Re: Writing for fun... did anyone else suddenly feel illiterate?

#1
So I had nothing better to do during all this down time, and decided to try and write something for fun. At lest it WAS fun until I read the page over again and saw constant, awful tense errors and other such eldritch horrors. Did I really spend years going through school to learn English? Then I got caught in a deep, dark whirlpool searching for grammar on the internet because of a line that was something like this.

"bob stood on the rock, and acted like he will never get off"

Now comes the awful sense of existential dread. Have I always been "that person" who talks weird, but nobody bothers to correct them? Was my schooling bad or was I just too dumb to understand it? Was writing reports really well the only skill I picked up? I can write the hell out of a report, but if you asked me "how many commas are too much?", I wouldn't have the slightest clue.

Chemistry is so much easier to understand than this grammar stuff people keep talking about. Trying to re-learn grammar is like one moment I'm looking at fisher price baby toys where i go "hurrr square goes in square hole! me am smrt!", and the next I'm looking at esoteric math proofs scrawled on the walls of a bar's toilet stall...

Re: Writing for fun... did anyone else suddenly feel illiterate?

#2
As an EFL teacher I can tell you this:

Whenever we use a language, we do it for communication purposes. What matters is meaning, not form. Thus, wether we write or speak, or communicate in any way, we are bound to communicate by focusing on what we want to convey over the way we say it. Even if you make mistakes while talking, most people would not correct said mistakes as long as they understood the message. Moreover, you must consider that language is constructed and is not fixed. It's liquid, always changing form. If you say a sentence with a double negative to someone who uses double negatives all the time, then said person wouldn't find an error in your speech. Most likely I mean. It's all about context really.

Furthermore, writing an academic paper is different than writing a web novel, or a journal, or a book, or anything else because not only they are different genres, but also they imply a different writing process. You can't blame yourself for making mistakes while writing a genre you've never tried before. That's why while you're at school you are asked to do all different kinds of writing excercises. Experience is the mother of wisdom. Wisdom doesn't imply making less mistakes, but taking better decisions. Better decisions will help you improve your writing in time, you'll see. 

Re: Writing for fun... did anyone else suddenly feel illiterate?

#6
In terms of writing ability versus critical ability people who are familiar with a lot of writing and able to notice flaws in others aren’t actually better at writing since it’s a different skill entirely, so what happens is what you write seems horrendous to you because you are better at critique than actual writing and you’re also obsessing over it’s quality more than usual because you’re being self-comscious. This ends up meaning that you’re writing looks a lot worse than “everyone else’s” in your mind.

The opposite can also be true. With webfiction especially I’ve seen more than one writing who are mostly decent and build a good audience and write consistently, but it’s only really good because of the context of webfiction readers giving a lot more freedom to amateurs and such. These writers then never improve and just produce endlessly at mostly the same quality they started with. Webfiction is special because you can just “start” at any point so a lot of people going in don’t develop that critical ability to watch out for flaws. In that sense it’s better to think your writing is awful, because it means you’re actively working on improving and you can constantly spot things for yourself to improve on. Theoretically this means that the fastest way to actually develop good writing ability is to power through your own sense of over-perfectionism and work on improving rather than building an audience that will get you stuck resting on your own achievements and get so comfortable you’ll never have the courage to look for your faults.

Perfectionism is of course also a very bad thing in it’s own right, and reducing the two options to a binary is the biggest problem. You actually need to be able to spot the good parts along with the bad parts, so thinking only “my work is always bad” or “my work is always good” is the real problem because you need to balance between the two. Frankly I find trash-tier fiction a great exercise in motivation. Firstly is the fact that basically all attempts at writing have some potential somehwere and have their own merits, so if you can have the patience to read “bad” writing you can spot the “small” good parts better and recognize value even in flawed works. And secondly I get super motivated to write when I read guilty pleasure quality fiction because it’s so easy to spot flaws I can’t help thinking “I can write stuff netter than this, it would be easy.” And that’s usually where I get the motivation that actually gets me writing, when I look at something in another fiction and think it could have been better or different in some way and I want to make a fiction that has that difference. Probably why there’s so much fanfiction is the world honestly, but you can just as easily create a whole new setting and plot to write your small change when you really get down to it.

Also, in regards to grammar, you can try notice all the horrendous sentences I’ve constructed in here. We don’t tend to notice those kinds of informal grammar mistakes unless we’re looking for them, and context is everything because in this setting I don’t necessarily care about those flaws and it’s likely you don’t either. We talk bad because it’s easy and it works; and we talk good when we feel we need to. Flaws are all over and most of them don’t really make a diffidence. Some malapropisms are even consciously included.

Re: Writing for fun... did anyone else suddenly feel illiterate?

#7
Writing takes practice.

It's not something you are good at because you took English in school. The most you get from English in school both public and college is a bad case of "essay voice" in your creative endeavors.

That being said, no writes a perfect story when they first start writing. That mean nothing is structure right, you don't have the best word choice, and really it can be a sloppy mess. So practice, practice, practice and edit. Honestly, that's how you make you story shine, editing.

Re: Writing for fun... did anyone else suddenly feel illiterate?

#8
I can definitely relate. One thing I will tell you though, as someone who did pretty well in English courses, is that it does not at all translate to being a good story writer. Writing a book is a different beast altogether than most English assignments you'd have in college or high school. But no one starts off being good at writing anything. 

My advice is to start by reading books that are actually written by seasoned authors and then taking note of the kinds of unique aspects in them. Editing your story is important, but one key thing that a lot of people miss is that you also need to read a lot. A lot of authors have different writing styles, but taking note of what techniques authors use and how they use them can really help advance your writing. You'll also start to note your own flaws and can correct them suitably.

Re: Writing for fun... did anyone else suddenly feel illiterate?

#9

White Wrote: ...Whenever we use a language, we do it for communication purposes. What matters is meaning, not form... Furthermore, writing an academic paper is different than writing a web novel, or a journal, or a book, or anything else because not only they are different genres, but also they imply a different writing process...

Ah that makes sense. Language probably isn't the most perfect way to beam out thoughts directly into each other's heads, but so long as enough meaning gets through, we can easily reform that thought in our own minds aka 'understand' it. Academic papers totally feel like a different skill, too! It's surprising how despite them both using (in this case) English, they offer pretty wildly different techniques. Now I've tried story writing, I feel everything is so sterilized and functional in academic style and it lacks the beautiful flow and imagery that I get when I read a story. Never really thought too hard about how different their purposes are, either. It was "English is English" as a baseline in my mind, so of course they should all be perfectly transferable skill-sets.,. heh


Endless Wrote: In terms of writing ability versus critical ability people who are familiar with a lot of writing and able to notice flaws in others aren’t actually better at writing since it’s a different skill entirely... In that sense it’s better to think your writing is awful, because it means you’re actively working on improving and you can constantly spot things for yourself to improve on. Theoretically this means that the fastest way to actually develop good writing ability is to power through your own sense of over-perfectionism and work on improving...

Perfectionism is of course also a very bad thing in it’s own right, and reducing the two options to a binary is the biggest problem... “I can write stuff netter than this, it would be easy.”...

That really solidifies skills as a good way of thinking about it, and I guess that like any skill out there, you gotta do it to get better, right? I totally fell into that perfectionism trap and now I wonder if that's over a decade of curriculum geared towards you either being correct, and passing or being even slightly wrong, and getting a giant red circle showing how you failed. But the pitfalls of the education system might be another argument for another thread, loly. Tehre si alos teh fnuny wya wrods dnot nede ot eb slpeled croretcly, but poelpe siltl udnratenstd ti. Brian is a funny guy, he much read gud sometimes
Defren Wrote: I can definitely relate. One thing I will tell you though, as someone who did pretty well in English courses, is that it does not at all translate to being a good story writer. Writing a book is a different beast altogether than most English assignments you'd have in college or high school. But no one starts off being good at writing anything. 

My advice is to start by reading books that are actually written by seasoned authors and then taking note of the kinds of unique aspects in them. Editing your story is important, but one key thing that a lot of people miss is that you also need to read a lot. A lot of authors have different writing styles, but taking note of what techniques authors use and how they use them can really help advance your writing. You'll also start to note your own flaws and can correct them suitably.

I think I might focus more on professionally published stories for their (assumed) impeccable editing and try to pick out the right way to do thing, but not really get bogged down in being high distinction quality. Hell, maybe that obsession with perfection isn't even necessary at all when we're just having fun. Obviously you need some standards though :D


Also had to purposefully stop myself from mass quoting every single line of every single post. I did read it all and thanks to everyone who took the time to express their thoughts on the matter. Even if I didn't quote the exact line, I still appreciate it! It has cleared out a lot of the fog I was feeling, plus it feels better to think of it as just being a skill versus something you are innately talented at and if you don't get it perfect the first time, you clearly don't have the talent. Ah, the joys of being an imperfect perfectionist.

Hell, this can all be taken out of the context of purely writing stories and used for just about anything in life.

Re: Writing for fun... did anyone else suddenly feel illiterate?

#10
I absolutely 100% can relate to this.

I've been writing for fun since I was perhaps 17, and I'm 43 now and only just started putting my work up on the internet. What was immediately apparent was that despite a quarter bloody century of recreational novel writing, I was very bad at it indeed.

I too have used the english language my whole working/learning life - countless essays for A-levels and my degree that can't have been too bad because I've got the bits of paper to say I passed. I regularly write copy for work purposes, I'm capable of writing proposals, reports, technical documentation and all that.

I'm also an avid reader - I've always got a book on the go. You'd've thought I'd've picked up a thing or two, but apparently not so much.

I had grammatical errors, typos, and the biggest glaring fault was dialogue - I had a full stop at the end of dialogue rather than a comma, which meant that about 90% of my dialogue was comprised of two disjointed sentences. Took ages to go through and revise it all.

So yeah, fiction writing really is a different skill set. Best of luck with the editing!

G

Re: Writing for fun... did anyone else suddenly feel illiterate?

#11
I think there's a difference between knowing how to write well on a technical level, and knowing how to write stories well. There can be great stories with bad grammar, or stories where the grammar and punctuation is perfect but it's just bad from a style and structure perspective.
Both are fixable with practice, but in my opinion you also need to actually look up the rules (or guides in the case of style) and try to follow them. After you've done that for a while, you'll get used to it and subconsciously start writing better.
Also, editing really is key!
Especially for typos. Those just happen, and don't mean you're a bad writer. The more you're in the flow, the more you'll have, probably.

I have a different perspective on this because I first started writing stories in my native language, then in English, so I basically went through this twice. Both times, my grammar was actually pretty good from the start, because I'd put in the work in school, and well, grammar really is much the same whether you're writing homework or a novel. But there were still nuances I had to learn, especially concerning dialogue. When I started writing in English, I was better with style and structure, and this transferred pretty much automatically. Since then, I've noticed learning to do better in one language carries over to writing in the other, but only mostly, and I've developed new common mistakes when I mix up the two in my head.

The most important thing is to keep at it. So good luck, and don't get too discouraged! I'm a fellow perfectionist, and sometimes you just have to sternly remind yourself that you don't need to be perfect right now, and are allowed to make mistakes.

Re: Writing for fun... did anyone else suddenly feel illiterate?

#13

Tejoka Wrote: The most important thing is to keep at it.


Which is twice as hard for non-native speakers.

I've been using the English language as my primary working language (working in telecoms for the last 25 years) which helps in reading but that doesn't help much when it comes to writing. Unfortunately.

To get better at writing I definitely had to write, write, write. Then, everytime I run into a grammar or vocabulary issue, I need to grab a book or surf the web, and teach myself. And rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

Yeah, it's different from the 'write first edit later' approach, but part of the journey is learning how to improve my writing. If I would complete a 100k novel which is utterly unreadable, the rewriting would equal a new write. In other words: if you're a new writer, or a non-native writer, I'd advise to accept, or even aim for multiple early rewrites. Once the writing is of a sufficient level, then I'll proably join the 'edit later' choir, but as it stands now it is redo, redo, redo, and learn, learn, learn...

Hate it. Love it. Can't make up my mind. But I'll keep at it!

Re: Writing for fun... did anyone else suddenly feel illiterate?

#14

Nine Wrote:
permanentlyExhaustedPigeon Wrote: I had grammatical errors, typos, and the biggest glaring fault was dialogue - I had a full stop at the end of dialogue rather than a comma, which meant that about 90% of my dialogue was comprised of two disjointed sentences. Took ages to go through and revise it all.


Lost me on this one, could you show an example?

Not a problem:

"The thing about dialogue is that there's a whole lot of rules about it, I mean a lot. What it boils down to - once I'd bothered to read all that - is you can't go far wrong if you treat what's being said, and then the he-said-she-said bit after, as if it's one sentence and not two," Alice said.

"What happens if you don't do that and treat the line of dialogue like a sentence on it's own?" Bob asked. "I mean, what I said just looked okay."

"Yeah, that did because of the question mark, but if it's just a normal full stop at the end of the statement, then it looks proper weird." She said.

"Oh, right. That dangling 'she said' on the end there looked like a miserable orphan," Bob agreed.

"Bada-bing, you've got it." Alice gave him a thumbs-up.

Bob noticed something odd: "Right, hold the phone. You used a full stop there!"

"Yep, because that was two complete sentences and I was doing something, not making it clear I'd said something," she answered.

"This is complicated. No wonder the guy writing this just used full stops all that time," Bob said.

...is kinda what I mean - I was just using full stops and once the penny dropped it looked odd. YMMV, of course, and all rules are made to be broken. Wink

G


Re: Writing for fun... did anyone else suddenly feel illiterate?

#15
I like to think of writing as 10% writing, and 90% editing.

The one manuscript I've finished so far had the bulk of the First Draft completed in about 2 months. I edited it for the entire next year, and frankly still need to make some tweaks to the ending.

The novel I'm writing the last chapter of now? 50% of it was written in the past week, with maybe a month's worth of writing spread out over time to write the first half, so by the end i'll call it 1.5 months. I fully expect another year or so of edits, rewrites, edits, revisions, before I decide if I even want to attempt publishing it.

In the end, I'd suggest not fretting over grammar, vocabulary, phrasings, etc on a first draft - the entire point is simply to get the story written. The real work comes in editing it so that it's written well.

The amount of work that takes varies from author to author - less due to their innate understanding of grammar or their grasp on the language (though that plays a role) and more on what their goals with the piece are. Fans of a free web novel may well be more forgiving than the paying audience of a traditionally published work, after all. Or, they may not be - but its up to the author to determine what their aim is, in the end, and find the right balance of work and effort with fun to ensure it is a worthwhile endeavor.

Re: Writing for fun... did anyone else suddenly feel illiterate?

#18

permanentlyExhaustedPigeon Wrote:
Nine Wrote: Now I won't be able to sleep for the rest of the month...



Hah, sorry. I was at it for aaaaages once I realised. My stuff is pretty dialogue-heavy, and there was no way to do it with a macro or similar automation that wouldn't possibly make it worse rather than better.



Frankly, I just checked, and it looks like I didn't mess up too many times. I might have missed a few during the re-edits, but I've fixed most (not all) punctuation / dialog issues by now. I hope...

Re: Writing for fun... did anyone else suddenly feel illiterate?

#19
I wouldn't get to worried over my keyboarding skills, were I you. Just make corrections and move on. Some days, about half the keys on my old rat-trap keyboard mis-register, and I spend more time retyping than typing.  As for grammar, in school some folks don't focus on its importance right off, and then, when it becomes important to them, like after starting to write publicly, end having to go back and bone up. Also, a boat load of novelizing is couched in conventions not taught in straight English.

As a hobby or avocation, there is a good bunch of things to add to your skill set from within the craft, which, eh, qualifies it as a craft, and worth the time invested.  Yep. thar's thangs ta' be learned in'a do'in it.  Which makes it interestin' an' fun, fer a certain definition of fun, o'corse.

agorbrenx, (Dang Keyboard, anyways!)

Anyway, there are several style guides around that are very helpfull and easy to read and apply.  Also, several levels of professionalisim to aspire to, should the writing bug bite.

Dunno if the following applies to anything or is very inspirational, but I'll throw it in anyway.



    

Ye Compleate Nobody's Guide To Publication

F.A. Hyatt



There are a lot of these, writ by VIP editors, authors and publishers to be sure, but bear with me.

First off, depending on the source. envision that there are 200,000 manuscripts offered up to various publishers each year. (this is just a guess, but probably hopelessly conservative). The chosen few amount to no more than 1 percent or so.

Who gets published first, or insider sales:

Given priority are books by ex-presidents, movie stars, diplomats, sports figures, captains and lieutenants of industry, scientists, other notable, public figures. Beyond that, established authors, house stable authors, professional columnists. Many, or most of these are solicited by the publisher or solicited from the top literary agents.

Then follow the unwashed, er, unpublished, writer works. This is not to deny that some venues specialize in unpublished authors, or have an internal policy to support new authors. We are talking overall averages here. Plus, an “unpublished Author” in the context of a publishing house might include say, the Pope.

To put it another way, According to PUBLISHING CENTRAL:

“Editors have told me that a mid- to large-sized publishing house gets upwards of 5000 unsolicited submissions a year. About 95% are rejected right off the bat (most get form letters, a few promising authors get personalized notes stating why the manuscript was rejected). Of the 5% left, some are queries for which the editors request entire manuscripts. Others are manuscripts submitted in their entirety, and these go on to the next stage of the acquisitions process (get passed around the editorial department, presented at editorial meetings, perhaps looked at by sales staff to get a sense of the market for the book). The end result is that 1-2% of unsolicited submissions are actually purchased for publication.”

Of the first group, most will reach publication, even if some editor has to rewrite the work, to make it readable. The landscape here is name recognition or prior sales statistics.

Of the unwashed, er, unpublished remainder, likely 80 percent of the submissions are illegible, of poor grammar, badly formatted, just plain awful, pandering, or disconnected from their audience. The remaining percentage are in competition with each other for consideration, with only the top five percent considered even worthy of a second look. One percent actually get a contract to publish.

The realities out of the way, on to the business of winning one of those contracts.

Making it out of the slush pile.

Having written a complete work, corrected every possible error of grammar , spelling so on, and having critiqued it five or ten times, then polished it, and formatted it properly, you can congratulate yourself on having surpassed the 80 percent mark.

Now, to work on excellence.
To be in the running, your work must be better than seventy five percent of the remainder twenty percent of well spelled, writ and formatted works. Your story is good, but now you must surpass your peers. It must be better than good. It must be compelling, a page turner, satisfying to read,wrench at the reader. Who you must know well. (Example: Don't bother writing a children's book, if you do not understand what children actually read.)

More rework, a ton of looking between the lines of your critiques, implementing what needs to be done and superhuman effort later, after still more beta reads, final tweaks, you have arrived. Congratulations, your work may actually join the five percent that get read at the publishers staff meetings for consideration.

Now on to placing in the top one percent that get published.

At this point, its probably about individual taste, and the publishers current needs, so:
Choose your targets better than your peers in the running. Pick the publishers who are most likely looking for exactly the book you wrote, right now. Be aware of themes of the month, the writing styles the house publishes the most. The trends the publication follow most, what stories brought them awards. Were they like yours? Submit there. Not elsewhere.

If the publisher doesn't accept manuscripts that are not represented by an agent, send a query letter instead. Don't ever send manuscripts on topics the publisher does not deal in or want to read. They won't.
To me, there is something special about being one out of a hundred. Its a worthy pursuit.

Some interesting, semi-topical links for you follow.

https://www.ralan.com/

(Tons of current sites accepting stories for pay, great advice, fairly complete resource, been around for decades, Free.)

http://www.penguin.com/meet/publishers/daw/


Note: The above URLs are likely out of date. If you take anything away from the short list, it probably should be that publishers are not shy about noting what they want to see, and how they want to see it presented, and when. So its not hard to search up your own list of references just by following up on publishers sites. I recommend looking foremost at major, known publishers sites, not “we print anything” houses or minor lights in the industry first off. If you intend to submit to boutique publishers or a particular boutique publisher, then by all means, you must look at their advice and requirements.