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Nakhlasmoke
07-29-2008, 04:33 PM
I was skimming through some old threads - talking about craft, voice, pacing and so on, and I realised that I have no idea what I'm doing.

Somehow I doubt I'm the only one who writes instinctively. I don't set out to write a particular character type, I don't have an outline, I don't know jack about pacing, about style, about voice.

What I do is sit down and write. Some stuff works, and I keep that, other stuff doesn't and I cull it. The rest I tweak until I'm happyish. But if you ask me why one line lived when another had to die, I won't be able to explain it to you.

Okay, that makes me sound like an artsy-fartsy hand-wavy Literary Genius (tm), oops. I promise you that I'm not.

How do you guys as writers know how to tackle a story, and what techniques to use to make it a better book? Is it an innate ability that just needs to be honed, or is it something that you can learn?

CaroGirl
07-29-2008, 04:41 PM
Yes. A lot of writing is instinct. Knowing what works and what doesn't. This tends to come from reading. A lot. Reading both the best and a little of the worst, and reading within and outside your genre.

The way to hone a skill and learn a craft is then to do it. Writing helps you improve.

Analyzing every step is a very 21st century concept. We analyze everything from our diet to parenting to sport fishing. Instead of trusting our common sense, we dissect things to death. For better or worse. I don't know if this kind of analysis makes us better writers or just ones who are more aware of the writing vernacular.

sheadakota
07-29-2008, 04:48 PM
I am not an analyzer- I do what you do- just write until it feels right to me- I don't have any degrees in writing or fine arts, I just have this overwhelming need to tell a story. Whether that story is good or not- well thats debatable, but I still need to write it and I do not take it apart and look at every aspect of it- If it looks like I do, it is simply an accident:tongue

narnia
07-29-2008, 04:55 PM
I am so glad someone else feels the way I do! When I read through the threads I not only feel unworthy, I also feel a little bubble of panic start to rise up from my innards :) that threatens to put the kibosh on any plans I may have for getting my first novel published (and hopefully many more!).

At the risk of sounding, well, odd, when I write it is as if I am watching a movie. I see what is going on and I write it down. Sometimes it flows easily, sometimes I need to replay the scene in my head or put it on slo-mo while I capture in words what I see in my head. And I also 'act out' my scenes if need be to get the description right. I have one scene where a person gets impaled 'accidentally' and I made one of my tenants be the impalee so I could get the motion right. (Maybe that's why he moved out ... :Wha:)

I don't outline, but I do make notes on what should/will/could happen and a lot of what/ifs/then/else.

I would love to believe that writing is instinctive for me. The best cure for that nonsense is putting something up in SYW. :D

Seriously, though, I do believe that there is a fair amount of instinctiveness that goes into your writing, and what we have learned during the course of our path through life enhances (or detracts from in some cases I am sure) the level. For example, if you were a good student of grammar/spelling etc., the ease of use re these skills can grease the wheels in that, for example, you are not hung up on language issues as a rule. I hope that makes sense! :tongue Similarly someone who is more observant will find description easier, or someone who loves puzzles would find those puzzle-solving skills may enhance their plotting. Of course, this is just my very humble opinion, and your mileage may vary.

:Sun:

citymouse
07-29-2008, 04:57 PM
N, So you don't know what you're doing, eh? Balderdash! I read Heirloom Visions, just briefly because I'm not a fan of fantasy, a few paragraphs. Breathtaking. Being heavily dyslexic, at first read I thought the firework kissed the sky rather than hissed. I wish it had been kissed but that is what screwy eyes do. For my money your imagery is as good as it gets.
Anyway, there are many people here far more savvy than I but I believe you should set right off and prepare an anthology; if you haven't already that is.
BTW, I rarely comment directly on another author's work. Not because I'm so much of a much but comments, no matter how well informed, are still subjective.
C



I was skimming through some old threads - talking about craft, voice, pacing and so on, and I realised that I have no idea what I'm doing.

Somehow I doubt I'm the only one who writes instinctively. I don't set out to write a particular character type, I don't have an outline, I don't know jack about pacing, about style, about voice.

What I do is sit down and write. Some stuff works, and I keep that, other stuff doesn't and I cull it. The rest I tweak until I'm happyish. But if you ask me why one line lived when another had to die, I won't be able to explain it to you.

Okay, that makes me sound like an artsy-fatsy hand-wavy Literary Genius (tm), oops. I promise you that I'm not.

How do you guys as writers know how to tackle a story, and what techniques to use to make it a better book? Is it an innate ability that just needs to be honed, or is it something that you can learn?

akiwiguy
07-29-2008, 05:08 PM
To be honest, if it works fo ryou then it sounds pretty damned good.

I often feel as though for me the writing process has two different aspects, really those that you're describing.

Perhaps, if I think about it, I tend to draft quite intuitively, by feel. But revision and editing is perhaps where I'd tend to be more technically critical. It's interesting to look back at old work sometimes, perhaps stuff that seemed great at the time, and realise that it not only reads pretty badly, but exactly why it does. And I think that is often that by some means or another we have learned better specific techniques. So we've gone beyond "oh my God, that's pretty awful" to "I know exactly why that's not so good, and if I rewrote it I know exactly what I need to change."

Often I wonder if people who feel less absorbed in learning techniques of the craft are still doing so but in a more subconscious and less deliberate way, perhaps even simply by reading good literature, or as others have said, in simply writing. Most likely we're all probably quite different in terms of what works for us.

Nakhlasmoke
07-29-2008, 05:09 PM
I think Shaedakota actually nailed what I was trying to say - about the analysing.

And yeah, I've also felt very small and useless when i read all these threads about how to tackle this or that and realise that I don't put that kind of conscious thought into my writing.

Glad to hear it confirmed that I'm not the only one who writes like this.

And City Mouse - yey for ego boostage - sweet!

Nicki B
07-29-2008, 05:37 PM
I'm absolutely guilty of just randomly writing down any thoughts that come into my head - and even those that don't. It's amazing to review something I've written, and I'm trying to remember exactly from where it came. Well, I did take a peek at your writing - I agree completely with Citymouse, just don't ask me to put it in any comprehensible words at 6:40 in the morning.

IceCreamEmpress
07-29-2008, 05:40 PM
This is one of the reasons it's hard to teach writing. Often, I've found myself working backwards, trying to retrospectively create a recipe for something I did when I was just winging it.

Nakhlasmoke
07-29-2008, 05:49 PM
This is one of the reasons it's hard to teach writing. Often, I've found myself working backwards, trying to retrospectively create a recipe for something I did when I was just winging it.

That's very interesting. Did you find it hard to get the concepts across, or is it pretty easy for you to see what you did and pin a why to it?

I remember doing something similar in school for creative writing, where I'd write the required outline (that had to be handed in with the actual piece) after I was done.

underthecity
07-29-2008, 08:00 PM
Thank goodness I'm not the only one who does this. I thought I was in a vast minority.

Sargentodiaz
07-29-2008, 08:07 PM
As I've often said at other times, to me the most important part is to TELL YOUR STORY and then worry about the rest! Do it like you're telling someone the story in your natural voice and manner.

ink wench
07-29-2008, 08:29 PM
I love threads like this. They make me realize I'm not alone. :) (Although I do outline, but stories come to me like watching a picture come into focus - blurry but all at once. So that first, very blurry draft becomes my outline.)

Nakhlasmoke
07-29-2008, 08:35 PM
I love threads like this. They make me realize I'm not alone. :) (Although I do outline, but stories come to me like watching a picture come into focus - blurry but all at once. So that first, very blurry draft becomes my outline.)

Yeah, I've just taken to calling my first draft a very detailed outline, that way I don't have to worry about coming across like a pantser, even though I am. :P

Cranky
07-29-2008, 08:39 PM
That's how I write everything...maybe a synopsis or a detailed outline that's more like a first draft.

I generally try to save the analysis for completed works or, in my own work, when I get stuck and I can't figure out why. :)

Jersey Chick
07-29-2008, 08:54 PM
I'm the same way - I just write. I learned the hard way that I can't analyze everything until after I'm done with the first draft. I get blocked when I try to make sure I'm concentrating on voice, and pacing, and all that stuff I never gave a thought to before now. It stops me dead and makes my writing stiff and dull.

I figured I was the only one who did this - it's so nice to know I'm not. :D

Quossum
07-29-2008, 09:25 PM
Interesting. This is sort of like the debate between teaching kids to read by Phonics or by Whole Word.

Much simplified:

Whole Word proponents would say that reading happens more or less "instinctively" as children are read to and recognize text; they learn to read by recognizing whole words. Remeber "sight words" lists?

Phonics proponents take a more deconstructionist approach. Take some good readers, figure out exactly what it is they do when they read, and then try to teach kids to read by teaching them those skills that good readers do.

So...can one be a "good writer" by studying all the component skills that make up good writing and trying to consciously do them? Or does one become a good writer by writing (and reading) a lot and getting an instinctive "feel" for it?

--Q

tehuti88
07-29-2008, 09:30 PM
I'm afraid I haven't really any advice, I just know where you're coming from in your original post. I don't tend to "set out" to write certain things in a certain way; it'd end up too forced. I just write the way I want to write. AFTERWARDS, I might analyze things, but during the writing process, for the most part it's just "instinctual."

I think the best way to learn how to write well, to write better, is to just keep writing, and working on improving (i. e., don't be afraid to look back on older work and change things). Some of it might be innate, but some other things can definitely be honed and learned. I've always found writing to be easy, but that doesn't mean I'm not still learning.

Mr. Anonymous
07-29-2008, 09:34 PM
I'm pretty similar in that capacity as well. I don't really do outlines. Or rather, I do, to an extent. But they're all in my head. I try to mull over the story as much as possible, and then I just write. And no matter how many details I put into my imaginary outline, there are tons of things that I add in or take out on the fly.

tehuti88
07-29-2008, 09:35 PM
So...can one be a "good writer" by studying all the component skills that make up good writing and trying to consciously do them? Or does one become a good writer by writing (and reading) a lot and getting an instinctive "feel" for it?

Both. :D

I think one method might work better for one person, the other for another, while for some it might be a combination or neither. Everybody thinks and learns differently. The sad thing is, most teaching situations can't be geared toward every individual person and their learning method.

I remember wondering what the heck was the point of "Phonics" when I was in elementary school. It never occurred to me what I was actually learning, if I was even learning anything at all! I just found it dull and tedious. I've never heard of this other technique, maybe they should have tried that on me. :D

KTC
07-29-2008, 09:46 PM
I was skimming through some old threads - talking about craft, voice, pacing and so on, and I realised that I have no idea what I'm doing.

Somehow I doubt I'm the only one who writes instinctively. I don't set out to write a particular character type, I don't have an outline, I don't know jack about pacing, about style, about voice.

What I do is sit down and write. Some stuff works, and I keep that, other stuff doesn't and I cull it. The rest I tweak until I'm happyish. But if you ask me why one line lived when another had to die, I won't be able to explain it to you.

Okay, that makes me sound like an artsy-fartsy hand-wavy Literary Genius (tm), oops. I promise you that I'm not.

How do you guys as writers know how to tackle a story, and what techniques to use to make it a better book? Is it an innate ability that just needs to be honed, or is it something that you can learn?

I do it exactly like you do it. I go in naked and come out with a story. I've been called artsy fartsy since I was old enough to wield a paintbrush, so that moniker don't bother me none.

Every writer is going to do it differently. I love not knowing what the hell I'm doing. Just write and it will come out. I shudder at the mere suggestion of outlining. To me, they are creativity killers. To another writer, they are probably the pudding.

Danger Jane
07-29-2008, 10:29 PM
I used to be like that--totally organic and intuitive, I knew when something worked and when it didn't pretty well, but I wasn't always sure why beyond "this version has fewer words."

Egotistical as it sounds, I learned a lot from dissecting my stories, characters, themes. It's easier to do sometimes than to take apart someone else's story because it's my own. Then my wheels get turning. How can I highlight this theme better? This character trait? Would contrasting element A or complementary element B work better in this scene?

And now it seems like my map has some sidestreets on it. Not just two points. I still feel like I'm a pretty intuitive writer, but even as I'm writing a first draft, I'm starting to think about structure and theme and "all that stuff". It's interesting to watch myself evolve.

katiemac
07-29-2008, 10:41 PM
That's very interesting. Did you find it hard to get the concepts across, or is it pretty easy for you to see what you did and pin a why to it?

I remember doing something similar in school for creative writing, where I'd write the required outline (that had to be handed in with the actual piece) after I was done.

Part of me believes writing is a largely subconscious thing. Kind of like the entire story already exists in you, and you're only relaying it piece by piece as it comes to you. So because a story already exists as this stream-lined creation, when you're finished you'll be able to go back and understand why plot A had to happen before B.

I think some people who outline can pick up on the entire structure of their subconscious story right away, others have to work through it to figure out where it's headed.