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Being Honest...

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Sayer, Jul 23, 2019.

  1. Sayer

    Sayer Acolyte

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    Hi guys! Currently I'm looking for ways to make writer's lives easier. To that end I have a couple of questions...

    1. As a fantasy writer, what are the TWO biggest challenges you face in the process of creating and completing your novel?

    2. When it comes to writing a novel or series, what would you wish for more than anything else?

    Thanks in advance guys! Very curious and looking forward to reading your answers :)
     
  2. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    1. Finding time and energy.

    2. Time and energy.
     
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  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Where to begin, where to begin....

    I don't know what you're looking for so we'll see what if any of this is helpful.

    Challenges:
    1. Premise: What does a premise need to be good enough? I see people proposing "story ideas" that are barely a character description. We need an easy way to talk about and evaluate our main ideas.
    2. Story Structure: There's so many different formats, they use different terms, they're all over the place. Some are too structured, while some are too vague. They lead to formulaic stories. And yet they still don't really help at all with the "muddy middle." And subplots? Nobody seems to know what they're doing when it comes to subplots.
    3. Character Dynamics: It's pretty straight forward to come up with a good character and develop their arc. But how do you handle the banter between different characters? How much chatter is too much? When is it interesting and how do I know if my side characters are helping or hurting or need to change? When is it a good buffer leading into the action, and when is it getting in the way?
    4. Research: Can someone explain horses to me? And sailing? And what's the difference between a barony and a duchy, do they ever overlap territory? (and what really is a viscount because it's like a very rare assistant and that makes no sense?).
    5. Theme: Just, what? Talk about vague. Is there a basic framework for developing a deeper theme? And what's really the deal with literary vs commercial stories? Is there a tangible difference or is it purely subjective? How can I include literary elements (or commercial, for that matter) to make my story better?
    6. Editing: ?????!!?!?!!!
    7. Marketing: Ohh $&%&&@! What the heck are you supposed to do? Spam your seven twitter followers with book excerpts? Email a thousand random book reviewers begging for reviews? Wait and wish for a Field of Dreams-type miracle?

    Wishes:
    1. Visuals - Lots and Lots of Visuals: Like an infographic on story writing that makes sense, or pages showing lots of different wardrobes for each place and time in history, or castle floorplans (omg, finding a floorplan for a real castle and not a D&D-campaign is like impossible), and so on.
    2. Three Magic Bullet Points for Editing: Three points. Not seven. Not seventeen. Not 101. Three simple things to keep in mind and look out for while fixing up your prose. (And if someone says show not tell, or don't use "was," I'll burn them, I really will.)
    3. A Go-To Place for Marketing: I want a place where I can submit a book, know that two or three people will give it honest reviews, and that people will respect those reviews as accurate and talk it up based on the results. I want a clearly listed guideline of where to go from there.
    4. ^ The same, but for critiques.
     
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Hey DevorDevor, that is a truly great list. I'm going to make just about every point there into a separate thread. Not all at once; don't panic! But everything there is worth discussion among worthies.

    I have to add one more: pacing. Pacing within a scene, pacing across scenes. Speed up, slow down. Use long sentences to achieve one and short sentence to achieve the other but that hardly exhausts the bag o' tricks, does it? And anyone who thinks long sentences only slow things down needs to go back and read Joyce again. Not that we did the first time. <wink>

    Nor should the importance of time and energy be overlooked. Lots of articles about that, sure. Any of them actually produce more time for you? More energy? I can waste time and get exhausted just reading them all!
     
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    That's a good idea skip.knoxskip.knox. For the purpose of this thread I was mostly venting, but I'm sure everyone is going through many of these same questions. And I know when Helio started a series of threads on the common advice we got a lot of great discussions, so a series of threads is a trend that works well.

    And pacing! I knew I was forgetting something. I wanted to mention the scene-sequel format. That goes hand in hand with pacing.
     
  6. Drevor covered a lot of ground above so I'll just add:

    1. As a fantasy writer, what are the TWO biggest challenges you face in the process of creating and completing your novel?

    For all the writing advice out there, there are very few ACTUAL examples I've found of say, how an author actually uses scene structure in their own books, same for creating timelines, character development etc and how it applied in their own words/stories.

    I want to know what it looks like when they do it, not just their outline format with all blanks for us to fill in. I've seen one or two examples, but not nearly enough. Also, what their actual first draft looks like for a chapter or scene BEFORE any editing. I don't expect every author to reveal these ugly parts of the process but it would be more helpful than, as Drevor said on another aspect, the endless lists of "101 points" becomes after a certain point.

    I am grateful for the authors who take popular fictional works and pull them apart for giving examples but again, that is in the final, published form. There is just not enough on the tangible dirty work pulled from the vaults of actual writers for me.

    2. When it comes to writing a novel or series, what would you wish for more than anything else?

    I'm not sure I understand the question and what it is supposed to pertain to. Can you clarify? Is this in terms of "how-to", writing itself or my own personal desires?
     
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  7. Drevor, you may have already stumbled upon this site in your travels:

    Castle Floor Plans

    Scroll halfway down and there are links to actual floorpans of some notable castles, usually with further links to larger images. A few are very interesting and not the layout I would ever imagine or create for a castle. I've visited a few of those in person (Warwick, Kenilworth) but they're overwhelming at actual size. Cheers!
     
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  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Nice! It's actually been a while since I've looked, but I definitely don't remember seeing this page. That's awesome.
     
  9. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    This would be nice actually.

    Seeing a play-by-play example that starts with initial story idea and then progresses through the first act would be nice. I suppose this would require either an ad hoc story idea for the purpose of the example or a writer who keeps a detailed, daily journal of each step—because, does any writer do that? Going back to piece together the steps is probably working with fuzzy material, since a lot of the process is far more turbulent, subject to course corrections and sudden inspirations, and most of this probably happens without an ongoing commentary by the author, heh.

    Then again, even going back to explain the choices made would be great.
     
  10. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I have found, occasionally, lists of elements in this or that book, but they were by no means exhaustive. In fact, they were almost always useless because they didn't go deep or broad enough. Sure, some minor point about one thing, e.g. horses, would be helpful; but so much else was left unaddressed. I've often wondered why no one has bothered writing a comprehensive compendium. Surely anyone who did that would make a fortune? But it would need to be quite large, heh. Maybe multiple volumes.
     
  11. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    1. Creating and completing the novel.
    2. To create and complete the novel.

    I am very sorry for this.


    :p
     
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  12. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    I’m with Malik, Time and Energy are the challenges for me... solve those and I’m golden, LOL. Sort of an Einstein thing.

    n=et2, where n = novel, e = energy and t = time.

    heh heh.

    Of late I have this issue... I reach the end of the day, plop down with the laptop... a few minutes I found myself wondering... was that me snoring?
     
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  13. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Everyone: that's Ban's "sorry" face.
     
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  14. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    It would be interesting to fully track and record the writing and editing process on a single chapter... the whole book would get monotonous, LOL.

    A while back I posted a piece of Eve of Snows (which hit the cutting room floor and was years old and raw) on my website, and then I recently rewrote the scene and inserted it into an expanded anniversary edition of the book. Comparing these two could begin to see into my process... Just for own curiosity I might have to record my writing and editing a chapter, just to see how insane it all sounds, LOL.

    Some of the Tolkien books published after his death with notes are fascinating... Strider the Hobbit, and all the oddities of his working process. But, it wouldn’t really be instructive, just fun to see how some things evolved.

     
  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    All right, Devor, you didn't ask for it, so here it is. First thoughts, with a few questions volleyed back to you but with an invitation to others to chime in. As if y'all needed inviting! Looking for feedback on all, then I really do think each is worth some further discussion.

    Challenges:

    Premise: What does a premise need to be good enough? I see people proposing "story ideas" that are barely a character description. We need an easy way to talk about and evaluate our main ideas.

    A way to talk about and evaluate main ideas.


    This means having some sort of shared vocabulary as well as standards of evaluation.


    What is a main idea? Are we talking about a pitch? If so, there are articles about what an agent looks for from a pitch.


    Story Structure: There's so many different formats, they use different terms, they're all over the place. Some are too structured, while some are too vague. They lead to formulaic stories. And yet they still don't really help at all with the "muddy middle." And subplots? Nobody seems to know what they're doing when it comes to subplots.

    I’d say there are maybe a dozen. They come in two formats—a text description or a spreadsheet. There is indeed variance in language but not so much that it can’t be dealt with.


    As to whether they work or not, that’s a separate discussion. Argument. That arg- er, discussion ties to what constitutes the “too” in too structured and too vague.


    But the muddy middle is worth a discussion, and so are subplots.


    Character Dynamics: It's pretty straight forward to come up with a good character and develop their arc. But how do you handle the banter between different characters? How much chatter is too much? When is it interesting and how do I know if my side characters are helping or hurting or need to change? When is it a good buffer leading into the action, and when is it getting in the way?


    Straightforward, sez you? Hah! Sez I.


    Seems like the question about chatter and too much and helping or hurting the story is somewhat similar to questions about descriptions. Maybe both can be considered together.



    Research: Can someone explain horses to me? And sailing? And what's the difference between a barony and a duchy, do they ever overlap territory? (and what really is a viscount because it's like a very rare assistant and that makes no sense?).

    This is huge, as I’m sure anyone knows. There are plenty of books about these questions. Too many books. I see two issues here. One, general knowledge about a subject, which implies some sort of bibliography. Two, how to find answers to specific questions, especially when the questions are so specific or so poorly framed, it’s nearly impossible to find the answer. Even so, there are Things that can Be Done.

    Theme: Just, what? Talk about vague. Is there a basic framework for developing a deeper theme? And what's really the deal with literary vs commercial stories? Is there a tangible difference or is it purely subjective? How can I include literary elements (or commercial, for that matter) to make my story better?

    There’s a potpourri of questions here. What is a theme and how does it relate to story? Fine. But those other questions belong somewhere else. I think I’d move them down to Marketing. These topics are starting to feel like moving through the circles of Hell.

    Editing: ?????!!?!?!!


    There are good resources for this. But it’s well worth talking about. I’d throw in: how do I find a good editor? And how do I know if they’re good?
    PS, I edited out two of your exclamation points as being overly exclamatory.


    Marketing: Ohh $&%&&@! What the heck are you supposed to do? Spam your seven twitter followers with book excerpts? Email a thousand random book reviewers begging for reviews? Wait and wish for a Field of Dreams-type miracle?

    Wait, wait, I’m not done chortling.


    Whew. Better. It’s a very big topic. I’d almost suggest it doesn’t even belong in Mythic Scribes because it’s not really about scribing. It belongs somewhere. I may punt on this one.


    Wishes:
    Visuals - Lots and Lots of Visuals: Like an infographic on story writing that makes sense, or pages showing lots of different wardrobes for each place and time in history, or castle floorplans (omg, finding a floorplan for a real castle and not a D&D-campaign is like impossible), and so on.

    I hate infographics. I’m a word guy. If we can’t come up with reasonable text on story writing that makes sense, we sure ain’t going to make a picture that does. And if we can come up with reasonable text on story writing that makes sense, then why do we need an infographic? Plus, it’s a clumsy word. Are there graphics that lack information? Never mind. Personal problem. Drive through.


    As for wardrobes and floorplans, this goes back to Research, above. It’s just research on visuals, but the issues are much the same. Do I really want to know all about castle architecture (trust me, you don’t!), am I looking for a floorplan to swipe for a story, or do I want to know what sort of architrave was likely to be used in a 14thc Italian castle? South Italian, not north and not Sicilian.



    Three Magic Bullet Points for Editing: Three points. Not seven. Not seventeen. Not 101. Three simple things to keep in mind and look out for while fixing up your prose. (And if someone says show not tell, or don't use "was," I'll burn them, I really will.)


    This is Editing, above. I would aim more for seventeen than three because what’s magic for one author is elementary for another. Probably varies by book, too. So, a shopping list. I also hate bullet points. They’re just points. Unarmed.


    A Go-To Place for Marketing: I want a place where I can submit a book, know that two or three people will give it honest reviews, and that people will respect those reviews as accurate and talk it up based on the results. I want a clearly listed guideline of where to go from there.


    See Item Marketing, above.

    ^ The same, but for critiques.

    I’ll drink to this one. Am drinking, in truth. Critiques, beta readers, even editors, it’s all worth talking about how we work with them and how to find them and how to keep them. Or are you talking about reviews?
     
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  16. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Muddy middles and subplots are related... one of the best ways to get through the middle is the subplot. Once you know subplots, the muddle (muddy middle) no longer need exist. Or at least, I haven’t met one since screenwriting where muddles are oft spoken of, heh heh.
     
  17. Sayer

    Sayer Acolyte

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    Great responses so far!

    To better clarify, what I meant was: if you could have one wish granted when it comes to the process of writing a story, what would it be?

    For example: I would wish that the middle section of my story unfold in such a way that the climax is a real emotional tear-jerker!

    I asked somebody else this question and they wished they had more time on their hands.

    It can be anything: what would you wish for in connection to your writing process?
     
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  18. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I think a shared a vocabulary would be a big deal. There kind of already is, with words like "Inciting Incident" and "Call to Action," but I feel that something a little more robust and widely known could go a ways towards improving things.


    Most of the resources are there if you look for them. But a lot of resources aren't really geared for writers. And sometimes you don't know that you don't know things. And really, I looked a long time last week on noble titles, and I still couldn't find answers to basic questions. And it took way too long to stumble on a Quora answer that explained, "when so-and-so which used Counts conquered this region, they let the nobles there keep their title Duke, and the Dukes had slightly larger, richer territories." I mean, ohhhh, why couldn't someone say that sooner?



    I don't know, but I kind of equate "literary novel" with "heavy theme."



    First of all, thank you for the kind effort to make changes to my beautifully crafted artistic choice of punctuation, but comment removed by moderator.

    :whistle:

    With editing, I rather feel that there's a hypothetical list of, say, 20 things, but when editing your own story, you can only focus on three: The next three that you haven't quite mastered. Everything above those three items on your list you should have internalized as you write. And everything below those three are too advanced for you at the moment. But that's just me.
     
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  19. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Ah, so these are wishes with potential real-world solutions, not simply fantasy wishes.

    My fantasy wish would be: After coming up with the story idea, character and world backgrounds. and general features of the plot, having a scene by scene, chapter by chapter, act by act template instantly spring to mind—solid enough that I only need to write it.

    Of course, that's achievable in the real world. I just need to outline all these, right?

    But the fantasy wish would be to have all these simply pop into my mind with clarity.

    I suppose the real world wish would be to have detailed examples of how best to approach the outline process, not only addressing outlining in general but how best to utilize the outlining process for a variety of story types. More specifically, I'd like a guide showing how to utilize the outlining process given the specific initial story elements of whatever story idea I've already conceived.

    That may be asking too much. The more specificity, the less likely a guide will be able to cover all bases. This may be why outlining story structure is usually described in general, broad terms like 3-act structure, 7-act structure, etc. This is why various "beat sheet" templates exist already. So perhaps some work to apply the general structures to a personalized story is required by the author after all, heh.
     
  20. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Incidentally, if I were confident I'd live long enough to collect on the bet, I'd place a large sum of money on AI one day being able to do what I wrote about in my last comment. You input your story elements, characters, general plot, key world building elements, and the AI returns a detailed outline of the story you should write. It'd probably be an iterative process, with the AI prompting you for more detail, revising the outline accordingly. Behind the AI's internal process would probably be a vast library of stories already written plus all those beat sheets and structural elements.

    I'd place less money on the idea that this will eventually kill interest in new stories written by others. I mean, if anyone can use the AI-enabled program to write their own stories, more people would be writing stories, and their stories would more closely fit what they themselves want to read. It'd take some of the magic out of downloading and reading a story written by others. But I'd place less money because a) there'd still be lots of people who didn't want to bother creating their own stories, and b) a lot of people would still find the ideas others have used as the bases of their stories interesting.

    Of course, eventually AI's will probably be able to write stories of their own. Will this put humans out of business? Heh. What about AI's stealing the ideas humans input and creating their own stories from these, maybe even sabotaging their human clients? Any bets?
     
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