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(The Millions)   Writerly advice: "Tell a dream, lose a reader" (H. James), "Never open a book with weather." (E. Leonard), "The road to hell is paved with adverbs" (S. King), "Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water" (Vonnegut)   ( themillions.com) divider line
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1287 clicks; posted to Discussion » on 12 Jul 2018 at 9:05 PM (17 weeks ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2018-07-12 05:50:26 PM  
Good advice, but no one tells me when I should or should not use a semicolon. I DO WHAT I WANT.

My personal, probably worthless advice to other writers is to follow the example of the movies and do your best to show and not tell. By that, I mean grab 'em at the beginning with some immediate action. A friend of mine wrote a long novel and the first thirty pages were this dryly-told dense backstory. For me it was beyond boring.

So, IMHO save your extensive backstory and world building for yourself. Do write it out so that you know everything about universe your story takes place in, but in your actual story try to initially engage the reader with something happening immediately instead of reciting what happened in the past.
 
2018-07-12 07:01:52 PM  
There are rules in writing, and they exist for good reasons. However, every one one of them can and should be broken when necessary. There are only two rules when it comes to breaking rules:

1) The rule must broken for a purpose. The only acceptable purpose is that the broken rule serves the writing's purpose in a way that following the rule would not.

2) You must know the rule before you are allowed to break it.
 
2018-07-12 07:18:57 PM  
Omit needless words.
 
2018-07-12 07:37:02 PM  

Pocket Ninja: There are rules in writing, and they exist for good reasons. However, every one one of them can and should be broken when necessary. There are only two rules when it comes to breaking rules:

1) The rule must broken for a purpose. The only acceptable purpose is that the broken rule serves the writing's purpose in a way that following the rule would not.

2) You must know the rule before you are allowed to break it.


This is why I can't read Cormac McCarthy.

I get it, he doesn't know where the punctuation marks are on his keyboard. Wonderful.
It adds nothing to the story.
 
2018-07-12 07:44:11 PM  

NateAsbestos: This is why I can't read Cormac McCarthy.

I get it, he doesn't know where the punctuation marks are on his keyboard. Wonderful.
It adds nothing to the story.


This is incorrect. But you're allowed to not like Cormac McCarthy's writing, that's fine.
 
2018-07-12 09:15:43 PM  
This is more along the lines of accomplished musicians knowing less is more, not hard and fast rules of composition.
 
2018-07-12 09:16:29 PM  
img.fark.netView Full Size
 
2018-07-12 09:31:38 PM  
Anything about a requirement to pay $5 a month for Total Fark?
 
2018-07-12 09:32:40 PM  
I stick to Ursula LeGuin's work on the craft of writing primarily. She wasn't wrong when speaking publically at Powell's Books and saying that a lot of books in the store outlined rules on how to write, but a story has its own rules as you create it and you must follow it. But she also said elsewhere that not being receptive to constructive criticism and discarding what others have to teach is like singing but just singing in the shower at home.

I've found Stephen King's book and comments by Neil Gaiman to be helpful, but LeGuin is first on my shelf.
 
2018-07-12 09:38:06 PM  
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley. again.

If every writer who ever posted on Fark added their sales together they wouldn't reach the total sales of that book.
 
2018-07-12 09:41:15 PM  
"Three tits"~Clive Gollings
 
2018-07-12 09:43:57 PM  

Pocket Ninja: There are rules in writing, and they exist for good reasons. However, every one one of them can and should be broken when necessary. There are only two rules when it comes to breaking rules:

1) The rule must broken for a purpose. The only acceptable purpose is that the broken rule serves the writing's purpose in a way that following the rule would not.

2) You must know the rule before you are allowed to break it.


lolz u cant tel me wut 2 do wit ur dumb rules
 
2018-07-12 09:47:06 PM  
Baby Shoes for sale. Unused.

/why, yes, it's mine! Mine!!
 
2018-07-12 09:51:00 PM  

yakmans_dad: Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley. again.

If every writer who ever posted on Fark added their sales together they wouldn't reach the total sales of that book.


:rolls eyes:

Meantime, LeGuin worried that her nooks would be read for only fifty more years.
 
2018-07-12 09:52:19 PM  

mrs john amber: yakmans_dad: Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley. again.

If every writer who ever posted on Fark added their sales together they wouldn't reach the total sales of that book.

:rolls eyes:

Meantime, LeGuin worried that her nooks would be read for only fifty more years.


Probably my most spectacular typo ever not caught. Apologies to the Lady.
 
2018-07-12 09:52:52 PM  
I'd love to be a writer. I'm boring and don't really have good stories to tell, but maybe I can overcome this.
 
2018-07-12 09:55:12 PM  

mrs john amber: mrs john amber: yakmans_dad: Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley. again.

If every writer who ever posted on Fark added their sales together they wouldn't reach the total sales of that book.

:rolls eyes:

Meantime, LeGuin worried that her nooks would be read for only fifty more years.

Probably my most spectacular typo ever not caught. Apologies to the Lady.


img.fark.netView Full Size
 
2018-07-12 09:56:06 PM  
Neil Gaiman is the gold standard for "best advice you've got from a writer".

As seen here.
 
2018-07-12 10:00:15 PM  
Whoever wrote that article has an awful lot to say about semicolons.

It feels as if this topic has been building up pressure within them for awhile, till the dam finally burst...
 
2018-07-12 10:00:32 PM  
What can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.

/Wittgenstein talking about the limits of thought, but whatever, applies to writing as well
 
2018-07-12 10:25:57 PM  

HedlessChickn: Omit needless words.


Omit words.
 
2018-07-12 10:32:58 PM  
There are no rules, there is only the measure: does it work, does it connect with the reader?

All else is triviality and vanity
 
2018-07-12 10:36:34 PM  
Never become a writer.
 
2018-07-12 10:38:20 PM  

NateAsbestos: Pocket Ninja: There are rules in writing, and they exist for good reasons. However, every one one of them can and should be broken when necessary. There are only two rules when it comes to breaking rules:

1) The rule must broken for a purpose. The only acceptable purpose is that the broken rule serves the writing's purpose in a way that following the rule would not.

2) You must know the rule before you are allowed to break it.

This is why I can't read Cormac McCarthy.

I get it, he doesn't know where the punctuation marks are on his keyboard. Wonderful.
It adds nothing to the story.


I read fast.

I can't read Cormac McCarthy fast. For some reason, his pacing and formating gives his nightmare vision of humanity an impact worthy of a sucker-punch.

My point is he does it on purpose.
 
2018-07-12 10:38:32 PM  
Make sure you are writing a trilogy; way more marketable and try to envision the screenplay as you go along.
 
2018-07-12 10:39:14 PM  
If you're going to tell a story, understand each of your characters. What brought them to the point where they're doing what they do in your story?

Even if it's a guy who, say, walks past a mugging without looking up- why? What's his name, and, in 10 seconds, why doesn't he care?

You don't have to mention it. It's really better if you don't, most of the time. But as a storyteller, it's better to know.
 
2018-07-12 10:49:40 PM  
"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel"
- William Gibson (Neuromancer), first line

/They're more like guidelines
//If you are going to go beyond them, do it with style
 
2018-07-12 10:53:48 PM  

jso2897: Never become a writer.


You can't. You either are or are not.
 
2018-07-12 11:13:46 PM  
I'm a reader not a writer. So I would ask you writers to use whatever tools you like, even make up your own rules if you prefer, but make sure you are clear in what you have to say.

I'm not talking about being superficial either. You can have subtext and symbolism, and stream of consciousness, and still allow readers to follow along on some level. You could write the most technically perfect novel ever and I still won't read it if it's so dense and inscrutable that it becomes tedious. On the other hand, you could write a novel without using capital letters or even any punctuation and I'd still read it if you tell a good story.

You could of course not give a fark if readers understand you or not, but then what's the point of sharing writing like that with anyone? You might as well keep it to yourself if that's the case.
 
2018-07-12 11:15:05 PM  
Action is character.
 
2018-07-12 11:24:07 PM  
Write what you don't know.
 
2018-07-12 11:27:17 PM  

ClicheRinpoche: There are no rules, there is only the measure: does it work, does it connect with the reader?

All else is triviality and vanity


I think "no comma splices" is a rule.  You broke that one twice.  You also used a weird comma and flat out refused to punctuate the last sentence entirely.  F- would not take writing advice from.
 
2018-07-12 11:35:17 PM  

GRCooper: jso2897: Never become a writer.

You can't. You either are or are not.


I'm not so sure about that. Writing is a skill that is learned over time and can even be mastered. Like many skills it requires a lot of practice and some guidance from editors and constructive colleagues. There are many forms of writing, from poetry to cookbooks or technical documents.

Now, could everyone be a fiction writer? No. Not everyone needs to be though.
 
2018-07-12 11:35:26 PM  
P.G. Wodehouse typically breaks every rule in ordinary writing manuals and thus I cannot give a fig for them, eh wot?
 
2018-07-13 12:00:05 AM  
"Last night, I dreamt it was heavily raining; the drops started lightly, but abruptly and willfully got harder and harder, making things increasingly wet. The roof was leaky, and the glass on my bedside table quickly and remorselessly filled up wetly from the rain. But I didn't care, as I didn't want it."
 
2018-07-13 12:18:37 AM  

Thong_of_Zardoz: "Last night, I dreamt it was heavily raining; the drops started lightly, but abruptly and willfully got harder and harder, making things increasingly wet. The roof was leaky, and the glass on my bedside table quickly and remorselessly filled up wetly from the rain. But I didn't care, as I didn't want it."


Why are the drops willfully doing anything, moreover getting hard and getting other things wet? It sounds erotic, until you realize that at the same time it's suicidal (assuming sentient raindrops).

Similarly, why does the the filling of the glass require remorselessness? That's a redundant adverb. Try showing rather than telling.

There's a reason why these suggestions were made - It's to make authors look a bit less like undergrad creative writing students.
 
2018-07-13 12:21:51 AM  
Someone who uses that many dashes shouldn't be complaining about semicolons.
 
2018-07-13 12:30:41 AM  

Candygram4Mongo: Whoever wrote that article has an awful lot to say about semicolons.
It feels as if this topic has been building up pressure within them for awhile, till the dam finally burst...


Whoever wrote that article has an awful lot to say about semicolons. It feels as if this topic has been building up pressure within them for awhile, till the dam finally burst...

Whoever wrote that article has an awful lot to say about semicolons; it feels as if this topic has been building up pressure within them for awhile, till the dam finally burst...

Is there a change in emphasis or pacing? How do these paragraphs differ in meaning? Discuss.
 
2018-07-13 12:36:38 AM  
FTA: Semicolons are useful when two thoughts are related, independent yet interdependent, and more or less equally weighted. They could exist as discrete sentences, and yet something would be lost if they were, an important cognitive rhythm.

This.  He gets it.  I remember trying to say something along these lines in an older thread and getting stomped on because my attempt to explain my instinctual understanding of the usage was poor.  Judicious use here and there is ok.  If you're dropping them every paragraph then you probably are a wank.
 
2018-07-13 12:38:41 AM  

Harlee: Is there a change in emphasis or pacing? How do these paragraphs differ in meaning? Discuss.


I don't know. I can't get past the singular "them."
 
2018-07-13 12:49:50 AM  
Write short, strong, realistic sentences, "He acts crazy. We all act crazy, I guess. I guess God acts crazy."
 
2018-07-13 01:14:11 AM  
People don't think in two incomplete sentences when talking. It is usually a series of statements that ends when a point is made, or ended with a question that leads to another series of statements/ questions; semicolon usage usually leads to run-on paragraphs similar to what you just read.
 
2018-07-13 01:26:02 AM  
"Never open a book with weather"

It was a dark and stormy night, the rain fell in torrents-except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
 
2018-07-13 01:48:18 AM  

HedlessChickn: Omit needless words.


The Lord of the Rings

Eagles.
 
2018-07-13 02:19:51 AM  
I don't understand the "tell a dream, lose a reader." one.
 
2018-07-13 03:03:16 AM  
Writing is secondary, marketing is primary:  https://boingboing.net/2017​/07/31/buy-​the-book-how-i-made-290.html
 
2018-07-13 03:05:11 AM  

BafflerMeal: I don't understand the "tell a dream, lose a reader." one.


Maybe because it's often hard enough to listen to your IRL friends talk about their dreams; your fictional friends, you want to read about them doing whatever, not hear about THEIR boring dreams...

/wild-ass guess
 
2018-07-13 03:10:45 AM  

ClicheRinpoche: There are no rules, there is only the measure: does it work, does it connect with the reader?

All else is triviality and vanity


And screw the readers...they like crap like Clive Cussler, 50 Shades, and Twilight :)

/one of those was redundant, I know
 
2018-07-13 05:06:21 AM  

NateAsbestos: Pocket Ninja: There are rules in writing, and they exist for good reasons. However, every one one of them can and should be broken when necessary. There are only two rules when it comes to breaking rules:

1) The rule must broken for a purpose. The only acceptable purpose is that the broken rule serves the writing's purpose in a way that following the rule would not.

2) You must know the rule before you are allowed to break it.

This is why I can't read Cormac McCarthy.

I get it, he doesn't know where the punctuation marks are on his keyboard. Wonderful.
It adds nothing to the story.


I thought editors or copy people were suppose to handle that stuff?
 
2018-07-13 05:59:09 AM  

thatguyoverthere70: Good advice, but no one tells me when I should or should not use a semicolon. I DO WHAT I WANT.

My personal, probably worthless advice to other writers is to follow the example of the movies and do your best to show and not tell. By that, I mean grab 'em at the beginning with some immediate action. A friend of mine wrote a long novel and the first thirty pages were this dryly-told dense backstory. For me it was beyond boring.

So, IMHO save your extensive backstory and world building for yourself. Do write it out so that you know everything about universe your story takes place in, but in your actual story try to initially engage the reader with something happening immediately instead of reciting what happened in the past.


Also, whenever possible spend at least two thirds of your paragraphs meticulously explaining concepts everyone learned in middle school.
 
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