Your Best Advice to a New Writer

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Sommer Leigh
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Your Best Advice to a New Writer

Post by Sommer Leigh » February 10th, 2012, 10:39 am

So, I've noticed the boards have gotten aweful quiet lately and I'm thinking maybe we've got a lot of newish writers, newish Bransforumers, who are a little nervous to ask their first questions.

"Has my question been asked a million times?"
"What if I sound stupid?"
"What if they realize I don't know anything and kick me out of their Bransforum Club?"
"Will they make fun of me?"


Those of us who've been around for a long time know we aren't the making fun of types and we've all misspelled things or sounded ridiculous and Margo has threatened to raise demons in the basement dozens of times and we haven't kicked her out of the club yet, so I thought it might be good to encourage some new conversations. And to make everyone feel welcome and positive and optimistic, why don't we all open up our treasure chests and pull out our very favorite pieces of advice we've picked up from reading these boards.

If you can't choose just one, pick a couple. If we were going to build a tool box for writers, what would your contribution be? If you've bookmarked an entire thread you thought was invaluable, post that too.
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.

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Quill
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Re: Your Best Advice to a New Writer

Post by Quill » February 10th, 2012, 11:10 am

Stick with it.

Good topic, Sommer.

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Re: Your Best Advice to a New Writer

Post by dios4vida » February 10th, 2012, 11:31 am

Great topic!

I echo Quill. Stick with it. Don't get discouraged. Write write write. Read. Write some more. Read read read. You'll always find people who are better than you that make you feel like a n00b (no matter how many books you've written, I'm on my fourth and I feel like a total writing idiot most of the time) and you'll always find people whose writing makes you cringe and gives you a little ego boost because, as much as you feel like an arrogant you-know-what, you feel good that you know you're better than them. Don't let either of these feelings mess with your writing. Don't get discouraged, but don't get cocky, either. Learn from each of them - the dos and the don'ts - and keep writing.

Don't be afraid to seek advice. I spent a long time steering clear of the how-to books on writing because I was afraid I would become a formulaic writer or lose whatever voice I thought I had. Big mistake. Studying the craft of writing from the experts has improved my skills and productivity ten-fold (seriously - I used to write maybe 1000 words a WEEK, now I regularly do 1500 a DAY). If I had to recommend one, I'd go with Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. I learned more from the few hours I spent reading that book than I did in ten years of writing by the seat of my pants.

In the same vein - ask questions!! The forums here are a wealth of information and support. Never be afraid to go to these amazing people with questions. I've asked the most moronic questions of them and instead of being scorned, a lot of them have become genuine friends. We're nice, we all know what it's like to start out cold in this oh-so-painful profession, and most of us are learning just like everyone else. Pooling our resources helps everyone.

One more thing: did I mention to keep reading? And keep writing? Cause you've gotta do both. Constantly. :)
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

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Re: Your Best Advice to a New Writer

Post by SteevO » February 10th, 2012, 12:38 pm

Thank you for starting this thread. I am actually a "noob", and do have a few questions that I feel embarassed to ask. It really does feel like I am an outsider looking in. Almost like high school- you guys are the cool kids and us newbies are the wanna-be's!
Ah well, off to post my first question!
Cheers,
SteevO
The best things in life, aren't things at all.....

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Re: Your Best Advice to a New Writer

Post by Moni12 » February 10th, 2012, 1:05 pm

A thesaurus is your best friend. Follow as many agent blogs as possible, when in doubt is always a good idea to go to the source. Also, try different genres. You may think you already know your niche, but maybe you find it's easier to write fantasy rather than sci-fi. Or you start off writing paranormal romance and you discover you write more powerful crime novels. Just experiment and don't sweat the technical stuff right away. Have fun with it and figure out what kind of writer you are first.

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Re: Your Best Advice to a New Writer

Post by Claudie » February 10th, 2012, 1:23 pm

Oh boy. I echo the stick with it and write, write, write. And write.

Ask questions, too. SteeveO: We all started by being the wannabe n00b. We all had our moment of intimidated-by-the-awesome-here. But the truth is? You belong here as much as anyone. Ask away. Participate honestly to the discussions. Be respectful and open. Before you know it, you'll be part of the "cool kids"

Another thing in the advice department: don't be afraid to show your work. Find other writers you trust first and share what you write. When you start it's sometimes hard to see the faults in what you write, even those you've been warned against. Another pair of eyes will lock on them and help you grow. Trusted peers are a great way to know what you do right and what still needs help.

Different genres is a good idea too. I find I'm drawn less and less to fantasy, and more and more to sci-fi, dystopia and post-apoc. It's a weird experience, but so much fun!
"I do not think there is any thrill [...] like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything." -- Nikola Tesla

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Re: Your Best Advice to a New Writer

Post by Sommer Leigh » February 10th, 2012, 1:38 pm

Claudie wrote:Ask questions, too. SteeveO: We all started by being the wannabe n00b. We all had our moment of intimidated-by-the-awesome-here. But the truth is? You belong here as much as anyone. Ask away. Participate honestly to the discussions. Be respectful and open. Before you know it, you'll be part of the "cool kids"
I second what Claudie said, SteeveO. We all started out feeling the way you feel - meeting each other and learning from each other made us the way we are now. We didn't show up this way. You'll be fine and we'll accept you with open arms!
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.

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polymath
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Re: Your Best Advice to a New Writer

Post by polymath » February 10th, 2012, 1:54 pm

Slow down.

Don't rush through raw draft writing, Immerse in the scene, exhaustively describe the sensations, respond to the sensations. Include at least sensory perceptions: Sensations; sight, sound, smell, feel, and taste, if not the sixth and more senses of intuition and personal feelings--emotions; and thoughts, Introspection both volitional and nonvolitional, reactive to stimuli, and Action, which is a combination of the senses above, and Emotion, which simply put is also action and reaction, cause and effect, and emotion is also voice, the attitude toward the subject, approving or disapproving, spiteful or cynical or pleased or surprised or all at once or many other emotional stimuli and responses.

And dialogue, which is Conversation: question and answer or colloquy. Echo dialogue or repeating back what's been said but magnified, amplified. Or non sequitur dialogue, it does not follow because each speaker has his or her or its own agendas and a will to be heard. And squabble dialogue, which isn't only argument, can be flirting, can be teasing, gibing, ribbing, riffing of the annoying sorts. And Socratic irony dialogue, withholding one's true agenda until the other has revealed his or hers. Then it's a gotcha moment. Close in for the kill.

Sensation, Action, Conversation, Introspection (thought), and Emotion, get those into every scene with a causal logical progression of cause and effect. Revise later. Get it all down first. Slow down. Fill out the scene.

A trvia item of the printers' way. "Out of sorts" we all know what the metaphor's meaning is, the idiom it's become, it's an emotional display, an out-of-sorts person is ill: angry, sick, frustrated, depressed, hair-pulling, temper tantrum throwing, befuddled, yabba yada yabba dabba yada do. Whatever.

A sort is an arcane name for a lead type glyph, A sort stands 6 picas high, about an inch, and is whatever glyph taken from a type case to stick it onto a type compositor's stick. "Stick it." Set the type. Imagine a typesetter setting up a page galley with numerous bangs!, typsetter name for an exclamation mark. Oh no, the bang sort supply has run out and the page is only half set. He or she's out of sorts. Betcha a few bangs have to go, most, in fact, if not all because they don't add anything to the meaning of their sentences!
Spread the love of written word.

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CharleeVale
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Re: Your Best Advice to a New Writer

Post by CharleeVale » February 10th, 2012, 5:03 pm

FINISH something.

I used to have the chronic problem of never finishing everything, but honestly, once you prove to yourself that you CAN, there's no better feeling!

CV

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Re: Your Best Advice to a New Writer

Post by MattLarkin » February 10th, 2012, 7:05 pm

Formalizing a query or other blurb can be a great help in your early stages. It forces you to drill down to the main idea of your story. And if you don't know what your story is about, neither will your reader. The forums even have a forum to help with this.
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Re: Your Best Advice to a New Writer

Post by ladymarella » February 11th, 2012, 2:14 am

Probably the best piece of writing advice I have gotten is 'Write a crappy first draft'. Your first draft does not have to be perfect, and it's better to gt words down on paper.

Secondly, the write what you know thing. I have a love-hate relationship with this one. Writing just what i know would be horribly boring; I'm writing a Regency era drama. However i am finding drawing in emotions, situations etc from my life is helping it come together. I often reread parts, and without looking at the date (I date all my writing) i can pretty much tell when I wrote it, because of what was going on in my life at that time.

Thirdly, I'm working at the moment of shaking up my scenes. Writing the whole Regency era thing, you can get caught up having all your scenes as balls, dinner parties and ladies having tea. i'm trying to work out other ways to approach scenes, in settings, as well as how I set the scene up. For example, one scene I've just written revolves around a game of charades. It's about finding ways to make the old seem new. I want her to seem torn between two characters; so I'll get them both to offer to take her home, rather than just talking about her inner torment as I automatically would
Currently composing a sprawling family saga set in 19th century England
The world may be divided into people that read, people that write, people that think, and fox-hunters.'- William Shenstone,

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Re: Your Best Advice to a New Writer

Post by Beethovenfan » February 11th, 2012, 2:36 am

I love what everyone has said so far. For me, there are so many things I have gleaned from hanging out here in the forums that it's hard to pin it all down! But something that sticks out for me is knowing how to recognize and cut unnecessary "stuff" from the story.

This is memorable for me because I had a 150,000 word MS that needed to be cut down to at least 120,000. In the beginning I was thinking "What do I cut? I had chosen each and every word with such care and writerlyness. Which ones were going to get the axe?" But I learned that you don't really need a lengthy transition from scene to scene. If my character was going somewhere, they could simply be there in the next paragraph. I didn't need to explain or describe how they got there (unless, of course, it involved riding on broomsticks or something exciting like that!).

Some things don't really require a description, especially if they are common things everyone is familiar with. If you say what it is, the reader can fill in the rest fairly nicely on their own.

You don't have to state the obvious. Here is one of my typical examples of this: "The knife fell to the floor." This is a short sentance, but even still, half of it is unnecessary info. If you drop a knife, where else is it going to fall? Unless you want the reader to know that if fell into something specific, it's not necessary to state the "to the floor" part. We already know that when things fall they go to the floor or the ground!

Anyway, cutting out unnecessary stuff is just one of MANY things I have picked up from being here. Hope it helps someone else!
"Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine."
~ Ludwig van Beethoven

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Re: Your Best Advice to a New Writer

Post by amandalinehan » February 11th, 2012, 1:18 pm

I've been writing about 3 1/2 years, and definitely consider myself a newbie writer (and I'm pretty much brand new to this forum!), and I would say the advice below is something I've definitely tried to follow in the last few years.
CharleeVale wrote:FINISH something.

I used to have the chronic problem of never finishing everything, but honestly, once you prove to yourself that you CAN, there's no better feeling!

CV
I finish things to the best of my ability now, and just figure I'll get better and improve with my next novel, piece of flash fiction, blog post, etc, rather than endlessly tweaking my current story. I'm a good starter of things, but not as good of a finisher, so this is something I always keep in mind.

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Re: Your Best Advice to a New Writer

Post by guichizango » February 11th, 2012, 1:40 pm

I'm fairly new to the forum as well, and I enjoy reading others' advice, though I still don't feel as though I have enough to contribute. I think the best advice I've heard is enjoy what you're doing. I know that if I'm bored with a scene that I'm writing, it's probably going to be even worse for the reader. Those are the ones I'm quick to cut.

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Re: Your Best Advice to a New Writer

Post by Moni12 » February 11th, 2012, 1:47 pm

Advice inspired by my Creative Writing class is don't take the advice to seriously. It's recommended to use it, but just remember you can take it or leave it as you see fit. Too many students in my class get really worked up over the book recommending they keep writing journals, don't use dialogue tags other than 'said', etc. As far as advice in querying, submissions, looking for agents, etc. you're gonna want to follow that. There are some exceptions to the rules, but very few. It's just the technical stuff of writing that you don't have to go with unless you want to.

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