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Thread: Is 'Just write it' ALWAYS good advice?

  1. #101
    Travel biologist, piss-poor fluffer quicklime's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hamilton View Post
    Yeah, I know it so much I started an entire thread about it.

    And your previous comment was still a really crappy thing to say.

    the thing is, he actually went and explained that (where the "just write it" advice tends to show up). So did several other posters.

    and you continued to argue about absolutes.


    So now you want to plead ignorance, but it sems sort of hard to argue you didn't know after folks have told you where it comes up and you've CONTINUED to argue. choose one, but you can't be both correct and a poor victimized soul here, you're trying to play both sides. Jim and others mentioned where the advice usually comes, why it is given, etc......so now either you understand, or you don't....but you DO know.
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  2. #102
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    Quote Originally Posted by RichardGarfinkle View Post
    That's why saying something on the order of, "This works for me, you might try it." is a good form of advice, but "Everyone must do this in order to write" is generally not.

    Or more bluntly:

    Subjunctive good.
    Imperative bad.
    Imperatives are bad no matter what the advice. I just figured that was understood. It's certainly stated often enough throughout the forums.
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  3. #103
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadowwalker View Post
    Imperatives are bad no matter what the advice. I just figured that was understood. It's certainly stated often enough throughout the forums.
    Sometimes new writers need to be reminded, though. Being new to the forums they don't always see where it's stated and re-emphasized.
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  4. #104
    practical experience, FTW Hamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by quicklime View Post
    the thing is, he actually went and explained that (where the "just write it" advice tends to show up). So did several other posters.

    and you continued to argue about absolutes.


    So now you want to plead ignorance, but it sems sort of hard to argue you didn't know after folks have told you where it comes up and you've CONTINUED to argue. choose one, but you can't be both correct and a poor victimized soul here, you're trying to play both sides. Jim and others mentioned where the advice usually comes, why it is given, etc......so now either you understand, or you don't....but you DO know.
    I'm not claiming ignorance. Before I started this thread I knew the justification for giving the "just write" advice, and that there are times when it's needed. I have never questioned that.

    But I do think that the "just write" advice is sometimes given too quickly, and if the wrong person takes it literally it could cause problems for them. Some in this thread have also argued that in most circumstances "just write" is still good advice, which I disagree with.

    I'm not oblivious to the reasoning behind "just write". I just think it's a response that sometimes looks like it's being given without enough consideration.

  5. #105
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hamilton View Post
    Touchy, touchy. No need to get personal. You were the one who decided to come into this thread.

    Really, though, I think this comment says a lot. Instead of actually admitting that "just write" isn't going to help someone with a specific problem they're trying to fix, you just threw up your hands and started making comments about me.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hamilton View Post

    And your previous comment was still a really crappy thing to say.
    Macdonald has been relentlessly courteous, and given you the experience of someone who has successfully made a living writing, someone who has taught and mentored hundreds of writers, and is saying whether you just write an outline or just write a draft, doesn't really matter.

    What matters is that writers write.

    I don't particularly give a damn whether you pants, or plotz.

    You will however, be courteous to your fellow members, including mods.
    Last edited by AW Admin; 01-16-2013 at 04:36 AM.
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  6. #106
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  7. #107
    Seashell Seller Layla Nahar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    ... this thread? lack of 'inciting incident'

    The OP there has a complete story, but is being paralysed by the perceived lack of an "inciting incident" (a term from academic criticism, as persons other than the author try to analyse a story). "Just write it" is excellent advice there, too.
    Interesting. From that poster's description it looked like she had a lot of ideas but lacked a viable story. I imagined that in such a situation (lack of a concrete idea of exactly how to get started) it would be very frustrating to hear 'just write it'.
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  8. #108
    Seashell Seller Layla Nahar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadowwalker View Post
    "just write" is telling people to shit or get off the pot.
    But maybe what the writer seeking advice really needs is a laxative...


    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow_Ferret View Post
    But as it turned out, forcing myself to write even when I had nothing to write, produced a binder full of nonsense.
    likewise

    Quote Originally Posted by quicklime View Post
    you toss that around like the group is a monolith; ...
    Anyone who's in this thread and guilty of suggesting to just write it, who's a plotter themselves, care to raise a hand?
    Addressing the OP's plotter/pantser take on this - I write my story as I go, and I find the 'just write' advice very hard to take. For me, if I could just write it, I'd be writing rather than asking for help.
    Last edited by Layla Nahar; 01-16-2013 at 06:08 AM.
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  9. #109
    practical experience, FTW Ken's Avatar
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    ... in a way it might be likened to asking somebody for directions and being told to "just drive," in some of the particular cases that have been mentioned here. But you know, some of that is the writer's doing. I've often read threads where a writer is stuck and doesn't really explain why. All the particulars are left out and yet they want specific direction and help. Just ain't possible to give that without disclosing more.

  10. #110
    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Layla Nahar View Post
    Interesting. From that poster's description it looked like she had a lot of ideas but lacked a viable story. I imagined that in such a situation (lack of a concrete idea of exactly how to get started) it would be very frustrating to hear 'just write it'.
    And perhaps the story will turn up as she writes

    perhaps not - depends on the sort if writer/person - bit from thte OP I'm not sure she knows her process yet and/or is stalled by planning. So writing the stuff she DOES know may help. It may not - depends on what sort of writer she is

    But then ALL Advice falls in that bracket, whatever that advice is

    Advice is EXACTLY the same as crits - take what is useful, discard the rest and say thanks. And yeah, perhaps a very young newbie might not get that advice is subjective, but anyone with experience of advice (like most people over ohhhhh 14 perhaps) will probably know...it isn't always all that. Take from it what is useful - it's a life skill tbh. Not rocket science.

    If they don't know that advice is subjective, the there is almost always someone else popping up in the thread to say 'try this instead'. Which is why AW is awesome... The only times I haven't seen that happen is when it is obvious (to to prolly everyone but the OP) that they are stalling.

    So given that 90% of threads with a 'just write' in also have a different viewpoint...what's the problem?




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  11. #111
    Seashell Seller Layla Nahar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Flibble View Post
    And perhaps the story will turn up as she writes
    Well, may I ask you - what do you suggest a person write in order to help the story turn up? (I'm not trying to be fresh/flippant. I'd really like to hear some ideas about this.)
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  12. #112
    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Layla Nahar View Post
    Well, may I ask you - what do you suggest a person write in order to help the story turn up? (I'm not trying to be fresh/flippant. I'd really like to hear some ideas about this.)

    Well I can't say for anyone else.

    Here's an example.

    So I needed X thing to happen, to wrap up a subplot. i had a vgue idea that X character would say...somethng. I ha a bgue idea bit...

    So I wrote it.

    Only when I came to write it, she said something totally different -- something that actual wrapped that sub plot better than anything else I'd planned. My subconscious? Perhaps? My muse? perhaps also. I don't care - I got the scene I wanted plus some.

    Just write like this:

    Character X needs/wants this
    Character Y is in opposition somehow

    So, being the person X is, what does he say/do?
    Being the person Y is, how does he react?

    Repeat...
    And there is your scene.
    Next scene? Then your character reacts to what happened in that scene
    If in doubt - what would your characters do now?

    PS people acting of screen/the villain also count as characters.
    Last edited by Mr Flibble; 01-16-2013 at 06:47 AM.




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  13. #113
    Seashell Seller Layla Nahar's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing that, Mr. Flibble!
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  14. #114
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken View Post
    ... in a way it might be likened to asking somebody for directions and being told to "just drive," in some of the particular cases that have been mentioned here. But you know, some of that is the writer's doing. I've often read threads where a writer is stuck and doesn't really explain why. All the particulars are left out and yet they want specific direction and help. Just ain't possible to give that without disclosing more.
    Ain't possible to learn how to drive without getting behind the wheel at some point, either.

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  15. #115
    Seashell Seller Layla Nahar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
    Ain't possible to learn how to drive without getting behind the wheel at some point, either.

    caw
    There is Driver's Ed to help you, and there are also driving schools. (& hope you'll excuse my pedantic nature here, but Ken's example was about asking for directions rather than about asking how to drive.)
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  16. #116
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    Quote Originally Posted by RichardGarfinkle View Post
    If you think it doesn't hurt to do it, think about someone who, if they thought it through more would produce good work, but pushed to write now, produces bilge and concludes that they can't write the story and gives up on it. That can and does hurt.
    Right, perhaps I wasn't clear enough in getting my idea across. What I said was that "just write it" is not always a good idea. If you have a thought for a project or a story or whatever it might be in your head that you need to think on some more, by all means, hold off on actually writing it.

    My advice was to "just write." If you feel that you can't write down the idea you still need to think on, write something everyday. As with anything else, the only way to get better at writing is to actually do it. I think most writers will agree with that. After all, you can't expect every word you put on the page to ooze with Shakespearean genius. That would be madness.

    The point of writing, at least at first, is to get the ideas on the page. Their not supposed to be perfect or even all that good at first. That's what the revision process is for.
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  17. #117
    Writer is as Writer does Terie's Avatar
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    Of course 'just write it' isn't ALWAYS good advice. This is why most of the threads here at AW don't contain the advice of 'just write it'. Duh.

    However, like it or not, sometimes, it really is the best advice, as has been explained repeatedly in this thread. Just because someone doesn't like the advice doesn't mean it's automatically wrong.

    This thread reminds me of the time a manager who worked in another region came to our office. She needed to get a taxi to the airport, and she asked the receptionist where to catch one. The receptionist told her, 'Go out the front door of the building and look to your right. You'll see the taxi rank about 30 meters down the road.' This wasn't good enough. The manager went to every single employee asking how to find the taxi rank. Every single one of us told her, 'Go out the front door of the building and look to your right. You'll see the taxi rank about 30 meters down the road.' But no matter how many of us told her that, it just wasn't good enough for her. She wanted more. Except in her case, 'Go out the front door of the building and look to your right; you'll see the taxi rank about 30 meters down the road,' was the exactly right advice.

    Which, sometimes, 'just write it' is, too.
    Last edited by Terie; 01-16-2013 at 12:47 PM.
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  18. #118
    practical experience, FTW Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
    Ain't possible to learn how to drive without getting behind the wheel at some point, either.

    caw
    ... you sure are clever when it comes to snide remarks.
    Maybe we'll change your name to Mockingbird.

    As to the content of your reply, I rather agree.
    But then I wasn't addressing writers who are merely inhibited for one reason and another.
    In that case, "just write" is a fine prescription.
    No one here is disputing that.

  19. #119
    So Goth That I Was Born Black AW Moderator Kitty27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hamilton View Post
    Of course you need to make your own decisions. But that doesn't mean we can't solicit advice on those decisions from others. Hell, maybe half of this forum is dedicated to just that.

    Yeah, I know it so much I started an entire thread about it.

    And your previous comment was still a really crappy thing to say.

    Please remember the #1 rule of AW and that is respect your fellow writer. You asked for advice and opinions, both of which you have received in a cordial manner.

    Please respond in kind.
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  20. #120
    Bronies, Bronies Everywhere acockey's Avatar
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    I'd like to add, that 'Just writing it' can lead you to wonder, and wondering about your story can lead to sequels/prequels
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  21. #121
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hamilton View Post
    On one extreme, complete pansters make decisions about what to write sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, scene by scene.
    I'm guessing you're not a pantser, because, no.

    I sometimes write as a complete pantser, but I write with the whole book in mind all the same.

  22. #122
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken View Post
    ... you sure are clever when it comes to snide remarks.
    Maybe we'll change your name to Mockingbird.

    Jesus. Seriously?

    Unnecessary and rude. How many mods need to show up here to remind people to RYFW, exactly?



    You know, take the advice that's useful and leave the rest. Give "just write it a try" and see if it works for you. If it does, you've learned something. If it doesn't, you've learned something.

    It's not rocket science. Writing is a process, and people have to figure out how to best serve their own process. They do that by actually, you know, writing, and seeing if they need additional thought beforehand or if they can just create something on the fly. They do it by experimenting, and for a writer that usually means writing and seeing how it goes.

    "Just write it" may not always be the best advice for a particular individual or situation, but it's hardly on the level of advising someone to go ahead and drink that antifreeze to see how it tastes, for research.

    All people can do is offer suggestions. Giving "just write it" a try never killed anyone. If it doesn't work they can come back and ask a more specific question.

    I'm just really not seeing where the personal offense comes from in being told that some people advise that to see if something writing-related will work, you should write it and see. Nobody's showing up at your house to make sure you're doing it, you know. And if "Just write it" won't work because you need to plot in advance, then say that when you ask, as in, "I've tried just writing it but I keep getting bogged down, so want to have a solid outline before I start. My character, X, does Y for a living and has stumbled on to a mystery involving A and B. C is the villain. I want to make clear that C wants to destroy the world; any ideas for a scene I can add that will show that?"


    I included a lot of detail there because when asking for advice, information is needed. If you need specific advice you need to ask a specific question, otherwise how can anyone advise you? Asking "Can Character X do B?" is bound to get you "Write it and see" advice, because A) Any character can do anything as long as it's written/handled well; and B) How the heck do we know what your characters are capable of?
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  23. #123
    So Goth That I Was Born Black AW Moderator Kitty27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken View Post
    ... you sure are clever when it comes to snide remarks.
    Maybe we'll change your name to Mockingbird.

    As to the content of your reply, I rather agree.
    But then I wasn't addressing writers who are merely inhibited for one reason and another.
    In that case, "just write" is a fine prescription.
    No one here is disputing that.

    As Admin and Stacia have done, I am again reminding y'all to remember the rules of AW. Respect your fellow writer.

    Period.
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  24. #124
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Layla Nahar View Post
    Interesting. From that poster's description it looked like she had a lot of ideas but lacked a viable story. I imagined that in such a situation (lack of a concrete idea of exactly how to get started) it would be very frustrating to hear 'just write it'.
    Oh, she's got a viable story.

    In her world, magic is returning.

    Main character's grandmother vanishes.

    Main character has a need: Needs to find granny.

    Main character has a problem: The old rules don't work any more.

    Conclusion: If this is a short story, either the main character finds granny, or she doesn't.

    If this is a novel either she finds granny, or she doesn't, and this leads to a new, different, and even greater problem. Repeat for another 300 pages.

    As to how to start the story, anything at all will do. The main character can go out for pizza. As long as the character is moving it doesn't matter.

    What should that author do? She should write her story. Being paralysed by the thought, "I must find an inciting incident!" is what's stopping her. Being told "An inciting incident isn't necessary; start wherever you'd like and just write it" is exactly what she needs to hear, and to do.

  25. #125
    Girl Detective AW Moderator Stacia Kane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hamilton View Post
    I think I've figured out my issue with 'just write' being advised to readily:

    You can't "just write" until you've made a decision about what to write, even if it's just the next sentence.

    On one extreme, complete pansters make decisions about what to write sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, scene by scene.

    On the other extreme, complete plotters make as many decisions as possible before they start writing. When they do start writing, they're only making small scale decisions, like how to phrase dialogue or describe specific actions.
    Quote Originally Posted by Buffysquirrel View Post
    I'm guessing you're not a pantser, because, no.

    I sometimes write as a complete pantser, but I write with the whole book in mind all the same.

    As Buffysquirrel says, no. I'm a pantser. Not only am I writing with the whole book in mind, but as I write I'm making word choices only, pretty much. I'm usually not consciously making story decisions with every word or sentence. I'm just letting it flow. If anything I'm NOT thinking, more than thinking of everything in minute details.

    I'm making the exact same decisions, as a pantser, as the ones you've described for your complete plotters. Exactly the same.

    The decisions about where to go next come after I've finished a particular scene, not during it.

    No offense, but if you haven't done it and don't understand the process, don't make blanket statements about how it works.

    And those complete plotters who make all the decisions ahead of time still have to make those decisions, write them, and see whether or not they worked. Having a perfectly plotted outline doesn't mean the book will work once written. Nor does it mean the book will be any good. Nor does it mean the book won't need editing.

    You won't know any of that until the book is written.



    Quote Originally Posted by Hamilton View Post
    Telling a plotter to "just write" before they're done with a plot outline isn't just useless advice; it can be harmful advice. You can't just make the assumption that everyone's process is the same as your own, and anyone putting off writing is doing it for no good reason.
    How is it harmful? Because they try to write it and find they're stuck and need to work more on their outline? Is that harmful or helpful? Or maybe because they learn they can stray from their outline? Or maybe they learn they have a hard time pantsing and so need the outline? All of those are valuable things to know.

    Advising someone to JWI isn't the same as assuming their process is the same as your own. It's offering what worked for you. Nobody here advises JWI with the intention of making the OP feel stupid or small. We're not rubbing our hands together with glee at the idea of ruining somebody's book. We're trying to help. We're giving advice we've seen work, that works for us. (Personally, if a whole bunch of people were advising me to do something, I'd try it, thinking perhaps they're right. But that may be just me.) It's free, no-obligation advice, and for that price no one is obligated, either, to spend hours investigating the OP's specific process. (I also point out that there seem to be more pantsers than plotters here; what advice do you expect us to give?)

    And again, if you don't like the advice, ignore it. If you try it and it doesn't work for you, say so. Nobody's going to check up to make sure you did what they suggested. Nobody's going to call you names if you try it and it doesn't work.

    But the fact remains that even those who use outlines often tell people to just write it. Because at some point you have to.

    And because you can't edit unless you have a draft.

    And because sometimes just writing will teach you something about the story or kick-start your mind into solving that plot problem/character issue.

    And because no matter how good your outline is, you never truly know if that will translate to "good book" until the book is actually written.
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