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Is the 'just write' advice ALWAYS correct?

Firefly

Troubadour
Practice is always going to be the most useful thing you can do to improve your skills, but I personally mindlessly plodding on on a single project just “to finish” with hardly a thought towards building your skills is about the single least effective way to practice you can find. As others have said, there needs to be a back and forth between writing and critical self analysis if you want to really move forward. People have a tendency to believe that “just keep doing it” is enough to get better, but that’s really only true if you’re pushing yourself. Repetition will help you get more comfortable and confident with things that you’re working on, but you won’t magically stop making mistake with sheer volume of words if you have no clue you’re even making it.

I agree with Devor that “just write” is much more useful advice when taken as “just write something” rather than “just keep writing your WIP”. Finishing stuff is important, but sometimes you do need a break from a certain project.
I, too, can be pretty picky about ideas, and I find that it often helps me to write short. If I’m lukewarm about an idea, It doesn’t matter as much, cuz I’m only committing to it for 300 words.
I’ve also found it helpful to pay very close attention to the kinds of ideas I find interesting. I’ve started making lists of all the tropes/situations/character types that make me tick, and the more I get a feel for it, the easier it is to come up with ideas/prompts that are fun for me to write.

I don’t know. Stuff like that is different from person to person and what works for me might not for you, but this is what’s worked for me.
 
Something that works for me is to regularly go back to the start and try to read as a reader (while taking the opportunity to polish).

Are you enjoying it? If you are still enjoying it after the 50th pass, you're probably on a winner.

If you can't read three sentences without vomiting blood...give it a rest and try something new.
 
“Write” and “just write” are a bit different, or they could be, although I hate to defend the word “just”. Just Write implies that the act of writing is enough. “Just” weakens the act of writing. In a sense one would graduate from “just writing” to “writing”... muwahahahahaha!

Rabbit meet hole.
 
I don't see anything bad about the word just. Perfectly legitimate word, that one. It can lend a certain lightheartedness, like in Nike's slogan "Just Do It"

That said, I think "Just write" is pretty useless advice! It's not that it's wrong as such, more that it's so basic that it doesn't say anything concrete. If some folks find it motivational then I guess it's a good thing. But to me, it mostly feels like a passive-aggressive way of calling people lazy.
 

Incanus

Auror
Just thought I’d chime in on this side-subject of the word ‘just’, whether justly, or unjustly.

I cannot subscribe to any language philosophy that suggests there are inherently stronger or weaker words (not that anyone here has said this). At most, words may often be used to weak (or strong) effect, but that is a separate matter. Context is everything. I don’t believe any word should be shunned or minimized in a general way. Even derogatory or offensive words, which should probably not be used 99% of the time, can have their place (such as showing a character using such words to display negative character traits).

I find that writing that purges all passive voice, ‘weak’ words, adverbs, and similar items, tends to sound awkward and contrived; it can lack a good flow and end up sounding unnatural.

Just my two cents----
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
It's the weakness that is the concern here, and especially because the weakness hides rhetorically. Consider when a person says, "that's just my opinion." Notice how differently the statement reads when it becomes "that is my opinion." The former executes a rhetorical dodge while the latter stands bravely on its own.

This is a different use of the word than when it is meant to indicate a recent time. "I just now had a thought" is meaningfully different from "I now had a thought." The former is recent, the latter is immediate.

No word is worthless, not even the word worthless. But words can be and frequently are misused. Just like just. I called attention to that one because it weakens writing and is so often overlooked.
 

Incanus

Auror
It's the weakness that is the concern here, and especially because the weakness hides rhetorically. Consider when a person says, "that's just my opinion." Notice how differently the statement reads when it becomes "that is my opinion." The former executes a rhetorical dodge while the latter stands bravely on its own.

This is a different use of the word than when it is meant to indicate a recent time. "I just now had a thought" is meaningfully different from "I now had a thought." The former is recent, the latter is immediate.

No word is worthless, not even the word worthless. But words can be and frequently are misused. Just like just. I called attention to that one because it weakens writing and is so often overlooked.

I agree with most of this. But I have a question: in this setting, does weak mean bad, and strong mean good?

I can think of scenarios where choosing weak senses of words like this is preferred. For instance, if I had a curt, decisive character interacting with a wishy-washy one, I might well want to have the latter using weak or watered-down words in their dialogue and thought processes to help contrast them with the former.

All words have their place in fiction, I think.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
I agree with the point about dialog. Using the word--any word--with intention is what we writers do. This is one of those words that can slip past us unnoticed.
 
The only word of I've ever had a gripe with is "unnatural".

If all things are natural, what is unnatural? If humans are natural then all consequences of humans are natural.

Unnatural has no meaning.
 
Consider when a person says, "that's just my opinion." Notice how differently the statement reads when it becomes "that is my opinion." The former executes a rhetorical dodge while the latter stands bravely on its own.
As I see it, this only proves that the word itself is not weak at all: Would a weak word make a sentence fundamentally different?

Running through my WIP, my general feeling is that removing the "just" would ruin the sentences, or at least make them weaker. But I did discover a few places where it just acted as filler, without contributing with anything.
 
All natural ingredients... really? Just how many natural things will kill your ass or make you miserable?

The only word of I've ever had a gripe with is "unnatural".

If all things are natural, what is unnatural? If humans are natural then all consequences of humans are natural.

Unnatural has no meaning.
 

Incanus

Auror
This is why I love language so much. It is endlessly fascinating; there is always more to explore.

I believe unnatural, like many words, has more than one sense. When I used it earlier, I meant 'abnormal, artificial, or affected/stilted.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
I don't care if there's chemicals in it, as long as my lettuce is crisp.
Preservatives might be preserving you, I think that's something you might've missed.
Yeah, you missed it.
- Eat Starch Mom
- Jefferson Airplane

Yeah, I know. The original version said I don't care if there's DDT in it. Fun song.
 
All those things, of course, are natural.

Even elements that might be classed as not naturally occurring, are natural once they occur.

In other news, I am rejoicing at how well my new book is going. It's the sequel to a sci-fi novel coming out next year and my head keeps exploding with new ideas which fit the story perfectly. That's a good sign, methinks.
 
Okay, lots of good advice in this post, but there's one thing I'd be interested in delving into...

You say you're trying to add more conflict or problems to your WIP?

Well, everyone's different of course, and I don't pretend to have all the answers...but why isn't the conflict hardwired into the story's premise?

For me it all starts with the plot and the main characters are always born in the same moment the plot is born because aspects of their personalities (protagonist, antagonist and bit parts) must help drive the plot. So necessarily they take their places either side of the main plot conflict and the story is driven from there.

You may well work very differently from that, and quite successfully, but my authorial brain does not compute the idea of "adding conflict" to an existing work.

Interesting! I never really considered "adding conflict and problems" to be atypical.

To clarify, I started my premise for my WIP with the main foundational conflicts and problems for -and between- characters. The main drum beats are there... now I'm looking for the accompanying orchestra.

But, I want to literally complicate things further. Add more subplots, mystery, inter-personal drama, political intrigue, conflicts of interest, conspiracies, emotional dilemnas, secrets, manipulation of perception, misdirect the reader, create more tension, etc.

I want to make things worse for my main characters. So, I have to weave in more threads of problems that will start to unravel at the worse possible time. Or at least threaten to unravel.

I have my beginning, my middle, and a few ways to end (this) book that I like. I'm a waypoint writer, and have no problem wandering into new ideas between the main drumbeats and exploring them, especially if it creates more problems to expand upon.

For instance, I knew my MC was going to have a 'crush' on another character, but originally I was not going to have the feelings be mutual or remotely reciprocated. Mostly because I did not want to add a 'love interest' subplot for my female MC. It was both to subvert reader expectations and for pacing issues. Plush, she's going to very quickly have bigger problems to overcome and solve.

But after revisions/editing for some internal logistics and continuity, I experimented with the idea that her crush does indeed have some affections for her, and it added some additional elements:

*the revelation takes her by total surprise, and on top of a very upsetting event. Some of the news she's always wanted to hear arrives on one of the worst nights of her life, and then it's a "good news bad news" deal.

*Her crush reveals this reciprocity because he's accepted a very dangerous assignment, and may not be coming back for a while... if ever. It's essentially a "we could have been something great, but pretty sure this is a suicide mission, so goodbye" message. So, I still get my 'bittersweet love interest story goes sideways' vibe.

*the appearance of a contentious item gifted to the MC coincides with his reappearance from a remote territory, on the border of a hostile force, but he swears he did not gift it to her (as he has a history of bringing her and her family scientific-souveneir type gifts.) Which means if it wasn't him, nobody can figure exactly out how this item got into her posession. So... Who sent it?

I like this new development much better than my original outline for these chapters, when I was previously going to go in another direction that was not as complicated. Much better adding more problems than I intended originally.

Even simple things... she has to travel a very long distance... so what happens if the travel sack has a hole in it? Could she lose something really important? Could I capitalize on that loss? At the worse time? There's an idea. Where will it go?

Now I just need to do this throughout the entire draft of the book...
 
The only word of I've ever had a gripe with is "unnatural".

If all things are natural, what is unnatural? If humans are natural then all consequences of humans are natural.

Unnatural has no meaning.

I haven't done the research, so this is conjecture: "unnatural" is rooted in more of a moral observation or declaration, than a literal* or observable one. The concept of Sin disrupting the purity of the physical world (the whole of nature) and spiritual world leads to assessments of "unnatural behavior". The most obvious references comes from moral codes in the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. Lots of important moral observations and rulings on what should and should not be acceptable "natural" behaviors. Which informed a lot of cultures for a very long time. I won't go down that rabbithole per forum guidelines.

Now, fastforward. If I saw an object be let go of by a person, and it FELL UPWARDS at high speeds instead of down, without the ability to run tons of scientific equipment I would probably think "that was an unnatural phenomena", or 'this was not by way of natural forces', like gravity or magnetism.

When you get into advanced chemistry and other sciences, there are some compounds that, very likely, meet the requirements of "unnatural". Substances, chemicals, organisms, energy experiments, can be created in laboratories that, very likely, would never exist in nature without human invention or recombination. Call me skeptical, but I do not believe that future evolution of life on earth would explain how the bioluminous genes of deep sea jellyfish would EVER make their way into the genome of trees on any scale of time. And yet, it exists. In a laboratory.

That is unnatural, but humans invented it, and we are derived from the natural world.

So, I think the older roots in morality better explain such a... logically conflicting word.
 
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