NaNoWriMo 2011 Page 106

  • sunjumper 6 May 2016 17:28:43 3,532 posts
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    frightlever wrote:
    sunjumper wrote:
    Right now I’m not even sure if we disagree at all or if we have divergent ideas what part of writing should come first.
    There is no disagreement. You agree with me; you just don't know it yet.

    You are right we agree on the form and the style. Proper writing is a craft. And there are many ways to make words sing and doing so is hard work.



    However this I disagree with:

    There are seven basic plots.

    Consider this. You can dream as many plots and characters as your head contains, set in multiple disparate worlds. Ten minutes later you can do the same. And ten minutes after that, and so on, forever. Your imagination won't run out.
    Yes you can reduce basically any plot to a basic structure and yes some people can throw around millions of ideas.

    However that doesn't lead to a good plot or a coherent or interesting world. And it will also never lead to proper drama. Building on ideas, making them work, populating a story, staying true to the characters working out proper drama is also tons of work.
    This is also a part of the execution and it is not easy.

    On TV you will find tons of shit that isn't well crafted on the world/character level. If I remember correctly you also watch the Flash. The latest few episodes of the show were abominable because characters made the most stupid decisions to keep the story going.
    It had empty drama, ruined by actions that made no sense in the context of the characters or the world. It broke immersion and more or less fucked the tension of the arc of season 2.
    That has nothing to do with the structure of the words spoken. The narrative itself does not work, despite it being crafted according to the basic rules. Shit like that is important.

    Counter example the first season of The Knick was brilliant because everything that happened was motivated by the characters and their internal point of view and logic. From the better people to the arseholes you could clearly see where they were coming from and why they were doing the things they did. That was a thing of beauty.
    And you are absolutely right, if that would not have also been well written it would not have had the same impact.

    I really enjoy this discussion; however I am also rather pig-headed myself so if you think we have said all we have to say fair enough. I do find you point of view fascinating and you have given me a lot of food for thought.

    And out of curiosity which writers do you enjoy the most? Who in your opinion are masters of their craft?
  • sunjumper 6 May 2016 18:07:41 3,532 posts
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    SpaceMonkey77 wrote:
    Depends on your taste. Mine is sci-fi, horror and fantasy mainly, but anything can tweak the imagination, so I'm pretty much open to various writers. If a tale sounds good, I'll check it out, then know for sure its been planned well or not.

    A mix of likes. Game of Thrones (I have to pick up on BR), The 100 and liked what I saw of The Man In The High Castle over at Amazon. Currently going through The Expanse Book Three and got The Wheel of Time Book One to go through.
    Your ideas do they also drift in the SF/fantasy direction or do you have ideas for a different kind of story.

    In the end you should write something that you enjoy writing about, because as frightlever already pointed out quite correctly there will be times where the going will get tough, so it needs to be something that you care enough about to see it through.

    Also if you just want to ease back into writing, fuck quality and have fun. You'll improve a lot more if you can just run wild and learn while you're doing it then to try to start crafting a master piece from the very beginning. That way only failure and bitterness lies.
  • sunjumper 6 May 2016 18:16:13 3,532 posts
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    Creativity is actually based on remixing existing stuff. Thus the greater your catalogue of inspiration the more inventive your own tale will be. It also helps to draw inspiration from music or pictures.

    Now I am really curious about your work!

    Edited by sunjumper at 19:12:12 06-05-2016
  • sunjumper 6 May 2016 19:50:57 3,532 posts
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    @SpaceMonkey77

    Done.
  • Metalfish 7 May 2016 11:40:53 9,191 posts
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    Oh god, the 2011 nano?!

    One must imagine me happy, for I have been pushing this rock uphill for the last four years. What made it to around 34k within the time limit is a quite frankly indulgent 157k words 5 years later and nearing completion.

    I'll read your word-thingy sunjumps: your stuff is always interesting.

    Edited by Metalfish at 11:41:14 07-05-2016
  • sunjumper 7 May 2016 12:47:23 3,532 posts
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    @Metalfish
    Thanks Fish! Give me a couple of extra days. I just want to clean up the text first.
  • frightlever 7 May 2016 15:34:32 1,492 posts
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    sunjumper wrote:
    And out of curiosity which writers do you enjoy the most? Who in your opinion are masters of their craft?
    I read pulp SF almost exclusively these days. I like how Jack Vance wrote. He had a gift for naming things, and making up words. Odd things will strike me, like the way Brian Lumley describes a mountain pass in one of his Necroscope novels.

    But you're entirely missing my point. I'm not talking about mastering the craft of writing, I'm talking about getting to a level that's adequate. You don't need to be a gifted wordsmith to tell a story, but it needs to be adequately written from a technical point of view.

    You made a point about bad plots vs good plots, a distinction which is ultimately decided by the reader, not the writer. There is a basic, mechanical template to telling any story and an author's success or failure depends upon how they embellish upon it. I'm not really addressing that. You can't teach someone to come up with good plots. Unless you're arguing that the way to come up with a good idea is to come up with a million ideas and reject 999,999 of the bad ones. I'd be okay with that.

    Bear in mind almost everything you write, and possibly everything you write, is of absolutely no consequence. That's true for you and for professional writers. Being a professional writer isn't about writing, it's about re-writing and editing. If you write your bad ideas to the highest technical standard, you're improving yourself in the craft of writing. If you just throw the words down with little regard to form, you're not getting better.

    What you're saying about The Flash is technically correct, but irrelevant. You're worrying about winning the Tour de France, while the training wheels are still on.
  • sunjumper 8 May 2016 01:43:19 3,532 posts
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    @frightlever


    But you're entirely missing my point. I'm not talking about mastering the craft of writing, I'm talking about getting to a level that's adequate.
    Ah. Yes I am missing the point. I am not talking about my last update.
    What you are saying is that I need to get a text written down that is readable. That has no typos and has no wrong words in it.

    Yes. I know. And I am actually able to reduce that shit to a minimum once I give the text a one over. Thanks to you pointing that out, I realised that as this is not NaNoWriMo I do not need to rush out my text anymore so that I can get it out in a readable level.
    The typos do ruin the flow and make it very hard for the reader just to remain in the stream of thought.

    I did acknowledge that above. You are right and I will do better in the next update and I will rework the last one before posting a new one.



    You made a point about bad plots vs good plots, a distinction which is ultimately decided by the reader, not the writer.
    No. Here too there are some fundamentals that need to be done right, otherwise the story falls apart. I also have to stress that I am talking about the narrative which is more than just the plot.
    There are basic rules here and there are things that just work and others that don’t. There are a lot of things that a writer needs to master before he becomes adequate in building a proper narrative.

    Just like with writing you have to be able to build an adequate narrative before it stops being shit and begins to be just OK. This is a different skill to the writing skills you are talking about as someone who can’t read or write will be able to tell a great narrative story while not being able to ever be a writer obviously.

    Only once you have reached a level of adequacy and here I think we both agree can you even dream about moving forward on the road to greatness. And only at this point will matters of taste come into play.


    What you're saying about The Flash is technically correct, but irrelevant. You're worrying about winning the Tour de France, while the training wheels are still on.
    Thus what I am saying about ‘The Flash’ is not irrelevant. The decision of the protagonist that led to the last few horrible episodes and pretty much everything that happened in those episodes are because a failure by the writers to understand how a proper narrative works. What they let happen on the show on a few key moments leads to everything else falling apart.
    That is shit writing. On the narrative level.

    If anyone wants to be a good author both skill sets must be mastered. And both fields have to be improved upon during editing and rewrites.
    How you do it is your problem really.

    I personally care more about the narrative, not only as a writer but also as a reader and as an editor.
    If what you are telling is does not work on a narrative level, the all the best writing in the world is not going to save it. You will have then a beautifully written pile of shit.
    And correcting typos and sentences that simply make no sense is far easier than correcting a narrative that has no cohesion, or characters which have no internal logic. Even worse, as a narrative unfolds during writing gradual shifts in the story, which happen naturally as characters come to life and the writer gets to grips with how the story unfolds, can slowly break the narrative without the writer noticing. There are enough cases were someone will reach say chapter 30 and nothing makes any fucking sense anymore. That person is fucked and will have a very painful rewrite to do. No matter how nice the words.

    This has nothing to do with trying to win the Tour de France with training wheels on.
    In this analogy you are saying you can’t win the Tour without a proper racing bike and I am saying you can’t win the Tour without proper training. Two different things. Both important.

    Edited by sunjumper at 01:44:19 08-05-2016

    Edited by sunjumper at 01:44:40 08-05-2016
  • Ageis 8 May 2016 02:51:53 102 posts
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    Well this has turned a bit unpleasant hasn't it?

    Frightlever while I agree with you that it pretty much always a good idea to run your text through a spell check before sticking it up as a courtesy to the reader this is the Nano thread we are in.
    They main point of Nano, as I understood it anyway, is to write.
    Good, bad or indifferent you just write.
    Its not the place where you carefully design the narrative in your head first and move from scene to scene with exacting craft and precision.
    It’s the place where you take an idea and explore it by hammering away on your keyboard and seeing where the story takes you.
    Then later… pretty much a month later you go back and pick over it for the scenes, ideas and bits you liked.
    The objective is not to improve the quality of your writing. If anything most people engaged in the Nano see a fair decline in the quality of their prose.
    The objective is to see what comes spilling out when you stop obsessing about finding the perfect way to turn a phrase or how to polish that one thousand word intro until it shines.
    You want to see how far you can take and explore a narrative idea.
    And above all its meant to be fun!
    Sunjumper isn’t submitting a manuscript to a publisher hes throwing out a first draft chunk of text in the Nano thread to ask if anyone finds it interesting and if so what parts so he can focus on them going forward he’s not trying to present himself as a master of the “Craft.”
    Telling someone they shouldn’t put anything up until they have attained a level of skill that is palatable to you is extremely unhelpful. People only get better through practise and they only practise if they are motivated and they are certainly not motivated but telling them that their work is terrible and should not be shown.
    Oh dear now I am coming across just as irritable, grumpy and passive aggressive as the above posts.
    Instead I will opt for open distain
    Your initial comments are petty and rude and just outright trollish.
    “did you write this drunk?”
    Come on really?
    Better not to type anything at all than to do that.
  • frightlever 8 May 2016 23:37:21 1,492 posts
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    Ageis wrote:
    Well this has turned a bit unpleasant hasn't it?

    Frightlever while I agree with you that it pretty much always a good idea to run your text through a spell check before sticking it up as a courtesy to the reader this is the Nano thread we are in.
    They main point of Nano, as I understood it anyway, is to write.
    Well yeah. I already made it clear I think that NaNoWriMo teaches some horrible habits. But sunjumper isn't writing under NaNoWriMo conditions, and he was asking for feedback on his writing.

    I don't think we're remotely close to being unpleasant to each other. At any rate I don't think he's being unpleasant to me, and it isn't my intention to be unpleasant to him. We're having a vigorous difference of opinion.

    When I asked him if he wrote it drunk it was a genuine question. I have no problem being rude to someone, but you'll know when it happens. I don't know if you've read what sunjumper was asking for feedback on, but it justified the question.

    If sunjumper thinks I'm being unduly unpleasant to him, he can say so. It isn't necessary for you to get involved.

    And while writing can be "fun", particularly if you're drunk, it isn't meant to be "fun". If you're doing it right, it's work.
  • frightlever 8 May 2016 23:54:44 1,492 posts
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    @sunjumper Again, I think we're talking at cross-purposes. I'll bullet point my argument.

    . I'm not concerned about plot or narrative or characters

    . I am talking about the mechanical process of putting words on a page in a way that won't discourage people from reading them.

    You see, I really don't have much to say about narrative or plot, because I don't think it's something that you're going to learn while writing, it's something you learn while reading, and is the ineffable quality that makes a writer a good storyteller. I will only repeat what I said before, plot is entirely disposable, you can have as much or as little of it as you want and still tell a story. You won't run out of ideas. I'm not sure you can be taught to have good ideas, or that practising makes them better. I could be wrong.

    On the other hand, I think you're really underestimating the importance of writing as a craft. It's something you have to WORK at getting better but which WILL improve with practise.
  • sunjumper 9 May 2016 00:40:34 3,532 posts
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    @frightlever

    The style of your posts can be easily read as condescending and insulting, but I did not read them as such. I am more interested in what you have to say than in the way you say it. Your ability to make Agaeis delurk and angry though is verging on the legendary.



    I am talking about the mechanical process of putting words on a page in a way that won't discourage people from reading them.
    I know. It is pretty much the first thing you said. And it was thinking about that comment that I noticed that this is indeed not in the NaNo context, giving me the time to actually go over the text and make it properly readable.

    This is in my very first post. There I agree with you.



    And while writing can be "fun", particularly if you're drunk, it isn't meant to be "fun". If you're doing it right, it's work.
    Reading this depresses me greatly.
    Yes ‘proper’ writing is work. Agreed.
    Because it is work there are often times when it is not fun, and more and enough instants when it is outright horrible. But first and foremost it is tons of fun.
    If writing for you is always gruelling work that will when it is done lead to something beautiful I am wondering what actually motivates you to go through that kind of hell.



    I'm not concerned about plot or narrative or characters
    This is a point that you have been stressing since the very beginning.
    What I am only now understanding, because this is the among the very last things to ever hear from a writer, is that you actually do not care about plot, narrative or characters in principle. Full stop.

    Without plot, narrative of character you have nothing. You might be able to write n instruction manual that way. But even there knowing how to build a narrative arc, will help you keep the reader’s attention and increase the retention of the information presented.

    Which leads to the following:
    I really don't have much to say about narrative or plot, because I don't think it's something that you're going to learn while writing, I will only repeat what I said before, plot is entirely disposable, you can have as much or as little of it as you want and still tell a story.
    You learn a lot by reading a lot; preferably from many different sources, genres and cultures.
    But once you go and try to put it on the paper this knowledge, while giving you inspiration and guidance will not turn you into a good or even decent writer.

    You have to learn that the hard way. By practicing and by studying from those who came before you and getting into the nitty gritty of the craft as far as humanity knows how to teach these things.

    You are a fervent supporter of learning the act of proper writing. And you are totally right.

    But the same is true for narrative, plot and characters. In exactly the same way it is true for putting the words together. In your disregard of these entire fields of craft and knowledge you are absolutely wrong. I have been wondering why it is so hard to talk to you about this part of writing and the reason for it is that it is a giant blind spot for you. You are totally unaware that it even exists.

    You believe that it is an ephemeral thing that can’t be understood or taught, yet there are millennia of literature and discussion on these very topics. If I may suggest Screenwriting 101 to you. It is only 3 quid and you will discover things you seem to never even have dreamed about. And who knows maybe then you too will discover that writing is actually a lot of fun, even when it is a gruelling slog and you curse the fucking screen in front of you mocking your very existence.

    And yes I know that there is a point where the craft turns into something more than just putting words together and something fucking magical happens that you can’t really explain or nail down. That is the moment when craft turns into art.
    As you yourself said about putting words together in a way that doesn’t put people off from reading them.

    You have to do the same with every single character.
    The plot as much or as little as you have.
    The cohesion of your story.
    The verisimilitude of your setting.
    The tension, the pacing, the style.


    On the other hand, I think you're really underestimating the importance of writing as a craft. It's something you have to WORK at getting better but which WILL improve with practise.
    I have no idea what makes you think that I am underestimating the craft involved in writing?

    Especially and this is in its own way hilarious, because from my point of view it is you who is utterly underestimating the amount of work that needs to go into the writing of a single story and the amount of simple bread and butter craft that you have to put into it so that it becomes something worth experiencing.

    You are right it is work. It takes practice. A lot of practice. But if you put the hours in you will get results out of it.
    Whenever you talk about writing you make it sound like something utterly painful and horrible (serious question: What happened to you?) I hope you will learn to relax, take a step back and look at what you are actually doing so that you will again feel the joy of creation.


    P.S. Jack Vance? Nice. Now I will put Brian Lumley onto my to read list.

    Edited by sunjumper at 00:41:34 09-05-2016
  • frightlever 9 May 2016 10:17:29 1,492 posts
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    @sunjumper Brian Lumley probably isn't worth the effort. I read his Necroscope books start to finish because they were handy. They're creative, well-written, but they can be quite unsettling and I wouldn't call them essential.

    Anyway, when I say I'm not concerned about plot etc, I mean in the context of this discussion. I do think creating plot is trivial in comparison to actually organising it into words, but it's obviously important.

    Anyone can learn to write adequately. I don't think you can teach creativity to any meaningful extent. Again, I could be wrong.

    How exactly are you practising plot and narrative?

    It isn't something that benefits from practise, it may benefit from accepting and analysing external criticism. I suppose you can self-critique, and you should be constantly, but you need another eye on it.

    You're actually contradicting yourself, because I said it's something you learn by reading, not by writing, but you disagreed, then suggested a book to me. Your comment contains a glaring plot hole!

    How long does it take you to read an instruction book? I suppose you can practise what you've read in the book, but surely if you're writing to a formula learned from a book it doesn't take long to get it right.

    So, if one area of writing can be taught and benefits from practise, and another area can be reduced to a formula from a screen-writing treatise, but ultimately relies upon inspiration - which should you be practising?

    That said, I'll probably buy it. Thirty years ago I must have bought every "How To Write..." book going, but I like FILM CRIT HULK - his postmortems on the Edgar Wright movies have been fantastic. I see Edgar Wright even wrote a introduction to the book.

    Personally, I detest writing. Haven't written anything substantial for years. I can churn out adequately written genre nonsense until the cows come home, but I'm never going to write anything meaningful or important, so I can't see the point. That ineffable quality is lacking. I never really wrote because I wanted to, I wrote because I had ideas bubbling inside me that had to get out. Turns out you can suppress it. I would note that any time I've written anything I liked, I was pissed at someone and was writing to throw it in their face. You get older, that just gets a lot more difficult to sustain. I wanted every paragraph to be a hate-filled photon torpedo of destruction. I mainly wrote humour.

    Paradoxically, I rather enjoy editing other people's work. I've been meaning to see if there's an on-line course I can take, as I'm lacking technically. Where do the commas go?

    Here's an observation for you - in the piece you put up for feedback, you used "was" 62 times. Every time you write "was" you're denying yourself, and your reader, a more interesting verb or punchier phrase. You can have the best ideas in the world, but if you present them as exposition, no-one will want to read them.

    Removing 50 or 60 of those "was" occurrences will give you a more dynamic piece of text, but doing so will be work. You will have to dissect every sentence and re-parse it to replace "was" with a better verb. By the time you've re-written the sixtieth sentence you may think twice before using "was" in your next piece of fiction. Thus, you will have gotten better and spared your reader.

    Or, you can continues to write passive text and hope it'll get better in the future.

    Assuming that you need feedback on your ideas to get better at plot and narrative, consider learning to write adequately to be the pollen you need to attract bees. Once you've got bees interested, eventually human readers will follow.

    QED.
  • frightlever 9 May 2016 10:19:21 1,492 posts
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    @sunjumper Oh, and yeah I can sound rude, but it's nothing personal. Assume it's banter. It isn't, it's an overwhelming disdain for mankind in general, but whatever gets you through the day, right?
  • sunjumper 9 May 2016 10:42:26 3,532 posts
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    @frightlever

    As I said no offence taken and with what you just said the tone of your posts becomes much clearer.

    Right now I don’t have enough time to properly answer your mega-post but you say a few very interesting things and there are some bits that I need to explain in some detail.

    The thing you said about the overuse of was is very interesting indeed. Do you have a few examples of a sentence with ‘was’ and one that replaces it with something more punchy?
  • frightlever 9 May 2016 13:40:26 1,492 posts
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    At random:

    "Maybe she had been some kind of bad character before? Or maybe her peculiar soul had broken her in strange ways? So in time she became reserved and cold. That way she was simply considered strange."

    Hmm. Should have picked an easier one. Firstly, I'd avoid "maybe" and "perhaps", it's mediocre. In this instance you're deliberately offering alternatives, because whoever is telling the story, your third person voice, doesn't know. That could actually be a problem, except you're clearly trying to mirror the reader's own lack of omnipotence. Secondly you have repeat repetition which seems unintended, so we'll fix that as well.

    "Had she committed dreadful acts of evil? Or had that peculiar soul broken her in strange ways, causing her to retreat, to withdraw, transformed into a cold, reserved oddity?"

    To be honest I'm not crazy about "had" but I'd sooner pose a direct question than speculate with a "maybe".
  • CosmicFuzz 9 May 2016 14:04:13 32,585 posts
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    "She sometimes wondered if she'd done bad things. Before this life, in whatever persona her previous character had been. Might be she'd committed acts of pure evil. Might be she was just broken; a peculiar soul playing tricks on a confused mind. It was better to hide away, to become reserved and cold, to avoid the narrowed eyes and suspicious glances. It was better to be considered strange, than dangerous."

    Just my two cents. Not really been following what's going on but it's lunchtime dammit and I'm not going to work!

    Edited by CosmicFuzz at 14:04:52 09-05-2016
  • Ruckly 9 May 2016 14:14:26 1,066 posts
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    Pick someone you like and then copy put pages and pages of their prose.

    I would maybe say not even someone ypu like, just someone who is considered to have a good style.

    James Jones copied out pages and pages of Hemingway. I like to copy Cormac McCarthy.

    At the start your prose will be derivative, but you can build on this solid foundation to create a style of your own.
  • Ruckly 9 May 2016 14:17:52 1,066 posts
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    Don't like Frightlever style. Too verbose, too drawn out. Also disagree generally with the idea that you should complicate language by mangling it with a thesaurus.
  • Ruckly 9 May 2016 14:29:01 1,066 posts
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    "Maybe she had been some kind of bad character before? Or maybe her peculiar soul had broken her in strange ways? So in time she became reserved and cold. That way she was simply considered strange."

    In the quiet hours she wondered if she had come into the world already broken. She imagined past sins and old transgressions. She retreated from the world, was strange even to her friends.

    Edited by Ruckly at 14:46:50 09-05-2016
  • Deleted user 9 May 2016 14:30:01
    Too verbose, too drawn out.
    lmao?
  • sunjumper 9 May 2016 14:36:33 3,532 posts
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    Looks like being stuck at work and... having to work is a blessing is disguise. I really love the remixes of that sentence. Every version reads and feels different.

    Nice.

    Edited by sunjumper at 14:37:52 09-05-2016
  • CosmicFuzz 9 May 2016 14:41:21 32,585 posts
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    Post deleted
  • CosmicFuzz 9 May 2016 14:41:22 32,585 posts
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    Ruckly wrote:
    Pick someone you like and then copy put pages and pages of their prose.

    I would maybe say not even someone ypu like, just someone who is considered to have a good style.

    James Jones copied out pages and pages of Hemingway. I like to copy Cormac McCarthy.

    At the start your prose will be derivative, but you can build on this solid foundation to create a style of your own.
    That's actually interesting advice. I certainly find myself copying the style of whoever I'm reading at the time. Stephen King's The Stand being a particular one.

    It's gotten to the point where I've had to stop reading books whilst redrafting, or it just becomes a muddle of different authors as I finish one book and start another.

    But having said that, I read Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective guy) and I loved the writing style in that. Really sparse, with some beautifully dark phrases, which was kind of what I expected really. It definitely has impacted the way I write. I don't copy it, but as Ruckly says it's influenced my style and helped me find a voice that I'm really happy with.

    TL;DR - reading different books helps you become a better writer
  • Ruckly 9 May 2016 14:48:32 1,066 posts
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    gravearchitecture wrote:
    Too verbose, too drawn out.
    lmao?
    I don't get this, am i being rinsed? Verbose and drawn out aren't exact synonyms, you be drawn out in your exposition without necessarily being verbose.
  • Deleted user 9 May 2016 14:55:21
    If you want a really good way to hone your writing, take something you've written (couple of pages maybe) and rewrite it with no internal narrative exposition whatsoever. Explain everything through action, description, and speech alone. Without adverbs either. Then when it's down to the bare minimum, sparingly readd.

    That chunk people are rewriting, for instance, would be more powerful and work better spread across several scenes as show don't tell. Things do not have to be thoroughly explained over one paragraph, especially character building.
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