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How to practice


Not sure if this is the right forum, but thought it seemed ok.

So here I am, with no real experience and just a desire to put some stories on paper. How do I go about practicing? I'm going to do the exercises. But what do I do with feedback? Do I take it and use it on the next story or do I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite something until it's "done"? I can see merit in both approaches.

How do you exercise your writing muscle? I'm talking about when working on things that will likely never see any coverage beyond this board or your own eyes.
1/13/2012, 3:25 am Link to this post Email TexasMadness   PM TexasMadness
 
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Knight of Honor
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Re: How to practice


Well, you're talking about two different kinds of "practicing".

One is just practicing getting the words on the page in some sort of a coherent order at reasonable speed. That's more important than it sounds sometimes, since everyone gets some form of writer's block (I get writer's disinterest) sometimes, and a lot of people get it more often when they start than after they're more used to writing. So to "practice" this, what's important is just that you write. The practice exercises are good for this, since they give just enough topic and motivation to get started, without limiting your imagination. And for this, you don't need reviewers or time spent editing.

On the other hand, it's also helpful to practice "real" writing. The type you might someday want to publish or show someone you know in real (ie: non-internet) life. This is sort of a second step, once you're comfortable just writing for yourself, I think. For this, it's important to practice three more skills:
  1.) Editing your own work.
  2.) Getting used to someone else editing/reviewing your work, and learning how to deal with reasonable criticism.
  3.) Not over-editing (ie: obsessing about) your work.

#1 is something you just need to practice. My best advice is to read your story aloud to yourself, like it's a play. Act out the dialogue to make sure it's natural. Reading aloud will also help prevent you from mentally skipping over typos and repeated words and such. From what little I've read of your writing, you won't have massive grammatical mistakes in anything you write, so you're safe on that front, at least. It's just a matter of making it sound "right" and being sure there aren't any glaring holes in what you've written.

For #2, you obviously need some help from others. You can post things here, or on places like [sign in to see URL] (though reviews there are hit-and-miss, alas), or ask a friend to help. If you're doing the practices here, obviously post your results there. When you get to the point of writing something else, we've got a "practice hall" to place things like that (you'll have to ask Firle for entry). One thing I'll mention, just in general, is that my experience has been that the better and more often you review other people's works, the better and more often they'll review yours. (That's particularly true in larger forums like Fictionpress.)

For a lot of people, #3 is actually the hardest. If you have trouble putting down the red pen and just calling a story "complete", I would strongly suggest training yourself to do it with short stories, not novels! That's because novels always require re-writes of previous chapters, and a lot of people get stuck on that, and never write any new chapters after number 6 or so. On the other hand, short stories can often be drafted in one or two sittings, and then edited later. If this is your problem, practice learning to self-edit and accept completion by starting short and writing longer and longer pieces. And MAKE yourself finish them and put them in a separate "completed" directory on your computer.

Anyhow, you asked what to do with feedback. That depends on what type of "practice" you're doing. If I was you, I think I'd probably take the feedback on a short story and apply it to that story. ONCE. Give your rough draft one run through of editing. And then, unless it's something you're actually thinking about publishing or showing to someone else, I'd just leave it alone after that. I think it's good practice to correct your own stories, but you don't want to get so bogged down that you don't have time or the mental effort to write new ones! The only time you want to do the "rewrite and rewrite and rewrite something until it's "done"" type of editing is if you're preparing for publication. Otherwise, make one set of changes, and then set it aside, to apply your newly-broadened experience to the next story.

Hope that helps!

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1/13/2012, 3:53 pm Link to this post Email Reythia   PM Reythia AIM MSN
 
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Lady of the Land
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Re: How to practice


Reythia did it perfectly! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

What I would like to add is another step:

4) Submit your stories.

After you've gotten feedback and edited a story, don't just let it rot on your hard drive. Send it out to magazines (I can help you choose some, plus there are listings here on the board), and get real editor feedback. And with luck, you'll get a story or two published - and that feeling is just great.

 emoticon

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1/13/2012, 4:11 pm Link to this post Email Firlefanz   PM Firlefanz Blog
 
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Re: How to practice


Wow, excellent advice! I didn't even think of doing both things. Obviously, you should always use previous lessons learned on your next set of writing, but I didn't "get" the whole thing about editing.

And I'm the one that gets stuck on #3. That's what happened with my NaNo story. I couldn't get the first few paragraphs "right", so I couldn't move on at all! I felt the story would never develop if the opening wasn't just so.

Thanks for the tips. I'm looking forward to this adventure. I can easily see my weakness (or at least some of them) so hopefully I can work on them.
1/13/2012, 4:19 pm Link to this post Email TexasMadness   PM TexasMadness
 
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Re: How to practice


Always remember: You cannot edit a blank page. emoticon

So even if you write something bad, it's better than not writing at all. It gives you something to work with.

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Knight of Honor
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Re: How to practice


The answer to #3 really is just to FORCE yourself not to over-edit. I'm afraid there's no real trick to it.

Here's the way I edit, if I'm writing something that takes me more than a single sitting. It may or may not work for you, though. I do it in several parts.

First: Write the first day's sitting without editing at all. I mean, sure, correct your typos and if you have a brilliant idea, restart the paragraph or move it around. But that's just the process of writing. Do NOT go back and actively edit anything. Just write. It won't be perfect, but that's okay for now.

Second: If you're writing a longer piece, do your best to end at a logical dividing point. If it's a novel, stop at the end of a chapter. For short stories, stop at the end of a section, or a persona shift, or just where one thing stops and another starts up. You'll feel more satisfied when you're done writing, because you'll have FINISHED something, rather than just continuing something, if that makes sense.

Third: At the end of any sitting's writing, write yourself a list of 2-5 notes. Things that you want to write about next time. For example, when I was writing "Kalla's Falls", I wrote something like:

quote:

Girls follow C out to bridge to watch end of climb.
High-priestess attacks J&R (or has attacked).
Leslie is in on it and kills Michelle, et al.
Unexpected!!!



That's usually enough for me for short stories, unless there's something really twisted going on. For my novels, I usually keep a page at the end where I can scribbled down ideas for future chapters, just so I don't forget them. And I also write a few lines at the end of each sitting, specifically about the very next section. The reason I do this is so that the next time I begin to write, I have a good place to start. It gets my brain going and my imagination fired up in the right way. Because if you don't know what you really want to say, that's when you start over-editing, I find.

Fourth: When you go to write the next time, start by re-reading ONLY the previous section. ONLY the part you've written the previous sitting. It's important that you do some re-reading for two reasons. First, because it gives you a chance to edit and get the really painful mistakes out of your work. Second, and more importantly, it gets your mind back into the world that you're creating. When you re-read, make obvious fixes, correct single words and sentences. But don't let yourself re-write the whole thing or even a whole paragraph. If there's something major wrong, or if a big section feels awkward but you can't figure out WHY, just write yourself a note (in colored text) so you remember to fix it later. That should be enough to let you move on and get writing new stuff. And again, once you're done re-reading and are writing that new stuff, there's no serious editing allowed.

Fifth: After the WHOLE story is done (or at least a huge chunk of it, if you're doing a novel), THEN you can re-read and seriously edit it. It's really good to leave that to the end, rather than spending a lot of time doing it continually. Maybe you'll find that you need to add some new information into earlier sections, to explain what you wrote at the end. There'd have been no point working hard to edit that earlier section, since you're going to have to change it now! And of course, as you go through, you'll find all your notes to yourself. Now that the story's done, you can take the time to re-re-read and see if those changes are really needed, and devise how to best make them. Above all, now that you're done with the story, you can make grammatical, phrasing, AND plot-hole fixes all at once. It's more efficient than trying to alter everything all the time, before the plot is really set in stone anyhow!

So that's my suggestion. Re-read one section; Write another without editing; Prepare ahead for the following section; When complete, edit thoroughly. If you can bring yourself to do that, you'll avoid the worst of the over-editing. Hopefully!

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1/17/2012, 4:17 pm Link to this post Email Reythia   PM Reythia AIM MSN
 
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Knight of Honor
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Re: How to practice


By the way, you're not the only one who has trouble with opening scenes. I've often left the opening scene as nothing more than a word sketch -- a couple of bullet points about the critical thing(s) that need to happen there, and who's involved. And then I started on the "real" first section/chapter.

That's totally legit. You might find it easier to write the beginning once you're more comfortable and familiar with the characters and plot. Think about it from the (more familiar to you) perspective of technical writing. Do you REALLY start writing a paper from the abstract/intro, or do you (like most people) start right away with the meat-and-methods section telling what you actually DID? And then come and struggle with the intro later. It's okay to do that in "fun" writing, too, if you struggle with intros!

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Re: How to practice


quote:

Firlefanz wrote:

Always remember: You cannot edit a blank page. emoticon

So even if you write something bad, it's better than not writing at all. It gives you something to work with.



I would add, don't give up! Put something down on a story every day, even if it's only a few words. Practice is exercise. Until you do it you're like the spectator at the gym.

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Re: How to practice


Very true!

 emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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Re: How to practice


I have discovered that when I am dealing with a character who is female and in the primary role that my writing speed drops in a major way. I am getting better but putting myself in the mindset of the opposite sex is hard to do.

I practice and practice but I don't seem to be making much progress in "switching gears" from the male to the female perspective. Do women have this trouble in the reverse? Does it get any easier?

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Re: How to practice


 ... hmm ... Maybe you should hang out with a group of women sometime, and just listen to them talk. Or sit close to a group of women/girls and eavesdrop.


I read that the point of reviews is that you learn more by giving the reviews than you do from getting the reviews. So ... my suggestion would be to just go in search of works to read and review ... just for your own exercise, not to share with anyone ... and then, rework passages from the bad works in order to improve on them, and rework passages from the good works in order to make them bad. Making bad works good, and good works bad is a great exercise that should improve your own writing.








Last edited by Joxcenia, 5/23/2017, 12:12 am


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Re: How to practice


I honestly think it's easier for women. That's because we read so many books with male MCs - we learn to put ourselves into a male mind at an early age.

Knowing what a man might think is also a survival technique, unfortunately.

On the other hand, I wrote that erotic SF trilogy from the PoV of a man, including the sex, and I DID ask a male friend to beta-read and give me feedback about the sex. Ahem. (He said I got it [sign in to see URL].)

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Re: How to practice


quote:

Joxcenia wrote:

 ... hmm ... Maybe you should hang out with a group of women sometime, and just listen to them talk. Or sit close to a group of women/girls and eavesdrop.



Another thing ... women are just as diverse as men. You have butch/masculine women, dainty/feminine women, and everything inbetween, so you really have to trust you know your female characters well enough to know just how they would handle a situation. How did they grow up? Were they babied? bullied? raised as tomboys by their dads? What situations did they get into growing up, and how did they get into and out of them?

My mother had two brothers, she was NO push over. She could fight just as well as any of the boys. Nothing 'girlie' about her. I had a nephew who couldn't believe a girl could be tough, and he'd wrestle with Mom to see if all the stories were true. He never ever managed to beat her. He loved to brag about how tough his Aunt was.






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Whoosh-ChelSierra-Muse - Twi-Saga
5/28/2017, 3:13 am Link to this post Email Joxcenia   PM Joxcenia Blog
 


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