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valadil
2007-08-31, 10:02 AM
Hi folks. I was wondering if anyone here had any experience with writing for fun or profit. I've been tempted to try to write something or other quite a while and november (http://http://www.nanowrimo.org/) is coming up again so I figured I'd try to push on it this year.

Here's where I'm having trouble. My experience with writing outside of school is limited to D&D games, livejournal, and sketch comedy. In the first two, I'm already very familiar with my audience as they're already my friends before I even start writing. Sketch has a bigger audience, but it's a different beast than a 50,000 word novel as you don't need ideas with longevity, just something that's funny for 5 minutes or so. While it's taught me how to do dialog pretty well, sketch comedy doesn't help with figuring out what ideas will last for the duration of a whole book.

I think it's really the RPG writing that's throwing me off. When you prepare a game session, if you're doing it right, you're preparing something interactive. You're not having your PCs watch a character interact. All the ideas I've been coming up with lately have been the sort of thing that's fun to interact with, but not really that interesting to read about. Is this a legitimate concern or am I just making up excuses to not use certain plots?

Another hurdle I've been staring at and measuring for a while is whether or not to go with fantasy. It's what I know best, but I'm just not sure I could do it without making some epic quest that would be better served in a D&D game. I'm also trying to figure out whether or not to make it funny. I don't want to do a whole comedy book, but I'm not sure I could finish the damn thing if I don't put a little humor in there. It's just a matter of figuring out the right balance of funny to serious.

Anyway, has anyone else NaNo'ed or written anything substantial before? Got any advice/stories/warnings/etc?

MandibleBones
2007-08-31, 10:14 AM
I NaNo'd last year in the desert, and I plan on doing it again this year.

Firstly, there's nothing wrong with an epic quest (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monomyth); in fact, many popular fantasy books are based on that.

Knowing your audience is all well and good (and long, practise rants on LJ are great for practise), but don't worry so much about it for NaNo. If you're looking to be published, maybe worry - but NaNo's not about that. Write for yourself, or for the people you want to read your novel.

Sketch comedy is a great start - you've already got a better idea of what needs to go into a scene than I do. Tying those scenes together, much like adventures in an RPG becoming a full campaign, is what makes the novel - that, and characters who grow as your story goes on.

For NaNo, don't take yourself or your writing too seriously - it'll hurt you in the end. DO take the deadlines seriously - 1,667 words per day for 30 days. Work ahead if possible; don't stop just because you hit 1,667 - you'll want that buffer when you inevitably slack off, or when life kicks you in the teeth.

Also, get some writing buddies to prod you when you falter - I'm Amn Jupiter on NaNo if you can't find real people :)

Use the forums with caution, especially sci-fi/fantasy: Some of the threads can be your biggest help - the rest are mostly elitist rants about how terrible Eragon was and how novels have to be new and unique to be anything but trash (rather missing the point of NaNoWriMo, in my opinion).

Zherog
2007-08-31, 10:14 AM
A typical novel is closer to 85,000 words. :smallsmile:

Here's some vague tips from someone who has never actually written a novel. All my writing is, to this point, game design stuff.

Write an outline. You don't need to be detailed, but have an idea where your story is going, and how it might resolve.
Notice I said might. Don't be afraid to let your mind go somewhere you hadn't thought of previously.
Write and edit at different times. NEVER try to both at the same time - you'll just end up doing a lousy job at each. You use different parts of your brain to write than you do to edit, and switching back and forth will give you fits.
Don't stop writing. If your goal is to write 50,000 words (for NaNo for example), then do it. Don't put it off. Even if you only write 10 words today, that's better than nothing. If you get in the habit of putting it off, pretty soon a lot of time has gone by and you'll have nothing done. Plan to spend an hour a day writing. If you go longer, that's fine. But get yourself in the practice of writing.
Take notes. Carry a notebook and writing implement, and write down ideas. Trust me - you won't remember them later. I actually have a notepad and pen by my bedside, because I can't tell you how many times I've woken up at 2am with an idea for a D&D article or adventure. If I don't write it down, I'll forget it by the morning.
Don't expect to be able to sell your novel to a publishing house. Getting through is as much luck or who you know as it is talent. Write because you want to, not because you expect to get rich by becoming the next Steven King.
Mind your spelling and grammar. If you're writing for you and nobody else, this is less of a big deal; if you're writing for anybody else - even just your buddies - get it right. Two quick grammar tips:

Learn what passive voice is, then avoid it like the plague
Don't use adverbs. They weaken your text and take away word count that can be used for cooler things.



There's a few things, anyway...

Zherog
2007-08-31, 10:16 AM
when life kicks you in the teeth.

Life kicks you in the teeth? Damn - I need a new contract. Usually it kicks me in the nuts...

MandibleBones
2007-08-31, 10:18 AM
Like I said, I was in the desert - I had a giant ceramic plate covered in kevlar over my nether regions, but my teeth were pretty much fair game.

Ashtar
2007-08-31, 10:20 AM
Hum...

Well when I really want to write something long. I sit down and PLAN it. Which means, I write a short (1 paragraph) description of the initial conditions and a short description of the end. Then I map out the path the story is going to take to get from start -> finish. Here I have a large A3 or A2 page, arrows to indicate direction of plot and post-its for characters.

When I have that done, I go back to the characters and write a small description of them, get their motivations straight.

After that, I test write several scenes inbetween the beginning and end of the story. Try one exposition dialogue, one action scene, one revelation/discovery scene. *

Now, I know where I start from, where I am going, what are the major scenes mapped out. I figure how to link these together and write a short script. No long descriptions, no dialogues. You should have your book in 5-10 double spaced line pages.

That done, it's just a matter to dot the dots, fill in the gray areas and write the meat. I write first scenes I want, and work back and forth along my storyboard.

Now I find this technique to work well for me, BUT:
1) It doesn't really work in a story you post online block by block because there is a huge amout of work before your chapters are completed.
2) It's much too much work for short stories which are better served by other writing techniques.

As for tone of story, era, genre and others, I really can't comment.

--
* Usually anything written in these three scenes NEVER ends up in the final story in any form what so ever, but I find this step to be very helpful.

valadil
2007-08-31, 10:24 AM
That all seems like useful advice. I think I've got the mindset down. I want to do NaNo so I can write not so others can read. I'm not even sure if I want anyone to read it in the end.

Oh and one of my roommates is probably gonna NaNo too. She's done it before. We talked about what to write for a couple hours last night, I just wanted to hear more opinions. That and I was the one giving her ideas instead of going the other way around.

Telonius
2007-08-31, 10:30 AM
I've thought about doing NaNo, but 50,000 words has always seemed a little short for any story I want to tell, with no time to edit it properly. I realize that's not really the point of NaNoWriMo, but when I do something I want to do something thoroughly and well. I'm about 52,000 words into a fantasy novel at the moment, and it's just over half done. This would be my first published novel, if I finish it and if anyone accepts it.

I'd suggest that you not worry so much about the genre. Get a story you want to tell, and tell it. My own book will probably technically be classified as a fantasy book. It does take place in a fantasy world. But it takes place in more of an ancient Egypt-like time than a medieval one, and the plot revolves around figuring out who's behind an assassination before the kingdom dissolves into civil war. So is it "really" fantasy, or is it a political thriller, or a murder mystery? I'll leave that to the marketing folks to worry about.

For the humor, it really is situational. If it makes sense to the character to use it, and for the particular scene you're looking at, go for it. If it derails the scene or creates an emotion in the reader that you don't want to create, can it.

General advice: the classical story structure is classical for a reason. It usually works. Go back and read Aristotle's "Poetics" if you need to review it. (Yeah, I know, it's Aristotle. But the guy knew what he was talking about.) Each scene should have a reason for being there: to illuminate characters, to describe setting, to advance the plot. If you can't think of a good reason that the audience needs to know what you're telling, then let it happen "off-camera."

Stuff that may or may not work for you:
- Set aside a specific time for you to write, and stick to that schedule. I usually find that if I write "whenever I have time for it," I don't ever actually write anything.
- Personally I like to write out my stories by hand, in a sturdy notebook (Five-Star is the best, in my experience). Then I type it up into the computer later. This forces me to let the story sit awhile before it's finalized, and it also forces me to re-edit it when I enter it into the computer. It also gives me a record of the things that I've crossed out and moved, and gives me a little clearer idea how the scene developed. (I know Word has the "track changes" feature, but I find that annoying). The downside is that it takes longer.

That's about all I have. Good luck with it!

Zherog
2007-08-31, 10:32 AM
I've thought about doing NaNo, but 50,000 words has always seemed a little short for any story I want to tell, with no time to edit it properly. I realize that's not really the point of NaNoWriMo, but when I do something I want to do something thoroughly and well. Right now, I'm about 52,000 words into a fantasy novel at the moment, and it's just over half done. This would be my first published novel, if I finish it and if anyone accepts it.

Two quickies here:

1) Nothing about NaNo says you can't go over the word count.
2) There's also National Novel Editing Month some time shortly after NaNoWriMo. It's the perfect opportunity to take the novel you wrote and clean it up.

Attilargh
2007-08-31, 11:11 AM
2) There's also National Novel Editing Month some time shortly after NaNoWriMo.
Would that be abbreviated as NaNoEMo?

Zherog
2007-08-31, 11:15 AM
Sounds reasonable. :smallbiggrin:

hyperfreak497
2007-08-31, 11:36 AM
Are we only doing tips on writing? I've started a modern fantasy novel that I hope to finish someday, but I'm not sure if it's any good. If it would be okay, I'd like to post the prologue and maybe the first chapter here.

Amotis
2007-08-31, 11:46 AM
Here (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=27) would be better. Though I think this thread might be getting moved there soon anyway.

valadil
2007-08-31, 11:56 AM
Here (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=27) would be better. Though I think this thread might be getting moved there soon anyway.

My bad for not posting it there in the first place. I think I'll need to check out that section of the board in the near/immediate future :)

Sir_Norbert
2007-08-31, 01:09 PM
I've written two novels.

My first, a 120,000-word murder mystery entitled To Carthage Then I Came, was written in the summer after high school and, like most writers' first novels, especially ones produced at that age, was crap :elan: Still, it's part of the learning process; we all have to start somewhere.

The second one I'm much more serious about wanting it to get somewhere, especially as I have a whole series planned, which is pointless if I can't get the first volume published. It's a fantasy/fairytale/spy thriller crossover entitled The Adventures of Athribar, and I've written a complete draft (100,000 words) and just started revising it. I will be posting the prologue and two chapters here when the revision has got that far; I'd rather not let you see the current version as I've already had some very good criticisms of these chapters.

So.... advice? Just persevere, and don't worry if the first thing you produce isn't a masterpiece. Learn from experience, show your work to others and take their criticisms on board, and when the time comes when you're serious about wanting to produce something good enough that you'll feel good about seeing it on shelves with your name on it, take the time to plan it beforehand and be prepared to go through several drafts. It's exhausting but rewarding.

Arameus
2007-09-01, 12:01 AM
Write a few just for fun. Don't think about publishing or profit for your first book, or even your first three. The fact is, people are not prepared to write a good first novel the way the classic authors were and you and me are no exceptions.

I'm writing something at the moment that I'm going to put on this site for peer review. Not for money, not for publication, just to help get me more into the writing process (moreso than already) and to gauge my progress as a writer and, hopefully one day, an author. This is a very useful thing to do; you must establish your skill as a writer in a way that you find enjoyable, because the life of a professional author is often very difficult; Vonnegut stopped writing because he eventually realized that he hated writing and always had. This I say, not to discourage you, but to emphasize the point that writing is not a glamorous, riotous enterprise, and if you do not love it you will not be happy as a writer.

Passive voice can serve a useful purpose if you can use it correctly, and sparingly. Another thing you should use in moderation are cliches, like the phrase 'avoid it like the plague.' :smalltongue:

One thing I can suggest is that you know exactly what you are writing before you write it. By your indication, you are not very skilled yet, or are at least still an amateur, so you must not have any details still only in the hypothetical stage when you begin recording it. Your characters will not, I repeat, will not simply come alive and fill in the blanks through their strength or their personality.

That said, if you're simply very careful and you take the proper precautions and the necessary actions to do so, even an amateur writer can end up producing crackerjack material. I look forward to seeing your work, if you should decide to share it with us.

Malic
2007-09-01, 12:12 AM
I usually loose interest with my storie's. I've taken up short stories mostly but if one get's really good feedback I sometime's make a pretty large story either re-telling it or following it up.

I guess if I really wanted to I would right a good short story(10-30 pages) and then make a novel out of it.

Om
2007-09-01, 05:40 AM
I will be posting the prologue and two chapters here when the revision has got that far; I'd rather not let you see the current version as I've already had some very good criticisms of these chapters.A word of advice, if you are serious about getting published then I'd advise you not to post anything online. That's the sort of thing that publishers don't look kindly on.

Sir_Norbert
2007-09-01, 05:56 AM
All I've heard (and this is from experienced friends) suggests that there's no problem with posting just the beginning of a work online; after all, many professional authors do this as well. Obviously I'm not stupid enough to post the complete work.

Freshmeat
2007-09-01, 06:04 AM
A word of advice, if you are serious about getting published then I'd advise you not to post anything online. That's the sort of thing that publishers don't look kindly on.

That's one of the problems I'm somewhat struggling with. There's a story I've been working on for years (sometimes actively, sometimes passively - through scribbling down random notes on a daily basis) that I'd like to get published. However, several years ago I've posted a few chapters of the story on a message board somewhere. Sure, after all this time these chapters have been heavily edited or even removed, some characters don't appear in certain scenes or have different names, but as one could predict: vestiges remain (such as, to name the worst of the lot, the book's title, and the name of the main character).

The question is now, how grave would a publisher consider this? 'Not looking kindly on' is sort of vague. But is it the sort of thing where they'd simply refuse your work under any circumstances? Would they make an exception if they feel it had potential? Or is it not that big of a deal?

Edit: Looks like my question has already been answered, somewhat.

Sir_Norbert
2007-09-01, 06:23 AM
Edit: Looks like my question has already been answered, somewhat.
Somewhat, but I'll try to give more of an answer anyway.

First, if it's on a message board several years ago, are the publishers likely to know about it? Can you still find it with google?

Second, you say "a few chapters", but that could mean anything -- I read a Robert Goddard novel once where the first chapter alone was 150 pages, or about half the total length of the book. What sort of proportion are we talking about -- bearing in mind also that if it's been heavily changed, even more of the book will be completely new to readers?

Third, could you change the title or the main character's name? How attached to them are you? (Is the name a fantasy name or a real one -- if it's something like Richard Baker, it's unlikely anyone will come across your chapters by googling it?) As a hypothetical, if the publishers suggested changing the title for completely unrelated reasons, they thought it would sell better with a different title, would you go along with them?

Om
2007-09-01, 06:26 AM
The question is now, how grave would a publisher consider this? 'Not looking kindly on' is sort of vague. But is it the sort of thing where they'd simply refuse your work under any circumstances? Would they make an exception if they feel it had potential? Or is it not that big of a deal?It probably depends on how much you put up and how different it is. The finished work can be considered a derivative of the posted chapters, even if they've been signficantly reworked, and that could be a real spanner in the works. It could lead to anything from a dip in the value of your manuscript to a complete rejection.

I'm no expert however and a publisher might be fine with your work if its signficantly different. Its best that you discuss it with them when the time comes. Just make sure that you mention it; if they find out independently that you posted it online then don't expect to ever get published.


All I've heard (and this is from experienced friends) suggests that there's no problem with posting just the beginning of a work online; after all, many professional authors do this as well. Obviously I'm not stupid enough to post the complete work.Honestly I wouldn't do that without discussing it with the publisher first to make sure that its okay. You do not want to ruin years of work by posting too much online. Already published authors are different - they have a contract. If it were me I'd play it safe and keep all publishable material off the internet until the deal is done.

CrazedGoblin
2007-09-01, 07:00 AM
i like writing i just never get around to finishing anything hehe :smallbiggrin:

Freshmeat
2007-09-01, 01:58 PM
Somewhat, but I'll try to give more of an answer anyway.

First, if it's on a message board several years ago, are the publishers likely to know about it? Can you still find it with google?

'Likely to know about it' is fairly irrelevant I guess, as you should probably tell them anyway. Well, now that I check it, the forum where I posted it seems to be offline (temporary or not, I don't know).


Second, you say "a few chapters", but that could mean anything -- I read a Robert Goddard novel once where the first chapter alone was 150 pages, or about half the total length of the book. What sort of proportion are we talking about -- bearing in mind also that if it's been heavily changed, even more of the book will be completely new to readers?

About 7-9 chapters, fairly short (I didn't really know much about pacing back then). Average length: 3-4 pages in Word, font size 11.


Third, could you change the title or the main character's name? How attached to them are you? (Is the name a fantasy name or a real one -- if it's something like Richard Baker, it's unlikely anyone will come across your chapters by googling it?) As a hypothetical, if the publishers suggested changing the title for completely unrelated reasons, they thought it would sell better with a different title, would you go along with them?

Style of names is somewhat sci-fi fantasyish. Last time I googled them, I hit them right on the spot (amongst other links leading to the same thread or referencing it, whatever). I could change it, but it would pain me greatly to do so.

But anyway, I can pretty much judge from all the comments that it shouldn't be a problem. Since I don't want to semi-hijack this thread, here a few tips of my own:
- If your native language isn't English, seriously consider just writing it down in your mother's tongue and have it translated afterwards. Since I assume no one will listen to that anyway (I sure didn't) make it a habit to write down every word you read that you don't know. Expanding your vocabulary is essential. Saves you time looking up words in a thesaurus and you won't run the risk of using them in the wrong context.
Feel free to write down 'interesting' words too, even if you know them (but might forget them).
- As already said, notepad + scribbling down random thoughts is what they call in online shooters 'teh win'.
- See what works for you. Some write only when inspired. Others force themselves to write to become more experienced at writing itself (and actually getting some work done, for all you 'lazy writers' :smallwink: )
- Begin small and simple before expanding your story. Always write a synopsis of the storyline before writing the story itself. If the story is too confusing for the author himself , try and guess how much the reader will get.
- Be confident, but adaptable. Everyone will probably run into this one - you've created a story you genuinely feel proud of, only to find out that a popular movie or book exists that is about exactly the same thing. No matter what you do, you'll always be considered a copycat, even if you thought up the script of Macbeth without ever reading one of Shakespeare's works. It happens to everyone. There are (and have been) so many people in the world that it's pretty much impossible to think of something truly original anymore. Either ignore it, or simply give it a personal spin which makes it more than 'just another clone'.

Sir_Norbert
2007-09-01, 06:17 PM
Honestly I wouldn't do that without discussing it with the publisher first to make sure that its okay. You do not want to ruin years of work by posting too much online. Already published authors are different - they have a contract. If it were me I'd play it safe and keep all publishable material off the internet until the deal is done.
Thing is, if one publisher rejects it because one-eighth of the book has been posted online, I can go to another. If it isn't good enough to be published because I failed to take advantage of the opportunity to have others critique my work, I have no chance.

I've also been told that posting a small portion of a work can count in your favour as it gets a target audience who are interested in buying the full thing. This is why many writers -- George R R Martin for example -- publish extracts from their work in magazines before they're ready to release the whole thing. It's why many writers finish their books with a "taster" of the next book in the series. And yes, Martin is an established author now, but he wasn't always.

hyperfreak497
2007-09-01, 11:13 PM
Is this thread going to be moved to the Arts 'n' Crafts forum? If not, I'm just going to post the prologue somewhere (possibly start my own thread). Actually, I think I'm going to go do that now. Be back with the link soon.

EDIT: Here's (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=55602) the prologue.

Natania
2007-09-02, 09:19 AM
I have this one story/novel that I am working on and have been for about a year. I just write for me and have no intentions of ever being an author. I just don't think that I'll have that kind of luck. Anyway writing is for me a way to clear my head and to forget about the world I'm in. It helps me relax and sometimes even process stuff that I couldn't otherwise.
What I do a lot is let my mind go and just write. Don't think about where it will fit in the story just write. I've written some pretty good stuff this way, even if I do say so myself.

My tip: have a storyline. Know where the story is going and what can happen. that way you have something to write towards, you know where you want to end up. It'll help you out of some moments where your imagination isn't quite working. Also it will make the story more interesting to read because there's a point to it. It's going somewhere.
The first time I wrote something I didn't have a storyline and there just wasn't really a point to the story. It was just a bunch of random events that had no purpose at all.
Also don't introduce characters that don't have a use somewhere along the line. They just confuse the reader.

Arameus
2007-09-02, 11:41 AM
Obviously, forbearance of online posting only applies to things you want published. If you've written something solely for recreation off of which you don't plan to try and make money, then by all means feel free to share it anywhere you please. Naturally, doing so would mean that you cannot so easily change your mind about whether or not you want it in print.

Another tip I can give you is to use proper grammar. Yes, this seems like a basic thing, but there are very, very many people who consider themselves great writers yet have a solely elementary grasp of their language! :smallfurious: Many people think that once you get spelling down you're set as long as it sounds passable, but if you bring a story to a publisher that demonstrates that a correctly-orchestrated sentence complement is simply beyond your ken you will not and should not be taken seriously.


*snip* What I do a lot is let my mind go and just write. Don't think about where it will fit in the story just write. *snip*

My tip: have a storyline. Know where the story is going and what can happen. *snip*

What in the world? :smallconfused:

Natania
2007-09-02, 12:12 PM
I meant that if you want people to actually like your story and perhaps even buy it you have to have a storyline. But as I said, I'm not planning on selling anything I write so there is no need for me to worry about what other people like. As long as I can clear my brain the story doesn't actually have to go anywhere or even be interesting for people besides myself.

Yoritomo Himeko
2007-09-12, 10:14 PM
Quote spoiler tagged for space.

Hi folks. I was wondering if anyone here had any experience with writing for fun or profit. I've been tempted to try to write something or other quite a while and november (http://http://www.nanowrimo.org/) is coming up again so I figured I'd try to push on it this year.

Here's where I'm having trouble. My experience with writing outside of school is limited to D&D games, livejournal, and sketch comedy. In the first two, I'm already very familiar with my audience as they're already my friends before I even start writing. Sketch has a bigger audience, but it's a different beast than a 50,000 word novel as you don't need ideas with longevity, just something that's funny for 5 minutes or so. While it's taught me how to do dialog pretty well, sketch comedy doesn't help with figuring out what ideas will last for the duration of a whole book.

I think it's really the RPG writing that's throwing me off. When you prepare a game session, if you're doing it right, you're preparing something interactive. You're not having your PCs watch a character interact. All the ideas I've been coming up with lately have been the sort of thing that's fun to interact with, but not really that interesting to read about. Is this a legitimate concern or am I just making up excuses to not use certain plots?

Another hurdle I've been staring at and measuring for a while is whether or not to go with fantasy. It's what I know best, but I'm just not sure I could do it without making some epic quest that would be better served in a D&D game. I'm also trying to figure out whether or not to make it funny. I don't want to do a whole comedy book, but I'm not sure I could finish the damn thing if I don't put a little humor in there. It's just a matter of figuring out the right balance of funny to serious.

Anyway, has anyone else NaNo'ed or written anything substantial before? Got any advice/stories/warnings/etc?

So you're a fellow Nanwrimo writer? That's the site that lead me to the Playground. Anyway, I try to participate every year. Here's an E-Book that might help you out a little bit. Nanowrimo for the New and Insane. (http://zettesworld.com/free/NaNoBook.pdf)

I find it's best to have some idea of what you want to do, especially if you're just starting. Just write down what interests you and focus on that.