CoN 20th Anniversary: 1997-2017
Helpful Database of Hints and Tips for Writing

Posted: 21st May 2004 01:09

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This thread (s dedic ted to writers and forum poster" in general, and is meant to be a place where more experienced writers can post tips about writing, grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence syntax, plots, and general writing and story related topics. Writers, new and old, can post their tips for writing, habits they struggled to break, anything else that may be help"ul to new or developing writers who want to hone their skills.

I’ll start with m8 own experiences. I’ve been wri ing for a little over 10 years now, thoagh I started with admit`edly bad stories. You can still find them in the depths of the FF6 CoN fanfiction section, and I’m still not sure why I’ve left them there.

Being Understood

In writing, it’s good practice to stay within the bounds of the English language (or French, if you’re writing in French, Spanish if Spanish, Dutch, etc). Writing u instead of you, r instead of are, and other such shortcuts may be helpful in some cases, but it is an awful abuse of the words. Most people see this type of writing as juvenile, and it basically takes away from anything that you’re trying to say. Using numbers, like 1 instead of one or 4 instead of for, are also generally looked down upon.

Punctuation is also important. Make sure that you have pauses, stops and starts in each sentence. A capital letter in the first word shows a beginning, a comma shows a pause, and a period is a full stop, or end. For example, here’s what not to do:

the sun was overpowering and hot and the children stayed inside leaving the streets empty and free of laughter she looked to the east to see if the airship was in view yet but alas it was still not in sight

Above is a fairly annoying, rambling sentence that doesn’t give the reader any clear indication of pace. The following is easier to understand:

The sun was overpowering and hot, and the children stayed inside, leaving the streets empty and free of laughter. She looked to the East, to see if the airship was in view yet, but alas, it was still not in sight.

Basic Writing

One of the most important things in writing a story, I find, is realizing that writing is mostly rewriting. It’s a lot more work than you’d first thing. First, you have to write the draft. This can be done in an hour, or several days, in one session, or several. Once that is done (or even when just half of it is done), you need to reread it, edit it, and then read it again. Spell checkers, while definitely something you should use, need to be used with care. It won’t, for example, catch when you’ve written through when you meant throw, or to when you meant too.

Another thing to keep in mind while going over your first draft is that not everything that you wrote needs to stay. An average story or novel can easily shrink and change during the editing process, so that the needed, important thoughts remain while the flowery, indulgent parts are taken out. Not to say that all things flowery and indulgent are bad, but there’s a limit to how much is alright in a story. There needs to be a balance; with one way, it’s too bare, and the other, too fat.

Since everyone has an individual way of writing, there are many errors that are unique to each writer. Using than rather than then, making typos like nkow instead of know, mixing up to, too and two, or even just the way you phrase things. Saying “a bit” every few sentences, or always starting your sentences the same ways. Be aware of your habits so you can fix them and, if you have someone look over your work, warn them to look out for your common errors.

Dialogue

Dialogue can be tricky to get the hang of, but is an effective way of moving the story and developing characters. Here’s something that I used to get wrong a lot. I’d write:

“She didn’t want that.” Said Celes, looking away.

Where it should have been:

“She didn’t want that,” said Celes, looking away.

Since the spoken dialogue and Celes’s action is in the same sentence, it needs to have a comma at the end of the dialogue, rather than a period, and the next word afterwards has to have a lowercase letter. Exceptions are if the thought has ended, like:

“She didn’t want that.” Celes looked away as she said this.

Or:

“She didn’t want that!” said Celes, looking away.

When there’s an exclamation mark or question mark, you leave it as is.

For writing in general, it’s a good practice to make sure that you’re saying what you want to say, nothing more, nothing less. Take care that your characters aren’t saying more than what they would normally say, or less, or going grossly out of character with speech. Cyan would not say: “I, like, really hate you Kefka and wish you would die a bad, bad mean death.” and Gau would not say, “By the Gods, I vow today that I will avenge the death of the innocents with my own, mortal hands!”

Another important trick is to vary the dialogue style, and have pauses where a normal speaker would pause. For example:

“She didn’t want that,” said Celes, looking away. Her gaze fell on the path behind her, her mind’s eye picturing Terra in her traveling gear, a determined look on her face. “That’s why she left without telling us. Don’t you get it, Locke? She doesn’t want to put anyone else in danger. Not even if it means dying herself.”


Characters

Whether it’s your own character, or someone else’s (from a game or anime, for example) you have to make sure that the reader gets a clear view of who this person is, and where he/she is coming from. This is especially important in fanfiction; the reader may know who Celes is, but that doesn’t mean you can skip the details, her thoughts, and her feelings. Most successful fanfics happen when the writer molds the characters into someone with even more depth than in the game or anime, yet is still recognizable as the original character.

Another problem with characters that crops up is having too many of them. It’s far, far easier to deal with two-four characters at a time, or even just one, than five or more. Because with more characters, you can’t see the individuals as well anymore, and the reader can become out of touch with their emotions. Not to say that this is bad, but there should be times in the story where there are only a small amount of characters, or even just one, at the forefront.

If you’re making your own character, it helps to keep notes in a separate file that lists details such as eye colour, hair colour, general appearance, age, likes, dislikes, weaknesses, strengths, and any other details that could be easy to forget. If you’re writing a character of the opposite gender, you may want to do a little research, or pay special attention to members of the opposite gender when talking to them.

Plot

It’s hard to really give advice about plot. It’s your story, and you should do it the way you want to. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

- Is it believable? It doesn’t have to be in our world, gravity or physics, but it needs to be believable within the story. Make the reader believe.

- Is there too much gratuitous death? Making characters die just to get an emotional response from the reader can be a cheap trick, and is hard to pull off.

- If you’re doing a crossover, is it believable? It’s hard to do a proper crossover, and the old “a dimensional field just opened up and *poof* we went through it” bit is very, very overdone.

That’s all from me for now. Other writers can feel free to add their own tips and tricks.

This post has been edited by Elena99 on 21st May 2004 01:09

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Posted: 22nd May 2004 03:13

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Cetra
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Being Fluid
I have so much trouble with this. Try not to just jump back and orth between action to dialogue. It makes the story choppy.
A problem within action sequences is writing in the "this happened, then this happened, then this happened," style. If you go back and read it and your mind starts to wander during these parts even a little bit, fix it.
Dialogue can also be tough. I find myself falling into the trap of the characters just talking back and forth, with it being so increadibly boring. Try to add some sort of action into this. Mention facial expressions, seating shifts, emphasize reactions.
I can barely overcome these problems, so I'll leave it to someone else to give actual tips on overcoming these.

Plot
Something else I wanted to add about plot - not only have stuff happen, but make it have a point. Have it actually go somewhere. I once read a 2000+ word, two-part fanfic for Grandia II that only consisted of Ryudo waking up not knowing how he got there, and it's purpose, if it had one at all, seemed only to call Roan gay.
In fact, having a (good) point/purpose is more important than having stuff happen. I've read very well-written short stories where NOTHING happens, but they still had a point, which made them classic pieces of literature.

A few more final suggestions:
When you feel finished with a piece of writing, give it to someone who will be willing to give criticisms.
Use proper punctuation/spelling/grammer/etc. A few typos are ok in the forums, not in your writings.
If you have a great idea for something to happen later in the storythan where you currently are, jot it down or make a seperate file, so you don't forget.

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Posted: 22nd May 2004 04:25

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Allow me to provide the lessons I have had to learn; take from them whatever truth they may posess, be that any.


Don't own your Story.

Don't get too much into your own story. If you identify too much with the characters you have created, then you will end up being dissatisfied with you story as you grow and change. Basing a story on your own experiences and feelings is a good thing, but it must progress beyond yourself, otherwise you will never finish your story, nor be satisfied with your results.

All characters must grow and change; a static character is boring. The climax of your story is supposed to challenge your protagonist on a fundamental level relating to your stories theme. If you identify too much with your character, you will be unwilling to let them change into something you are not. If you are unable to let your character grow and change throughout the plot, there will be no challenge to their person (i.e. no climax).


Never talk about how well your piece is coming along

Once you announce that you're going to do something, or have something almost done, all your drive and enthusiasm is sucked right out of you. I don't know why this is; yet I have found much truth in the statement.


Write, and be satisfied.

Above all else, write. The difference between a writer and a non-writer has nothing to do with quality of a written work, style, emotion, or any other such attribute. A writer writes. If you can complete a piece, publish it, and then walk away and do it again (accepting the pieces imperfections), then you are a writer.


Know your effect

There is hardly a more character building activity than reading. You will produce an effect in your writer; you will change who he or she is by what you write. A good writer seeks to challenge the reader to make a positive change, and provides reasons and support through the characters, style, tone, theme, and plot, of the written work. Do not write with disregard for how you will affect your reader. Always write with purpose and respect for the reader.
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Posted: 29th September 2004 05:41

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Find enjoyment in your hard work.

I don't know how this sounds to others, but I enjoy reading my work almost more than I like creating it. For some reason, I write without forward thought, putting out what first comes from the heart and mind, taking into account the actions and attitudes of the characters. I don't know if others do this, or if a similar style would be advisable, but it's my way of keeping my stories varied and fresh. I find myself picking up something I wrote perhaps four or five months before, reading it through, and finding this I missed when writing it!


Don't take bad criticism to mean you're a bad writer.

I learned a great lesson once. Take the good things you need from people, and keep them deep inside to build strength. Take the bad comments and actions, catolog them, and then let them roll off. If someone doesn't like your story, don't sweat it and decide to stop writing. No matter what you do, your style or topics just won't do it for certain people. There will always be a fan base for your work though, no matter what you may think. Keep writing, and integrate any new ideas criticism puts out into it, but remember not to change your story because of a bad review. Learn from it and let it go.


Don't get too far ahead.

I sometimes find myself getting far ahead of the story, coming up with plot twists and ideas that are four or five chapters away. This can be devastating to a story, for sometimes you might find yourself making a chapter or two of filler, just to get to something you really want to write. If you have a good idea, write it down, and come back to it when you are ready. Take your time with a story, the end product will be much, much more grand.


Use varying dialogue.

Switch it up, while staying in character. Give the characters quirks to them, like having one who says a certain phrase now and then, or uses words a certain way. Take, for example, the lead in my FFT story, Damien. He is a rough and rugged knight, but refers to women as "My Lady" or "Ma'am" at almost all times. It's the way he speaks, and that shows in the story. Keep it vivid, and keep it fresh.

That's all I got, for now. shifty.gif

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Posted: 27th October 2004 02:22

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Don't make fun of your work

1) I'ts overdone.
2) It makes you look unstable.
3) It's not good for your ego.
A little bit is okay, but it's not something you should make a habit of.

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When life gives you lemons... SQUIRT THEM IN PEOPLES EYES! Mwahahahahaha! *Squirt* Ow! Hey, that was my job! *Squirt* Knock it off! *Squirt* I want my mommy! Waaah! *runs off*

The moral of this story is *Squirt* Ow! *Squirt* Okay, okay, no morals.
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Posted: 27th October 2004 03:53

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I really like what you guys are saying here. Though Elena's right about the constant rewriting thing, remember that since most of us right on computers now we naturally tend to go back and change things in the midst of writing (especially me).

Since I can't really stop myself from thinking of complex literary theories, I can only give advice that starts debates instead of helping fix up the technical aspects. Well, I can say these two things.

1. Spoil Yourself
Much like Damien V said, I say that the only way to right something good is to write about something that totally enthralls and fascinates you. Writing a good story is kinda like sitting in a closet with a fresh batch of cookies. happy.gif

2. Write what you know
I tried to write a story about the "real world" and "regular people" once. It died like a... dodo. Now I only write about warped people like me who are in completely unreal worlds like my own. biggrin.gif It works much better.

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Posted: 13th November 2004 18:20

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Take time to edit your work.

I know people who decide to just post their work without any grammatical checks, punctuation and the like, and I'm a writer that has atrocious spelling. *laugh* You might want to read your work out loud, and then get someone to proofread it. If it sounds out of context to you when you read it, then it will certainly sound out of context to your audience.

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Posted: 13th November 2004 19:19

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This is probably the only help I can give, but I've held off for so long 'cause I'm not even sure how good at it I am myself...

Pacing

Simple, just keep the pacing swift and/or smooth. You don't want your piece to move too fast, hopping from one point to the next suddenly (I've seen this problem on many a fic), 'cause things happen too fast and the reader doesn't have a chance to catch up and absorb what they've just read, and so they get lost and lose interest because it's not making sense to them anymore. At the same time, though, you obviously don't want your piece to move too slow, 'cause then it's just boring and hard to get in to.

There's no great tool for teaching great pacing besides practice and a lot of observation. Watch a lot of movies and/or read a bunch of books with great pacing and study how they manage to pull it off, how they spend x time on this and y time on that... and also, read through your own work and study how smoothly it flows together. Is it going too fast at this point? Are they taking too long talking? Has this fight scene just gotten boring?

Revise it if there's a pacing problem, and see if it's fitting together better; 'cause pacing can make or break a fic, no matter how great the writing, characters, plot, or premise are.

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Posted: 21st August 2007 04:43

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Relax

Relax. It's as simple as that. Relax and let your story flow without being too concerned about the grammatical errors until you go back to edit your work.

I used to try to write and edit my story as I went along. Perhaps that method works for some people, but I find it much better to let my creativity spill on page for hours. Then I take a break from my writing (usually to play some FF or something), and when I go back to work on it later on, I spend hours editing what I had just written. That way, my story keeps moving along as I picture it in my head. Then all I have to do is go back and fatten up the dialogue, tie up some loose ends, tidy things up, and paint the picture a little more clearly.

Move Along

This ties in with Relax as well. We all know that "an artist's work is never done", but don't let that get you stuck too long on one chapter, paragraph, or sentence. Of course you want to be satisfied with your work, but remember that you can always go back to it later. Remember that being a perfectionist is both a gift and a curse. You will more than likely not be 100% satisfied with anything that you create.

Picture It

I've read a lot of books in my day and I've also watched a lot of movies. I've always been a fan of the Dragonlance books in particular because I could picture everything that was taking place....like a movie.

When you're writing, try to picture what's happening in your head. Where are your characters? How are they feeling? How are they speaking? Are they moving? Are they sitting down? etc. When I write, I think of it as if I'm writing a movie. That way, not only does it help me create my story, it means that it could be made into a movie if I get lucky some day. wink.gif Of course there's a big difference between writing a script and a novel, but the skills from both ventures can be intertwined.

Do You

It's good to get opinions, but remember, this is your story. Try not to be too influenced by other opinions - whether good or bad - especially if you're writing an original novel. It's too easy to let some clown smudge your beautiful vision with a single comment. You know what it is that you want to write, so write it and be proud!

Don't Explain Too Much

The more you explain your story to someone else, the more it makes your piece of work seem confusing. When the time comes, let them read it and figure it out for themselves. Of course, if there's a couple of issues that confuse many, different people who have read your work, you may want to look into tidying it up some.

Write!

Just write and have fun. If you really want to be a writer, you really have to write...and I mean write. I'm talking hours a day of writing, and hours a day of editing. Just like anything else, keep in mind that when you're not working on your dream, there's somebody else out there working on theirs. Me! tongue.gif

I hope some of this is of help to some of you. I've certainly taken some good advice from this thread! To any of you writers out there, I'd love to talk with you about ideas and other matters of writing. I don't know of anyone else (around me) who is into writing as much as I am (if I'm not at work, I'm writing or playing video games), but I would love to have some people to talk to for the sake of inspiration, advice, and such. PM me if anyone out there would like to be "writing friends". Hahaha, that's corny, I know... laugh.gif I hope to hear from some of you!

This post has been edited by SonOfASubmariner! on 21st August 2007 04:45

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Posted: 2nd November 2010 19:37

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Chocobo Knight
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There's some great advice here. If I may add my two cents....

Don't rely 100% on spell checkers. Spell check doesn't catch incorrectly used homonyms such as affect & effect, then & than, etc. or typos that still form a correctly spelled word (calm & clam, through & though, etc.).
Personally, I can't stand Microsoft Word, so I do all of my writing in WordPad, which has no editing tools. This forces me to read through my work and do all of my editing manually. Is it extra work for me? Yes, but that extra work has given me a better eye for spotting typos, missing words, and other errors in my writing.

Another useful trick I've learned when editing my work is that a draft needs at least two read-throughs. On one read-through, I focus on the story's narrative qualities. Does the dialogue sound right? Are the characters behaving appropriately for the situation? Is the plot solid? Is the pacing right? Once I'm happy with how the story itself sounds, I go back and do another read-through on a technical level, to make sure that the spelling, grammar, and punctuation are all correct. (And I generally go back and do a third read-through...sometimes more on one of my stories to get the gestalt effect before daring to call it a final draft, but that's just me.)

And finally, I'll share a couple of obscure rules of spelling that I've picked up along the way. I call them obscure because I see these errors all the time, even in professional writing. (I've made all of them myself at some point...and look back on them and cringe now that I know better. pinch.gif ) Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it's just one more way to add some polish to a story. The more you know....
Blond & Blonde: I always thought they were interchangeable, but if you want to get really technical about it, they're not. The two spellings are actually gender-specific -- blond being masculine, and blonde being feminine. For example, Edgar, Sabin, and Kefka would all be described as having blond hair, but Celes is blonde.
Fiance & Fiancee: Same deal as above -- these two words are masculine and feminine, respectively. Rachel was Locke's fiancee, and Locke was Rachel's fiance.
Discreet & Discrete: I've seen these used interchangeably quite often as well, but I looked them up in the dictionary, and they're actually two completely different words with completely different meanings. Discreet is the word that means prudent or secretive, while discrete actually means abstract (as in, the opposite of concrete).

Hope these help! happy.gif
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Posted: 18th December 2017 10:04

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Atmosphere

This defines the story besides character development. I like being transported into the future wiping the snowflakes from my eyes at this desolate wasteland (2300 A.D. in Chrono Trigger). The birds start chirping from the sun rise, but I must hide somewhere safe. As a gargoyle I turn to stone during the day. I don't want someone to destroy me or use me as a decoration.

Depth

Her parents left her alone all her life so somehow she became a more outgoing person. She can also do great math in her head but is colorblind. She pretends not to be colorblind because she is also a perfection. This causes her to doubt her own ability. She's happy the most when impressing and helping friends. Though if anything goes wrong she is devastated for awhile before coming back in a full swing. She organizes her books like stairs when they sit on her desk. On the shelf they are organized by color and not alphabet.

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I believe that's enough.

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Posted: 23rd December 2017 11:58

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I do not remember posting this topic 13 years ago, but it definitely wouldn't have had all of those weird characters in it.

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Posted: 24th December 2017 07:34

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Quote (Elena99 @ 23rd December 2017 06:58)
I do not remember posting this topic 13 years ago, but it definitely wouldn't have had all of those weird characters in it.

There was a re-encoding some years ago that broke the encoding of old posts, I think?

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Posted: 26th December 2017 22:20

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Quote (Glenn Magus Harvey @ 24th December 2017 04:34)
There was a re-encoding some years ago that broke the encoding of old posts, I think?

That's likely it.

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