Writing General Discussion & Critique | Page 2 | The Popjustice Forum

Writing General Discussion & Critique

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Rainbow Trousers, Mar 26, 2015.

  1. I have much the same problem. I often feel unwilling to commit things to paper before I have the necessary facts (my writing to date has been almost entirely academic and, for the last few years, business) and it's made me so unsure about writing fiction. It just seems like an insurmountable stack of research is needed unless you write fantasy, and even then the world building is a huge investment of time!

    I have a few ideas for short stories but turning them into a compelling narrative that does more than just 'have a twist' is such a difficult task.
  2. I think the best thing is to always just write; commit something, anything to paper and then look back on it to tweak, do more research on a certain area, re-write etc. Otherwise I find you have so much up against you that you'll plan and plan and plan and never actually get round to writing anything at all.
  3. World building is the easy part. Open a document on your computer right now and write one random thing about your world. Tell me about a plant that grows there. A mythical being. A race of people. How it's shaped. Write down as much random shit about this world, and eventually the structure will present itself autonomously.

    The thing with fantasy is that you don't need every little bit of information about your world. You will develop most of it as you're writing the actual story. Take George R. R. Martin, for example. If you recall the Dothraki either from Game of Thrones (the show) or Song of Ice and Fire, you know that the Dothraki have their own language (represented in certain words, i.e. khaleesi). Martin doesn't have an entire language invented for the Dothraki. He has four or five words the characters will use in dialogue, to show off their specific linguistic style, and if he needs more words he'll just make them up as he goes. That is I think the healthiest approach to writing any kind of fantasy. The details are in service to the story.

    And if you're looking for some inspiration in writing fantasy fiction I would definitely suggest trying out Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea series, Malazen Book of the Fallen, and Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy. Those three are well regarded for altering or re-purposing classic fantasy conventions, and they all contain amazing writing to boot. Very helpful in giving you ideas for your own worlds.

    If your comment on fantasy was more of an aside then ignore this! Fantasy gives me a raging dragon boner so I tend to prattle on about it.
  4. World-building seems to be a strength of mine. Anything I write has a whole world surrounding it. I guess that's a good thing, but having half a dozen worlds and a couple hundred characters swirling around your head at any given time can be quite exhausting. If I had the time to write it all down it might be fine but I don't.
  5. Best piece of advice I've ever had was that when you're doing the physical writing, remember you're just digging up clay from the earth. You can go back and sculpt it into something beautiful later - but first, you need the clay.
    rav4boy likes this.
  6. Ever seen the romantic comedy Ruby Sparks? It has a scene with a psychiatrist requesting a blocked novelist to write a few pages of really bad work. That’s a good way to beat writers block. Deliberately write something that is shit and later you might be pleasantly surprised by what you managed to produce without any pressure.

    I self-publishing. It took me one hour to read up the instructions, reformat my novella and then post my first book using the link marked ‘Independently Publish with Us’ at the bottom of most Amazon pages. There is no other way for me. I’ve never even sent out one exploratory letter to an agent. I can’t imagine being discovered as ‘interesting’ or ’good’ in the slush pile, and then being considered commercially viable enough to publish.

    One of my many failed novels is free until Friday:

    After School Chess Club



    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  7. Sadly it was an aside, as I'm not really that keen to write fantasy. Nevertheless I admire your passion for it!

    I do love Earthsea though.
  8. It wasn't a waste of time though, as that's what I enjoy to write too. I'll check out Earthsea!
  9. I got into a discussion with some other authors during a break at a recent festival when, to my astonishment, one of them said they didn't plot. It seems like an obvious thing to chat about, but in my experience authors don't tend to discuss writing, so it's always fascinating to hear how other people do it. It's never the same, not really.

    Now for me I need to know where I'm going with a plot. I would compare it to planning a road trip - you need to know where you're going, and how you're going to get there...but you could possibly take a few diversions along the way. This author, however, said that she has the idea and she just writes, and THAT is actual storytelling. I've started doing that now and again, just to test my resolve. Some of the stuff you hear from other authors is really interesting.

    So how do you write? Do you lot plot or just go on with the story and see what happens?
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  10. Ive found that I just think way too far ahead, and my plans and ideas are just far too big. At least that's what I've thought, so I'm trying to use planning so that these big ideas are a little more contained. For example, writing a fantasy story I already start thinking about where I want these characters to end, how I want their existence to impact the world by the end, the obstacle that stands in their way. It's the middle ground I struggle with and if I just sit down and type it out it feels like I miss holes that could be quite complex if I just planned it first.

    I I guess it works massively well with writing down and editing afterwards, by writing as she has suggested Ive kept a lot of big ideas that ive further used in something Im writing now. It kind of brings what you want to write about thematically to theforefront, no?
  11. I once asked about the difference between writing a series of books and one shot stories.

    ME: How do you know if you're writing a series?

    AUTHOR: When there's too much plot for one book.

    And that seems so obvious when you hear it, but I had to hear it to realise they were right. I'm not going to write a series, because I prefer saying what I want to say in one novel before moving onto the next book. I like it and I feel it's in the tradition of the books I grew up reading during the golden age of late 80s/early 90s YA. I don't think I could write the same characters forever and ever.

    But - and this seems to apply to you specifically Jordananan - if your plans and plots are too BIG, then perhaps you're writing a series in your head and that's where you should go.

    I would say you make sure your first book works as a one-off, because I know personally some authors who had their series of novels cancelled by the publisher halfway through the cycle.
  12. Hi again, Peter! I read Music for a Parade of Whores a few years ago and really liked it. You're in my kindle and everything! Will definitely be checking this out at some point in the future.
  13. I do that a bit - Stephen King advocated it in On Writing, let the story take you there etc... It can work, or you can end up in a corner.

    I tend to know the endpoint - or at least what I want to have happen - and build around it. Agent feedback on the last thing I sent was that the characters worked but the structure didn't, so that's what I've had to pay particular attention to since. Leaving my job has allowed me to re-read the entire book and rebuild a lot of it.
  14. Fabulous! Keep at it, Hudweiser, because if you have an agent actually talking to you...it's such a good sign.

    I remember one particular rejection letter from years ago. It was one of those generic ones we all get when we first start out. I shrugged, prepared to toss it away, and then I noticed that someone had handwritten a lovely message on the back of it. That was so encouraging that I realised I couldn't stop.

    So don't stop! I think if you have the fire in you, then you'll do it Hudweiser.
  15. Randomly, she followed me on Twitter because she's into horror movies and remembered the unique spelling of my name, so I have my 'in'.

    Best rejection letter I had was something along the lines of: "[Agent's Name] has died and the agency is closed. [Partner agent] extorted all the money and ran away. You can read all about it on Google!"
    Island likes this.
  16. I was signed to an agency in London but it shut down after the agent fell pregnant, which had nothing to do with me. I was like...what? Jacqueline Wilson's agent was interested in me for a while too, and we were back and forth before they decided they didn't want the book. Twilight had just happened and the entire landscape of YA had suddenly changed. They also felt the main character was too obnoxious, which I was horrified to hear because it was autobiographical!
    Island likes this.
  17. I love this thread! Always nice to talk with fellow writers.

    I am not prolific by any stretch of the imagination and I'd say that I'm only starting out as a writer. I always liked to write but only in the past few years have I become more serious with it. I'm currently writing a book of three fairy tales that can be read as stand alone stories, but they're all connected. I'm really proud of it and excited with how it's coming along, but I have some serious writer's block trying to finish the final story. I've tried everything but it's not coming to me. I find if I force myself to write, I write nothing but trash so I try to just let it come to me. Sometimes I just need to sit with the characters for a while and let them guide me to the end of the story, so to speak.

    Once it's finished, I'm going to really try to have it published. I don't think self-publishing is the road for me. My cousin recently wrote a book and self-published it and she's done some book signings at local book stores, but it seems like a TON of work to promote it yourself and I don't have the time or money for it.

    I've also completed another short story that I quite like and I keep saying I'm going to send it in to magazines to see if it can be published, but I always chicken out. I'll never get far if I keep worrying about getting rejected. I KNOW rejection is basically inevitable, but I still need to try. Letting other people see my work has always been tough for me.
  18. One of the greatest pleasures of doing what I do is that I get paid for it. Here's a tip: live gigs pay too, plus expenses. If you want to go the traditional route of publishing, then try it. You have nothing to lose. It might take time, and it'll certainly take a lot of effort and hard work...but it's possible. Live events - I'm a performer too with a background in fringe theatre, though I hasten to add I'm NOT an actor and wrote all my own material for live events - can be a good way of getting people to know of you.

    Do it! Why not? Let them read it. Keep sending them out and see what the reaction is, because even if it's bad, you can use it to alter your writing and improve it.
  19. All good advice and it's so true! I think part of my problem is trying to find the right type of magazines for my stories. But, I'm working on it. One of my goals this year is to let go of my stories and send them out and see what happens.

    I've begun getting more comfortable letting people read them. The other day I let my coworker read a few stories in my fairy tale book and she really enjoyed them but also offered some very thoughtful and important critiques, so I was very grateful for that.

  20. I remember you read the Look Inside for A Parade and compared it, fleetingly, to David Foster Wallace. Specifically his collection of shorter work called Oblivion. I bought it for my Kindle and tried to read it. I’ve had the following sitting on my computer for two years:

    ‘"Mister Squishy" (2000)

    It’s a hard read. It delights in opening trapdoor after trapdoor of more bureaucracy and statistical information gathering. For the first two hours of reading I was going along with it. It was mildly interesting and engaging. It seemed to be going somewhere. After the second hour it just kept opening up more trapdoors. There came a point when it stopped being interesting, challenging and worth my time. It stretched it too far and I stopped caring.

    I do wonder about the writer’s motives. Was he deliberately trying to annoy and bore the reader? Did he want to go too far and snap our patience? He doesn’t make many concessions to the idea that someone has to read this stuff after he’s written it. Ultimately its way too clever for its own good and it defeated me. I gave up not that far from the end. As far as I can tell the plot strands didn’t seem to come to anything.

    Easy to admire. Impossible to love.

    (A generous) 2 out of 5’

    In two years I’ve read no further.
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.