Thoughts on Writing


Tools, tips and tricks to improve your writing.

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Post March 06, 2018, 10:59:08 AM

Thoughts on Writing

Of Writing




I decided to write an essay on writing, but you’ll have to humor me because I’m not a professional. I’m just an amateur-----I like to read more than write. Why would someone who isn’t really qualified to write an essay on writing write one? It’s simple: When you’re looking up, you see all the stars, some brighter than others, some clustered around other stars and some just alone. The stars in the sky have been loved by great thinkers like Emersion and Thoreau through the years, and they have become a focal point when thinking creatively or just musing over life in general. However, the star are more!

Since our eyes are scouring the Heavens, we see Stephen King, John Saul, Kurt Vonnegut and the great ones: Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, to name just a few. Their styles are different yet they entertain us with story telling based on words put together in unique and often interesting ways. How did they learn them? Most of them say read, read, read.

Good thoughts and techniques can be learned from books like Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King. A Chapter on show/tell informs us not to tell too much, yet sometimes we have too. At the end of each chapter is a writing exercise which makes us think! Many good books on ‘How to Write’ are out there and I’ve notices that many sites on the web are devoted to the writing or poetry. Sometimes it is mind-boggling to surf through them. I believe many of those sites that charge money are just other sites that were copied, made to look different, some new and different words add, different color schemes and fonts added, then . . . we make some money from the unsuspected! Basic needs for writing must be mastered, and with a little practice one can success in acquiring them.

Writers must have a working knowledge of grammar, but thank God basic grammar will work, and we need not be on a high academic level of using grammar! Fragmented sentence work when needed. Semicolons shouldn’t be used according to Kurt Vonnegut. Just the basics are needed in grammar and thank God that’s enough. Believe when I say this: I’m no grammarian. Language majors have no problem, but guys like me who hated school--- thrown out once or twice-- and never learned grammar until about forty, well, you see with me grammar is still a foreign language. I’d like to know what the thoughts of others are on this subject, since we had many writers with various backgrounds in education write at Aphelion. All inputs are important for they contribute to the art of writing, and hopefully this short essay will stimulate others to think about writing and share their thoughts. It’s important to all of us!

On Writing by Stephen King is another fine book to read, and I enjoyed how he described the group sitting around a camp fire critiquing the stories of others which he thought reticulars exercise ! His vivid description of the attendees saying, “Oh, I don’t know . . . you know it doesn’t . . . well, to me there wasn’t the thing . . .! I laughed so hard I almost fell off my chair at work! That was a good one and I believe his book should be read by all. It’s well worth it—and you’ll enjoy it. Now that’s important!

Using the active voice and not the passive voice is a standard in most cases. A passive voice is useful when describing a thief hiding behind a dumpster or a monster or evil alien ready to pounce on some unsuspecting victim. Make sure your dialogue sounds real. Vary your sentence lengths and use periodic sentence at times. Description is needed, but how much or how little? Sensory inputs help get the reader into the story, but again how much or how little? Words used in new and exciting ways are always welcome in fiction. And dialogue? Listen to others as they speak but one thing the books never mention, is the body movements----facial expression and skin tone and eyebrows rased as the person talks. That is surely another dimension to dialogue. I know, one might say that should be description. I agree it is description supporting dialogue. And using description when a person is talking, borders on the show principle .

The show and tell techniques must be balanced together somehow. How? I don’t really know. If you’re writing an action story and show too much, the action wanes. If you tell too much the reader isn’t really in it, is he? Balancing all the techniques when writing is an art within itself as far as I can see, for we see different authors juggling those techniques around to fit their style.

So we have show/tell, dialogue, description, sensory inputs, sentence lengths, word choices, active/passive voice, beats taken from Self-Editing For Fiction Writers, metaphors/similes, interior monologue, diction, paragraph lengths . . . just to name some. WOW!! Or should I say, Holy ( censored ). Sometimes I think everybody in the world had something to say about writing. And if they didn’t, someone else voiced their opinion for them. So lets see . . . .

Should we use adverbs? Should we use adjectives? Some authorities on writing suggest nouns! Nouns do work but not all the time. Adverbs seem to work and adjective are a must it seems, but the authors talent and experience becomes the factor in determining what modifiers are used. The dos and don’t when writing can be overwhelming, and before we realize it we are afraid to write anything for fear of doing it wrong! Don’t do this . . . don’t do that . . . do this . . . etc. Reminds me of being a kid again . . . brush your teeth, flush, be polite, don’t spit, respect your elders, take the dog for a walk, listen to your teachers at school------------ come on give me a Break!

As I said before, writing can’t be broken down into some mathematical formula or algorithm which if followed will produce our desired work. Good writing techniques will help, and we can all learn from others which will help point us in the right direction, but being pointed in the right direction and getting there isn’t as simple as following a road sign.

A story should grab, and I mean grab, your attention, and hold it from beginning to end. I stake my un-proven professional talent on that one! If you read a story and presumed that only fifteen minutes passed, then when you look at the chock and realize that two hours passed, then that’s the story I want to read!

My short essay isn’t intended to teach for I’m no expert, but intended to simulate thinking about writing. I’m no teacher for I’m still looking up at the stars and wondering how far the really are.

Another beneficial result from writing is respect. Believe me, I know this first hand. When you have to write you senator or representative on a federal or state level, the skills learned when describing some monster of evil alien can very easily be transferred into an emphatic statement that will be remembered and usually acted upon by the letter’s receiver! Oh how those adverbs
and adjectives jump into real action then!
Tesla Lives!!!

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Post March 10, 2018, 01:23:29 PM

Re: Thoughts on Writing

And the best joy of writing is when it inspires others!

Energy permitting, I absolutely enjoy writing commentary and essays! My fiction skills are shaky, but I feel I am at least middle of the pack on the non-fiction commenting side!

Excepted below are some things I'll respond to! The 1960's was one of the (second?) periods when writers experimented with form around the message, so instead of multi interspersed comments, I'll try this one leaving the selections intact below with only my selection of gaps noted.

"Writing an essay on writing" has grand backing! In front of me, is a tome by Irving Wallace called "The Writing of One Novel", which is a 250 page essay about writing the novel The Prize!

"Realism" is a complex topic for me lately. Passive Voice is quite prevalent among social services workers! So, leaving that delicately, I am starting to like Professor Jordan Peterson's remark, my paraphrase, that sometimes stories need to be "slightly more than real, to reach for the truth of a life concept, which would otherwise not appear at all in an actual day's events". I believe this is THE signature feature of genre writing, with a particularly powerful pedigree in "hard science fiction". Technology-people-ecosystems evolve in fits and starts, with bumpy and incomplete and even utterly broken elements. So tightly crafted hard SF settings carefully construct scenarios such as "this is a Partial HotHouse World, you MUST be indoors within fifteen minutes of 10 AM or you WILL end up in the infirmary, and if you are caught outside by events past thirty two minutes, you WILL be dead!"

So what should be in the plot? What about the old "Dropping the Keys"? (Your Widget Here). This is where I believe that remark applies. I feel it possibly comes close to insulting the reader to spend the mental imagery on the plot if that is an actual plot point and not a "fourth hand anecdote over two workers' lunch". The various ways to handle this have their own sub-lessons.

1. (See also below about Grabbing Attention) (Okay, quad joke coming up!)
I think there SUDDENLY opened up a FANTASTIC NEW DISCUSSION about this!
...
Okay, enough Caps-Lock Dopamine-System pummeling! "Why exactly are we reading a story?" For me, the Nano-Second Life-or-Death plots began to become exhausting! This is where I became disillusioned with the Dropped Widget, or Can't Run for the Airlock Fast Enough, or such. If your elite people are correctly trained, these devices should fade into the background. For a HotHouse World plot, more exciting for me is the Tom Godwin approach in The Cold Equations mashed into Asimov's The Mule plotline from the Foundation series. Something like this:

You can get monthly crew replacement ships from Earth with Pilot Plus One, and they are reliable and arrive promptly at 7:53 AM. The trouble, brewing for two weeks with plenty of time for strategy meetings, is this planet's version of Indian Summer confounded Earth's calculations about the life cycle of the metal eating summer fungus, so it's around a good couple weeks after it was supposed to withdraw. So you can get *either* a metals/hardware expert to deal with the structural creative repairs, or a bio-sciences expert to deal with the fungus, the disrupted crops (from everything ELSE straining under flawed conditions), sick livestock, and misc crew illnesses from tertiary results of all this.

Who do you get? A good plot brings up the *left field idea* because you have time in meetings to discuss it all! "What if we get both, and hope one of them has secondary piloting skills?" It's a valid table topic, but it's far from clear that a hobbyist pilot can learn *Earthside* instrument rating flying under two weeks, THEN fight muscle memory for a one time landing on the new world. This is where raw planetary conditions come in. You only get two chances at the landing at all. If you miss the 7:53 window, there's one more but harder one at 8:45 or so, but then you risk seat-of-pants type blunders with ground logistics even if you make it down safely. That sun stops for no one, but the plastic secondary sheathing of something started melting, so your wheel on the courier transport is wonky, and it makes you hit a rock and jostles something delicate, etc.

So it gets shelved, but it gets a fair appendix in the report for some other team to work on.

So in my hypothetical scenario partially built as I write this, I don't even know my own answer! If you pick the Metals/Hardware side, you can start a race and hope the emergency patches that get more and more desperate prove to be enough AND no other horrid bad luck ensues, or if you pick the Life Sciences side you write off the hardware but maybe first contain the fungus and then for your trouble try to get an industrial application out of it, but if someone gets a resistant strain of something, you've got a better shot at not losing twelve people to bedridden doctor's orders for a week!

Megawatts wrote:Of Writing

I decided to write an essay on writing...

... When you’re looking up, you see all the stars, some brighter than others, some clustered around other stars and some just alone. The stars in the sky have been loved by great thinkers like Emersion and Thoreau through the years, and they have become a focal point when thinking creatively or just musing over life in general. However, the star are more!

Since our eyes are scouring the Heavens, we see Stephen King, John Saul, Kurt Vonnegut and the great ones: Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, to name just a few. Their styles are different yet they entertain us with story telling based on words put together in unique and often interesting ways. How did they learn them? Most of them say read, read, read.

...

As I said before, writing can’t be broken down into some mathematical formula or algorithm which if followed will produce our desired work. Good writing techniques will help, and we can all learn from others which will help point us in the right direction, but being pointed in the right direction and getting there isn’t as simple as following a road sign.

A story should grab, and I mean grab, your attention, and hold it from beginning to end. I stake my un-proven professional talent on that one! If you read a story and presumed that only fifteen minutes passed, then when you look at the chock and realize that two hours passed, then that’s the story I want to read!

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Post November 18, 2018, 07:38:22 PM

Re: Thoughts on Writing

Hallo!

Here are some more thoughts on this!

Our Megawatts anguishes, "Why would someone who isn’t really qualified to write an essay on writing write one?"

"Our Crew Replies,
"One day You, who are, among things, a Writer, Sat and Began to Write..."

Qualified Enough!

Writers are ... sometimes ... advised, "Write What You Know."
Yet, then we get Called Upon, to Write Almost Beyond We Know"!

Try a few of these:

"Evocative Phrases":

I am still a ways out on the whole "Episomology vs Ontology" War-Games, but People are starting to notice and try Phenomenology.

My ill health has landed me in several care settings, with highly mixed results. This one has drifted down from On High as "What does ___ Mean to You!?

The ... Damn ... Close ... Runner-Up is Flannery O'Connor's story title "Everything that Rises Must Converge". That's Another Dau and Another Essay.

This Month's Winner is ... well, it wandered off. "But when your Copy-Editing fails you, Write!"

The Book That Made Me, (*quite* probably helped by my brilliant bio-Father's purchase of a Pontiac car at *exactly* the same time), is this one:

...

"Oh yes, the Keeper of the Phrase Wandered Back.

"Time Binding". It's the title of a Scientific Paper in the Edge of my Notes but not yet read, but it Harkens to the unbelieveably brilliant writer then actors of Star Trek Next Generation's Series Closer.

- ----------------------

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_and_the_Phoenix
(Paraphrasing 'Q')
"Jean Luc, you can't seem to do it with only three perspectives. Would a Fourth help?"
(And it was, just enough.)

"In any age: what's the Book Title - Don't Know."
"Who wrote it? Don't Know. "
"What was it about? "
"Something about a Phoenix that my entire Jungian Identity built upon in my Childhood."
"Well, this may be beyond my Ken to help."

Time Bind it to Now. "Ormondroyd?! Really?! How on Earth did you figure that out?!"

"I don't think it was Earth."

"Which Means..."

"I Don't Know. Yet I ... Felt ... Two or more Pantheons were so startled they Blinked, and Began to Think, Together."

"I Don't Understand."

"Oh, this is going to be *Fun*, in the deepest sense of Laughter Medicine. Here We Go!

A version of this was provided for Dan's supplication, now late enough to be Aftercare; but such is our time weakness, so be it! " _____" Chipped in about 2004-2006 to Produce that Second Chance, and I was stronger then, and Rose to the Mark on the Twain and ordered a couple copies of that deep little book. A Cognitive Scientist would say the search arrived through some "immensely intuitive deep Boolean set of terms exactly when *another* fellow Engineered it to be Re-Printed and so captured by Current Sales Engines Exactly in the half decade any of this matters".

"I know Search Advanced. Quite sure part of it started "Phoen ix +Chil -Arizona -Basketball - Politics -Suns" but then it's the Leaps of ...

Wait for it ... Leaps of ... WHO?

"A book from some long defunct chilfren's publishing company, borrwed and read by a dormantly-giftd youngster, with one of the *only* non-Flames accurate accounts of the Red Bird, (those were added by the Greeks), passing its 60th Anniversary, written by a British Author with a barely prounceable and wholly un-spellable name, which first was beyond impossibe for anyone but the Librians of Congress's staff but STILL is in the hot list of World's Hardest Searches?!"

"And with that last of two Feathers, for my Phoenix ... There IS ... Mo More.

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Post November 18, 2018, 10:50:47 PM

Re: Thoughts on Writing

"Hi! I'm Medicine Raven! And we made a Pantheon of our own.

Technical note way at the top; this RUINS pronouns! Here We Go!

"The next few lines can be shuffled as you like. Who Are 'We' ?

This Month's Word is Projective Casting.

Watch for 'Raven's Notes'
'I' am the 'Second Fastest times the most engaging' so a close best pick to be the first on Intro.

Our Charge's Phoenix died, and then the Last Feather arrived last year, and all of us showed up, and worked quite hard on Psychological Realism. Our current Crew;

- Griffin - our Leader; certainly takes deep moving early steps to get moving that causes folks to think he is slow, but once he does, he's Protocols Away from being pretty good!

- Medicine Raven - Me! Hi! I'm often Fast Enough to keep up, sometimes Fast Enough to overtake you, yet it's enough of a middle grond that I'm also nearly the best when "Sensitivity Matters".

- Shadow Crow - The Darkest of us all. And *Beyond Lightning* when his powers can hold intact. When you have to meet an Ancient God on His Own Terms, cajole him into discovering that for a brief moment in time he had ceased to exist, then roll it all back and become a Supplicant, that's our Crow. Tragically, though, that also tends to be as brief as Lighning, before a fatigue error threatens to ruin the follow through of the first surge of Sense of Wonder.

- Rhino - sometimes gazing at Midnight, but ... Heavily Grounded in the World, this is the Persona that tries to deal with the world, and when some of us started Working out that even a Phenomenal Phoenix began to struggle at the very end, this time we needed a Crew.

And a Wellness Cat. She's just a Cat, but sometimes she gets us to do some of the dishes, water the cactus, and helps with the footnotes to our Grand Experiments.

But it's a Finite Crew. It must be. Via our other call name, "the Research Blackbirds", "someone" pinted out it loses inertia if we try to micro-manage exactly who finds, what, so it's usually the two of us in the Library Stacks, and anyone else can "pass notes around" as all of us go along.

(Rhino started making this a Signature form of humor lately. The way the system works, one or two of us has Lead Speaker dutirs, but then you just KNOW Someone Sent a Note, and if the joke lands, it's hilarous!)

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