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Trab

Effort, critique, and then ?

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I have no idea if I'm any good at writing. My guess has always been no, but very recently I wrote a report for someone, and was told it was brilliant.

That surprised me, since I'm very critical of my own work, and of course I had thought it was pure drivel. It made me rethink my position on my own capabilities. I have no illusions about how badly I may write. Nevertheless, I started to think, just maybe I can get an opinion from some people who are more in tune with the writing arena, namely, you folks.

I would like to know if it is permissible to post a few words in this forum, for an honest assessment of my short work. It is very personal, but I don't think I could ever write something that isn't. But as long as my right to hold my feelings is respected, I am willing to hear what is thought.

Is this request appropriate? :?:

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I would like to know if it is permissible to post a few words in this forum, for an honest assessment of my short work. It is very personal, but I don't think I could ever write something that isn't. But as long as my right to hold my feelings is respected, I am willing to hear what is thought.

Is this request appropriate?  :?:

Sure you may post a few words. I think words 17, 32, 48, and 137 will suffice. If you insist word number 208 would be okay as well.

Seriously, that's exactly what this is for I believe. I am not sure what the permissible post length is. But if you wait Dude or Blue will answer. I'm sure we'd all like a chance to give our two cents (we're all opinionated in case you didn't notice).

-- wbms (aka Resident Smart Arse)

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Tragic Rabbit is the moderator for this category, so I'd say it's his and Dude's final say. In my opinion, you're welcome to post something brief for a critique, as long as it respects others in the forum, and general forum rules, just as you'd want the respect of others. The site and forum are intended to encourage good writing.

I'm sure WBMS felt word 42 was overused, and perhaps word 0 also. I might also find word 2003 a bit over-used. :) Pardon the cheeky humor, Trab, it's meant in an inclusive, welcoming way.

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I'm not at all intimidated nor do I feel excluded by your comments Blue. I can read how you all kibitz with each other all the time, and it is nice to be included, even if only peripherally. :p

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Don't ever presume that what you write is crap, right out of the gate. You never know; genius can spring out, fully-formed, once in a blue moon.

But you gotta know that most great writers are made, not born. It takes a lot of effort in your craft to make your writing good over time. As far as I'm concerned, it's a skill like anything else, and it takes practice and determination to get good at it.

If you're currently going to school, take some writing classes and see what your teachers think. (Not that they're necessarily any good; I battled with my high school creative writing teacher for a whole semester, but then was told by a college teacher my stuff was terrific. So different teachers have very different impressions. I tend to side with the latter more than the former.)

If you aren't going to school, read some good books on writing and compare the examples to your stuff. I'll repost my Gay Writing Tips piece when I get a chance, and even if you disregard my advice there, at least read the reference books I recommend. I can tell you my own work improved at least 30% after reading them, and they gave me lessons and advice I never could have figured out on my own.

--Pecman

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The Pecman:  I'll repost my Gay Writing Tips piece when I get a chance

Pecman's Gay Writing Tips are in the Essay Pages of the main site... but it probably wouldn't hurt to post again here at the Writers' Workshop.

:faroah:

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What I did when I started writing was to imagine a scene, and then write it and to see if I was able to portray the emotion/feelings I wanted to. I was happy enough with the result to try writing the full story.

I'd suggest doing the same. Find a scene and write it up. If you are happy that it says what you want (and you can post it here for additional comments, if you like), then go ahead.

Graeme

PS: The scene that I wrote first is now in New Brother at the end of chapter 8 -- the scene where Ian Ashton tells David about his experiences with gays. It's vastly improved from the original I wrote, but the basics were all there.

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PS: The scene that I wrote first is now in New Brother at the end of chapter 8 -- the scene where Ian Ashton tells David about his experiences with gays. It's vastly improved from the original I wrote, but the basics were all there.

That's enlightening; thanks for sharing that.


Becoming Comfortable Writing

:arrow: Write as though you are talking to your readers, telling them the story in person. That may make it easier at first, until you get comfortable with different tones.

:arrow: Writing is a form of pretending. The writer just puts down in words what he experiences, what the characters are saying, doing, thinking, and feeling, and what the setting is and what's happening there. Writers often write to get a scene or a character on paper. They say, "I had to write it, the character wouldn't shut up and the scene wouldn't leave my head." Writing is like having imaginary friends or multiple personalities, only the writer knows they're all made up, and writing it out solves it; it's healthy.

:arrow: Writing takes practice. Don't expect yourself to be instantly as good as your favorite authors. You will get better and more comfortable as you go. Don't look at your writing and automatically think it's crap. Usually, there's something there. You'll learn what's golden and what's crap as you go. Don't defeat yourself by being that insecure about your writing ability. New writers (any artists) often are terribly insecure and think their stuff is no good, when in fact, it only needs to be chiselled and polished some more.

:arrow: Other writers, beta-readers, and editors will point out what they liked and disliked, and any errors, and often can help you figure out how to solve a writing problem.

:arrow: It can be a mixed bag to tell a teacher that you want to write. Just beware the prof who has no talent and tears your work to shreds without helpful criticism. I had helpful profs, mostly. Some were encouraging. Some were tough but made you learn what to do and why.

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Firstly, I am not in school, and have written countless minutes of meetings, news reports for newsletters, and summaries of events for friends. My style is basically to get the content into the least number of words, which is a severely limiting skill in the writing of a novel. I would probably be excellent at writing those little tidbits that get printed on the back covers of pocketbooks.

That said, I have no great desire to spend hours, days, weeks, months, and God help me, years composing a storyline. The reason for being down on my ability is not due to lack of some writing skill as a technical feat, but rather my inability to imagine anything at all. In the previous forum there was a thread about 'master storyteller' and I stated that I think a master storyteller is someone who can make anything seem interesting. I seem to be the reciprocal of the master storyteller, having honed my skills at making anything interesting seem boring and dull, albeit brief and factual. :(

The question for me is whether or not I can utilize some of my abilities in order to express internal issues, without any need to have any imagination, since I'm reporting directly on my feelings and thoughts.

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My style is basically to get the content into the least number of words, which is a severely limiting skill in the writing of a novel.

Hah! Would that more people wrote like this -- it'd save an awful lot of trees and leave us with far fewer books suitable for mugging people on the shelves.

Terse has been, up until relatively recently, a virtue. Many of the novels I really enjoy are short but that doesn't in any way detract from their quality or the enjoyment they bring. Most of the truly great novels from the '60s science fiction and fantasy revival (from people like, say, Roger Zelazny or Ursula K. LeGuinn) would be considered tiny today, as would many of the great pulp (yeah, I know, oxymoron -- deal with it :p) novels of the '30s and '40s.

Terse is not bad. It is just different.

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Plink. A droplet hits my camera. Strange. Where did that come from? Can we be getting rain? The winter sky is clear; the winds are calm. Another. What is going on? I look up and see?sun. I feel a coolness on my cheek. Oh my God. I?m crying!

The breakwater, warm beneath me, holds me firm; I cannot sink into the earth. The rough concrete eats into my butt, as I cave inwards, imploding, a black hole, dying. Shudders wrack my body, heaving sobs tear from me, and I am alone. There is no-one to hold me, comfort me, console me. I am alone. Alone. So alone. And yet?

Far down the breakwater, the sound of laughter, joy, togetherness. Friends, on bikes, approach. They stop, to jump their bikes from breakwater to dead fallen trees, giants awash in sand and flotsam, balancing?just so. Failing to fall, and failing miserably. Youthful beauty, vigorous enthusiasm, life celebrated second by second. Strong limbs, glorious smiles, happiness and contentment. I revel in their joy, drink in their beauty, silence my pain.

They see me, and joy, they do not turn away. They perform their acrobatics right before me, turning me into an audience of one. Sleek, and powerful, they cavort, proud in their masculinity. Then?they are done.

?I hope you got some good pictures!? was thrown my way as they sped off, towards the distance sun.

Plink. A droplet hits my unused camera. Strange. Where did that come from? I am feeling great; it cannot be me. Shudders wrack my body; heaving sobs tear from me, as I am? alone.

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Terse can be good, sometimes not. Clear?

I believe you mean 'brief', not 'terse'. 'Terse' suggests rudeness, among other things, I think you are referring strictly to short length. I don't think 'terse' would ever be good in a novel, I'm not even sure what sort of novel you could apply that word to. I see it listed as a synonym for 'brief' here online but it's not, it has too many other shades to it. You have to use care with synonym lists, temper them with your own knowledge of words and, when you don't recognize one, refrain from using it. A lot of listed synonyms have similar denotations but dissimilar connotations.

Some of the books you refer to were written with precise word count limits by the 'pulp' publishers so might in no way indicate the author's actual intent or preference. And overlong novels are nothing new, ever read Solzthenitzyn (or other Russian novelists), Joyce's Ulysses, Balzac, or...who is that famous 19th c. guy who churned out hefty romances like clockwork?

The idea of least number of words is a hallmark of several authors, not least among them Hemmingway or, to a lesser extent, Faulkner. For a modern writer who can make 'anything interesting', I'd suggest Anne Tyler, who writes about extremely ordinary family events with a tender, heartfelt appreciation for same.

As forum moderator, I give you permission (I'm not sure you really needed permission) to post little things for critique but I'm not sure that's helpful on the road to actually completing fiction works. Wouldn't it be better to actually write a short story or at least begin a novel, then post it and look for critique? I think the storyline or characterization would be areas where you'd be looking for improvement, from what you say, so a few descriptive paragraphs wouldn't really help anyone help you. But, as I say, feel free.

What you've posted is okay as a description to begin a scene, but doesn't go far to tell us what kind of story you might produce. Some don't like the use of italics like this (not me, I use them myself) and the alone-ness of the narrator might be a little heavy handed. Maybe you could show rather than tell? For myself, I'd rather intuit sadness or loneliness from the text, rather than have it spelled out so directly.

If you tell the reader everything, where's the fun of reading?

TR

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Good points all.

And I particularly agree that terse is not the same as brief. I don't even like brief when it comes to a story, although wandering on forever with descriptive phrases doesn't make the story better either. There needs to be a fine line drawn, but I freely admit I'm not the best one to decide where that line should be drawn.

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My style is basically to get the content into the least number of words, which is a severely limiting skill in the writing of a novel.

Ah, but that can be a good thing. Ernest Hemingway was known for writing very sparse, almost-terse novels, and are a model of showing how you can omit all the fat from a story and still have lots of meat, good characters, and compelling plotlines.

The reason for being down on my ability is not due to lack of some writing skill as a technical feat, but rather my inability to imagine anything at all.  ...I seem to be the reciprocal of the master storyteller, having honed my skills at making anything interesting seem boring and dull, albeit brief and factual.

Not having a good imagination is a big problem! But I believe writing is a skill like anything else, and even if you know going in that you're never going to become another Stephen King or JK Rowling, you can still become at least a good journeyman wordsmith (which is how I'd characterize myself).

I spent many years writing technical articles and reviews, and it was always a chore to take dull, boring factual information and try to make it interesting. Only in the last five years (after all the magazines I wrote for went out of business) did I turn my attention to fiction. My friends who've read my stuff have been bowled-over by the fact that my previous work was very nuts-and-bolts, concerned totally with technology and the inner workings of everything from computers to DVD players. But my fiction turned out to be far more emotional, much more about human feeling and experiences than anything else. One told me, "it's like you've hidden this secret identity for years," which I took as a compliment.

I guess what I discovered in the writing process is that maybe what's in my subconcious is going to bubble up no matter what I do, and you might find the same thing. And even if your skills don't lend themselves to writing long novels, there's a fine art in knowing how to write entertaining short stories. Hell, even I haven't attempted to do a short story, because most of the ideas I've had are too broad.

My bottom-line advice would be to read the references I gave in the Gay Writing Tips piece. I'll repost that here, and you can pick up the books that interest you. Those will provide infinitely better advice than anything anybody can tell you in a brief message on a bulletin board like this.

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