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How can I make my writing better

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Azora, Dec 4, 2016.

  1. Azora

    Azora Acolyte

    So I really am bad at making things interesting. Yes I have a good amount of detail, but even with the detail, Its still boring. What can I do to make my writing more interesting?
    Ronald T. likes this.
  2. Detail doesn't do much to make a story interesting. Detail is like decoration. It makes things prettier but does not improve the framework.

    Your question is not very specific, but I will do what I can. For me, what keeps me interested in a story is investment in the characters. The characters are the foundation of the story. If I like the characters and really care what happens to them and want to see them succeed, I'll be interested in the story as a whole. For others it may be different, but they can post their own things.

    To be invested in the characters, first your readers have to care about them and relate to them. Then, you have to add conflict. The characters have a goal they desperately want to accomplish or a thing they desperately want, and there are awful things threatened if they don't achieve their goal. Basically.

    As I said, you're not very specific so my help and advice can only reach so far, but here's what I would do.

    First, I would give my character some quirky or weird personality traits. Your reader doesn't want to hear about their favorite color or anything, but I find that giving them quirks is the best way to make them come alive. One of my characters in one of my WIP's has awkwardly tiny feet. Another from another WIP is a pyromaniac. Neither of these things are *that* relevant to the plot, but they are an aspect of the character.

    Second, I would give them thoughts or feelings that the reader would find relatable. Most people have or have had brothers or sisters, so maybe give them a sibling and make them feel annoyance toward that sibling in the scene you're working on. Think of a situation lots of people are familiar with and see how you can insert those emotions into the story. In one of my WIP's I start out when my character is about to be punished for something and I delve into the dread of anticipating it. Lots of people know or remember that feeling, so it's relatable to them.

    Third, the conflict. I would ask yourself, how can I make it worse? How can I make the character's goal seem more distant and harder to reach? How can I make the consequences of failure even worse? Keep escalating the conflict throughout the story. Instead of everything coming easy for the characters, make plans fail and disasters happen.

    That's my suggestion, but it may or may not help at all. I don't know if the problem is with your plot, your characters, your writing style...I don't know, but I hope this sheds some light.
    cydare and Ronald T. like this.
  3. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    Read some craft books like my favorite "Writing the Breakout novel" by Donald Maass, listen to the podcast Writing Excuses, watch the Sanderson lectures at BYU, find friends to trade, get critiques, write in challenges that test your skills.

    Writing is like running. How would you get better at running? You'd have a good diet that gave you energy, you'd invest in some comfortable shoes and other wearable necessities, and then you'd....RUN.

    So write! Everything you can. Take random prompts, do exercises you can find by googling, or join a local writer's group or class.

    This answer isn't a simple, "Show more, tell less," sort of answer (because we haven't seen your work or analyzed why it's not interesting, however, I can assume you suffer from the same things I did and loads of other people also do). You can read my "When I began Writing" thread. It talks a lot about the mistakes I made as a newer writer. It also tells how I overcame those early weaknesses, and which ones I still struggle with. If you aren't shy, post an excerpt on the Showcase or put it into it's own thread where you can say, hey folks, here's my excerpt, can anyone explain why this isn't as interesting as I want it to be?

    Or read a bunch of the threads and articles we have here and when you see people who are giving good advice on similar topics, reach out to that person and start a conversation. This is a friendly place.

    I haven't seen your work, but the problem most folks have is that they are stuck in their own heads. They create these awesome images, but there's nothing behind those images. In fact I wrote about that today in my thread: https://mythicscribes.com/forums/writing-questions/17473-when-i-began-writing-4.html#post253098 that link will skip you to the post, but you can check out the rest of the thread in case any of that helps, too.

    I wrote books for ten years before I ever learned a thing about how to do it well. Then it took another five years of working hard and doing my best before things really started to click and become like my goal was.

    In the meantime, write. Every day. Write anything you can think of, even if it's just notes about characters, small things that you perhaps observe in the people around you. Things that will make your character more interesting.

    Also, if you're shy about posting in the showcase, you can post your work in your own portfolio, and it'll never go away from there unless you delete it, and people can leave comments. And there, it's less public.

    If you want your work to be more engaging, I highly recommend talking to other writers and trading work. If you read other people's writing and it bores you, that might help you figure out what you're also doing wrong. If you love someone else's work and are riveted, well, then you have an example of what they're doing right and hopefully they'll have plenty of suggestions and feedback for you to use as you improve things one at a time. And you could always ask them, if you didn't quite get a sense of how they felt when reading, or what they meant by a particular comment. Critique relationships are fragile. They take time to solidify.

    Hope that starts you on your way. There's tons of great advice on this site, and you find it in the weirdest places, so check out some of our other ongoing conversations.

    Best wishes!
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2016
    Ronald T. likes this.
  4. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    Without a sample, there is no way to know what area you should be working on most and you will only get generic answers. I can imagine several reasons, but I haven't a clue from what you've said.

    Edit: A generic answer that seizes upon one word you use "detail" is that with people writing lots of detail, they will tend to use a lot of filler and filter words. Which might be step 1, or step 10, depending on your actual writing. It could also be the wrong detail.

    Last edited: Dec 4, 2016
  5. Ronald T.

    Ronald T. Troubadour

    As Demensnedenoir said, it's difficult to respond without a sample.

    But my best advice to anyone who whishes to improve their writing is to read...read...read. And I'm talking about reading other authors you enjoy. Read them, and ask yourself why you find their writing so enjoyable. Read them, and focus on what seems most interesting to you. Read them, and when you reach a segment that seems extremely interesting, or that really moves or touches you, ask yourself how they accomplished that emotional effect.

    Do this with all your favorite authors, and then write...write...write. In a few weeks or months, repeat the process to remind yourself of what excites you about reading another writers work. You'll begin to absorb these qualities through mental osmosis, and the excitement you wish to have in your writing will slowly begin to show up.

    Good luck, and never give up.
  6. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

    Share your work.

    Write, share, take feedback, repeat.

    Also, while you are writing, read craft books, listen to podcasts, read blogs. Learn, practice, repeat.

    Read, then write, then read some more, then write some more. Repeat.

    Don't be afraid to appear weak and vulnerable. Don't think you have to know everything. Ask questions, allow yourself to play dumb. Seek out mentors. Seek out crit partners. Be wide eyed and bushy tailed.

    Free Resources:

    How To Write A Novel Using The Snowflake Method
    Helping Writers Become Authors - Write your best story. Change your life. Astound the world.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2016
    Ronald T. likes this.
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    All good advice here. I don't have any advice to add, but I do have a question.

    What makes you think your writing is bad? Has anyone else seen it? Do *they* say it's bad?
    Ronald T., SaltyDog and Russ like this.
  8. SaltyDog

    SaltyDog Sage

    If you have the money and time, maybe some writing courses.
  9. SaltyDog

    SaltyDog Sage

    I agree with Skip by the way. You may think your writing is rotten, but to others it may be great and lively.
  10. Creed

    Creed Sage

    It's hard to disagree with something that keeps cropping up on here as a given, but I feel the need to. There's a fixation on detail in the OP, and detail as the way to make things "interesting". And that boils down to the writing itself.

    Characters may be the foundation of a plot, but they're not the foundation of a story. That's the language, the technical skill of the writing itself, how it conveys information and suspends the reader into a dreamlike state. Interesting characters can exist in a mental limbo that never sees the light of day. Sympathetic characters can hide amongst flat writing and no one will ever get to know them. Achieve that waking-dreamlike state with fantastic writing and the writer can do whatever they want to.

    That's the goal of writing, and to get a better understanding of it I'd highly recommend picking up a copy of John Gardner's The Art of Fiction. He outlines common errors and strategies to make the actual writing itself more "interesting," more sweeping and ensnaring. It's a great resource, and some of it can be found online. I still have tons to learn from Gardner, that's for sure.

    I think Demesnedenoir is correct. Use detail that shapes the scene in important ways, and stay away from generic details. Don't think of detail as decoration, think of it as the very crucial building blocks for the scene. If you don't provide enough detail the reader can't visually follow the narrative. If you provide cliche detail, they won't want to.

    Either way, a sample would help some of the more successful/experienced Scribes with your request. :)
  11. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

    One specific thing I'll mention: To make something more interesting, try appealing to your reader's emotions. It's hard to do that with details alone. How to go about it is part of the craft of writing, and each author has their own approach to it.
    Ronald T. likes this.
  12. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

    If you ever figure out how to make your writing more interesting that doesn't involve patience, hard work, and developing the skill bit by bit--please let me know.

    My writing needs to be more interesting too, but I'm doing it the old-fashioned way: working on it every day. I don't think there are any shortcuts, but if there is one, I'd be keen on learning about it.
    Ronald T. likes this.
  13. Jackarandajam

    Jackarandajam Troubadour

    Read. When you've finished all the books, pick your favorite, and do what they do.
    Ronald T. and visually_alert like this.
  14. There is no one way to make your writing better. In fact, most of the time, most people cannot make their writing better by focusing on one thing at the expense of everything else. I think to make one's writing better one needs to understand what I call the Meta-structure of writing. There are two general areas to look at. The first area is content. The second area to consider is the actual structure of writing. Before I continue let me first explain that all of this is to be looked at in its totality and to recognize that some people are better in some areas and worse in others. It is up to the writer to make their strengths shine and at least minimize the effect of their defects.

    Content is the first topic to consider because it is the hook. Content is what the reader wants to see. This requires looking at whether the sentence, paragraph, page, chapter, or story is interesting in terms of its substantive content. This would require having interesting characters, storylines, character moments, action moments, pieces of humor, proper emotional stakes, proper tone for the scenario, and a plethora of other things that we talk about. Without having interesting characters and things related thereto and at the very least an engaging plot no amount of pretty prose will make a work "interesting." So, the question no turns on how one can make an interesting character. The answer is it depends on goals, the writer, and so forth. The action that we can take from this to discover how to make an interesting character is to first write, second get feedback, third give feedback, and last read good books that are both fiction works and good books on craft. I believe the first and second points have been covered and so has the last so I will focus on the third. Giving feedback is critical because it helps us to polish our own thoughts and ideas on writing. Second, it helps us to develop that critical eye so that we can analyze our own works through the skeptical lens of a reader or critic.

    The second point to consider is the physical structure of the story, some call this prose, this is another important part of writing that should not be ignored. This looks at word choice, sentence structure, paragraph structure, and so forth. Often times people get into a rut when they write and they tend to write using the same words and repeated sentence structures with little to no variation. I myself am guilty of this. Part of the reason is because they write a lot in their regular life, like me, and in that life using a similar sentence structure or the same words is common and aids in the understanding of the text. This is problematic in writing stories because it tends to be monotonous and due to the length of the story bogs down the actual tale. Further, by having a solid structure one can really engage a reader and make them feel swept away in the substance of your work. So, how can one improve on this? Simple, by writing, giving feedback, getting feedback, and reading.

    That general answer is the same for improving the substantive content and the technical details, so why bother in writing about the "meta-structure"? The answer, at least for me, is that it helps to break up the process in this way. First, it makes the task of improving writing more manageable and second it provides an analytical tool with which to view your work. If on one pass you look to the substance and focus on the substance you can focus your imaginative powers and really hone in on the boring substance. However, on another pass by looking at with an eye towards sentence and word structure, getting down to that basic building block level, it allows one to really hone in on communicating the substance in an intelligible way and making it easier to really hammer the prose.

    In short, I would encourage you to break up writing into two categories, substance(or story) and structure (or prose if you will). Then I would encourage finding those problems and fixing them. To do so you need to identify the weaknesses or have someone else identify the weaknesses, which means you need to share your work and critique other's works, and then you need to read books to use as examples and read craft books to help understand how to improve.
  15. Ronald T.

    Ronald T. Troubadour

    I like the idea of the 10,000 hour rule. To become an expert, or simply very competent, at anything, you must put in the time and do the hard work involved in improving. It may take a little less time for some, or a little more for another. But it takes time.

    I've found that to be true in almost everything I've done in life. And desire is not enough. It takes drive and determination, as well. Without the drive and determination, desire is nothing more than one of the endless ornaments on the "tree of wishes". It's like the perfect apple high on an apple tree. If you want that apple, you must do the work of climbing the tree. In other words, if you want something bad enough, you simply must put in the time and do the work. If being a good writer is one of the ornaments on your tree of wishes, you must make the climb and pluck the ornamental fruit.

    I don't believe there is another way to accomplish anything. At least, that's the only way I've achieved anything: long, hard work, and the determination to never give up.
  16. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    If you want to get better, all you have to do is practice.

    Every story you write helps you advance that much more. Read a decent amount of fiction to stay inspired by story and words. You know how they say there are no shortcuts? That's because it's true. As they say, practice makes perfect (although there's never a perfect, but you get what I mean). :)

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