• Member Since 30th Jan, 2013
  • offline last seen 7 hours ago

Viking ZX


Author of Science-Fiction and Fantasy novels! Oh, and some fanfiction from time to time.

More Blog Posts1067

Mar
12th
2018

Being a Better Writer: Topic Call! · 7:05pm Mar 12th, 2018

It's time! And I've decided to move this regularly random call to Monday, home of Being a Better Writer rather than some random day during the week, both to give it more exposure ... and because I'll be seeing a specialist today for my knee injury (here's hoping it's good news, not bad, because I really don't want to be paying for knee surgeries for the rest of my life).

So Being a Better Writer's normal feature (one of the last two topics on Topic List Ten) will be up tomorrow, but today?

What do you want to see future BaBW articles discuss? That's the whole point of this post! If there's something (or rather, a list of somethings) in the writing world you want to see discussed—that, remember, have to do with improving one's writing—let's hear it! I'm building Topic List 11, and it's time to get your requests on that list!

Comment away! I've got a knee to go look at.

UPDATE: And I'm getting a knee surgery. Wheeee.

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Comments ( 17 )

Writing for different purposes. Like how different is it writing a story to be published versus a story that can change on a whim, due to player interaction?

Good sources of positive interaction. For some, knowing where to go and who to talk to – the simple act of meeting and networking with other writers – is a bit of a mystery. How can a writer seeking to enter the publishing world meet people, locally or otherwise, who share in the goal (or better yet, have already achieved it)? I'd like to see an article on that, assuming one doesn't already exist.

Perhaps an oddball question, I'd like to know about moving from writing essays (and the like) to writing stories. I liken the problem to cooking a steak versus cooking a meatball. An essay (and its kin, the treatise, the apologetic, anything centered around specifically arguing a point) is all meat. Sure, you season and cook it well so that it's not dry and bland, but it's all meat.

A meatball, on the other hand, isn't just meat. It has egg and breadcrumbs - binding agents. Otherwise you just end up with ground meat. A story has more dimensions than just a thesis and evidence for it. That's all couched and understood in a framework of a world and characters.

I'll confess, I'm an essay writer at heart. But I also want to write stories, and looking at my storywriting, I feel like I often write an essay in poetic and conversational form, more than a story. So advice on moving from writing essays to stories would be appreciated.

D48

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This might also be worth expanding further to things like movie/TV/game scripts and even as far as technical writing, although I'm not sure how far Viking is comfortable going since I think it's probably safe to guess he hasn't dealt with publishing scientific research before.

Beyond that I don't really have anything new to add, although I did post a recent comment on the last topic call which obviously came way too late to make it onto the last topic list (which I'll probably do again because I'm terrible at keeping track of these kinds of things for the next list :derpytongue2:) about how and when to use ambiguity in a story (full comment here: 4781194), so I'm going to go ahead and resubmit that for this list.

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... I'm not sure how far Viking is comfortable going since I think it's probably safe to guess he hasn't dealt with publishing scientific research before.

Let me put it this way: I wouldn't put money on that bet. :twilightsmile: I had a very thorough writing education.

Ambiguity is an interesting one. I'll toss it on the list.

D48

4815540
Huh, I'm surprised to hear that. I know scientific research papers in particular can easily be arcane to the point of essentially being their own language so it's rare for anyone who doesn't actually work on them to know their inns and outs, but if you want to write about it that would definitely be interesting and could offer some insight about how skills transfer between radically different types of writing to help people find unconventional ways to improve their skills. Granted it would obviously take more than one blog post to cover every type, but this is definitely something you can do a lot with if you want to.

Also, thanks for adding ambiguity to the list.

Here we go again!

How to Research
Lots of times, we're told to do our research, but rarely does anyone go into how. Do you just google it or what?
(Of course there's google involved, for sure. But it could be good to go into various strategies and tools you can use for research.) (I'd like to make a personal plug for Google Ngrams, if you're not already familiar with it. Really great for checking whether what you're writing existed in a certain time period or not.)

Finding Inspiration
Not just 'good story ideas', actual inspiration, the kind that makes you want to write.

Branding and Building a Followership
How to market yourself, including when to make different accounts/pen names and how to tailor your writing to build a consistent base of followers.

Figurative Language
Metaphors, Hyperbole, Apostrophe, Personification, etc... Not only what they are and how to use them. But when and whether or not to use them.

Poetics
Assonance, consonance, rhyme, slant rhyme, iambic rhythm, trochaic rythm, alliteration, etc... Not only what they are and how to use these powerful tools, but when and whether or not to use them in prose works.

Imagery
Basically, the same as the last two ... you get the picture. Perhaps with a tie-in to show vs. tell.

How to be a Scavenger
"Great writers steal." -- How to steal, but in a good way. Not just when and whether or not to steal, but also how to look through others' work and find things worth taking. Maybe also a bit about where to look -- the greatest stories in your genre, or also great literary works, especially modern literary works where the new innovations are happening. (I mean, if you're going to steal, you might as well steal the best, the newest, the shiniest stuff.)

When is it Time to Publish?
When are you done editing and revising? When is it time to hit publish on that story/chapter, and when is it time to keep working on it to improve it?

When you should Break the Rules
Every rule can be broken ... if you know what you're doing, even basic grammatical rules. When should you do this and when should you be a good boy instead and color inside the lines?

Basic Principles of Comedy
Basic how-to for how to funny. Both for stories that are comedies throughout and when/how to use comedic relief in more serious stories. Maybe a bit also about dark comedy and how to do that well.

Originality
To what extent is originality important? Has everything been done before? How do you respond when people say your work is unoriginal?

Haters
Sometimes your story is bad and deserves the hate. Other times, you're just being attacked for random and/or personal reasons, and the story is actually fine. How do you tell the difference, and how do you respond to each type?

Cover Art
How to cover art. What's a good cover art and a bad cover art? How do you find/make good ones? Maybe also story description and tags while we're at it.

Ekphrasis
About the exercise of writing based off a painting or other artwork, and how that can help you grow artistic skills ... or even result in good stories to publish. Perhaps with an emphasis of matching not only the content of the work you're basing it on, but also the tone and feel of it. How, for example, would you write like a cubist? like a realist? like a modernist? like an impressionist? like an absurdist?

Okay ... I guess that's enough to inflict upon you for now. ^.^ Maybe you've done some of these (or near enough) in the past and I've forgotten them. But still, it would be interesting to see your take on a lot of these.

D48

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Building on your rule breaking topic, I'm particularly interested in the fourth wall because that is the rule I see broken badly the most often.

Oh and on the subject of how to find inspiration, after extensive observation and research I have found the answer to your question. You can't. :trollestia:

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Oh and on the subject of how to find inspiration, after extensive observation and research I have found the answer to your question. You can't.

Not with that attitude! ^.^

(For me personally, I find it helpful to cross-pollinate. I get more inspiration than you'd think from things like literary stories and short film scripts. Of course, I'd still like to see VZX's take on it.)

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As far as technical writing like that goes, it's beyond the purview of my blog (which is dedicated to fiction). Besides, if that's something you want to explore, you're going to need to take a technical writing course anyway, so you might as well bite the bullet and do it.

I have talked a bit before about skills from other areas of writing crossing over to fiction work, however. Anyway, Ambiguity is on the list. Tough topic, but often done poorly, so we'll see what I can make of it.

4815626
Right, some of these I've jotted down (some good ideas here too), and some of these I've covered before in some capacity. Inspiration, for example, I did cover to a degree with this post on playing games (though if you're looking for a post on something that will make you sit down and want to write as opposed to doing something else, well ... that one's all about you, and I can't help there; the best I can do is say "Do it!" because everyone finds their own reasons—though treating it as work usually is the keystone).

Comedy, on the other hand, is one of the most-requested topics I've ever had. To date, I have written one article on it (and the article explains why). You'll probably have to content yourself with that one for the time being. Maybe in a few years I'll tackle it again, but ... Comedy is hard.

I put the rest on list 11 though! Thanks for your input!

4815736
Breaking the 4th wall is an interesting topic. I'll bite.

Oh, and as for this—

Oh and on the subject of how to find inspiration, after extensive observation and research I have found the answer to your question. You can't.:trollestia:

I couldn't disagree more. Inspiration is everywhere. You just have to have the mindset of looking for it ... which usually involves being curious and asking "What if" to everything. "What if the creek I'm walking along was a river, and those sticks battleships?" "What if that sound in the trees was the oncoming rush of something flying with teeth?" Etc.

D48

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Oh I did. It was probably the single most worthless class in my engineering degree (although there were a few gen eds that were also worthless), but I took it. That said, I definitely understand why you aren't dealing with it because while there are some transferable skills, it isn't the most relevant.

Oh, and on the subject of inspiration.

I know this is a bit late, and I've already posted a suggestion, but I'm looking to write a piece of historical fiction this NaNoWriMo, and so any insight from you would be greatly appreciated.

D48

...Well, that was strange. I just went through your being a better writer archive looking for your piece on foreshadowing, and you apparently missed that one somehow. You have a bunch of posts that deal with it to some degree, but you never actually sit down to talk about it in depth so I'm going to say that needs to get done.

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IIRC, the biggest post centered on it is title Playing out Your Puzzle Pieces. Misdirection covers it as well, as do a number of posts on "Chekov's gun" and "Chekov's Armory" ... though come to think of it, the two earliest iterations of those posts weren't ever carried over, so I should probably get around to that ...

D48

4844337
Yeah, I was just looking for a good post on the nuts and bolts of foreshadowing to point someone at so I went digging through your archive, and while I could find a bunch that dealt with it since it's obviously hugely important for a lot of stuff, there really wasn't a good post covering what foreshadowing is, why you need it, how you do it, and stumbling blocks to watch out for. The Heavy Hand of the Writer was looking the most promising (and is the only post with the "foreshadowing" tag) since the problem was someone that went overboard on foreshadowing, but the way that post was structured really wasn't conducive to what I was looking for so I took another rout with my reply instead. I just figured I should mention it here since it might be something you want to address more directly in the future.

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