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sindohte



Joined: 13 May 2003
Posts: 1625
Location: Rubbing up against an Elf

PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2004 7:25 am    Post subject: Building A Better Story Reply with quote

For those of you who are writers - What has been the best piece(s) of advice you have received from either a beta reader or someone who read your story? And conversely for those of you who are beta readers or simply avid readers - what nuggets of wisdom have you given to a writer about how to improve their story?
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SilverMoonLady



Joined: 14 Jul 2003
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Location: Breaking in a Brandybuck... *wicked grin*

PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2004 8:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Read it out loud!

*grin* You might feel stupid doing it, but you wouldn't believe the difference it makes in *everything*. You catch spelling, punctuation and word substitutions; flow and grammar improve tenfold; and this is the ultimate bane of the run-on sentence.

That would be advice received and passed on, btw.
Very Happy

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Lossefalme01



Joined: 08 Jul 2004
Posts: 31
Location: Missouri, USA

PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2004 11:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with the read out loud thing!! Very much so! It's crazy how much you will find when you say it out loud vs when you read it in your head! And something else to watch for when you read out loud, or even if you read it to yourself in your head: anytime you find yourself stumbling over a sentence, or going back to reread the sentence, be sure you stop and take the time to analyze that sentence. Because if you are tripping over it, so will your readers, and that means something isn't quite right with it. See if you can find a way to change it so you don't have to get stuck on that sentence. I believe that when you read a story, it should read smoothly enough that your eyes should never stop moving from left to right. Smile

There are a few other things that I've picked up over the years as well, but they are quite more in depth and I'm not sure they belong under this topic Wink . However I'll take a look around and if it ends up they do I will come back and post them!

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Though here at journey's end I lie
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beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and Stars forever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
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Lossefalme01



Joined: 08 Jul 2004
Posts: 31
Location: Missouri, USA

PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2004 12:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very Happy Back already! Hee hee. I've checked this thread and it appears that this is indeed the best place to put the other things I have learned, as it really does have to do with writing a better story. Maybe not really from the characterization/action viewpoint but definitely from the actual quality of WRITING the fic viewpoint.

I am (as it seems many fanfic authors are trying to do) currently working on an original novel and have been doing so for years. During this time I have done a lot of research on writing novels for publication and have attended some writing workshops. I have also beta'd stories for several people, and through all of this I found that, when you boil it down, there are four most common mistakes writers make (whether they are aspiring novelists or fanfic authors). The four most commonly made mistakes are the following:

1. Absolutely the MOST important thing an author should keep in mind while writing their story is "SHOW don’t TELL". It is a professional writing rule that actually is a little difficult to understand, but I’ll try to explain it. For instance, let's say in your fic you've got a Gondorian sortie fighting against a group of Orcs. Instead of writing simply “the contrast between the two groups was dramatic” or maybe even just "the Gondorian soldiers crashed in the mass of Orcs", explain and describe the contrast between them. Explain and describe how they crashed together. Describe what the orcs look like versus what the men look like, in clothes, weapons, mounts if any, teeth, eyes, etc… describe the difference in fighting style between the two...just describe the two groups in more detail and then you won’t even have to say there was a contrast, etc, because you would have SHOWN it already. Another example, instead of saying "The girl was injured" say something more along the lines of "Several long red gashes along her arm oozed blood, some of it running down to drip off her fingertips, and a dark bruise marred her forehead." Of course, on the other hand, you don't want to be too verbose. Wink In general, describe and SHOW enough to paint the scene for the reader, but if you have a whole entire page telling what the men look like, or what the girl's injuries look like, you've probably gone too far!

2. Secondly, there is the PASSIVE verb thing, which anyone who has had a story beta'd by me is probably tired of hearing by now! LOL. When you write your fic, keep an eye out for the words “was” and “were” and any action word ending in “ing”. When you find yourself writing those words, stop and ask yourself if you can change that into a more ACTIVE verb. For example, instead of saying “the orcs were coming down the mountain” write “the orcs came down the mountain”. Instead of writing “the horse was running out of control” write “the horse ran out of control”. Another example of using passive verbs is when you say “could see, could hear, could imagine” etc, or “almost saw, could almost imagine, almost hear,” etc. In these cases you should leave out the “could” and the “almost” because they weaken your story telling. Saying “he could see the orcs coming” doesn’t come off as strongly as “he saw the orcs coming”, and while writing you as the author want to paint a SOLID picture for your readers. However, there are some times when you would use “could” and “almost”, just like there are sometimes when you would use “was” and “were” also. It’s not possible to cut passive verbs out entirely, but anytime you find yourself writing them be sure to double check to see if you can make them more active. Very Happy

3. Be aware of the word “that”. "That" is probably the most overused word in writing, and that’s not my personal opinion, that comes from editors of publishing companies. Granted, we are only writing fanfiction here, but why not write like it’s a novel? Wink That’s how I think of it anyway. Basically, anytime you find yourself writing “that”, double check to be sure it is really necessary to the sentence. Take it out, and if the sentence still makes sense then leave it out. Most “that”s can be taken out, probably about 80% or more of them, even.

4. And last but not least, there is pronoun confusion. Whenever you have more than one girl or more than one boy in a scene, be sure to distinguish which “her/his” or “she/he” you are talking about. You might have to use names more often or find a different way to describe the person you’re talking about. For example, if you have Legolas and Elrond in a scene, they are both “he’s” so occasionally you might have to say “the Mirkwood elf said” or "the Lord of Rivendell sighed" and such.

Well, that is all I have for now, but if I think of anything else I will let you know. If anyone has any questions about the above feel free to ask and I can try to explain it in more detail if it's needed! Generally these things are fairly easy to catch yourself doing and can be pretty easily fixed if you just take the time to look for them while you are writing. And you'd be AMAZED at how much just double checking these four things can improve a story! Very Happy

_________________
Though here at journey's end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and Stars forever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the Stars farewell.
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Viv
Challenge Admin


Joined: 24 Apr 2003
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Location: Texas

PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2004 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lossefalme01, I think I'm going to hug you.
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Moralanqua



Joined: 11 May 2003
Posts: 1051
Location: Scotland

PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2004 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You can hug her after im done licking her toes.

Sound advice and clearly put! Thank you.

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Lossefalme01



Joined: 08 Jul 2004
Posts: 31
Location: Missouri, USA

PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2004 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very Happy LOL! You guys are funny! Well I'm glad you found the stuff I put up helpful and UNDERSTANDABLE! Heh heh. Sometimes it's hard to explain some of that stuff! But really, if anyone has any questions about it I will surely try harder to explain, because you can't be sure to do those four things if you don't completely understand them! Wink
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Though here at journey's end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and Stars forever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the Stars farewell.
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Andreth



Joined: 24 Oct 2003
Posts: 1211

PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2004 1:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, most excellently put and addresses the important problems.

Aside from the obvious things like RESEARCH and SPELLCHECK I only have a few things to add from what I've learned over the years from different instructors and texts.

*As pointed out above, passive voice is something we're all guilty of. It has its place in writing, but reword and revise when you can. (Although, as Khazar once wisely told me, don't treat the passive voice as though it were diseased. It does have its place at times.) And when you choose new verbs, choose power verbs. Something that gives the reader the impression you want without a lot of adverbs tacked on. Don't say 'He walked angrily into the room' when you can say 'He stormed into the room'. The same goes for nouns, adverbs and adjectives. Make each word count. Build a powerful vocabulary of expressive words and use them.

*Give solid details that make the reader feel like they're in the story. Appeal to their senses - sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. Don't just say "I had a nice view of the woods outside the window'. Give the reader something to connect with - 'I looked out the window and saw an ocean of pine and cedar washing down the hillside.' Don't just say "I looked up and saw the stars" when you can say "I saw the stars, like glittering anchors in the vast night sea."

Okay, those examples are kind of trite, but you get the idea. Very Happy

*And speaking of trite, avoid cliches. Readers don't want to hear the same old, same old, over and over again. Use your powerful vocabulary to make up your own statements that might one day be used enough to become cliched.

*Watch out for redundant phrases, such as 'climbing up' or 'falling down'. What other direction are you going to climb or fall in? Other offenses are: blue in color, circle around, reason why, never before, young baby, spin around, raining outside, past history, future plan, strangle to death, gather together, etc. The Dicionary for Concise Writing and The Dimwit's Dictionary are good places to find lists of these redundant phrases.

*Vary your sentence length and sentence rhythm. Sentence structure is important.

*Learn the joys of figurative writing - learn about metaphors, allusions, parallelisms, hyperbole, personification, and similies.

Writing should be something you enjoy, but if you're serious about it you should always be on the look out to find ways to improve. I know I am. Very Happy
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SpaceWeavil



Joined: 27 May 2004
Posts: 21
Location: Looking at shiny things

PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2004 1:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a good thread and thanks for starting it Very Happy

Most of my best advice-points have already been listed. Think I’ve had about three people slap my wrist for overuse of the passive voice so far, but I have it licked Smile At least I think I do. The other piece of advice I had from one reviewer (big smile towards Viv) was not using ‘was’ too often in descriptions, such as ‘the sea was big and green’ or whatever but to find another way of expressing the idea. That has helped big time and I keep that in mind when I write nowadays.

The advice I’ve received since finding this site has been invaluable on the whole though. I’ve found excellent beta readers and incredibly useful reviews. It kind of hit me this morning, as a matter of fact, just how far I have come as a writer just in the few months I’ve been here. I received a reply from BBC Books this morning for a Dr Who novel proposal I sent them, oh, only a year and a half ago, but that is them just replying now Laughing Although they didn’t accept the story, I got two sheets of feedback from their editor in chief no less, with a note to say how much he enjoyed the proposal, and even if it wasn’t being accepted he looked forward to seeing what I sent in next. That might just be his way of being polite, but I took it as encouragement. Added to that, with the skills I have learned since coming to OSA, knowing that my writing is far tighter and more accurate than when I submitted that proposal, I reckon my next story I send could be kickass. Twisted Evil (Sindohte has got me saying ‘kickass’ all the time now, Laughing )

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Viv
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Joined: 24 Apr 2003
Posts: 77
Location: Texas

PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2004 2:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, and there's a Challenge on this site regarding this topic. Scribe hoped to encourage writers to collect and essay-ize their writing experience and post it here, so we can help each other.

If you want to whip up a quick list of suggestions, please feel free to post it under the challenge. Smile
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sindohte



Joined: 13 May 2003
Posts: 1625
Location: Rubbing up against an Elf

PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2004 2:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well let me jump in and add my few cents worth to the mix.

1. When picking a beta reader, consider picking someone who has posted a story. A beta reader is not someone you should pick haphazardly like a pair of flip flops bought at Wal-mart. A good beta reader is a jewel without price (and yes I am kissing ass feverishly of all the folks who have ever beta read my work). Having the opportunity to see a sample of the person's work will allow you to get a sense of their writing style and any particular blind spots they may have as a writer. So if you happen to notice that a potential beta reader sucks at spelling, you damn say sure know that they will NOT be catching your typos.

2. Step outside of your comfort zone. Pick new beta readers every so often to give you a new perspective on your writing. Beta readers who know and love you are more likely to massage your ego, than someone who doesn't know you from a hole in the wall.

3. Listen to your beta readers!!! That is not to say that you necessarily have to agree with everything they say, but if someone has taken the time to bring something to your attention you might want to listen. Let me give you an example - if you were riding in a car with your beta reader as the passenger and they told you to pull over to the side of the road because smoke was coming out from under the hood, I bet you would listen wouldn't you? The same principle follows with using a beta reader. You don't have to follow all of their suggestions, but PAY ATTENTION when they tell you something.

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Lossefalme01



Joined: 08 Jul 2004
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2004 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
*Watch out for redundant phrases, such as 'climbing up' or 'falling down'. What other direction are you going to climb or fall in? Other offenses are: blue in color, circle around, reason why, never before, young baby, spin around, raining outside, past history, future plan, strangle to death, gather together, etc. The Dicionary for Concise Writing and The Dimwit's Dictionary are good places to find lists of these redundant phrases.


Ah ha! This reminds of something sort of related that I forgot to mention, and that's using the same words to describe things all the time, or at least within a close space of writing. For instance, if two characters are talking to each other, you don't want to write: "Yes, I think you might be right," Gimli replied. And then right after that write: "And we must be careful," Legolas replied. And use the same word right together! Even if the two "replied"s were seperated by a few sentences or even two paragraphs, that's close enough together for the reader to remember the first one, and when they get to the second one it will sound repetitive. This is something to keep in mind not only for dialogue tags but for other semi-descriptive phrases as well, and of course all the things Andreth mentioned above! I fully agree that you should build a BROAD vocabulary and then use it to your advantage to put your readers INTO the world of your fic.



Quote:
Let me give you an example - if you were riding in a car with your beta reader as the passenger and they told you to pull over to the side of the road because smoke was coming out from under the hood, I bet you would listen wouldn't you? The same principle follows with using a beta reader. You don't have to follow all of their suggestions, but PAY ATTENTION when they tell you something.


I truly believe that has got to be the GREATEST beta-reader analogy I've ever heard!! Kudos! I completely and totally agree with you on everything you said about beta readers, sindohte! I have found also that it is good to switch up beta-readers every now and then. Because if you find someone to beta who doesn't really know you, eventually they do come to know you, and as they get involved in the story they may get a bit distracted from their beta-duties every now and then. Wink I know that's what happens to me sometimes! And then I have to go back and reread their chapter and look at it from a BETA view rather than a READER's view, and that helps. LOL. But still...

_________________
Though here at journey's end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and Stars forever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the Stars farewell.
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nagatu



Joined: 04 Feb 2013
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2013 6:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lossefalme01 wrote:
Very Happy Back already! Hee hee. I've checked this thread and it appears that this is indeed the best place to put the other things I have learned, as it really does have to do with writing a better story. Maybe not really from the characterization/action viewpoint but definitely from the actual quality of WRITING the fic viewpoint.

I am (as it seems many fanfic authors are trying to do) currently working on an original novel and have been doing so for years. During this time I have done a lot of research on writing novels for publication and have attended some writing workshops. I have also beta'd stories for several people, and through all of this I found that, when you boil it down, there are four most common mistakes writers make (whether they are aspiring novelists or fanfic authors). The four most commonly made mistakes are the following:

1. Absolutely the MOST important thing an author should keep in mind while writing their story is "SHOW don’t TELL". It is a professional writing rule that actually is a little difficult to understand, but I’ll try to explain it. For instance, let's say in your fic you've got a Gondorian sortie fighting against a group of Orcs. Instead of writing simply “the contrast between the two groups was dramatic” or maybe even just "the Gondorian soldiers crashed in the mass of Orcs", explain and describe the contrast between them. Explain and describe how they crashed together. Describe what the orcs look like versus what the men look like, in clothes, weapons, mounts if any, teeth, eyes, etc… describe the difference in fighting style between the two...just describe the two groups in more detail and then you won’t even have to say there was a contrast, etc, because you would have SHOWN it already. Another example, instead of saying "The girl was injured" say something more along the lines of "Several long red gashes along her arm oozed blood, some of it running down to drip off her fingertips, and a dark bruise marred her forehead." Of course, on the other hand, you don't want to be too verbose. Wink In general, describe and SHOW enough to paint the scene for the reader, but if you have a whole entire page telling what the men look like, or what the girl's injuries look like, you've probably gone too far!

2. Secondly, there is the PASSIVE verb thing, which anyone who has had a story beta'd by me is probably tired of hearing by now! LOL. When you write your fic, keep an eye out for the words “was” and “were” and any action word ending in “ing”. When you find yourself writing those words, stop and ask yourself if you can change that into a more ACTIVE verb. For example, instead of saying “the orcs were coming down the mountain” write “the orcs came down the mountain”. Instead of writing “the horse was running out of control” write “the horse ran out of control”. Another example of using passive verbs is when you say “could see, could hear, could imagine” etc, or “almost saw, could almost imagine, almost hear,” etc. In these cases you should leave out the “could” and the “almost” because they weaken your story telling. Saying “he could see the orcs coming” doesn’t come off as strongly as “he saw the orcs coming”, and while writing you as the author want to paint a SOLID picture for your readers. However, there are some times when you would use “could” and “almost”, just like there are sometimes when you would use “was” and “were” also. It’s not possible to cut passive verbs out entirely, but anytime you find yourself writing them be sure to double check to see if you can make them more active. Very Happy

3. Be aware of the word “that”. "That" is probably the most overused word in writing, and that’s not my personal opinion, that comes from editors of publishing companies. Granted, we are only writing fanfiction here, but why not write like it’s a novel? Wink That’s how I think of it anyway. Basically, anytime you find yourself writing “that”, double check to be sure it is really necessary to the sentence. Take it out, and if the sentence still makes sense then leave it out. Most “that”s can be taken out, probably about 80% or more of them, even.

4. And last but not least, there is pronoun confusion. Whenever you have more than one girl or more than one boy in a scene, be sure to distinguish which “her/his” or “she/he” you are talking about. You might have to use names more often or find a different way to describe the person you’re talking about. For example, if you have Legolas and Elrond in a scene, they are both “he’s” so occasionally you might have to say “the Mirkwood elf said” or "the Lord of Rivendell sighed" and such.

Well, that is all I have for now, but if I think of anything else I will let you know. If anyone has any questions about the above feel free to ask and I can try to explain it in more detail if it's needed! Generally these things are fairly easy to catch yourself doing and can be pretty easily fixed if you just take the time to look for them while you are writing. And you'd be AMAZED at how much just double checking these four things can improve a story! Very Happy


ahm woahh i appreciate your post i agree with it..
^_^
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MrsAnalytica



Joined: 24 May 2013
Posts: 23
Location: Belgium

PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2013 1:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

All the advice given so far is great, there's hardly anything left to say! Very Happy

The best advice I ever got, concerning OC's in fanfiction, was to take a step back from them and imagine knowing them in real life. It's a great way to write the reactions of other characters to an OC, and it's an even better way to spot OC's that are Mary-Sue, unbelievable, or just downright annoying. I've had plenty of those (especially the last category) and this tip has helped me spot and improve them a lot.
It seems like such a logical thing to do, I know, but while young and overenthusiastic it never occurred to me to try and have an objective look at my chars... xD
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Haleth



Joined: 27 Sep 2003
Posts: 538
Location: The ruins of Tharbad.

PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's always good to learn and use the basics of good language. Proper spelling, grammar and punctuation are funny things. Most people don't notice when they're done properly but it can really throw a reader out of the story if they are blantantly and repeatedly incorrect. You want the focus on the story; not on distracting mistakes.

My biggest piece of advice would be to decide what motivates you to write and then act accordingly. If you want to be published, learn to write what sells. Accept that you may have to write something you're not overly thrilled with to reach your goal.

If you're writing for fun, follow your heart. Find places with people of tastes similar to yours to share your work. Read other people's stories and offer encouragement.

Learn to recognize and accept constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is like gold; very valuable and very rare.

Ok. Enough of the tl;dr

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