How to Improve

#1
Opposite to what most people here think, the best way to improve is usually not to have someone else look at your work.  At least not for someone who's starting to write from nothing.  That's because all that will happen is we'll tell you to redo pretty much everything and you'll fight us the whole way.  We'll have to go through hours of work reviewing your work and you won't even benefit from it. 

Here's the methods you should use to improve your writing first.  

1) Research fiction writing.  There are TONNES of free guides online telling you how to do everything.  Don't use ours preferably.  Often they're reinventing a wheel that's already been perfected or dumbing down an existing guide.  

2) Review your own work.  You'll notice very quickly that you are cringing at almost everything you wrote, it's not your imagination, it's really as bad as you think.  The more you redo something, the better and more concisely you'll write it.  Remember, you want to say more with less words.  Every sentence should build towards something.  

3) Start over from "1" and find more things to research.  There are lots of weird little rules which help writing a lot.  Dialog tags for instance have a very specific methodology on their use.  Perspective and tense also play an important role.  There are lots of guides on how to develop your plot and character development as well.  How to create an atmosphere and a mood for your fiction.  

4) When your heads just about ready to explode from research and revision, go read a book.  Not a light novel.  No offense to your favorite LN authors, but most of them get by with gimmicks and aren't really good authors.  Remember that even authors like Tolkien are highly criticized by the real critics.  The hobbit featured almost a dozen dwarves no one could tell apart from eachother and Lord of the Rings described things to death.  Some people are more sensitive to this stuff than others.  Figure out what you like and what you don't and try and learn how they did that.  Then start over from "1" again...

5) Improve your English.  Never hurts to get better at the language. The clearer you can write English, the easier people will be able to understand your fiction.  There are hundreds of grammatical terms out there, learn their definitions.  There are like a dozen comma rules, look up a guide.  

6) Review bad fictions on the site.  Understanding how to write great fictions can be made easier by understanding what the terrible ones did wrong.  Try to keep it neutral.  Just stick to black and white "you did this well." or "You could improve here and this is how." Start over from 1 again.  

7) Ask for a peer review...Yes it takes that long to get here because quite simply, I don't wanna read a boring fiction that I hate.  Too many people already ask for reviews and when I dump pages of criticism on them one after another, I lose my motivation to help. Not to mention it just really upsets me when half my advice isn't even listened to.  Moreso when my advice amounts to listing off really obvious rules for writing freely available all over the internet.

RE: How to Improve

#3
This aligned with my own learning quite well. I'd echo to any new author that there are many things you can do to improve your own work before you'd actually need someone's help. There are even automated editing software packages out there to point out the common errors in your writing. By the time you ask for help, it'd be best if you didn't have flagrant grammar errors, run-on sentences, or plot holes larger than a small moon.

If I were to rank the most common errors I point out to people, it would probably be along these lines:

1) Grammar: Using a basic word processor can fix most of these mistakes.

2) Filter Words and Passive Voice: These can be identified and fix fairly easily if you know what to look for. There are plenty of guides describing this on the internet

3) Excessive Exposition / Info-Dumps: Do you have more than four sentences in a row of description? Congratulations, you've entered info-dump territory.  (Tolkien was a serial offender of this, but he was at least vivid in his descriptions.) Most text could be removed in these cases unless directly relevant to the scene at hand.

4) Opening Issues: The first sentence (or paragraph) should be interesting. If it isn't rewrite it until it is interesting. Alternatively, pick a different scene to start with. Its actually amazing how many resources exist on writing this single sentence or paragraph.

11/4/2015 4:03:45 AMunice5656 Wrote: [ -> ]lol I'd say do 4 and 5 first. I never read a single writing guide or grammar guide, just read hundreds and hundreds of good books.
I recommend you try taking a look - I was amazed at many simple tricks and methods were out there that are obvious once stated, but are hidden when you only look at the end product.

RE: How to Improve

#4
It's fine if you can learn from actual books, but I've met people on this website that said they literally cleaned out libraries of books and they were terrible. You have to be the type who can stop and analyze how the book works for it to work and if you don't know anything about writing, chances are it'll all seem like a confusing topic best left a mystery.

I put off the english thing because most people are only gonna learn a couple odd things they didn't know before. Researching writing is literally gonna change EVERYTHING you write. It's the difference between day and night. Same with reviewing your work, it's hard to do, but the more you do it, the better you get at it. Just churning out chapters mindlessly without ever stopping to think is exactly what you want to avoid. You'll never get better like that.

I'd say stop at one chapter and keep revising that. Make a plot outline for your whole book of course, but only flesh out one chapter. If you get too far in, rewriting things will become harder. I literally can't get through to those authors with 10+ chapters released at all. They are all too far in and refuse to listen to anything at this point.

RE: How to Improve

#5
Here's a tip I read from a random guide somewhere:
Copy the author you want to write similar to, literally!
No, I don't mean publish it and name it your own. I mean write it out and get into the habit of using the same kind of method and words they do. Write some fanfic using their method and characters in the way they'd write it.
Basically the idea is that you will soon have a similar writing style, but over time it will change and become your own.

Aside from that,
People had to point out writing rules I've never considered. I could read a book, two, ten, three hundred and I still wouldn't understand what I've done wrong or different. *Not intelligent enough to figure it out on my own* (I'll be the first to admit)

"If you want to fully enjoy the stories you read, don't start writing them." - The Yandere Darkling

Links I've accumulated:
http://www.words-to-use.com/words/eyes/
http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/
http://www.scribophile.com/academy/he-said-she-said-dialog-tags-and-using-them-effectively
http://www.publishingcrawl.com/2012/05/21/filter-words/
http://thatfrenchhelper.tumblr.com/post/50763359227/character-sheets-and-character-creation
http://writerswrite.co.za/cheat-sheets-translate-emotions-into-written-body-language
http://www.greececsd.org/academics.cfm?subpage=944
http://www.springhole.net/writing/
http://www.how-to-write-a-novel.net/creative-writing-tips.html
http://clevergirlhelps.tumblr.com/post/61370173627/how-to-write-dialogue
http://www.creativejuicesbooks.com/action-verbs.html
http://writeitsideways.com/are-these-fil...r-fiction/
http://goinswriter.com/weak-words/

RE: How to Improve

#7
Quote:Opposite to what most people here think, the best way to improve is usually not to have someone else look at your work. At least not for someone who's starting to write from nothing. That's because all that will happen is we'll tell you to redo pretty much everything and you'll fight us the whole way. We'll have to go through hours of work reviewing your work and you won't even benefit from it.
I still think the best/fastest way to improve is to have someone look at your work

But I think it's better for one-shots rather than a series for starters, that way you don't really need to change anything related to story.

Learn from your pointed mistakes and see how much you improve with the next one-shots

You can improve your English and look for guides/tips while doing writing.

IMO, reading tips without you know your own weaknesses is like searching in blind. You'll get better, but it'll take much longer than have someone pointing to you

Then, after you understand the basic, feel free to improve yourself with the abundant guides/tips out there

RE: How to Improve

#8
Here is my opinion on the question.

I have to second #4. The single best thing you can do to become a good writer is to read. Read a lot. Even if you don't know the rules to grammar, you will learn what sounds right and what sounds wrong. You will learn pacing and flow the same way. Things start to become second nature to you because you have some many good examples that your mind has been saturated with.

Your vocabulary will also grow leaps and bounds. Just seeing words you don't normally use being used multiple ways will give you a better definition for a word then the dictionary can. The reason for this is a words meaning is dictated by the context of use. This way you can learn how words can be used subtly and in different ways. Sometimes you use a word not based solely on definition but because it flows with the feel of what you are writing.

This is really the only way to learn how to "feel" the English language. Its just like a foreigner who speaks English as a second language. They can be technically a better writer than 99% of Americans, but that doesn't mean they are a better writer, or even an average writer. This is something that can be learned though, because lets face it, communicating for the sake of communication is about as fun as scrubbing a wall. But communicating to people is what its all about. Not even lawyers read legal writing for fun. They grab a novel because it speaks to them.

If there is a second, or more accurately a brother to the first, then it has to be to write. Just sit down and let your imagination flow. Practice. I think the reason for this is self explanatory.

RE: How to Improve

#9
@Zolf Peer review is very powerful, but it's best to use that when the easy stuff is out of the way and done with. It's like wasting your ultimate attack on the small fry mobs that anything can kill.

@Elorion Reading is great, but it's nickel and dime improvements. I'm incredibly analytical and I usually pick up one or two things from each author I read from. To even get those improvements you need to have a grounding in writing, otherwise you don't really understand what makes a good writer. Anything you read before learning writing mechanics may as well not even exist because you just weren't thinking in that mindset yet.

For example, something I've learned recently is that it's best to alternate between description, dialog, plot development, etc as much as possible. That's because readers like variety in a writing style. No matter how good your descriptions are, if they drag on for a full paragraph or two, the reader starts getting bored. I would never have realized that if I didn't read the rule about how writers should switch between short and long sentences because readers find it easier and more rewarding to read.

RE: How to Improve

#10
I think it really depends on the individual person. Some people learn to write through reading a lot, and intuitively learn the rules without actually knowing what the rules are called (system one thinking), while some people have to explicitly learn the rules and consciously use them in their writing (system two thinking).

As an analogy, think of a talented athlete, like a basketball player. In basketball, he/she actually has to make a lot of physics calculations to predict where the ball will bounce, how much force to use in a throw, how high to jump, etc. However, none of these calculations are made consciously. The basketball player knows where the ball is going to go, but not how he/she knows. This is system one thinking, based on experience and intuition, where the player has gotten things wrong and gotten things right often enough to know the difference.

In contrast, a student taking kinesiology might know all the physics equations governing the ball and the player's movements, and be able to calculate angles and trajectories down to the last millimetre. He/she consciously understands everything going on in the course of a basketball game. However, this does not mean that the student will be good at playing basketball. While the athlete would know intuitively where the ball would land before even throwing it, the student's calculations are necessarily slower because humans aren't computers. Starting with equations and formulas, the student might have some idea of how to start playing basketball, but won't become skilled at it until he/she learns to do the calculations intuitively.

In the same way, writers can learn the rules by reading and writing, knowing what works and what doesn't work intuitively, or they can consciously learn the rules, then slowly learn to apply them intuitively.

RE: How to Improve

#11
11/10/2015 10:04:28 PMDarkD Wrote: [ -> ]@Elorion Reading is great, but it's nickel and dime improvements.  I'm incredibly analytical and I usually pick up one or two things from each author I read from.  To even get those improvements you need to have a grounding in writing, otherwise you don't really understand what makes a good writer.   Anything you read before learning writing mechanics may as well not even exist because you just weren't thinking in that mindset yet.

For example, something I've learned recently is that it's best to alternate between description, dialog, plot development, etc as much as possible.  That's because readers like variety in a writing style.  No matter how good your descriptions are, if they drag on for a full paragraph or two, the reader starts getting bored.  I would never have realized that if I didn't read the rule about how writers should switch between short and long sentences because readers find it easier and more rewarding to read.

Good points, but let me further what I mean by reading. Back in college I use to read a minimum of a 500 page fantasy novel a week. After weeks, months and years of this type of practice you mind becomes saturated and the way you communicate changes based on what you have seen. The sheer repetition of seeing how stories are told and having tens if not hundreds of examples works well for an analytical mind. This has to be a practice of life though, not just reading a handful of books and saying you have succeed.

Though you aren't learning strict rules, you see what is good often enough that your mind immediately knows what is right and wrong. Your mind categorizes every aspect of these books. If you break one of the rules that is essential to good fiction you immediately recognize it because it contradicts everything you are use to seeing.

RE: How to Improve

#12
1) my own type of research was to read lot's of xianxia novels and vr novels as well as story's on RR back in my early days. it was simple to see what people liked and what people disliked and picking one of the major target audiences while still keeping to what you yourself like after all writing something you don't enjoy well a story like that wont last long.

2) i cant really say i do this but when i have a raw down and i send it to my prs i will have a sleepless night when i think about certain parts that are cheesy or cliche i will quickly go back and rewrite it to flow better i honestly wish i could rewrite most of my stuff but sometimes you just have to continue on and make it flow as to keep the momentum up.

3) this is probably my second mot important thing to worry about. i find myself having a list of things i need to think of or fix. whether it be a characters personality or a feature within the story that i need to implement without making it cliche. alchemy for example for my latest 2 chapters.

4) unfortunately i cant do this. western literature isn't something i like for many reasons i will just leave it at that.

5) indeed my grammar has improved when i focus and intend to fix paragraphs due to my writing and putting some effort but the habit of just skipping grammar fixes keeps me in check :( as you can see by my post.

6) i cant do this >.> my mindset is i would get embarrassed for a bad story i feel like i was the one who wrote it. the last story i read on RR disgusted me :3

7) this is the first thing i worry about, finding current and up to date reviews to properly improve myself i target people who will tell me honestly and not praise me blatantly. this has helped me a lot, by focusing on honest reviews and asking for criticism i have improved a lot

RE: How to Improve

#13
11/19/2015 12:34:33 PMZephon Wrote: [ -> ]3) this is probably my second mot important thing to worry about. i find myself having a list of things i need to think of or fix. whether it be a characters personality or a feature within the story that i need to implement without making it cliche. alchemy for example for my latest 2 chapters.
Alchemy's a tricky one.
If it's too generic, then people might get bored.
If it's too weird, then people might not like it.
If it's too simple, then might as-well skip over it all.
If it's basically chemistry, then people might find it too complicated (or dangerous, I had to censor a portion on how to make explosives, especially with the recent terrorist incidents).

RE: How to Improve

#14
I'm not a book reader so I am one of those that are not familiar with the so-called writing rules.

I do read a lot of translated webnovels and light novels, hence my first written story emulates them.

Traditional fantasy novels never interested me, for I read a couple before. It's why I never heard of stuff like lord of the rings until a movie came out. They make a great movie. Would I read the book? Most likely no.

RE: How to Improve

#15
11/21/2015 2:54:39 PMAzareal Wrote: [ -> ]Alchemy's a tricky one.
If it's too generic, then people might get bored.
If it's too weird, then people might not like it.
If it's too simple, then might as-well skip over it all.
If it's basically chemistry, then people might find it too complicated (or dangerous, I had to censor a portion on how to make explosives, especially with the recent terrorist incidents).

This snippet caught my eye while reading on how to improve my writing and I can't help but ask what about fighting scenes? This is pertinent as I try to incorporate as much realism into my writing as possible and I draw extensively on my martial arts background to do so. The human body is riddled with exploitable weaknesses and it makes me really wary that a random reader might well be using this knowledge in a random street brawl and seriously injure someone or worse...

On the main topic itself, I find that there are several very useful guides and rules in terms of systems but internalizing them for use is often a problem. I struggle with having to revise my chapters extensively according to the rules and frankly after re-writing a chapter for the third time, some of these rules become more trouble than they are worth. However, I find the few good guiding rules that I slowly learn to adhere to have slowly improved parts of my writing. Trouble is I can't keep more than one new rule in my mind while writing...

RE: How to Improve

#16
go ahead and write those weaknesses...  You ever watch TV?  Breaking Bad taught me how to make thermite, Burn Notice taught me countless ways to bypass and circumvent the police.  Somewhere down the line I learned that a water bottle silencer actually works, but for only one shot and not really that silent.  Countless martial arts shows have already done what you're talking about.  How much more damage do you think you can do?  

Learning to use the rules is more about getting in certain writing habits.  The more you consciously make the effort, the more your writing will improve without countless revisions or even trying.  It'll just become a habit.

Re: How to Improve

#17

unice5656 Wrote: lol I'd say do 4 and 5 first. I never read a single writing guide or grammar guide, just read hundreds and hundreds of good books.
I agree. Researching the craft with guides and professional advice is great for polishing your work, but none of it will help you one bit until you have an instinct for how to write. Relying on the rules completely, without yet having a 'feel' for good or bad writing, results in very stiff, formulaic, paint-by-numbers writing that usually has massive flaws that the author didn't notice no matter how many rules and tips they've memorised. Developing an instinct for whether a story is 'working' is step one, and that only comes from reading a lot of really good stories, and practice.


After that, reading guides and structure research to improve one's craft is very useful.

Re: How to Improve

#19
My opinion on these ideas has evolved a little.  

I now think even less of reading good fiction than I did before.  If you are reading a good fiction, you don't even realize what's going on.  It's like you've been whisked away to a magical world and you aren't even reading.  You don't pick up anything if you are truly enjoying the book.  

I think good fiction should be used as a reference rather than a "read as many good fiction as you can".  Rather, find a good fiction that does everything right, then use it as a reference.  Don't read it properly, read it thoughtfully.  Dissect the book and it's methods.  

Rather, it's much more important for learning to read bad fiction.  Reading something where you aren't immersed and spotting flaws every three lines, will help you avoid making those mistakes yourself in your own fiction.  

Re: How to Improve

#20

DarkD Wrote: My opinion on these ideas has evolved a little.  

I now think even less of reading good fiction than I did before.  If you are reading a good fiction, you don't even realize what's going on.  It's like you've been whisked away to a magical world and you aren't even reading.  You don't pick up anything if you are truly enjoying the book.  

I think good fiction should be used as a reference rather than a "read as many good fiction as you can".  Rather, find a good fiction that does everything right, then use it as a reference.  Don't read it properly, read it thoughtfully.  Dissect the book and it's methods.  

Rather, it's much more important for learning to read bad fiction.  Reading something where you aren't immersed and spotting flaws every three lines, will help you avoid making those mistakes yourself in your own fiction.
This only works if you've read enough good fiction to notice the drop in quality. When I was first getting into fantasy as a child I read a lot of pretty bad fiction and thought it was amazing because I had no basis for comparison yet.