(A) Writer's Quest...

Writing is a passion many people experience after reading Tolkien's works. Come here to discuss and share your experiences with writing.

(A) Writer's Quest...

Postby Parador~J » Fri Jul 13, 2012 11:40 pm

When I read...I learn

When I read...I become a better writer

When I read...it helps my imagination

When I read...it helps my vocabulary

When I read...I grow

I'm a Jack-of-all-trades-and-a-master-of-none....well...some of them I not too bad at :thumbsup:

But the one trade I want to become good at...very good at.......is writing :)

I thought I would create a thread to help me link up with some of our TORC writers...too help me improve in my writing skills. For those who would like to join me in improving their writing skills...please join us! :thumbsup:

How to be a good Writer

Question of the Month: What inspires you as a writer?

***************************************************************

How to be a good writer in 17 steps

Write a lot every day. You may prefer to write in long or short sessions. Write a short paragraph or an entire page. See which works better for you.

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2 Read all sorts of things, but really take the time to enjoy an old-fashioned book. Regular reading will influence your style, tastes, background, and ideas. It will also help expand your vocabulary and improve your grammar.

Determine what is good writing and what is not. Find your literary heroes. Read both historical and contemporary authors.

Read a variety of topics and styles, with a focus on styles or genres on which you wish to write.

Make good use of your local library, both as a source of a variety of reading materials and as a resource.

3 Expand your vocabulary. Read the daily newspaper. Purchase a nice dictionary and thesaurus. Your short story will not be nearly as exciting if every character walks everywhere and says every line of dialogue. A comprehensive vocabulary can help bring your stories and poems to life, enabling you to better describe the world around you.

Be sure that you are using words correctly. Some of the alternatives listed in your thesaurus may not have the right shade of meaning or be appropriate for the level of formality. Look up the word in your dictionary to be sure, and if in doubt, use a word that you already know.

4 Meet a Writer! A writer could give tips to you as well as help. Meet authors at Book launches or Community Book festivals and forums. Perhaps there is a writer living locally that you could meet through a public event, or even write/email them and ask if they are willing to meet you or offer any support.

5 Use good grammar. Good grammar can mean the difference between a sentence that is graceful and translucent and a sentence that is awkward and ambiguous. When you first put your ideas on paper, you should try to write quickly so that you do not forget any of them. Be sure to focus on proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation in the revision process, though. Dangling modifiers and faulty parallelism can reduce clarity as well as the overall quality of your writing. If you have a question about grammar, consult a good grammar book, such as The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White[1] or The American Heritage® Book of English Usage.[2]

6 Buy two notebooks. One is a "Vocabulary Notebook", and the other is an "Inspirational Notebook".

In your "Vocabulary Notebook", write down new words and their meanings as well as mnemonic devices (memory aids) to help you learn them. You may also want to write down some example sentences.

In the "Inspirational Notebook", write down bits and pieces from your daily life, such as a fun conversation that you overheard in the mall, or a joke that you were told by a friend. This can also be a diary or a journal. When you read something that makes you laugh or think, or tempts you to read aloud, look at what makes it effective.

Jot down all the ideas that occur to you, including the ones that will probably never work.

7 Join online or neighborhood writing groups. You can even practice writing at wikis, such as wikiHow and Wikipedia. You will become a more proficient writer as you help people.

8 Brainstorm before starting to write. In order to focus your writing, begin with the main idea. While thinking about what to write, put down any idea that comes to you, even if it seems far-fetched or unlikely to be successful. One not-so-good idea may lead to a better one.

9 Plan your writing, especially if you are producing an informative piece. Use whatever technique works best for you. You can make an outline, put a collection of notes on cards and arrange them until they are in order, or draw a tree or map. It is possible to rapidly organize a broad topic with a tree or map structure. Try writing nonstop for ten minutes and see how many ideas you can think of.

10 Write as quickly as you can for the first draft. Try typing without looking at the keyboard. Do not stop to correct grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Write at least a few paragraphs before going back and correcting or editing.

11 Be well-informed about your subject. Your research will make your fictional or nonfictional writing seem that much more real. You can use reading materials such as books, magazines, and online articles and also interview knowledgeable people. You may even be inspired by something that you see on television.

Remember that fictional writing will usually require less research than nonfictional writing. Make sure that you have a strong framework for your story before you start researching and filling in details. Try to first develop the main points of the plot. If you are having trouble finishing your story, however, research may give you some ideas for a satisfying conclusion.

12 Be specific. Avoid implying or over-generalizing; vagueness and generalizations are less likely to grab your readers’ attention. Which sentence is more interesting to read: "In this town, the crime rate has significantly increased in the last year" or "In this town, the crime rate has increased more than twenty percent in the last year"? At the same time, try to include only the relevant details; say all that you need to say without wasting space.

13 Tailor your writing to your purpose and your audience. Just as you change your clothing for the weather and the occasion, you should also change your writing for your audience and your message. Flowery writing, for example, might fit better in a poem than in a status report. Make sure that your writing is not too difficult (or too simplistic) for your audience. Adjust your word choice and sentence length for the given audience and level of formality. Limit jargon, and be sure to give your readers all the background information that they will need to understand your composition.

14 Edit Your Writing. Once you have a first draft, reread it and rewrite it. You are looking for errors in grammar and spelling as well as style, content, organization, and coherence.

Editing is an iterative process. You may edit a piece many times. Just remember, no writing is perfect.

Give yourself time between writing and editing, if at all possible. Longer is better, but even a short break can give you some of the necessary distance and detachment to edit well.

15 Ask someone else to read your writing. If at all possible, have a second person read your writing. Choose someone whom you trust to be forthright and frank.

16 Make sure that people understand and interpret your writing the way you intend. Try it on a test audience and see how they react. Also try taking suggestions from peers and family to help you refine your idea.

1Perhaps some day you will become a famous writer, teacher, storyteller, or whatever your dream may be, but the important thing is that you love what you do.

*************************************************************

A Writer's best friends...

Links to help in our writing journey:

Creative Writing

Daily Writing tips

How to write a Short Story

L.E. Modestitt_Official Website

The Worlds of L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Where Writers Learn (I purchased the book 'How to be a writer...building your creative skills through practice and play

WritingForum: body language and hand gestures
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Postby Parador~J » Sat Jul 14, 2012 4:03 pm

There's a magazine I subscribe to through my Nook Color called: The Writer...it's an excellent magazine :thumbsup:

The Writer
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Postby Parador~J » Sat Jul 14, 2012 4:56 pm

I pasted the How to be a good writer in 17 steps on the first post...I'm going to talk about each step every so many weeks...hoping to generate a discussion with people interested in becoming a writer and/or becoming a better writer :)

And I encourge those who do write for a hobby or professionally...please come in and share your ideas and experiences you've had with writing :D

I'll also use articles from the magazine The Writer...they really have some good ideas and help sections for improving each areas of writing :thumbsup:

Looking forward to doing this... :bookworm: :D

Question of the week: Can anybody become a writer? (this is posted on the first page of the thread)
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Postby Parador~J » Sat Jul 14, 2012 6:12 pm

The first step: 'Write a lot every day. You may prefer to write in long or short sessions. Write a short paragraph or an entire page. See which works better for you'

I'm writing with the Mithril Knights...this is where I found out I liked writing! :lol:

But it has been overwhelming...what a challenge it is to write :shock:

I'm going to pick up the pace...and do more writing :thumbsup:

***pssst*** 'I'm going after that gold Ring' ***snicker...snicker***
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Postby elora » Sun Jul 15, 2012 1:40 pm

Oops - damn this tablet!!!
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Postby elora » Sun Jul 15, 2012 1:41 pm

A sterling idea for a thread Parador! :thumbsup:

I write daily, never short sessions....stream of consciousness stuff...that I usually then mould and polish and scrap and start again from a slightly different angle or abandon entirely.

One of these days I will work up the courage to return to my manuscript and edit it. One of these days... If I can convince the other half to turn it back over to me. He's had it in hiding since 2004 when, in a fit of apoplectic disgust and rage, I threatened to burn the misshapen, misbegotten thing.

All it was, really, is a first draft. Un edited. Raw. Vulnerable. I think I might be ale to go back to it, perhaps in another 10 years...
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Postby earendil81 » Sun Jul 15, 2012 2:15 pm

Parador~J wrote:Question of the week: Can anybody become a writer? (this is posted on the first page of the thread)

This is such a great question; I often wonder if it is - as with many other things - a question of will vs a question of skills.

I have always held the belief that more often than not, whether you do well at something is depending on how much you want it. Don't we have a great saying "where there is a will, there is a way."? I tend to believe it is true.

Now when it comes to arts, people might feel this saying has limits; not everybody can paint - I know I can't and I did take painting lessons for 8 years :P. I could argue that my husband cannot sing, but the truth is that he does not have such a bad voice. He is just having a hard time staying on key. But I am sure that if he were to take lessons he could sing. I mean it is not like he is tonedeaf; he appreciates classical music, sometimes I think even more than I do, and can recognize a song from the first few notes as I do, so why not?

So maybe writing can be that way; if you work at it seriously there is no reason why you could not find yourself a good writer. But like anything else it requires practice. It takes will to hone your skills...

My two cents on the subject ;)
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Postby Parador~J » Sun Jul 15, 2012 2:21 pm

Thank-you, Elora! :):)

I look forward to your input here :thumbsup:

I write daily, never short sessions....stream of consciousness stuff


Now that's what I need to do...I've read writing articles where this has been suggested...to just start writing up a storm...not stopping.

It helps to have something in mind, right? A subject or idea?
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Postby Parador~J » Sun Jul 15, 2012 2:40 pm

Hey there, Eari!! :D

I believe that too...with lots of practice...and paying attention...listening...reading...more practicing...more reading... lol

It's like my artwork...I used to draw...I wasn't bad...but I had to look at something to draw...I wasn't able to for a while draw from my imagination. But many years later...in my 30's...I drew a couple of pics of people without looking at another pic or a person. I was proud of that...and encouraged.

But then some where down road...I quit drawing :P Didn't think I was good enough...just couldn't whip out a pic from thin air...and fast. What it was...is I didn't keep practicing. I didn't think I could get to that point where I could have been really good.

My sister and my son are artists...my sister died though back in 97...but she left behind some beautiful artwork... :)

Yep...that's what it takes...determination...and hard work...but that's only if you really want it :wink:

Tell your husband to keep on practicing...then we'll want a solo from him :lol:

Thank-you, Eari! :hug:
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Postby elora » Sun Jul 15, 2012 2:46 pm

A subject? A concept? For me, absolutely. I need an anchor to write around. Whether it's picking up from an earlier piece, or working towards a future point in time. I am a fiction writer, so I must have that keystone to weave from or to. Otherwise, free fall prose. Messy.

Which is why I try to map out the narrative arc - rough details, key points, forks in the road, decisions, events...but hopefully not the ending as I like that bit to evolve. I like to discover that over time, layer by layer.

So I usually have something I am trying to write. I have succeeded once using the anchor or seed of a particular sentence. It was evocative enough to inspire an entire scene to flower around it. Usually I use emotional anchors or event anchors, something that will advance the tale or the character. I confess I have a very linear Western approach to tale telling and hope to pick up more Eastern non linear approaches to story arcs...but that will take many years of cultural development for me.

As for this:

Can anybody become a writer? (this is posted on the first page of the thread)


I think the answer depends on what is meant by the term writer. Fundamentally, most people can master the forms of written language well enough to codify something into written words...For me, I see "writers" in the same vein as artists, sculptors, musicians, poets, dancers...I hope one day to be able to include myself in their company. It's an aspiration. I don't think anybody can be a writer in this sense. I'm not sure I can...but I'll give it a red hot try!
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Postby Kaya » Mon Jul 16, 2012 4:32 am

Parador~J wrote:Question of the week: Can anybody become a writer?


I do believe anyone can if that is what they really want, yes (maybe it's also a matter of wanting to believe, because if I can't believe that anyone can, then where do I stand with my big dream, hmm? ;) ). I don't believe (anymore - yes, I once was that naive :P) that it's all just a matter of sitting down one day saying 'I'll write that best seller now'. That would be like wanting to go to the Olympics to run the 100 meters without having practiced, and practiced, and failed, of having studied others, and of having practiced some more. Of course, it’s not because you practice to become a better runner that the aim should be the Olympics – I think smaller, personal goals are just as important, also taking it one step at a time, and that you don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the journey. But at times it’s also a matter of hanging in and blood, sweat and tears. So I think I'll keep it at a combination of a minimum of talent, and a whole lot of skill and will-power that determine whether one can be a writer.

For me what works is reading a whole lot, dissecting other works I love to see how they did it (writing style and how well developed characters are, are high on my list) and works I don't like at all to determine why that is (one of my pet peeves is head-hopping within a scene - I really hate it and if it happens on a few occasions it's enough for me to put the book away permanently, no matter how okay the story line is). Of perfecting my grammar and punctuation and improving my vocabulary (so much work to do there, still *sigh*). Of learning about point of view and structure, and of practicing a whole lot. About writing and even more of rewriting.

Of course, you need ideas. Without those, I don't think you'd get far. But there's enough out there that maybe could create a spark: maybe an article in a newspaper, or a picture, the flash of a scene... I love the idea of the two notebooks (vocabulary / inspirational), and I'm going to try to implement it in my routine.

There are quite a few good 'how to' books out there, too, and I've never considered reading one of them a waste of time. Not all in it is as helpful, but I just take what I need from it or what sounds like something that could work for me. Right now I'm reading one on plotting, since I have my main characters (yet still need to flesh out my antagonist), a good start, I'm quite sure I found my voice and I know where I'm eventually going, but I've arrived at that point where I've come to a stop because it needs 'more', if you know what I mean. More structure, more filling. So it's back to the outlining phase for me - I had done hardly any outlining before, so obviously that famous 'pantsing' isn't working for me.

I've discovered it surely is time consuming (also, because I'm still trying to determine what is the best way of crafting a story for me, and until I have a lot of time is spend on learning which is often trial and error, and sometimes on taking a step back; and because English is not my first language but I somehow cannot imagine writing in my native tongue - there's just no music in it) and it can become hard at times to give myself that push to get started - it's a pretty lonely 'hobby', but when the words start flowing and I know I'm writing from my belly, that's one of the best feelings ever. :D
And time consuming, yes, but I don't believe in the 'I don't have time to write' or 'If I had the time I'd be a writer'. It's a matter of making time and/or prioritizing. I sometimes fail at the latter since there are so many distractions, and procrastinating is not something I'm unfamiliar with. :roll:
Personally, I think I should try to plot more using merely pen and paper, and pushing the laptop aside, because that browser icon is the gateway to hours of aimless surfing I'd better spend differently.

Okay, seems I've gone a bit off topic here - I can't help but loving to talk about writing - but they're just my 2 cents. :)

Love the idea for this thread and will keep an eye on it. :D
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Postby Parador~J » Thu Aug 09, 2012 7:59 pm

Thank-you Elora and Kaya and Eari :) :)

I really like this thread too....sorry for being out for a bit...

Like you said Kaya...making the time and prioritizing...this is what I have to do to keep up with all the goals I've made to become a better writer :thumbsup:

There's a magazine I subscribe to on my Nook Color: The Writer

Excellent magazine...they have a website also...I've really enjoyed reading it...and have learned from it. I'm using it for our thread Novel Idea....lets write a book

I agree with all of you...anybody can become a writer. People can do things if they really want to and take the time to work hard at it.

I do believe there are those who are born with a talent...such as being a writer...but even they have to exersice those muscles :thumbsup:

I'm working at reading more...I'm more a nonfiction reader than a fiction reader...fiction books I love: Tolkien, Potter, Red Wall Abbey, Eragon, Gregory the Overlander, Fable Haven to name a few :lol:

I'm so ADD...I'm more visual...reading takes work...my brain wonders around a lot...ideas...ideas...ideas :P

Rereading your posts guys...would like to discuss your reponses more in depth :thumbsup:
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Postby Kaya » Sun Aug 12, 2012 4:32 am

Parador~J wrote:There's a magazine I subscribe to on my Nook Color: The Writer

Excellent magazine...they have a website also...I've really enjoyed reading it...and have learned from it. I'm using it for our thread Novel Idea....lets write a book


I've looked up the website and will have a look at it. :)

There are a couple of websites/newsletters I'm following as well. KM Weiland's Wordplay and Holly Lisle's are my favourites at the moment.

I have Weiland's book 'Oulining your novel - map your way to success', a couple of Lisle's ebooks (imho, they're both excellent and witty), and I found Stephen King's 'On writing' very insightful.
I also bought some books from the series 'Elements of fiction writing'; I haven't read them all yet (by far), but must say I totally loved the one on characters and viewpoint (by Orson Scott Card). Very indepth.

Rereading your posts guys...would like to discuss your reponses more in depth :thumbsup:
I'm game! :D:D 8)

Edited to complete the info on the characters and viewpoints book.
Last edited by Kaya on Sun Aug 12, 2012 6:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Parador~J » Sun Aug 12, 2012 5:57 am

Good info, Kaya :thumbsup: :)

And Stephen King...wow...now there's a writer!

I'll look in to these books, Kaya...you can never have too many!

I also have an article I will post called The Talent Myth...I'll summerize it. Gives hope to those of us who think you HAVE to have talent to do anything ;)

Talent is something you can pursue and earn....
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Postby elora » Sun Aug 12, 2012 3:16 pm

Interesting references. Michael Moorcock (he of Elric fame) also has a fantastic offering as well - specifically about writing epic style fantasy.

I think any one can and should tell a story. A bit of effort and polishing and technique tuning makes it a story that appeals to lots of others.

I'm a bit of a classicist. I differentiate the modern novel from the classical concept. I think anyone can write a modern story/novel/omnibus of short stories (although the shorties are tricksy creatures). A novel in it's classical form is rather different. That is art and requires skill, inspiration and talent (in my opinion). :)
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Postby Parador~J » Sun Aug 12, 2012 5:21 pm

A novel in it's classical form is rather different. That is art and requires skill, inspiration and talent (in my opinion).


I really do have to agree with your opinion, Elora :thumbsup:....An Ernest Hemingway, or Tolstoy I'll never be...not even a Tolkien ...but...I'm gonna be the best I can be and then some with extra pushing :) :)
I
But I do truly believe there are people born with certain talents and skills...it's just up to them to hone and polish those talents and skills. Sometimes you don't even know you've had a talent or skill in some area...and find out...you do!

It's fun exploring our lives :D

I write a post on what I read about Talent Myths...will make for a good conversation and learning... ;)

I find you to be a very talented writer, Elora :D

I'm really excited about this thread...thank-you, Elora, Eari and Kaya for sharing and contributing....look forward to this quest with you guys. Whoever else would like to contribute...please do! :thumbsup:
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Postby Parador~J » Sat Aug 18, 2012 7:59 pm

Talent Myths

I've been reading an article in The Writer magazine about this subject...and found some more writing about The Talent Myths on the Web...

Talent: a special natural ability or aptitude: a talent for drawing.

2. a capacity for achievement or success; ability: young men of talent.

3. a talented person: The cast includes many of the theater's major talents.

4. a group of persons with special ability: an exhibition of watercolors by the local talent.
*************************************************************

I know we're born with gifts and talents...finding them is another skill. But then there are those who's gifts or talents are obvious...they are more pronounced...they are natually drawn toward some specific skill...something they enjoy.

This is an article written by Yilin Wang... Very interesting article...good for a discussion and then on to the next subject :thumbsup:

The Talent Myth: Deliberate Practice for Writers...Yilin Wang:

When I talk to people about writers, artists, performers, and other successful people, I often hear them described as “talented” or “genius”.

But is it really true that they are renowned simply because of their innate abilities? If talent is crucial to developing skill, that would be depressing news for people who are aspiring to improve. If it isn’t necessary, then why are some people so much better at a skill than the rest of us?

As I tried to find out the answer to these questions, I stumbled across Cal Newport’s article on how practicing can make people into experts, as well as books such as The Talent Code, Outliers, and Talent is Overrated.

It turns out that, contrary to popular beliefs, many successful people spent years honing their craft until they became renowned. They went beyond merely practicing for countless hours though–they practiced deliberately, completing specific targeted practice that allowed them to learn at an exponential rate and develop expertise.

What is Deliberate Practice?

According to Talent is Overrated, deliberate practice has these traits:
1.It’s designed to improve performance.
2.It’s repeated a lot.
3.Feedback on results is continuously available.
4.It’s highly demanding mentally.
5.It’s hard.
6.It requires good goals.

In other words, deliberate practice requires you to go beyond practicing repeatedly. You got to practice the right things, to focus on specific tasks, address weaknesses, take risks, and get feedback.

Examples of Deliberate Practice in Music, Art, and Athletics

Traditionally, deliberate practice seems to work best in fields that value speed, accuracy, and measurable results.

Meadowmount

■A music school that produced some of the world’s best musicians, including Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman

■It has a reputation for teaching students a year’s material in 7 weeks

■Deliberate practice: Students practice for 5 hours a day on top of participating in master classes, workshops, and concerts. When learning to perform a song, they cut sheets of music into tiny stripes each containing mere seconds of music, then play the short segments slowly and repeatedly until they master it.


Italian Renaissance


■The Italian Renaissance, one of the greatest arts movement in history, produced artists ranging from Leonardo da Vinci to Raphael to Michelangelo

■Deliberate practice: Aspiring artists around the age of seven began a decade-long apprenticeship with master artists . They started by completing manual tasks like sweeping floors, grinding pigments, running errands, and preparing canvases. As time went on, they observed others, learned techniques through copying, and finally proceeded to create their original works.

Spartak

■A Russian tennis club that trained dozens of top ranking tennis players

■Deliberate practice: Players swing their rackets without balls, practicing repeatedly in slow motion and correcting their moves each time. The coaches have an obsessive focus on technique and players cannot enter any competition until they practice for 3 years.

Deliberate Practice in the Field of Writing

Benjamin Franklin

■One of the best-known polymaths, he was an exceptional author, inventor, politician, and scientist

■Deliberate practice: To improve the structure of his writing, he read essays, took notes, and then practiced reconstructing each essay based on his notes. To improve his diction, he rewrote essays in verse and then again in prose, challenging himself to write clearly and creatively

Bronte sisters

■Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, Emily’s Wuthering Heights, and Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall are must-read classics in the English language

■Deliberate practice: As children, the Brontes practiced by working on dozens of little books. They imitated popular stories, which allowed them to learn the craft of writing as well as experiment with structure, style, and content.

Reading about deliberate practice has inspired me to apply it to my own academic studies and creative work. I’m planning to create some writing exercises to address my weaknesses and build skill, which I will start sharing in the new year....Yilin Wang
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Postby Parador~J » Sat Aug 18, 2012 8:30 pm

This is another excellent article on the talent myth:

Chapter 12: Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: The Myth of Talent

By Dean Wesley Smith

The word “talent” has been used for a very long time to destroy writers.

I have always believed that the word is the worst myth of them all in publishing, so here goes a chapter I’m sure will be annoying to some people, and should cause some interesting discussions if nothing else.

Okay, first to my trusty and well-worn Oxford American Dictionary for a standard definition.

Talent: Special or very great ability, people who have this.


That’s about it. Pretty straightforward. Notice the word “ability” and notice it says nothing about being “born with.” Just notice.

Okay, when it comes to writing, let me put my definition right out front here.

Talent in Writing: A measure of a person’s craft at storytelling at any given moment that depends on who is judging and the age of the person being judged.

As I have said before in a number of places, when I started writing, I was so untalented, it scared anyone who even tried to read something I wrote.

In school I hated writing because I was so bad at it. If I had listened to all the people who told me I had no talent for writing, I would have quit four decades ago. No, make that five decades ago, because all my early report cards said I had no talent for writing.

Now, after millions and millions of words practiced, many books and stories published, I get comments all the time like, “You are a talented writer, of course you can do it.”

Or one I got the other day. “You have the talent to write fast.”

Well, when I started to get serious about fiction writing, it took me hours and hours to do one 250 word page. Then that page would be so poorly written and riddled with mistakes that it got tossed away more often than not. (Remember, I was working on a typewriter.) Yup, I was a “naturally talented” fast writer. NOT!

Thank heavens for me I came to the realization early on in my life that talent was only a measure of craft at a certain point in time and nothing more.

Yet, frighteningly, parents, teachers, and so many family and friends think that talent is FIXED. If you are talented when you are young in something, you should be for your entire life. Well, sadly, as many have discovered, it doesn’t work that way.

Yet parents and teachers early on are determined to saddle kids with the “talented” label or worse yet, push them away from things they don’t do very well at first because they have no “talent” for that. Just makes me angry every time I hear of it.

The Problem of the Label

If you call a student talented, it’s an excuse for them to not work as hard. “It’s easy for them.”

If you say they don’t have talent, you allow them to not try at all, or think something is impossible to do and then quit.

In my opinion, talent is a deadly word to attach or even mention in front of any child.

Now, let’s look at writing. James Lee Burke, Stephen King, Nora Roberts and others at the top of the lists are the most talented writers we have working. Many readers don’t have a taste for a certain writer’s work, but doesn’t matter. The bestsellers are talented storytellers who sell millions of copies every time they put out a new book. The evidence is in the sales.

I’ll take myself at this moment as an example. Compared to a beginning writer, I have a vast talent for writing. Compared to King or Nora, not so much.

My talent AT THE MOMENT is a measure of my ability and craft. Right now.

And it depends on who I am being compared to.

But the key is that I am not permanently FIXED at this talent level. I can keep learning, practicing, working hard, and get better.

I can become more “talented.”

And, of course, that measurement of my talent is also completely subjective to who is doing the looking. One new writer might think I’m talented, some other writer might wonder why I even get published at all, let alone make my living at it.

So how did I become so “talented?” And how do I hope to become as talented as King and Nora someday?

Again, from an earlier chapter, practice and focused study. And then more practice, with the constant drive to learn and become a better writer with every story I write. As I improve my craft, sell more books, I will become more talented.

Factors of Being Talented

A proclamation of TALENT on a person depends on a number of factors.

1…Age of the person being judged.

Tiger Woods. As a kid, his father had him hitting golf balls. And his father was training him how to think like a golfer as a kid.

So he goes onto the Mike Douglas Show as a very young kid and manages to hit a golf ball into the air about fifty feet. WOW, he was talented. (For a kid his age.)

But compared to me at that time, if you just look at simple golf skills, no age factor at all, he was awful. He sucked, totally sucked and had no talent.

At that moment in time when Tiger Woods was that kid on the Mike Douglas Show, I was a full-time professional golfer playing qualifying stops for the tour. I could fly a ball 300 plus yards and seldom was over par on any course. Compared to me in strict golf standards, Tiger Woods at that time had no talent at all. I could hit a ball backhanded, standing on one leg, blindfolded farther than he could hit one at that same moment in time.

Age of the person observed was the major factor in calling Tiger talented at that time.

So what made Tiger Woods into the most “talented” golfer on the planet from that kid who could barely hit a ball fifty paces? Practice and focused study and years and years of more practice. He learned how to hit a ball farther than I could in my prime, he learned how to win, how to control his mind and his ability. He hit millions and millions of golf balls and played millions of holes of golf over a lot of years.

In other words, his craft improved as he got older.

As a kid, people called him talented, as an adult, they still call him talented. He managed to continue to increase his talent, his craft, his ability. He never once let the “talented” label go to his head, at least until the last few years with his famous problems.

2…What scale are you comparing the talented person to?

For example, I hope to run/walk a marathon in my 60th year. If I had gotten out about two weeks before my 60th birthday, my age class would have been 50-59 and I would have sucked compared to others. I will not be considered talented at all. But now that I am closer to 61, a marathon two weeks before my 61st birthday, my age class is 60-65 or 60-70, and you know, in that age class, my pounding and huffing along might be considered pretty darn good, even talented though I will have the same time either way.

A kid in high school English class might be able to write a paper better than his classmates because he’s spent time at home writing in a journal for five years. He has better craft because he has practiced and the others around him haven’t. So he gets called talented compared to the other people in his class. But now someone like me comes in, sits in that same class, with my years of experience writing and I write a paper. I would be called the talented student now and the previous talented student would just fade into the pack.

Talent is relative to who you are comparing the person to.

The Most Destructive Myth in Publishing

So why do I consider the talented label as one of the worst myths in all of publishing, and the most destructive? Simply because I’ve seen it kill writer’s dreams so many times over the years.

Both sides of the coin are destructive. Talented or Untalented.

Both judgments kill writers’ careers if the writer lets the judgment go in deep.

In my Clarion six week workshop, I was one of the least talented of the twenty-three writers who were there. And I got toasted every critique and rightfully so. Plus I was still learning to type.

All the negative feedback just made me slightly angry because I knew they were right, and it made me want to work even harder. Remember, I had been very, very good at two national sports before Clarion. And I had been accepted and made it through years of law school when no one thought I could do it.

I knew that practice and hard work were the key. And when you want to play at a national level, you have to work harder and longer than everyone else in the country. I knew that. I was willing to do that.

So what happened to the most talented person at my Clarion? When I was the publisher at Pulphouse ten years later, I bought his only short story sale, a story he had written at Clarion. He got so much acclaim in that workshop and from friends, he clearly thought writing was too easy and went on to other things that challenged him while some of us also-rans are still hanging around and writing.

I’ve had “talented” friends get angry at me and become bitter. They think because they are talented they don’t have to work. Yet there I am, working my butt off and making sales and getting better, but because they think talent is a “fixed” thing, and since I had no talent, but am now selling, the system has to be broken in some way.

Or worse yet, I would get the comments, “He was lucky.”

As Kevin J. Anderson once said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Yup. And the harder I work, the more I practice, the more I want to learn, the more talented I become.

Comments like “He was lucky” often come from nothing more than thinking that talent is a fixed measure of a person.

My old friends who saw some of those early stories would never think of me as talented. I’m fixed in their minds as hopeless and it’s head-shaking to them how I have gotten so lucky.

Tiger Woods for the first ten years on the tour was known for being the first one on the practice range in the morning and the last one to leave at night. He worked with golf coaches, pumped weights, and did everything he could to improve his game. Wonder why he became for a time the most talented golfer on the planet? He worked harder than anyone else. And he taught other kids they had to do the same thing and now this new generation of golfers coming in are working machines.

Why am I here still selling and writing after decades and decades of this business?

Because I worked harder than most people. Simply but truthful answer.

In fact, I got angry once at a workshop of students who just shrugged off my success as nothing more than luck and me being me. (Sort of how I get angry at people who say, “Oh, you’re Dean Wesley Smith, you can sell anything.”

I challenged everyone in that workshop that I could write more books in one year than all of them combined. That’s right, combined. Six young professional writers against me. And I beat them. I did more work, wrote more books, in one year than all of them combined. None of them ever questioned again why I was more successful. And now they are all successful and going like crazy.

So it might also be safe to say that talent is a measure of how hard a person works at their craft and learning and practicing. The harder a writer works, the more talented a writer they become.

As I do with every chapter, I want to talk about solutions, but in this case, there aren’t many I’m afraid. At least not easy ones.

You have been labeled “talented.” And you believe it. Now what?


That’s the worst thing that can happen to you, actually, in writing, if that little voice in your head that drives you actually took that word in and believed it.

The symptoms will be some or all of the following if that has happened.

—Your work ethic has slowed down.

—You will be getting angry at rejections.

—You will believe that no one understands your work.

—Your ego will be so huge, you might think there is no point in going traditional publishing routes because that takes time and is rigged.

—You will start looking for shortcuts to becoming rich as someone with your “talent” should be.


You might even sell a couple of things, but alas, ten years from now we will be looking back asking that awful question: “What ever happened to…?”

How to fix this problem? Not a clue, actually, because I can’t help you with the ego.

Chances are that if you have been given this label and believe it, deeply believe it, you are doomed.

And that is the truth. Once you stop working, stop trying to get better, you stop, fix your talent right there, and then stand and watch the rest of the world go past.

For example, if you think you are a talented writer, chances are my chapter about writing faster made you angry. You don’t need to work as hard or write as fast because you’re talented.

And my posts upcoming chapters about agents will make you angry because you’re talented and you don’t need to learn all that stuff. Someone will take care of you. That’s your right because you are “talented.”

If your little voice really thinks you are talented, if you think every story you write should be bought first time out, and are angry it isn’t, if you think that famous is only for the lucky and bestsellers are bad writers, you are doomed. You have to kill that voice somehow, some way, as quickly as you can.

The belief that you are talented locks you in and closes doors.

But killing that voice, letting go of that belief that you are talented and dropping back to the belief that you must work harder and harder to attain what you want is difficult at best. Why?

Because of fear.

Inside, deep inside, you understand the truth, but fear uses the talented label as a shield.

Remember that talent is a measure of your craft at the moment which depends on who you are being compared to and your age.

Best thing I can suggest is figure out where that “talented” label went in. And then kill that moment.

For example, your workshop kept telling you that you are talented, but no one in there was published, and yet you believed them and it went in. Oh, oh… Get away from that workshop, join a workshop (and keep your mouth shut) that has professional selling writers in it. If your “talented belief system” can survive being torn down and you can go back to wanting to learn and get better, you might have a hope.

Find the source and clean it out of your mind as quickly as you can. If you can. Get professional help if you need it, which with this problem, you more than likely will.

How do you really know if you have this problem?

Here is the way you tell…

You think that all you need to do is sit down and write that great idea you have and polish it until it’s perfect and your talent will be shown to the world. Problem is, you just can’t seem to find the time to write it.

Which is your deep mind saying, “Don’t try, you might fail. Better to believe you are talented than try to write and prove you are not.

Truth: Thinking you are talented is an excuse to not work, to not write, to not drive forward.

Thinking you are talented is a reason to be lazy.

What happens when you really believe you have No Talent?

Almost as bad as the flip side, actually. Having a label of being bad at something gives us all an excuse to not do it, even though we want to. Back to the fear issues.

You think “If I am so bad at this and it’s impossible for me to learn because I have no ‘talent’ for it, why should I even bother?”

Fear wins and you stop and never really try.

When I started into writing, all the pounding I took because of my poor craft just motivated me to learn and get better. I was told over and over, by everyone from my family to teachers that I had no talent for writing. “It just wasn’t me.”

I was talented at skiing, or golf, or math, or architecture. (Never was talented at the law.) Why didn’t I just stay with those?

But interestingly enough, I had the strength to stand up and say (in my own mind) “Only I know what’s right for me.”

In writing, only sales are the judge of quality writing, no matter what anyone says or how loudly some failed writer/reviewer proclaims themselves to be the judge.

Readers purchasing your books and enjoying the read are all that matter.

And the only way to get more sales and to find more readers is to practice and learn and keep working harder than everyone around you.

So if you have been given the “untalented” label, (and you believe it) you have to somehow climb over the fear, tell everyone to go take a flying leap, and just keep pushing forward. Most won’t. Writing is hard enough just learning for the lucky ones that weren’t saddled with either side of this myth early on.

I have never believed I have talent. I have never believed I am untalented.

I have believed in my own ability to work hard, practice, and learn something I set my mind to learning.

And so far, that’s got me past a lot of proclamations by observers telling me that I have no talent or now that I am talented. And these days, I hate to admit, those hit me in about equal measure all the time.

And that just makes me laugh.

The real bottom line is that to get past this myth, you have to believe in yourself and ignore everyone else’s belief system about you. Learn from others, but ignore what they say about your “talent.” Because the moment you take that alien belief system into your own mind and believe it, either good or bad, you are doomed.

Talent in Writing: A measure of a person’s craft at storytelling at any given moment that depends on who is judging and the age of the person being judged.

In other words…


Talent Can Be Learned

It’s up to you to work hard, practice hard, learn everything you can learn, so that you also become a “talented” (meaning skilled) writer.

The myth of talent kills more writers careers than any myth in the business.

Don’t let yourself fall to this one.
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Postby Parador~J » Sat Aug 18, 2012 8:32 pm

I feel there is hope for me yet! :lol:

It really does motivate me even more to work on my writing...

I used to play the Violin...started in the 4th grade. I played in the Roswell Youth Symphony...and for the New Mexico State Music contest I won 2 medals for solo and one for duet...

I no longer play...so I'm VERY rusty...I can pick up the violin and use my ear to play Some Where Over the Rainbow...but really...I can't play much these days...I'd basically have to start over...

I used to draw...started when I was around 10 years old...drew lots of pics...and got to be pretty good...sold a couple of my drawings. Then later on in my 30's...I stopped drawing...couldn't draw much these days. Didn't think I was talented enough :P Later...I realized...if I'd practiced...I would have become a pretty good artist and gone on to do something with it...

I was going to write a book when I was 18...worked on a title...had an idea for the story...and even drew some of the characters...but then...I felt over whelmed...didn't think I had talent in this area...but I sure felt I could have written a book...had I tried. May be take some courses on writing...read more...and practiced writing...but I didn't :P

See where I'm going>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>if I had taken the time and practiced...I could have been a pretty good violinist...artist and writer. But I didn't think I had enough talent...as compared to those who had talent. I didn't realize the ability was there all along...it could have BEEN a talent had I worked hard and practiced :|

Now...I really want it. Found out I could write...and I can play the piano...just need to practice. If I really want to do this...I'll find the time...and not give up so easily this time :wink:
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Postby Parador~J » Sun Aug 19, 2012 12:49 pm

Oh my word!

I finally had a chance to read the Talent Myth I posted from Dean Wesley Smith...and man!!! I'm having a 'discovery' moment here :shock:

This guy is right on the money! I'm the bullseye....and I just got hit! :o

Do you know that I've been told I was a talented speaker and teacher...but I worked at it. But these last three years or so...I've stopped working at it. And let me tell you...I've noticed the effects of this...I've been doing poorly at it as of this last year or so...and why? Because I was told I was talented...I figured I didn't have to work at it...because it came naturally...NOT!

I've digressed :P

I never worked hard at my violin playing...art work...or writing...because it didn't come naturally...I concluded I did not have the talent for it...I wasn't born to be a violinist or an artist...or a writer...............what a shame. I feel like I've wasted those years of sitting around feeling sorry for myself...having a pity party...because I had no talents :(

Even becoming a member of TORC so intimidated me...I would just lurk in 1999 and part of 2000...to post with such talented people made my knees wobble and my heart to flutter, lolol

Even to finally challenge myself to join the Mithril Knights was a huge step for me. And I felt so proud of myself...because I took that step and found out I could write somewhat...and I'm still working on getting better. But now...I feel so hopeful at becoming a writer...that it's given me new goals! :)

I'm more determined than ever to see this through...I know I can do it :thumbsup: AND I'm going to learn to play the piano :)

I'm going to be a busy girl the next half of this century :lol:
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Postby Parador~J » Fri Aug 31, 2012 2:41 pm

I edited the first post...looks MUCH better! And inviting :D

I added some links for writing...really excellent websites...

I purchased two books: 'How to be a writer...building your creative skills through practice and play' (this ebook is on my Nook). And the 2nd book: The Writer's Handbook' by A. S. Burack. This was written in 1968...and still used today! It's an excellent book for any beginnner or well seasoned writer :thumbsup:

Really...I'm a non-fiction reader...90% of my books are non-fiction...the other 10 % are Tolkien, Rowling, Lewis, Suzanne Collins (Gregory the Overlander and Hunger Games), Brian Jacques and Christopher Paolini :)

In fact...this weeks question (well...the last two weeks) is Who are your favorite writers?
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Postby Parador~J » Sun Sep 02, 2012 9:45 pm

Elora wrote: Alrighty! Fave writers! (stretches fingers in rich anticipation)

Aside from Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, Stephen Erikson, Glen Cook, Jim Butcher (Dresden Files), China Miéville, Guy Gavriel Kay and Neil Gaiman (LOVE LOVE LOVE American Gods).

Outside of the speculative fiction genre (the generic term for sci fi and fantasy), I am a MASSIVE FAN of Salman Rushdie. This man is a master of the novel as an art. A superlative storyteller, a modern day bard. Adore his work and the fact I can revel in it's characters and symmetry of perfect plot arcs and construction with joyous abandon.

Aside from Rushdie, Peter Carey, Lionel Shriver and even fallen British writer Jeffrey Archer (his short stories are crackers) all are regular denizens on my bookshelf. If I love a writer, I will buy their work in hard copy and, what is more, keep it and re-read it. I am the sort of reader who devours a book in two hours or so, and usually once read will not return to it. A bookshelf position is a sign of how much I loved their work.

My favourite writer of all time is, predictably, William Shakespeare. I have always been an acolyte of myths, fables, stories. I adore the way they can place a lens over real people and real events and help us see deeper into ourselves. I am a fiction groupie through and through.

If I read non-fiction, I am usually reading for professional purposes. That takes me into the realms of governance, psychology and the neurosciences. i am insatiable on the topic of evolutionary psychology...fascinates me...and I adore clinical studies of unusual psychological phenomena...But you don't want me to list my favourite researchers because that, I am delighted to say, would see me posting for years on the matter.

Great question, Parador~J!
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Postby Parador~J » Sun Sep 02, 2012 9:51 pm

I'm going to look all these authors up, Elora :lol:

Very good stuff here...

I've come to love fiction...and I'm venturing more and more in to it...yes, me too...I love Sci-Fi...but Fantasy more. On yeah...I forgot...Orson Scott Card...he's another of my favorites :D

Psychology is a most fascinating subject...espeically Forensic Psychology!
I have a bookcase dedicated to the world of Forensics. And a bookcase dedicated to the Religions of the world...and a bookcase dedicated to... :lol: Well...lots of books :P

I now have a Nook Color...and I LOVE IT! Every time I move...having to move those boxes and boxes of heavy books...was toture :shock:

So now...I try to order my books on the Nook Color...even magazines. I hate getting magazines through the mail...you read them...but they pile up to quickly...now I get them on my Nook Color!

Anyway...back to books...Shakespeare! Oh yes!! I have the Globe Edition...HUGE RED book...I love it. Have I read it................No :roll:

I have a hard time understanding Shakespeare...but then...I've never put my heart and soul in to reading it. I do say...there are those who have the Gift of writing...such as Shakespeare...we are born with gifts and talents...but...it's up to us to use them and perfect them...and share them :)
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Postby Parador~J » Tue Sep 18, 2012 11:32 am

I've had a really bad cold :(

Not reading much...or writing...it's been five days of feeling really bad..stuffed head...coughing...bad headache...enough said on that subject :P

I've found some really good articles on the web...and will post them on the front page of this thread today...

Elora...I'm going to challenge myself to read one of Shakespeare's story's from my Globe book ... I'll post an update to that challenge :thumbsup: lol

Anyone else have a favorite author they'd like to tell us about?

:)
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Postby elora » Tue Sep 18, 2012 1:20 pm

Go for it, Parador! :clap: I'm going to bathe my neural matter in some Salman Rushdie, methinks. Or, rather, me will be able to cogitate more clearer once I do. :wink:
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Re: (A) Writer's Quest...

Postby Kaya » Fri Nov 23, 2012 8:05 am

Finally I managed to read up on the past posts. The posts about talent were really insightful and, Parador, I can wholeheartedly relate to your sentiments upon them. Especially with this:

I never worked hard at my violin playing...art work...or writing...because it didn't come naturally...I concluded I did not have the talent for it...I wasn't born to be a violinist or an artist...or a writer...............what a shame. I feel like I've wasted those years of sitting around feeling sorry for myself...having a pity party...because I had no talents


Somehow the label 'talent' undoes the fact that to become really good at anything, one has to invest time and hard work. Somehow it implies that, if one isn't labeled talented, it's almost a waste of anyone's time if you want to continue with it anyway. As if trying and - maybe - failing would be a capital crime. As if being the best at something is the one thing that counts, and good or mediocre are not noteworthy. As if having fun at it isn't important, too.

It's a miracle I haven't given up writing yet, even though after all these years I can't say I have accomplished much (in terms of finished pieces), but I do know that I have made progress as a writer. It's too much of a challenge and too much fun to quit, too. And those damned voices just won't shut up. :D

I've been wanting to learn to play an instrument for years now, and I've vowed I'll register come next september for saxophone lessons at last. Much looking forward to it, and I'm not going into that class feeling like I have a talent for music, or like I'll need to have it to be worthy of being there. :)


As for favourite authors: Tolkien, JK Rowling, Stephen King, Holly Black, Jennifer Donnelly, Suzanne Collins, Gayle Forman, Rob Thurman, just to name a few of the top of my head.
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On a writing adventure with Jaeniver in Scriptorium: Crossroads

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All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.


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Kaya
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Re: (A) Writer's Quest...

Postby Parador~J » Fri Nov 23, 2012 1:33 pm

So good to see you Kaya! :)

As soon as I get my computer back from the repair shop...I'll come in and post and update this thread...so much to talk about :D

And I follow-up on your post also Elora's :)

I sure miss everyone and this place!


My computer part should be in toward next week...I've been without it for over a month :Q

And as I've said in other threads...It's hard to post from a nook color :shock:

:TORC:
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Re: (A) Writer's Quest...

Postby Kaya » Tue Nov 27, 2012 10:38 am

Excellent! I'm much looking forward to your computer being repaired and the promissed updates already. :D

I have a burst of inspiration. It might be the time of the year - this really are 'my months', if you know what I mean. A couple of weeks ago I was suddenly hit by an idea and I've been outlining since, and must say that for once I might be onto something original, something that will have a beginning, middle and end, something I might see through. [s]Fingers crossed[/s] Fingers on keyboard, behind on seat. 8)

I'm also reading Plot and structure by James Scott Bell and I so far I'm finding it very helpful. At the moment I'm at the part concerning 'middles', and there are some good tips on how to boost up a stalling middle that otherwise might cause for the whole idea to be archived indefinitely. Which is I'm starting to have a knack for. :roll: Beginnings, no sweat. Characters with something to say, I can do that. But then, once I think I'm onto something (really, I ought to knock wood now because I really hope I for once survive this part) suddenly it stops, I start questioning about everything I've come up with so far in order to find that something that could bring back that spark, to conclude might not be all that good after all, so maybe I should try again with a whole new idea and let this one rest for a while... :roll:

Anyway, I'm rambling now. And I should be doing things around the house first before I burry myself in front of my computer. :oops: Later! :hihi:
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Also writing Arunakhôr, Elenya Elemmirë, Bréhon, Berhelf, Heldred, Kos el-Qadah and Elengurth.

The Dúnedain of the North: The Drake Hunt

A Tale or Two

On a writing adventure with Jaeniver in Scriptorium: Crossroads

Proud member of the Class of '02

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.


Art by Lane Brown
User avatar
Kaya
Dúnadaneth
 
Posts: 5256
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2002 6:29 am
Location: Northern Wilderness (and otherwise, in Belgium)
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Re: (A) Writer's Quest...

Postby Parador~J » Sat Jan 19, 2013 8:56 pm

I'm still on this quest, Kaya, Elora and Eari :)

Holidays, flu...yada...yada... :P

Ok..done with the excuses, lol:)

Working on writing...means...one should be...writing...every day or every-other-day...or weekly or...weekends only! The key to writing...is...just write...and don't stop...for long periods of time. It's good to write often.

I've joined a group of TORCers on Facebook: TORC Writer's Circle Inn :)

One of the exercises I've joined is Bardy's challenge: writing for 15 minutes each day :thumbsup:

I'm writing, Bardy :lol:

I really am looking forward to doing this :thumbsup:

I tell you what I've learned though...the more I write...the easier it gets so-to-speak...I mean...writing can still take work...but...I write better the more I write...I'm a better communicator. Too...the more I read...the better I am at writing. It helps me to be more confident in my writing...so......................................Practice...practice...practice :D

Kaya...on your post: I understand what you're saying...getting started can be easy...character's are not to hard...but filling it in (the middle) can be challenging. I like the book you mentioned...Plots and Structure...looking it up on my Nook :)

One of the many books I have: Complete Guide to writing Fiction and Nonfiction by Pat Kubis and Bob Howland, talks about Plot. He says
"Aristotle gave us many valuable insights on plot that are still relevant today. He said plot has a proper beginning, middle and end. That may sound simple, but most beginning writers do not know where to begin, some do not have a middle in their stories, and quite a few do not know how to end.In fact, Aristotle argued that it was impossible not to have plot---because in every story there has to be some type of action. He also noticed that most new writers achieved competence in language and character development before they achieved competence in plot, plot was more important."

***writes down Aristotle...another author to read about***

I'll write more tomorrow...I'll also update the first page with the books I've purchased so far...including the one you mentioned, Kaya :thumbsup:

Question of the Month: What inspires you as a writer?
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Mithril Knights Warriors Guild
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~Bearer of the Sun Ring of ~Anar~ - The Spirit of Endurance ^~^'Fëavoronwie'^~^
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Re: (A) Writer's Quest...

Postby erinhue » Mon Jan 21, 2013 2:10 pm

I think she's got it. Writers write. Where you start does not matter as often the first thing you write turns out not to be the beginning anyway. Want to write, then write, The more you do it, the better you get. If things are not working out in your story, youc an go back and change it. The point is to keep going until you get to the end. :wink:
"Where ever you go, there you are." - Buckaroo Bonzi

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