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Thread: Starting out

  1. #1

    Starting out

    Hi everyone,

    So I have pretty much just decided, following a major life upheaval, to start writing fantasy fiction. GO ME!

    I have a pretty thorough grounding in classic fantasy and sci-fi reading and am otherwise well read, but can anyone recommend particular writing guides/resources which might be useful to someone starting out? I already have myself an idea for an overarching theme for my first stab at making some material, and am starting to frame some rules about my preferred magic system, religions etc., but am unsure how to start getting those ideas out onto paper so I can stitch them all together.

    Sorry if this seems a basic question!


  2. #2
    Senior Member FifthView's Avatar
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    Aug 2015
    You might check out the Writing Resources subforum. A lot of threads have been started seeking the same kinds of references, and you are likely to find enough there to get you started.

    I'd only add that, contrary to all common sense, having read widely in the genre will not be as big a benefit as you might think right now. I speak from my own troubled experience, lol. Having been exposed to great entertainment, many different books over years or even decades feels, at the outset, like a solid foundation but reading for entertainment is very different than being able to write it. This can be quite frustrating. Reading with an eye for how the stories were written, i.e., going back and studying what you've read or reading new books but with the same eye, can be a big help, however.

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  4. #3
    Senior Member Incanus's Avatar
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    Jul 2014
    Milky Way
    I think it is generally a good idea to be fairly well read in the genre you are choosing to work in. You need to know the ins and outs, what sort of things have been done, or done to death.

    There are boatloads of how-to writing books out there. I would start looking into them, choosing ones that fit, or that address areas you may be lacking in. Start immersing yourself in all aspects of storytelling.

    Also, start cultivating patience, and a nice, thick skin.
    The anti-Incanus says, "Naturally, I disagree with everything he just said. And I'll always have the last word!"

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  6. #4
    Senior Member Penpilot's Avatar
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    Mar 2012
    I wish I could just point you to some resources and add a few tips of my own and everything will be easy-peasy. If you haven't really written before, it's hard to offer you guidance. Somethings you'll do well instinctively. Others, not so much.

    Some like to outline and plan everything. Others like to fly by the seat of their pants. And then there are those who are in between.

    For me, I found that learning about story structure helped immensely. It allowed me to break down the huge task of writing a novel into bite-sized chunks. It also allowed me to identify where in the story certain ideas best fit, allowing me to better organise my ideas. There are articles that you can access from the front page of the Mythic Scibes site that can help you on this as well as tonnes of resources all over web.

    Another thing I learned from the act of just writing and writing some more is the most basic form of story, IMHO, is this. Person wants X. Someone/Something stands in their way. Person tries and fails to overcome obstacle(s) multiple times, but eventually succeeds.

    A simple illustration of this is this old fairy tale about an old woman and her pig. You'll find it at the end of this link English Fairy Tales: The Old Woman and Her Pig

    Old woman has a problem, tries multiple solutions that fail until she finds one that works. Obviously stories can be way more complicated than this, but to me, above is the basic way to think about things. The complex grows from simplicity.

    Sometimes it's a good idea to try something and fail at it because it'll give you an idea of where you need help.

    Hope this helps a little. And keep asking questions. It's what this place is for.
    -Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.
    -A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate.

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  8. #5
    This biggest thing is to write. And then write some more, and the after that write even more than you've already written. Writing stories is a skill as much as playing the guitar or drawing a picture, and you have to practice. Reading How-To's will help, but nothing will substitute for sheer time spent writing.

    Finish things. Be they short stories or novels a single finished product will teach you more above story-telling than a dozen un-finished projects. Not to mention, once you hit that goal line and see the "The End" is actually reachable, it becomes easier to finish things. Not easy, per-se, but easier.

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  10. #6
    Senior Member DragonOfTheAerie's Avatar
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    Jun 2016
    Down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind
    The best thing I ever did for my skills and knowledge of writing was to WRITE. I wrote a whole book, not knowing much about how, but I did it. And I learned a lot. The final product was, um...horrid. But it taught me.

  11. #7
    Moderator skip.knox's Avatar
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    Mar 2013
    Boise, Idaho
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    I'll throw a couple of ideas onto the pile.

    One, start making your own list of resources. It will be a big pile. Really big. That's okay, because here's what will happen. You'll read something and be all like ... wha? And you'll read another and it will be painfully obvious. Another one may have a tip or two, but a lot of it will seem simply not usable.

    You'll be writing, meanwhile. Time passes. You'll go back to this or that book or article, often because you keep hearing it mentioned. That one that seemed goofy or obscure or just not relevant. And pow. Sometimes it's a POW! but often it's just a pow. What didn't click before, clicks now. So you want to keep the Big Ol' List because you are going to grow and change as a writer, and what was old is made new again. I've experienced this in multiple endeavors.

    Two, wrt reading, I offer these words of wisdom: there's reading and there's reading.

    What, that's not enough? OK. FifthView said as much, but redundancy has never stopped me before. There's a gap the width of a career between reading as a fan and reading as an author. It's roughly the difference between how I look at a painting and how a painter looks at it. Or how you might hear a song many times, but once you learn about how music is recorded, engineered, mastered, and how it plays on various systems, you hear entirely new aspects.

    So yes, do read, but that's not enough. As the logicians would have it, the act is necessary but not sufficient. With practice, you learn to look just at dialog, or only at how setting is handled; rather like listening just to the bass line or to the horn arrangement. And for this, it is not at all necessary to read in genre. In fact, since I've started doing this, I've been surprised at how I have gained insights from very different kinds of books. Genre is the flesh and hair and tone of voice, but the DNA is pure story.
    Skip's Writing Tip of the Day: write.
    Visit Altearth or visit my blog
    Historical Background for Fantasy Writers

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  13. #8
    Thank you all for the advice so far - really nice to get some input!

  14. #9
    Senior Member psychotick's Avatar
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    Jul 2012
    Rotorua, New Zealand

    Bad news I'm afraid. The only way to get good at writing is to write. And I'm not a great believer in writing guides and how to's. (For my money they just screw up fledgling writers). Just jump in there and write. Write every day - even when you don't think you have something to say. And constantly go over what you've written. Do the usual checks - read what you've written out loud to yourself - it's not just a good way of catching errors, it lets you get a feel for how the story is working that you wouldn't otherwise. And then when you think you're ready, put some stuff out - say a chapter here and there - for others to review. (It hurts but it's the best teacher there is.)

    Also - and don't hate me for this - but there's a commonly quoted saying that to get good at anything requires about ten thousand hours of practice. For all but a very few of us, I suspect that this is roughly right.

    Good luck with your writing journey.

    Cheers, Greg.
    Last edited by psychotick; 3-20-17 at 6:45 AM. Reason: typos

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  16. #10
    Junior Member Aryth's Avatar
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    Mar 2017
    Wow, such great advice, thanks everyone! I know it was HunterMK who asked the question, but your answers really helped me out as well. Thanks for not sugar coating it!

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