Slayitalldown

No, seriously, WHAT is good writing?

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I am struggling with my original fiction and I am wondering if there is some sort of checklist for scene building and character building. So many advisory articles say things like 'don't just tell us your character is beautiful'. Well, how the fuck do I make an attractive character without stating 'blue eyes, black hair, the most kissable pair of lips and an ass that won't quit' without a) having another character say that or b) having the POV character perving on themselves in the mirror?

I find 'show don't tell' the most useless bit of advice in all of the writing world. I JUST DON'T FUCKING GET IT.

How far into a story does a reader need to be before they can 'see' what is going on? How much do they need to see? If I have a scene where two characters are walking in the bush, how much do I show, how much do I tell? Do I start with 'it was a bright sunny day, cicadas were chirpy, birds were flying around, wind rustled in the trees and Johhny's boots crunched on the deadfall beneath them' before I launch into Johnny bragging about his new camera-phone or do I start with Johnny bragging and then describe the forest in drabs - 'the crunching under his boots making him speak louder, the sun making him squint, the cicadas droning getting on hi nerves'.

I keep reading 'keep it relevant to the story' but how relevant exactly? Does the reader need to know if they red gums or salmon gums or pine trees to qualify as 'bush'? Does Johnny have to be described in every detail or is it enough to know he's a bipedal male? What is the difference in detail to separate 'good' writing from 'absolute crap' and 'pointless waffling in an attempt to be good'?

What is GOOD writing anyway? Is it the choice of words, the number or words or some X-Factor quality like good singing and fine art?

(I saw a tweet the other day from Joss Whedon - "A story is ten words" and he managed it with 'The head was removed carefully, the gown less-so". Good writing or cleverness and celebrity?)

It could be a crippling lack of confidence but I start to write and everything I write feels... like I've drawn it sloppily with a crayon and I have explain what my picture is afterwards like I'm still in preschool. I am utterly lost as to what fits where anatomically. I know the basics - head at the top, two legs, two arms, add fingers and hair - but all my writing comes off kind of 'stick figurey' with lots of white on the page and now I'm not even sure if I CAN write... is this a confidence, technique or talent issue? I look at my writing and I can see what ISN'T there but not what SHOULD be there and beta's seem to (in my experience) want to praise the words I managed to find but not coax more. (This is not a bad thing - betas are amazing but my relationship with betas is complex)

I want to be a good writer - the best I can be - and not just an adequate or functioning one as I'm sure we all do but I am finding the more writing I do the more frustrated I become. I learn something, attempt it and someone will point out something else that I have utterly failed at that I wasn't even aware of. So I research til I'm blind, plot my ass off and end up back where I started - fearful of the blank page, even more so of a full one.

I have the ambition so where can I find ways to maximise the skill? I practice but honestly, all I have is pages (and pages and pages and PAGES) of stick figures wearing down all my hope. I feel like the more I write, the unhappier I become and it doesn't seem right!

Surely someone has had this problem before me and has link or two that will offer a solution?

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"Good writing" is the most nebulous phrase in existence. Personally, I think Hemingway was a troll and Fitzgerald was a parvenu.

Having summarily dismissed two literary icons so cavalierly, I define good writing as two things. One, it is technically correct. Two, I enjoy reading it.

Technically correct means getting the basics straight, and from your post above, I don't think that's an issue. Grammar and spelling are two things people neglect dreadfully, and schools no longer teach them adequately. Punctuation is a lost art. But especially when publishing online, they make a story readable. Without them, I personally won't even bother to try and puzzle my way through.

Enjoyment is the other thing that makes good writing, and that's so individual and impossible to define. I will read almost anything, although I have a preference for science fiction, fantasy, and historical settings. "Twilight" has largely ruined vampires for me, and we won't discuss the other fanfic-turned-original nonsense. I like characters who act, and talk, and engage me in their lives and plights. I like a bit of humor from time to time, especially at the worst possible moment. I like to have my imagination on full when I read. Yes, I do want to know what your character looks like in general terms, but let me imagine some things. Don't describe them down to the last mole.

And guess what? Other people will have very different ideas of what makes for enjoyable reading. That's the beauty of it all. No book will appeal to everyone, and no story is going to make everyone love it. As long as you are telling the story you want to tell, and as long as you do have a few people out there will to tell you that they like it because, you're doing good. If the hit counter goes up consistently, you're doing great. It means you may have shy readers, but they come back. You've hooked them.

There's no magic formula. There are basic rules, and while here online you can get away with flouting them, publishers and your editor will insist that you comply. Don't shift point of view from paragraph to paragraph. It makes readers dizzy. If you have two people of the same gender interacting, only one "he" or "she" per paragraph. Don't make the reader guess which one you mean. Read dialogue out loud. If it sounds silly when you say it, it'll sound silly when a reader reads it.

But aside from that, and the conventions of grammar and punctuation, it's your story to tell, and your voice that should tell it. Try writing without going back every few sentences to edit yourself. Like we do for National Novel Writers Month (and NaNo is a great deal of fun), get the rough draft down. Get a beginning and an end, know a bit about your characters and world, and then go for it. You can make it pretty afterward, with the help of a beta or not, as you choose. I love the three crises and an end gambit. It makes for fun writing middles, as I figure out what three awful things I can do to my poor characters.

Most of all, enjoy it. It comes across in your writing when you love being a writer. Readers can feel the passion you put into your work. Hells, I've forgiven George RR Martin for making me wait so long for Book 5 of his saga, because he loves his work and I love his passion. And his story.

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Hey! ^^

First off, I don't know how much this will help you, but I noticed it helps me a lot.

There are always 4 points I have to negotiate between:

Do I have a one person POV or an all-knowing storyteller? Do I want to dictate everything on my reader or do I want to inspire his fanatsy?

If I have the POV of one character, I try to think what he actually notices. What do I notice about my surroundings when I'm out? How can I mix that with my character's traits?

For the story-teller it's a bit more difficult to choose, there comes in the other question a lot.

On one hand, if I describe everything very detailed there can be readers, who think it's nice, but also those, who think it's boring (like a lot people say about LOTR for example). On the other hand, to inspire someone's fantasy, this person needs a fantasy first, what's somehow more and more rare today.

In the end, I guess, you have to test a lot (try to not think in pages ...) and think about what you'd like to read and who you want to adress. You can't adress everyone with one piece of work.

I for myself love it, to imagine a lot of the world ,about which I'm reading, on my own. It goes so far, that I myself sometimes write one story, but tell three with those little texts.

(Hope I'm understandable so far. English isn't my first language.)

Baba, Madea

Edited by Madea

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Hey! ^^

First off, I don't know how much this will help you, but I noticed it helps me a lot.

There are always 4 points I have to negotiate between:

Do I have a one person POV or an all-knowing storyteller? Do I want to dictate everything on my reader or do I want to inspire his fanatsy?

If I have the POV of one character, I try to think what he actually notices. What do I notice about my surroundings when I'm out? How can I mix that with my character's traits?

For the story-teller it's a bit more difficult to choose, there comes in the other question a lot.

On one hand, if I describe everything very detailed there can be readers, who think it's nice, but also those, who think it's boring (like a lot people say about LOTR for example). On the other hand, to inspire someone's fantasy, this person needs a fantasy first, what's somehow more and more rare today.

In the end, I guess, you have to test a lot (try to not think in pages ...) and think about what you'd like to read and who you want to adress. You can't adress everyone with one piece of work.

I for myself love it, to imagine a lot of the world ,about which I'm reading, on my own. It goes so far, that I myself sometimes write one story, but tell three with those little texts.

(Hope I'm understandable so far. English isn't my first language.)

Baba, Madea

Very understandable! :)

So, a certain amount of vagueness works - I must admit I do get a bit bored when I am being told in a story all about the landscape and its long extensive history, or worse, in the case of Jean M Auel - whom I otherwise adore - the technique for flint-knapping... blow by blow every time someone does it! It reads like a bloody manual. Yet the history of things is intriguing too... I admit that LOTR does bog down in the telling of the story but I then find George R Martin's books are reading like a gossip magazine with everyone fascinated by their own past... Cercei Lannister in particular seems to spend a lot of time polishing her internal trophies!

I just cannot seem to grasp it in my own writing. It always seems so threadbare as I try to focus on the action - my POV is a poor budget B-Grade movie with a lot of 'vaseline on the lens'! :cry:

So now I'm wondering, is this not a technique issue but an issue of confidence - how do I tackle (and overcome) this hurdle?

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"Good writing" is the most nebulous phrase in existence. Personally, I think Hemingway was a troll and Fitzgerald was a parvenu.

Having summarily dismissed two literary icons so cavalierly, I define good writing as two things. One, it is technically correct. Two, I enjoy reading it.

Technically correct means getting the basics straight, and from your post above, I don't think that's an issue. Grammar and spelling are two things people neglect dreadfully, and schools no longer teach them adequately. Punctuation is a lost art. But especially when publishing online, they make a story readable. Without them, I personally won't even bother to try and puzzle my way through.

Enjoyment is the other thing that makes good writing, and that's so individual and impossible to define. I will read almost anything, although I have a preference for science fiction, fantasy, and historical settings. "Twilight" has largely ruined vampires for me, and we won't discuss the other fanfic-turned-original nonsense. I like characters who act, and talk, and engage me in their lives and plights. I like a bit of humor from time to time, especially at the worst possible moment. I like to have my imagination on full when I read. Yes, I do want to know what your character looks like in general terms, but let me imagine some things. Don't describe them down to the last mole.

And guess what? Other people will have very different ideas of what makes for enjoyable reading. That's the beauty of it all. No book will appeal to everyone, and no story is going to make everyone love it. As long as you are telling the story you want to tell, and as long as you do have a few people out there will to tell you that they like it because, you're doing good. If the hit counter goes up consistently, you're doing great. It means you may have shy readers, but they come back. You've hooked them.

There's no magic formula. There are basic rules, and while here online you can get away with flouting them, publishers and your editor will insist that you comply. Don't shift point of view from paragraph to paragraph. It makes readers dizzy. If you have two people of the same gender interacting, only one "he" or "she" per paragraph. Don't make the reader guess which one you mean. Read dialogue out loud. If it sounds silly when you say it, it'll sound silly when a reader reads it.

But aside from that, and the conventions of grammar and punctuation, it's your story to tell, and your voice that should tell it. Try writing without going back every few sentences to edit yourself. Like we do for National Novel Writers Month (and NaNo is a great deal of fun), get the rough draft down. Get a beginning and an end, know a bit about your characters and world, and then go for it. You can make it pretty afterward, with the help of a beta or not, as you choose. I love the three crises and an end gambit. It makes for fun writing middles, as I figure out what three awful things I can do to my poor characters.

Most of all, enjoy it. It comes across in your writing when you love being a writer. Readers can feel the passion you put into your work. Hells, I've forgiven George RR Martin for making me wait so long for Book 5 of his saga, because he loves his work and I love his passion. And his story.

Well, then. There's really no refuting that. I think I'll have that response cast in marble and passed to my descendants.

And you threw in the formula - three crises, I haven't found it ever so eloquently and simply outlined. And I was TRAWLING the other day (when I can't write I read and by golly I READ) for a simple breakdown of 'chapter goals' to help me outline and I stalled. All I could find was the 'first chapter goal' - hook the reader, introduce your characters, ground them in the setting, give them a puzzle to solve.

Then I could find a damn thing.

I got so hopeless lost in trying to make goals I implored my writers group for help and recieved a scathing response to the concept of plotting. Their philosophy was an adamant 'just write, like travelling across country by only what you can see in your headlights'.

I was so intimidated by the staunch opinion being expressed (in the area of "plotting is for sissies") I didn't even begin to point out that I am currently in the middle of an extensive road-trip and I rely on three electronic devices, a map and a compass just to get from one town to the next. Flexibility I can get on board with but no plotting leaves me cold with terror.

Mind you, the Nanowrimo approach scares me too. If I were to drive the way I write it would be with my maps in front of me and my eyes on the rear-view mirrior.

Come to think of it, now I understand why my every attempt at writing dies at the end of the driveway...

How is it a person can be entirely self-aware, have an arsenal of information and STILL be so utterly clueless until the obvious is pointed out?!?!?

This is why I'm not spy!! :chook:

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So now I'm wondering, is this not a technique issue but an issue of confidence - how do I tackle (and overcome) this hurdle?

Writing ^^ Write a whole lot. It took me about 45k of words on my long term story online, 8k + 13k + 3k on other stories on my hard drive disc before I realized how I want to write. (And I'm still struggling everyday if I shouldn't just delete everything)

That's why I said to test around.

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I'm going to respond as a reader. Me, I like plot and character development. I LOVE a slow burn in a story, for example. Thing is, with the stories I like which do this, and do this well, there is NOT an extreme emphasis on every little detail. The writer leaves some things to my imagination, which is perfect, as it ENGAGES me as a reader.

You will find as you post, that depending upon the reader, you'll either be prompted to get to the naughty bits right away, or being told that you're doing a good job, and that yes, we'll certainly wait until the naughty bits fit with the plot! ;)

It's honestly a kind of pet peeve of mine as a reader, where I see a writer doing a damn good job, and then you have someone whining that they're not getting to the sex fast enough, because the damn site has "adult" in the domain name. <_< I'd rather read a well written story with no naughty bits, than a piece of dreck that is nothing but that with bad spelling and bad grammar. PWP has its place, yes. Well written PWP is fun to read. But to disguise it as a plotted story, is an insult to anyone's intelligence.

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I'm going to respond as a reader. Me, I like plot and character development. I LOVE a slow burn in a story, for example. Thing is, with the stories I like which do this, and do this well, there is NOT an extreme emphasis on every little detail. The writer leaves some things to my imagination, which is perfect, as it ENGAGES me as a reader.

You will find as you post, that depending upon the reader, you'll either be prompted to get to the naughty bits right away, or being told that you're doing a good job, and that yes, we'll certainly wait until the naughty bits fit with the plot! ;)

It's honestly a kind of pet peeve of mine as a reader, where I see a writer doing a damn good job, and then you have someone whining that they're not getting to the sex fast enough, because the damn site has "adult" in the domain name. <_< I'd rather read a well written story with no naughty bits, than a piece of dreck that is nothing but that with bad spelling and bad grammar. PWP has its place, yes. Well written PWP is fun to read. But to disguise it as a plotted story, is an insult to anyone's intelligence.

What about as a paying customer?

The pleasure of writing has completely been lost to me at this point - I am chasing the dragon now. Its a need and it owns me and if I want any hope of control back, I have to figure out this mystery and I am counting on a secret map so I can find my own holy grail!

I am trying to write a story that has a plot but is also driven by its characters so - somewhere amongst their reactions to the device of the plot and each other lies the story I want to tell. I too prefer a slow burn - who doesn't - and I find getting straight to the naughty bits means readers aren't looking for a STORY and hello, people aren't wondering why fanfiction satiates such a wide audience! I actually wrote a 'PWP' and people wanted more of the story so I wrote them more 'PWP' and they are LOVING the story. Bastards. Its not giving me any insight into a world I am pulling out of my ass though - no one is going to wade through mud to get to sexy times that are too 'off the track' to find right away and yet you can make porn plausible with very little work - did somone order a pizza?

It also skews my motivation - I'm writing a complex peice of pornography with a long boring backstory instead of a long fascinating history in which two characters are driven by outside forces to save the world that includes 'oh my, they're boning!' on a few pages.

I understand enough about the mystery formula to know that a story needs tension and sex is like pouring soap into water - all the surface tension is lost and if you leave it in the sink it gets the wrong kind of dirty. The sink needs to be refilled every time with new water after the tension is broken and its the pull of conflicting forces not the tedious wait for more water that keeps the pages turning.

I know there is a recipe. I just know it. Once I can fit what I'm trying to say into that recipe I can start cooking and I am tired of being a kitchen hand... I wanna cook already!! But fear of failure is keeping me down. Sigh.

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Here's a breakdown of my problem as a writer.

DREAM SEQUENCE:

I'm a cook.

I'm a writer.

"OMG, I love food! Can you cook me..."

"OMG, I read books! Can you write me..."

"No. I will be serving at this massive buffet with everything imaginable, buy a ticket, I'll see you there and maybe you can try what I've cooked already."

"No but you can read the book I've already written."

BUFFET NIGHT

BOOK STORE

*Thousands of steaming trays giving off delicious smells, all neatly presented with their chefs waiting behind them to serve*

*Thousands of neatly printed books with beckoning covers and enticing blurbs*

"Oh good, you came! Would you like to try my dish?"

"Oh good you came! Would you like to buy my book?"

"Sure, I would love to but I'm an insanely fussy eater who likes to try new things but I'm really only interested in the stuff I already like. I really like steak but I like it medium rare, I prefer pepper sauce, I'm allergic to nuts and I don't really like raisins, but I thought the spiced carrots looked interesting. What's in it?"

"I love science fiction but I am secretly in love with a whole bunch of characters already and I hate vampires and I like romance but I'm not sure about all this BDSM stuff. Your story looks kind of cool. What's the short version?"

"I tell you what, it doesn't have nuts and it is medium to medium rare and it comes with a cheese and pepper sauce. There are raisins but I think you're in for a nice surprise. Try it and tell me what you think."

"Its science fiction but there is a lot of character driven parts and a bit of smutt - dirty BDSM smutt. Have read, tell me what you think."

"Okay, I'll give it a shot, I have money to burn."

"You seem nice, here, take my money."

"OMG I LOVE THIS. It has RAISINS, PEOPLE - AND ITS DELICIOUS." "Shut the front door, raisins and steak?!?! Gimme some!!"

"Wow, this is great - love the smutt, I am giving this to my friend." "Teeheehee... it says boobies! I'm showing this to my husband!"

REALITY

"I'm a cook."

"I'm a writer."

"What do you cook?"

"What do you write?"

"I... made a sandwhich. I'm not sure how to cook."

"Fanfiction mostly. I'm trying to write a novel and I can't find a recipe for steak with raisins."

"Oh, they have books for that!"

:huh:"You're a freak."

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Honestly, fan fiction is a good way to get a feel for your voice as a writer. You have a cast of canon characters to play with, you have a world ready for you, and you even have, if not a plot line, certainly a good jumping off point for a story.

Have you seen these little packets in the stores? They have premeasured spices, a recipe, and an ingredient list. If you've never made chicken tikka masala, or apple and sage pork chops, these might be a good way to learn how to make the dish. After a few times, you'll find yourself improvising with the spices or proportions. Before you know it, you've made the recipe your own, and it's led you to create another recipe. One that doesn't rely on premeasured spices and a recipe card.

I still write a bit of fan fiction, but it led me to writing original work. It also taught me to sustain novel length writing. Don't knock fan fiction, because it's what gave me the courage to write. :)

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Honestly, fan fiction is a good way to get a feel for your voice as a writer. You have a cast of canon characters to play with, you have a world ready for you, and you even have, if not a plot line, certainly a good jumping off point for a story.

Have you seen these little packets in the stores? They have premeasured spices, a recipe, and an ingredient list. If you've never made chicken tikka masala, or apple and sage pork chops, these might be a good way to learn how to make the dish. After a few times, you'll find yourself improvising with the spices or proportions. Before you know it, you've made the recipe your own, and it's led you to create another recipe. One that doesn't rely on premeasured spices and a recipe card.

I still write a bit of fan fiction, but it led me to writing original work. It also taught me to sustain novel length writing. Don't knock fan fiction, because it's what gave me the courage to write. :)

I would never deny the greatness of fanfiction - it is an all-you-can-read buffet and for a writer it is a delightful playground. My concern is how dos one graduate from the school-of-hard-reviews to a published author without being eviserated emotionally?

Edited by Slayitalldown

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I can see that the biggest part of your problem is that you're no longer writing for yourself.

I see stories like Ben 10 and Transformers Prime and I think, wow wouldn't it be cool if it was this way instead? So I write the story the way I see it in my head, and low and behold I get a review that says "the way you write is awesome" Of course my heart exploded with joy, but I wrote the story for myself, not for what others think of it. I prove this to myself when I read my own stories and get pulled in like any of my readers. I laugh a the funny parts and cry at the sad parts. It doesn't matter that I wrote the story all that matters is that I enjoy the story.

You are too hung up on trying to prove yourself to others, instead of on whether or not you are enjoying the story you are writing. Now if you want to tell what kind of gums are in the bush then by gum do it, and if you don't then don't.

Some day I hope to become a published writer and my hope will be that a few people will enjoy my stories as much as I do. My stories written for me the way I want them written. But sill hoping others enjoy them as well, and knowing full well that many will not.

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Mildly innaccurate - right in principle but innacurat in the detail.

I am writing for myself but not to prove something to others, I just have a much higher expectation than 'she'll be right' which is why my frustration has occured. Minor detail, a word here or there and improvng on someone else's idea is no longer satiating the beast. I am no longer satisfied hunting small animals - I want to sink my teeth into a bear.

Perhaps I should have said "I am no longer writing for my own amusement" because I no longer find this amusing. I don't 'hope' to be a writer. I want to run into this battle screaming to live in triumph or die in glory.

Ambition has replaced amusement in a particularly agressive way.

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But isn't it the ambition that's getting in the way? If you want a recipe for writing ask Steven King because he has it down pat, story, after story, after story.

what you're looking for is totally intangible you can't grasp it because you decide its what you want. Its something that's there when you find it, yes after a lot of hard work and research, but you're not going to end up with a great peace of work because you found some holy grail on "how to write great works." People's taste are to fickle for something like that.

Call me naive if you want to but I still think you have to start by writing a story you enjoy, that applies to original stories to, then give that to a publisher and go through the revision process.

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But isn't it the ambition that's getting in the way? If you want a recipe for writing ask Steven King because he has it down pat, story, after story, after story.

what you're looking for is totally intangible you can't grasp it because you decide its what you want. Its something that's there when you find it, yes after a lot of hard work and research, but you're not going to end up with a great peace of work because you found some holy grail on "how to write great works." People's taste are to fickle for something like that.

Call me naive if you want to but I still think you have to start by writing a story you enjoy, that applies to original stories to, then give that to a publisher and go through the revision process.

See this? Not helpful, FYI.

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I'm sorry if I'm not being clear, but I am trying to be helpful.

So I'll give it one more try and hopefully you can take something from it.

What I am trying to say is that you need to let yourself write what you want to write. Something that when you read it you say to yourself. "That's a good story, I enjoyed it." Then let other people decide whether or not it is a great peace of work

You may have to rewrite it fifty times before a publisher will accept it and then it could still fall flat in the public eye. However you will never know until you LET YOURSELF WRITE IT.

That's all I have to say about that.

Good luck! ^_^

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Aysha is right with what he's telling you. Ambition is all well and good, but if once you've written something, and you know you won't enjoy reading it yourself, don't expect others to. The big thing is, at least this is what I've seen with the good writers on many sites, is that first and foremost, they write for themselves.

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Welllll....from what my published friends tell me, the act of publishing can be eviscerating, as you go through the copy edits and many other things BEFORE your book is ready to be published.

I can say, having just been through my first experience with being edited for publication, that you need to put your ego on the side and focus on what your editor is trying to do. Their goal is a story that is readable and marketable. They want you to sell books. That means the publisher makes money, and they get paid. They're not being mean, but they're not going to soft-soap things, either.

Now, being very honest, I knew that from friends who'd been published. It still felt awful when it happened to me, and I was ready to chuck it all in at least twice. But I didn't. I stuck with it, listened to what my editor told me, rewrote the bits that needed it, and in the end, my story is enormously better for it.And I apologized to my editor for whining, too. :)

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So bottom line, there is no such thing as 'good writing', there is 'fluff about and scribble down all your random thoughts because end of the day, there's only good editing.'

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I'm not sure that I would say a writer has to enjoy his/her own story at all times--sometimes the best you can hope for is satisfaction. Does this fit the theme I want? Is the character's reaction emotionally sound so as to draw my reader deeper? How well did I hit that dark note that should make a reader unwilling to look away? As a reader, how would I respond to this?

To be perfectly honest, as long as I am satisfied with how it all turns out, the readers seem quite happy, too. And the ones that aren't tend to be the ones who wouldn't buy a second copy of a novel when the first wore out. Fair-weather-fans of anything aren't supportive when life has puppies in your lap and you really need help, so, and I realize this is blunt: don't write to please your readers. If they enjoy it, great, but if you can't at least be satisfied with it, then it's not worth doing. (Generic "you".... Not trying to be offensive or pushy; I drifted into 2nd person.... Strange, really, since I usually drift between first and third, with nothing in between....)

As a reader, I find myself a sucker for stories with darkness, humor, realistic emotions, and characters/world(s) that are fleshed out just enough but not too much. Info dumps are a major turn off for me because I just don't retain all the details that way. Don't get me wrong, I love details, but I like them better when they're spaced out somewhat and not all in one place. Take a paragraph or two to describe something/someone, physically. Emotions and mental state are harder to get right--I went to my dad's college classes with him when I was little and I absorbed more than anyone expected me to, so I can be kind of critical of getting the emotions right. The thing about writing emotions, though--at least to me--is this: emotions that fit the situations will draw a reader in. I'd be the same. I'd be pissed/sad/angry, too. You want the reader to empathize with your characters, because it inspires a deeper connection, yes? So I'm of the opinion that using the correct emotional response (for the character in question; not everyone reacts the same way!) is a key element to writing well. It's not the only element, but it is one of them, and societal differences will weigh in on that equation, too.

And, yes, editing is big, too, but--as others have noted--you certainly seem to do well with it already.

Plotting a story ahead of time.... I won't say it's a waste of time, but you don't need to plan every little thing. List situations, events, maybe even conversations that you want to include, figure out if they need to be in any certain order, and then it's kind of like a Fill In The Blank game. Just try to get your characters from one point to the next. Sometimes they'll try to off track you, and sometimes it may work better for your story if you let them, but if the end result of the off tracking doesn't feel right to you, scrap it and try again. I don't know that there is any certain number of crises that ought to be included, but DG has a point--trouble comes in threes, right? ;) Three big problems, plus however many little disasters crop up along the way. If you get stuck at one scene, skip ahead to another so you keep writing. Let the part where you got stuck simmer in the back of your mind as you write ahead, and sometimes you'll have it all figured out by the time you get back to it.

Tenses, now, past vs. present: Past is often easier to stick to in writing, but sometimes the action seems slow or just doesn't flow right. Present is difficult to stick to--which can be a turn off if the writing switches back and forth from 'is' to 'was'--and can cause a writer problems when deciding what phrasing to use, because, of course, it is the present and no one knows what's going to happen next except the author, who shouldn't be talking about the future in the present! (Sorry, it's a bit of a pet peeve....) Still, I feel it's a challenge every writer should try their hand at once, if not more than once. It gives them an appreciation for writing nuance that, I feel, many fan fiction authors lack.

I can't think of anything else at the moment, but I hope this helps!

Edited by Cuzosu

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So bottom line, there is no such thing as 'good writing', there is 'fluff about and scribble down all your random thoughts because end of the day, there's only good editing.'

Nope. But even the best writer in the world needs someone objective to pick up the things they miss. As an author, I know what I want to happen. I know what's going on in the heads of all my characters. But am I slipping something in that throws off the story's chronology? Did I have a dread point of view wobble, and let the reader look into the wrong head for a moment?

The very hardest part for me was POV wobbles. To my dismay, if I'm writing from A's point of view, I can't refer to A as the blond. Why? Because it's A's point of view and he's not seeing himself. He doesn't think of himself as the blond. He doesn't notice his own eye color, or build, or height. So if I want to describe A, I need to wait to do it through someone else's point of view, which means a break. And you can't change point of view every two paragraphs, because you make the reader carsick that way. You yank them out of the world you're trying to build for them.

It's not easy to see this in your own writing at all, and now I find I'm actually looking for it. And that will make me a better writer in the long run, because my goal is to make my editor work hard to find my mistakes. (Hint: adverbs. I still like them too much.)

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I'm not sure that I would say a writer has to enjoy his/her own story at all times--sometimes the best you can hope for is satisfaction. Does this fit the theme I want? Is the character's reaction emotionally sound so as to draw my reader deeper? How well did I hit that dark note that should make a reader unwilling to look away? As a reader, how would I respond to this?

To be perfectly honest, as long as I am satisfied with how it all turns out, the readers seem quite happy, too. And the ones that aren't tend to be the ones who wouldn't buy a second copy of a novel when the first wore out. Fair-weather-fans of anything aren't supportive when life has puppies in your lap and you really need help, so, and I realize this is blunt: don't write to please your readers. If they enjoy it, great, but if you can't at least be satisfied with it, then it's not worth doing. (Generic "you".... Not trying to be offensive or pushy; I drifted into 2nd person.... Strange, really, since I usually drift between first and third, with nothing in between....)

As a reader, I find myself a sucker for stories with darkness, humor, realistic emotions, and characters/world(s) that are fleshed out just enough but not too much. Info dumps are a major turn off for me because I just don't retain all the details that way. Don't get me wrong, I love details, but I like them better when they're spaced out somewhat and not all in one place. Take a paragraph or two to describe something/someone, physically. Emotions and mental state are harder to get right--I went to my dad's college classes with him when I was little and I absorbed more than anyone expected me to, so I can be kind of critical of getting the emotions right. The thing about writing emotions, though--at least to me--is this: emotions that fit the situations will draw a reader in. I'd be the same. I'd be pissed/sad/angry, too. You want the reader to empathize with your characters, because it inspires a deeper connection, yes? So I'm of the opinion that using the correct emotional response (for the character in question; not everyone reacts the same way!) is a key element to writing well. It's not the only element, but it is one of them, and societal differences will weigh in on that equation, too.

And, yes, editing is big, too, but--as others have noted--you certainly seem to do well with it already.

Plotting a story ahead of time.... I won't say it's a waste of time, but you don't need to plan every little thing. List situations, events, maybe even conversations that you want to include, figure out if they need to be in any certain order, and then it's kind of like a Fill In The Blank game. Just try to get your characters from one point to the next. Sometimes they'll try to off track you, and sometimes it may work better for your story if you let them, but if the end result of the off tracking doesn't feel right to you, scrap it and try again. I don't know that there is any certain number of crises that ought to be included, but DG has a point--trouble comes in threes, right? ;) Three big problems, plus however many little disasters crop up along the way. If you get stuck at one scene, skip ahead to another so you keep writing. Let the part where you got stuck simmer in the back of your mind as you write ahead, and sometimes you'll have it all figured out by the time you get back to it.

Tenses, now, past vs. present: Past is often easier to stick to in writing, but sometimes the action seems slow or just doesn't flow right. Present is difficult to stick to--which can be a turn off if the writing switches back and forth from 'is' to 'was'--and can cause a writer problems when deciding what phrasing to use, because, of course, it is the present and no one knows what's going to happen next except the author, who shouldn't be talking about the future in the present! (Sorry, it's a bit of a pet peeve....) Still, I feel it's a challenge every writer should try their hand at once, if not more than once. It gives them an appreciation for writing nuance that, I feel, many fan fiction authors lack.

I can't think of anything else at the moment, but I hope this helps!

I am loving all this advice but the concept of 'trying to please someone' as though I am out for my Pulitzer, can we please shelve that? Trying to convince me to be happy with my own work just because that is what I should be doing is not answering my question.

The goal of a writer is to write the best they can. To take the shapeless form ideas that are nothing more than a rush of emotion and the flash of an image and use words like a crystal to bounce ideas out of one mind and into another has a definitive set of rules.

Underneath the shape of every ballgown is the stitches that hold it together and the weave of every fibre. The painstaking effort to take a wad of fibres with no form and turn it in to an Armani is not about a little seamstress sitting in her rocking chair with her knitting needles only to discover "Well fuck me, a ball gown!". It is masterful skill and driven intent. No one who ever truly succeeded has said 'Oh, well, you know, I just fuck around and stuff happens and now I'm a published author because I just loved sitting on my ass for hours on end making shit up with no real intention of selling it because lets face it, we're all just running out the clock til the cancer gets us.'

What I am desperately trying to uncover isn't the wish upon a star, nor is it the power within, and it sure as hell isn't the giddy joy of accidental creation like an unplanned pregnancy. I am not trying to unlock the door to the Halls of Gratuitous Praise I am trying to solve the mystery behind the impulse of the faceless countless many who open their wallets and dump actual money on an actual counter for the opportunity to gaze into a mass-produced crystal - from the absolute crap that was the abomination known as 50 shades right up to the answers to the universe like... I can't think of the name of that terrible Tom Hanks movie and but I'm sure you know the one, the one knocking the chuch or the Bible or some nonsense.

No one is reading them into saying things like "My god, such skill such technique it must have been so much fun to write this book! Forget Disneyland! Take me on this cruise, I must feel this rush for myself!"

So what is that elusive pull that draws in so many - lets take a realistic look at the goals of a writer and be honest, how many are paying their bills with praise? - and makes them buy into the journey of 1000 pages? How can I use the map the project my imagery into other brains in the same fashion? All the joy and passion in the world, all correct grammar, all the neatly placed commas are just a big pile and useless fibre without a pattern. There are millions of patterns I am sure but let's face it, unless we are Lady Gaga there is a sameness to all of our tastes!

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Nope. But even the best writer in the world needs someone objective to pick up the things they miss. As an author, I know what I want to happen. I know what's going on in the heads of all my characters. But am I slipping something in that throws off the story's chronology? Did I have a dread point of view wobble, and let the reader look into the wrong head for a moment?

The very hardest part for me was POV wobbles. To my dismay, if I'm writing from A's point of view, I can't refer to A as the blond. Why? Because it's A's point of view and he's not seeing himself. He doesn't think of himself as the blond. He doesn't notice his own eye color, or build, or height. So if I want to describe A, I need to wait to do it through someone else's point of view, which means a break. And you can't change point of view every two paragraphs, because you make the reader carsick that way. You yank them out of the world you're trying to build for them.

It's not easy to see this in your own writing at all, and now I find I'm actually looking for it. And that will make me a better writer in the long run, because my goal is to make my editor work hard to find my mistakes. (Hint: adverbs. I still like them too much.)

I would be devestated if (should I ever be so fortunate) I had an editor who told me I had made almost no mistakes and still had a bad story. I know that magic puts a body on the bones but I need to find out what these 206 bones look like so I can put stuff on them that makes them pretty to look at and fun at parties!

I have the sticky parts, the gooey bits and the wobbly peices but when I put it together it looks like... Abaddon, before she 'Thinged' her hands back on.

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