find that printing out this sheet helps.) When you're writing, sometimes you might forget who your character is or how they might act, but thanks to your handy sheet, you can reference the sheet whenever your character's identity starts to feel muddied in your head.
Also, as I've said, write scenes about the characters. You may end up using those scenes in your finished story, but even if you don't, it will be a good exercise for you since it'll give you a feel for your character and how you write them.

Lastly, when I want to write, but don't feel like I'd be able to do it well because I'm in a bad mood or something, I bullet point what I'd like to happen next in the story. One of the best things about that is that, sometimes bullet pointing turns into actual scenes and lines of dialogue as you continue to write. That's good! You can use that. (That is how I find I start writing many of my scenes.)
Then later, you can just go back and fill out the scenes that are bullet points. Or if you look at it later, you can just remove or edit bullet points or scenes you've written. We don't know about your experimental writing stuff. It's not set in stone. Remove parts and edit as you see fit. It's your story.

Here's a little example of what I was saying about bullet pointing turning into scenes:
___
Edwardo is depressed.
Edwardo meets with Gagoosh.
Gagoosh talks with Edwardo about her childhood.
Gagoosh used to grow up in these parts for years.
She's been to the mall and the park, and to many different places with their friends before.
She never really thought about it, but thinking back, she has a lot of good memories.
One time, she remembers her brother getting his kite stuck in the tree in their back yard.
She giggled as she continued to talk to Edwardo about it, and he looked at her with intrigue.
"Do you have any childhood memories, Edwardo?"
___

Post-lastly lastly: Editing is very important. When you feel you're done writing something, look it over again several times and correct mistakes, even if you don't think you'll find anything. Then, in a day or two -or in a few hours- maybe come back to it and do the same thing. I've found many mistakes this way and I think it'll help you, too.

Thanks for sticking with me though all of that. I know that a lot of this might be common sense to a lot of people, but still, I hope I helped a little bit. :) I just thought I'd share what I've learned.
Good and happy writing, you guys. Don't sweat the small things.
If you put the important things in first, the little things will come later.

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Re: Some friendly writing advice :)

#2 Post by DNAniel213 » Wed Jun 04, 2014 8:34 am

Crap. You won't believe how many times I got hit by this passage. x) Especially the characters' tendency part.
When I write, some of my characters somehow 'not' act like how I want them to be. They just.. I don't know... Stray from their personalities. And it takes me a while to notice the character's attitude do so.

:D Thanks! This'll help me.. A lot.

And about the "I feel that it's more significant to take a long time making something great, than spend less time making something "meh"." part, I already have a masterpiece(for me, cause the whole thing is pretty well planned) in my head.

But for now, I think it's better to write quantitatively. And improve myself as I write up until I can call myself worthy enough to write down my so called "masterpiece". It's just like drawing, or any other skill right?
Plan your masterpiece.
Think about it as you do smaller, less significant, but improving works.
And when you think you're good enough,
Nail it.
Reality, Bend
Synapse, Break
Banishment, This World!

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Re: Some friendly writing advice :)

#3 Post by SelLi » Wed Jun 04, 2014 4:19 pm

I'm very glad that I could help. :) And you bring up good points. If you do other lesser things then they will still help you improve your skills for writing the masterpiece later that you have in your head. As you work on those lesser things too, you'll probably also discover a few new little or bigger elements that you might want to add to your masterpiece. As you grow your story grows, right? I donno. Just glad I could help ya. :)

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Re: Some friendly writing advice :)

#4 Post by DNAniel213 » Wed Jun 04, 2014 8:53 pm

Sure am.
Then again, I don't think I'm the only one who needs these ideas.
Mind if I share them with a writing circle I'm in?
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Re: Some friendly writing advice :)

#5 Post by SelLi » Wed Jun 04, 2014 10:40 pm

Sure, go right ahead.

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Figuring out what comes next through a character's thoughts.

#6 Post by SelLi » Sun Jun 08, 2014 9:05 pm

I find that sometimes when I'm writing a mystery (though this could be applied to other stories as well), I don't have all the details of the solution of the mystery figured out, yet. So I just write the character's thought process as I try to figure things out at the same time. I think that can lead to some good things and some bad things.

The main good thing is, for those of us who have trouble with natural pacing, this will make it feel more natural as your character and you are trying to figure things out more slowly. If you have your plot points all planned out, I know very well how easy it is to be at point A and want to rush to point B at full speed, but the result is that your story will look very rushed and jarring to read at the end of the day with you zipping around all over the place.

The bad side of writing this way, though, is that if you use it poorly, there might be some inconsistencies, or you might be tempted to have your character stumble upon the secret key, physically, right when they're done their thought process, as if it was literally in front of them the whole time. This can happen some times- like if your character actually DOES have the key, and it's been established earlier that he has it, and he just now is realizing that it fits this chest, but usually one still needs to remember that he still needs to go somewhere to get the key or go to the chest. It doesn't just spawn in his hand the second he figures out the puzzle behind it.

The thing I said just now:
like if your character actually DOES have the key, and it's been established earlier that he has it,
Ties into what I've said about about inconsistencies. If you write this way and don't want there to be inconsistencies, you have the whole story at your fingertips. Just go back and change things earlier on. Have some hints, maybe, about the solution you just thought of right now, placed somewhere earlier in the story. You can go back and change whatever you want to or need to to have everything jive with your solution to the mystery in a way that makes sense (IE with no plot holes.). Sometimes big changes will have to be made to have things jive, though. So, use your own judgment. Is it worth changing everything to have it fit with your solution, or should you change the solution to something that already fits more naturally into the story as it's already written? Probably the latter, since you most times don't want to rewrite your whole darn story. But sometimes it can be good to rewrite parts.

Another thing to keep in mind is the flow of time, the other characters in your story, and that sort of thing. Say your female protagonist figures out that the cat burglar is going to steal the precious artifact from the museum between 6pm and 8pm tonight. Well, your character might be too late. Sometimes it might be more shocking than that. If your character figures out that everything's leading up to her or her friend getting murdered by the crime boss at 6-8 pm, well, YOU as the writer might have figured it out through writing her thought process, but you might need to rewrite it so that your character didn't figure it out fast enough. Your crime boss knows he's going to murder her at that time. He's been planning it the whole time. So to the viewer, maybe your character doesn't get to finish her thought process because she got interrupted by a bullet through her heart. Things don't exist only in your character's head (unless you're writing that sort of thing.) My point is, sometimes your character won't figure it out until it's too late, or that your character might be surprised or interrupted by something. Or you might want to, once you as a writer figure out what's going to happen by writing from your character's point of view, rewrite things so that your character doesn't get the full picture that you do.
I donno. Just consider that the world is still spinning. Time's still passing. Characters are still doing other stuff. So when you write out their thought process, and figure out the solution for yourself, you can go back and edit things so that they're interrupted or something. You get the picture.

I know I'm going on, but while I'm at it, sometimes your character won't figure things out the same way you do. Sometimes they just don't think like you do or come to the same conclusions as you. Remember who your character is and how they think. You might be precise and analytical, but your character might be a little ditzy and spunky. So, after you're done writing "your character's" thought process to lead yourself to a solution about where you're taking the story, remember to edit things. Your character might just not think that way, or use different wording in their heads, or not even think of it.

I don't know if that made any sense, and I know I've rambled a bit, but I hope I've also helped a little bit. :)

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Re: Some friendly writing advice :)

#7 Post by pinkmouse » Tue Jun 10, 2014 6:22 pm

Hiya @SelLi, thanks for the tips!

Just to add my 2c:

I try to write first thing in the morning, as soon as possible after waking and especially before I've spoken to anyone. That way I'm still half in dream-state, and I find that problems I hadn't been consciously thinking about appear in the writing and often solve themselves.

I'm very fond of writemonkey, a free software program that is designed to have as few on-screen distractions as possible. I find one of the most useful features is being able to set the insertion point to remain at eye level so I don't get neck ache from constantly looking down at the bottom of the screen.

I use character sheets, but I fill them out as I write the story, using them for reference, so that, say, a character's nurse doesn't change names between chapters two and eight. I find if I try to fill out all those character sheets beforehand, I end up with a bunch of forms, not living characters.

Happy writing!

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