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Mimicking the Greats

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eiranae
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Joined: 21 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Sun May 11, 2008 1:32 am    Post subject: Mimicking the Greats Reply with quote

There's a problem I've been having, and I would appreciate some advice.

I've noticed lately that whenever I read a really well written story (like those by Neume, Nancy, and Viv just to name a few) I find my stories pale in comparison, and I slip into an old third grade habit of mine where I just want to trash the entire story and start over again (my story, that is).

Here's where the advice comes in--what helped you to develop your own style of writing, and how did you become confident in your story-telling skills?

Thanks,

Eiranae Embarassed

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Alassante
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PostPosted: Sun May 11, 2008 11:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One thing you need to remember - your writing will always be worse in your own mind than anyone else unless you have an ego the size of Gondor. So its hard to realistically compare it to anyone. As someone who has worked with Viv and Nancy a few times with them beta'ing/reviewing my work, that is the best way to learn from others. Their feedback on your writing is the best way to 'absorb their greatness' lol

I'm not on your list of greats but my style developed over a long time and lots of helpful feedback from great betas and other writers I respected. Plus the more I wrote the more passion I had for the whole process - the characters, the writing process, the plotting, etc.

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eiranae
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PostPosted: Sun May 11, 2008 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You are on my list of greats (well, the one in my mind). I just wrote down the first few I thought of. There are many more on this site that I could name. I feel that way about all of them.

Thanks so much for the advice. I do hope eventually I can absorb some of that greatness.
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Viv
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Joined: 24 Apr 2003
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PostPosted: Sun May 11, 2008 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lordy hell, thaty's august company you're shoving me in with! I'm humbled.

You know, I have this same problem, though. I'll be going along thinkin, hey, I'm getting better or even, hey, I'm really pretty okay! Then I'll read something by somebody I know and realize I still have a looooong way to go. I guess it's those moments that keep my muse from lying to me too much. Wink

And you have an excellent voice and style. Don't compare yourself to anybody, 'cause I don't. I think you're unique and exciting, and I love reading your work. Please, please, please don't every write like me! lol
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Viv
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PostPosted: Sun May 11, 2008 8:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, and another thing: you trash Scor or Duron and I'll be after you with a metaphorical machete! Don't mess with mah dwarf!
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Alassante
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PostPosted: Sun May 11, 2008 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

eiranae wrote:
You are on my list of greats (well, the one in my mind). I just wrote down the first few I thought of. There are many more on this site that I could name. I feel that way about all of them.

Thanks so much for the advice. I do hope eventually I can absorb some of that greatness.


Oops I didn't mean for that to sound like I was pouting cause I wasn't on the list. I didn't know if you had read my stuff and I was just saying 'ok this is what I do BUT I don't think I'm one of the greats either' I was trying not to sounds egotistical and ended up sounding pouty Rolling Eyes

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NeumeIndil



Joined: 06 Jun 2005
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PostPosted: Sun May 11, 2008 10:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

*reads thread* Shocked Wow. Just what I needed to read when I'm already so uncomfortable w/ my next chapter I haven't posted for 3 months. Nothing like pressure to send me whining to my LJ/friends. Wink Seriously, though, thanks for the huge compliments. Including me w/ Viv and NB is kinda a shock since I regularly read their stuff thinking "Damn, that was a great move. Wish I could come up with stuff like that!" only to find out somebody thinks that way about my time-killing. Embarassed

But, lemme let you in on a secret here: Know all those thank yous to Binka and others in my story intros? It's for putting up with my insecure whining. Case in point: Before the last big part of "Nights" I posted, Binka got this email--

"I don't like this and I can't put my finger on why. I can't really see where it's going, and it just feels sort of patch worked together without any goal. I think the ending I'm aiming for is Morwen compelled by royal order (Boromir or Grima via Theoden) to dance in the southern way, veils and all. But the path to that is invisible from this point. So, please tell me what you think when you have the time and energy to do it. "

Generally she gets at least one per section just like this, though with different quibbles on my part. Her reply to that email nudged me toward the plan of attack I used to finish "The Dark One". So, I don't think confidence in whatever storytelling ability I have is something I 'have' inherently, like brown eyes or a big butt. For me at least, the guts to put it out there come from working through the story w/ the characters and then getting at least one more opinion on how I did from someone who cares enough to not let me look like an ass in print.

I think, as a writer at least, you get so wrapped up in your perspective and the characters as they're coming to you, it's impossible to see the outcome with true objectivity, which then makes you nervous and you start doubting yourself. That's why reviews and PMs are so important to so many writers: they're proof of the support network it takes to screw up the guts to say "Hey, I think this is worth reading, so I'm going to put my name to it on a public forum and let total strangers have at it". Remember, part of the reason we have these wonderful stories to play around in is because Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and some other guys sat around in a pub in Oxford critiquing each other's stuff.

My college writing instructors were pretty unanimous in pointing out something else too: you can't change a story until it exists, and it doesn't exist until it's on a page somewhere. Style develops through time and practice and (at least for me) reading pretty much everything and anything I can get my hands on. The more often you do something, like riding a bike, the better you can do it. Sure sometimes even after twenty years of practice you'll wipe out and scrape up a knee, but that's where betas come in to hand you a band-aid or pump us your front tire.

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eiranae
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PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 9:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I was trying not to sounds egotistical and ended up sounding pouty Rolling Eyes


Nah, I just wanted you to know how much I love your writing. Very Happy

Quote:
Oh, and another thing: you trash Scor or Duron and I'll be after you with a metaphorical machete! Don't mess with mah dwarf!


LOL! I think that will keep me in fear of the delete button! Big Hug

Quote:
Wow. Just what I needed to read when I'm already so uncomfortable w/ my next chapter I haven't posted for 3 months. Nothing like pressure to send me whining to my LJ/friends.


Wave You rock *Sends some encouragement to relieve the pressure.*



Thanks so much you guys. I can't tell you how much I admire all of you. It helps to know I'm not the only one who feels this way. I guess it's easy for a newbie to look at the accomplished and see only the accomplishment without being able to see the road to success. I really appreciate all your advice and encouragement. Big Hug Big Hug Big Hug
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Sulriel



Joined: 06 Jan 2004
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PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What an excellent thread.

I think we all feel that way from time to time ... a lot of the time. and I'd like to add my support to a couple of things that have been said. One is that you can't compare yourself to anyone else. I do find it useful to compare my recent writing to my older writing - to see how far I've come, but also, sometimes I find stuff I like more in the older works and it helps pull me back on track when I've been off.

The second thing, I think, is just to keep writing. The more you write, with an eye toward improving, the better you'll write. One thing I found out about myself is that I'm a slow learner. I was getting really good beta, but I couldn't fix plot and characterization and adverbs and and and all at the same time. I had to step back and let some things go and concentrate on one thing at a time. I'm not there yet, but I'm feeling better about my writing.

...don't know if any of that helps, but I hope it encourages you to hang in there.

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eiranae
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PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
One thing I found out about myself is that I'm a slow learner. I was getting really good beta, but I couldn't fix plot and characterization and adverbs and and and all at the same time. I had to step back and let some things go and concentrate on one thing at a time. I'm not there yet, but I'm feeling better about my writing.

...don't know if any of that helps, but I hope it encourages you to hang in there.


I know exactly what you mean. You will probably remember that I had a wretched time with POV on the first stories I wrote, and I just couldn't do anything about the plot or otherwise cause I couldn't figure that monster out! (I still have problems with that sometimes.)

I know I come off as being flighty when I'm writing because I'll start to try to edit something, and it just seems so hopeless that I want to start over completely. That's what I need to get over, I guess.

I admire the way all of you who have posted can paint pictures with words. I find myself drawn into the story. I hope that is a talent one can learn because I am really striving to attain it.

As you said, I will keep writing, and hopefully I can one day write a piece that is as moving as the ones of yours that I have read.

Thanks so much, guys. All of you! You rock
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Alassante
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PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 7:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sulriel wrote:
I do find it useful to compare my recent writing to my older writing - to see how far I've come, but also, sometimes I find stuff I like more in the older works and it helps pull me back on track when I've been off.


Ohhh good thought. If ever you doubt yourself read your older stuff. You'll feel MUCH better lol I deleted 2 of my stories from here because they embarassed me Embarassed although most people told me to leave them up to show much I had improved.

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Viv
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PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="Alassante"]
Sulriel wrote:
most people told me to leave them up to show much I had improved.


John Keats, the poet, is one of my all-time favorite writers, not just because he wrote some really kick-ass stuff, but also because he left a lot of "work" behind. I once saw a Keats manuscript (under glass). That thing was criss-crossed all over, with words added, deleted, scratched out, added again in a different ink. It was a complete mess.

But it ended up being "The Eve of St. Agnes." Seeing all the work he put into it, over years even, made me realize that even the Super-Great Ones didn't just start writing Beautiful Fiction one day. It's a slow growth process for everybody.
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eiranae
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PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 10:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You know what I really like is being able to chat with people about my stories. I guess I'm not confident enough in my skills to post it without wanting to check the thing every five minutes to see what people think.

I keep bugging my husband to tell me what he thinks of my writing, but he's not a big writing buff.

Quote:
I think, as a writer at least, you get so wrapped up in your perspective and the characters as they're coming to you, it's impossible to see the outcome with true objectivity, which then makes you nervous and you start doubting yourself. That's why reviews and PMs are so important to so many writers: they're proof of the support network it takes to screw up the guts to say "Hey, I think this is worth reading, so I'm going to put my name to it on a public forum and let total strangers have at it".


This is the way I always feel when I post a chapter. I practically wring my hands wondering what people will think of it.

Quote:
But it ended up being "The Eve of St. Agnes." Seeing all the work he put into it, over years even, made me realize that even the Super-Great Ones didn't just start writing Beautiful Fiction one day. It's a slow growth process for everybody.


Knowing this gives me hope that I can improve. Bottom line is I want to become a better writer. I appreciate all of you discussing the process with me. You don't know how much this helps. Very Happy
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Viv
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PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2008 9:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

eiranae wrote:
You don't know how much this helps. Very Happy


Helps me, too. Smile
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NancyBrooke
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PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2008 9:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

eiranae wrote:
Bottom line is I want to become a better writer
Then you already have the one indespensible quality that will help you most - desire to improve your writing for its own sake. Although,
Alassante wrote:
an ego the size of Gondor
can certainly help.

I have made so many drafts of this post, and I just lost the last one! Ugh Head bang . So I will be brief, and try not to be too pedantic.

Seems to me the most important thing any writing - drabble, poem, story, novel - has to have is substance: a core, central idea that the writer wants to explore and illustrate for others to explore. I'm all for a good yarn, but I want, in the end, to have my work say something more than the words on the page. "Devours" is the perfect example in that all that blood, guts, warfare and sex is not there for its own sake, but to show something about character, Boromir's character, and only that. My work often starts with a question, or an idea - what if? or How would?

Everything - adverbs to paragraph order - for me has to serve that central idea.

Then there is also the fun of expression. I just like words. I like the way they go together and by being side by side or in association make more of themselves then they can alone. When I get a phrase right - especially in a drabble - that really works, i.e. successfully says what I want and something further, I have been known to caper about the room.

That central idea is a nut I just have to crack to see what's inside. Then I always want take that kernal and make the most enticing, succulent, multi-layered pastry out of it and serve it up for everyone to enjoy.

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