Re: Something fundamentally wrong with my writing?

#1
As someone who has just recently started writing, I’m aware that my writing is anything but perfect.
I’m aware of that, and I’ll try to improve over time. No big deal.
That being said, I’m convinced there is something wrong with my writing on a very fundamental level.
It’s about the length of my chapters.
They basically always turn out too short, so that I have to start writing about other plot points that I didn’t necessarily want to bring up yet, just to get to an acceptable length.
And I know that I should be able to fill up a chapter with what I had originally planned.

I noticed this from the very beginning, but it became very clear to me when I recently read a chapter of someone else's work.
After reading the chapter, I thought it was somewhat short because nothing really happened.
So I checked the word count, and it turned out the chapter was about 2000 words long.

If I had written the same thing myself, I’m confident I would not have reached even up to 1k words.
Not even close to being honest.

So I feel to make up for that ‘missing’ part, I have to use content that should be able to carry a whole chapter itself. But even then, it might still not be enough for a decent-sized chapter.
And for me, that would only be 1500-2000 words, to begin with, so rather short in comparison to the average on this site.



Any ideas? Similar experiences maybe?

Re: Something fundamentally wrong with my writing?

#4
I find a lot of authors have an unconscious habit of glossing over their story.  There's a lot of times where an author will complete a scene in a single sentence that could have easily been five pages.  Summarizing is something you do in normal conversation, but you have to remember that we're storytellers.  We want the long form.  

Summarizing involves just saying that there was an event, and then a resolution

Katie and Amber had a fight.  Amber wanted to come along, Katie refused.  Amber left extremely upset.  

As I said before, this could be five pages of content, so I am not going to give a real long form example.  But sufficed to say, there's no dialog, descriptions, etc in the above. 

Re: Something fundamentally wrong with my writing?

#5

Tinim Wrote: As someone who has just recently started writing, I’m aware that my writing is anything but perfect.
I’m aware of that, and I’ll try to improve over time. No big deal.
That being said, I’m convinced there is something wrong with my writing on a very fundamental level.
It’s about the length of my chapters.
They basically always turn out too short, so that I have to start writing about other plot points that I didn’t necessarily want to bring up yet, just to get to an acceptable length.
And I know that I should be able to fill up a chapter with what I had originally planned.

I noticed this from the very beginning, but it became very clear to me when I recently read a chapter of someone else's work.
After reading the chapter, I thought it was somewhat short because nothing really happened.
So I checked the word count, and it turned out the chapter was about 2000 words long.

If I had written the same thing myself, I’m confident I would not have reached even up to 1k words.
Not even close to being honest.

So I feel to make up for that ‘missing’ part, I have to use content that should be able to carry a whole chapter itself. But even then, it might still not be enough for a decent-sized chapter.
And for me, that would only be 1500-2000 words, to begin with, so rather short in comparison to the average on this site.



Any ideas? Similar experiences maybe?

Hey, don’t discourage yourself. Ya know, when I really started writing. My chapters were about 500 to 2000 words. On top of that, I had grammar issues all over the place, pace inconsistencies, dialogue problems, etc. You just name it, and I was crap at it. 

However, the more I practiced, the better I got. I rewrote my series 10+ times, and giving it one more thorough rewrite before calling it a close. My quality now compared to my original is far different. You’d think the original was a knockoff. My chapters now starts off around the smaller range of 4k to 5k. Then it raises to ranges between 15k to 30k. It gradually gets longer, though, more consistent around 10k to 15k words in a chapter.

Pace issues fixed, grammar issues dramatically lower, much less dialogue, etc. 

You just gotta keep practicing, the more you do something, the better you get at it. ^^

Re: Something fundamentally wrong with my writing?

#7

StgBria Wrote: Putting in a variety of dialogue tags is when it gets crappy.



Read what I linked. I am not talking about subbing out "said" for words like "exclaimed"

I am talking about using character action and exposition weaved in between the dialogue.

I would recommend people read the works of JK Rowling for how NOT to do dialogue tags. But also, sometimes words other than "said" do have a place. The key is balance.

Re: Something fundamentally wrong with my writing?

#8
Finding yourself racing through scenes in your story when you think they ought to be written out longer is a classic example of TELLING your story rather than SHOWING it. If you've ever seen blog posts or self-help examples of Showing vs. Telling, you will invariably see that the SHOWING version of the same scene always uses more words than the TELLING. 

Some scenes need to be told rather than shown. Things like unimportant connecting scenes that get your characters from the grocery store to the kitchen table. Bits of character description or background history that explain why the guy's got a limp or why the castle is old.  Stuff like that ought to be told, but almost all other scenes need to be shown.

Starting a chapter with a few paragraphs of Telling is also a good idea. It helps to quickly set the stage for the important scenes that are coming. It also can be used to remind your reader of what's going on, should thay have set down the book at the end of the previous chapter and thus could use a bit of a reminder. 

But regardless, and to reiterate -- if you find that your story is rushed, if you wish you were more verbose or want to learn how to write longer sentences, practice SHOWING various scenes. Take a look at how the pros do it. Stephen King is an expert at showing scenes rather than telling them. So is Ray Bradury. Charles Dickens is good at it too. These authors talk about how things taste, how they feel and smell and seem. They use metaphor and simile to describe common things. They take an odd veiwpoint and expand on it fully, making their reader come to understand internally why everything is so scary, weird, tense, difficult or awful.

Another great benefit of learning how to show is it allows your readers to come to their own conclusions. Is the bad guy really so evil, or is he just misunderstood? Why does that guy get the girl? I think she should have chosen the other! Let your readers decide what to think based on the pictures you paint with your words, rather than bluntly telling then that this is why the villain is mean, and that's why the girl chose the guy.
 
Here is a scene from my story called DOTS where I make a great effort to show what is happening to my characters.  But first, I will simply just tell it. 


     Hank awoke from dreaming about Rio to find her choking him with the belt she'd given him when they were at Milton's. He bucked her off to gain a breath, but she was on him again in an instant. He reached up and grabbed her by the temples as his brain began starving for oxygen, searching inside her for her heart. 
     "They got to me!" she cried out. "There's black in me!"
     Hank found Rio's heart and protected it with his own as he caused the black in her to explode.

Not very exciting. I know. I could add some adverbs and adjectives, or perhaps even use stronger verbs, but if I'm simply telling the scene as if I'm writing a report about it, the passage is not gonna sound too much better.

Now let's try showing more of what is happening. I'll use decription and paint vivid pictures with sights and scents and sounds, and simile and metaphor.

 
     Hank awoke the next morning as one of his most pleasant dreams about Rio turned into the worst of his PEP Test nightmares. The horror of it soon became clear. People frolicking in Aika’s glade burned and exploded like car bombs until a great darkness descended, crushing everything. In hindsight, the nightmare looked for all the world like a premonition of last night’s plane crash and fire.
     Once awake more fully, Hank had no time for dream analysis. Rio was choking the life out of him, using the leather belt she'd given him during their morning at Milton's. She knelt over him with her knees on his elbows, pinning him with perfect precision. Using her full weight with the belt folded double in her hands, she bore down, crushing his trachea.
     Hank bucked and Rio flew over his head, bouncing off the shower pipes and wall. After a life-saving breath she was on him again in an instant, attacking now from behind. Grayness soon turned black as Hank’s brain began starving for oxygen.
     He reached up and grabbed her by the temples, searching for her little girl heart. It spoke from a place of great sorrow.
     I love you and I’m sorry.
     Hank's heart spoke in kind. Please let me go.
     Rio knew enough about Dreamwatching to understand what had happened to her and what Hank was doing. “They got to me!” she cried out, loud and strong. “There’s black in me!”
     Her little girl heart cried out too. Help me!
     Her heart fought the black with all the strength it could muster, but demons and monsters and grizzly bears bit her and clawed her and sawed her. Pieces of her flew like bumblebees. The stench of Death was overwhelming, like vomit and burning jet fuel. And everywhere everyone everything, screaming and screaming and screaming.
     Help me!
     In Rio’s mind, Hank strode through the chaos like vapor. He reached her little girl heart, shredded and beaten to bits, and gathered up all its pieces. Then wrapping his heart wholly around hers to protect it from further slaughter, he turned and faced its tormentors.
     They exploded like festival fireworks. Nothing remained but the glory. 

Storytelling creates greater impact when similes and metaphors are used, and when descriptors describe scents and sounds, instead of simply what's happening.

And as a bonus, you'll be using more words!  Good luck with your story! ❤😸❤

Re: Something fundamentally wrong with my writing?

#9
Something that helps me is before I start writing a chapter I jot down three bullet point about what should happen. For example:
  • characters talk about x
  • they start hiking
  • argument because nobody can read a map
This focuses the chapter and stops me adding extra stuff on the end to stop it running off in another direction.

But also I think that you shouldn't make all your scenes longer because they are shorter than other people's. Short scenes are important too. Readers don't always want to hear every single thought in your character's head or have every little tree discussed in metaphor as they walk. I like Terry Pratchett books, helps me to think about what stuff deserves describing and what doesn't.

Re: Something fundamentally wrong with my writing?

#10
I read your Chapter 1, and yes, it feels like it's rushing. It's very first chapter, and he awakes in another world, realizes he has a [System] in the span of three seconds, celebrates, analyses all of his Skills and Abilities, checks out his [Quests], and even chooses a [Subclass] straight away. 

Only after all of this does he take a look around himself, and describe the room he's in. It's a bit odd. 

I think you should "pause" more, instead of going forward, forward, forward. It's fine for the character to stop and think for a little. I feel like often we have 10 sentences in a row where he's just doing stuff. He did X, then he did Y, he looked at Z, then he did W... And maybe you could talk about his feelings more, as well, it's a tiny bit lacking. 

And sounds, smells, tacticle sensations are something else you can sprinkle in every now and then. When he opens the door, the fresh breeze brushes his hair back, idk. How hard the rough wooden floor is, on his bare feet. How the room smells strongly of pinewood. 

Even your longest paragraphs are shorter than 2 lines on my screen, it's a bit too little. But yeah, I don't know exactly what to do to "fix it", I'm just brainstorming ideas. It might not even be necessary to change it, if this works for you, and your current readers, then it's fine, I guess? 

Re: Something fundamentally wrong with my writing?

#11
There is not really a too short for a chapter (unless we are speaking about the minimum number of words a chapter is required by the site).

If you can express everything needed in half the words than you story will get twice at good by it. It only becomes a problem if there is something missing that would have been expressed by the more words.

There is the feeling of "that was too short" after a chapter. It has nothing to do with the length of the chapter and it being to short, though. If you add more content to a chapter feeling "too short" you do not reach a "just right" chapter but finally reach a "that was exhausting to read, but did something actually happen?". How much happened in the chapter is also almost irrelevant to rouse this feeling.

That most chapters that feel "to short" lack is a proper ending. Something that leaves the user in a satisfied or conclusive mood and make them feel like that chapter did something. An actual conclusion can work there, though it is not guaranteed to have an effect. Some authors are quite good with the self-deprecating jokes of the MC that hammers in what happened in this chapter together with leaving them with a good laugh.

At first glance quite surprising is that one of the best ways to give an chapter an emotional conclusion is the good old cliffhanger. While some part of the success of cliffhangers is making readers looking forward for the solution in the next chapter, it also has the effect of a natural end of the chapter. The chapter does not just suddenly stop but culminated in something, thus solving the "too short problem". It satisfies the reader by making them want more.

Re: Something fundamentally wrong with my writing?

#13

Tinim Wrote: Also, whenever I had to write something (non-fiction like homework/ a thesis), I always felt like the more concise, the better.

Yes. You are correct. Essays and book reports and other sorts of disertations should be telling and not showing. Nobody cares if the breeze blew back George Washington's hair as he crossed the Delaware River. 

As you practice, you will learn how to be concise as well as descriptive when writing a fictional narrative. You will learn when to be colorful in your prose, when to be blunt, when to be verbose and when to be concise. 

A proper mix is what you want. Authors like Zane Grey and Tom Clancy do very little showing. There's lots of dialogue and colorful language, but when it's time to describe action scenes or paint a scenic picture these guys use the bare minimum number of words to get the image in your mind.

But they succeed in getting the image in your mind. The outlaw is hanging limp in a noose, his buddy realizes he is next. Guns are blazing, hearts are pumping, people are scared or angry or laughing because these authors tell us that they are. 

The reason telling works for them is because the action never stops. There's no navel gazing reflective thinking while characters ponder the fate of the universe, or paragraphs of prose describing sunsets and sandy beaches. The beach is sandy, it is dusk and here is the action that happens there -- pow pow pow! And then we move on, to the bunker and the car and the city. Zoom zoom zoom!

Writing action is hard for some authors. Desciptive narrative is hard for others. Some people can write page after page of gripping dialogue, while others struggle with showing how two people in the same room might talk. Learn what you are good at writing and focus on it, but don't exclude everything else. 

A good novel is like a feast! Feed us well!

Re: Something fundamentally wrong with my writing?

#14
I had a very similar experience just recently, and my solution was not good. Looking for advice here is definitely a good move!

That said, when I ran into this issue, I just started putting in filler effectively, it made my writing look sloppy and it wasn't engaging.

I was lucky because I know a writer personally who looked over my work for me and helped me out a ton. That's not to say it's perfect now, but knowing what to describe in detail etc. really helped me. I think, in the end, fleshing out your writing requires you to know what you like to see. Look at a book you like that is in a similar genre and see what that author does that you haven't done yet. It really helped me.

I hope you can find a solution and thrive here! Best of luck.