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How do I start? Also, am I at a disadvantage? : Conversation question • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

How do I start? Also, am I at a disadvantage?

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
pcvyas
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How do I start? Also, am I at a disadvantage?

Postby pcvyas » Tue Feb 18, 2014 9:38 pm

Let me start off by saying I'm a computer science major, and I'm 19 years old (turning 20 very soon).

Recently, I've been reading a lot of books. All types of genres ranging from mystery to fantasy (which I feel like I enjoyed the most). Two series that stuck out to me were the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

The books have inspired me so much. Over the past few weeks, I've had this urge to jump into creative writing. When I was in middle school, I wrote some short stories and really wanted to be an author but I'll admit, I was scared. I knew my parents wouldn't approve of the choice because they thought it'd be a risky career.

However, every time I think about writing, creating a new world, new characters with their own personalities, it actually excites me.I really want to start writing again. I know I'll probably have to work my way up and improve my command of the English language.

My goal one day is to become a published author, I don't really care how long it takes. I know I have a long way to go before I reach that level but I'm willing to learn and improve.

I know character, dialogues and plot development are really important and I don't have a whole lot of knowledge on these topics, but I really am keen on learning!

The only thing is, I don't know where to start. Am I at a disadvantage because I'm not pursuing an english degree?
Are there any good books, or online courses that offer help on fictional writing?

Lastly, I know it's important for me to start writing..but I'm confused as to what I should write. I feel kinda overwhelmed and at the same time, excited...but I really don't know what kind of things I should be writing. Does anyone have any suggestions on where to start developing?

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updog
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Re: How do I start? Also, am I at a disadvantage?

Postby updog » Wed Feb 19, 2014 1:55 am

Since you like fantasy, if you want to sit in on a fun writing class, check out Brandon Sanderson's Lectures on YouTube.
"Is it weird in here, or is it just me?" ~ Steven Wright



James A. Ritchie
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Re: How do I start? Also, am I at a disadvantage?

Postby James A. Ritchie » Wed Feb 19, 2014 11:53 am

Don't worry about being at a disadvantage. I majored I English and in Journalism, but I sold a lot of fiction before I even started college. You have the interest, and you're reading. These are important. The only way to know if you have the talent and the drive is to start writing, and keep at it.

Where to start is a common problem, but the answer is to start anywhere. Pick the genre you like best, decide whether or not you want to outline or wing it, and start writing. Then you keep writing, day in and day out. Along the way, you read everything you can get your hands on, fiction and nonfiction. Visit the websites of writers you love, and see what advice they give. If the writers you love most have written how-to books, buy them.

For now, avoid how-to advice from writers you don't enjoy reading.

But start writing, and keep writing. You have just as good a chance at success as anyone else.

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Re: How do I start? Also, am I at a disadvantage?

Postby cynfranks » Sun Feb 23, 2014 9:26 pm

You are not at a disadvantage at all. A mistake many budding writers make is they study writing. Why is this mistake you ask? It's simple, if you study writing, what are you going to write about? You are in a hot field and writing good non-fiction is good practice for writing fiction. I'm not saying you can't start with fiction. I'm saying do both. Start a blog in your field and write something on it a few times a week or once a month or whatever works for you. Start a writing practice blog, like I did, and put something on it every few days even if it's only a paragraph describing your childhood home. Make it good. Make it sparkle and keep working at it until it does. I'm certain it's still true that non-fiction sells 2:1 over fiction and for higher prices. One of the best pieces of writing I've come across was on the tech site gizmodo. The New York Times never fails to awe with its quality of writing. I could go on, but I won't. There is a lot of non-fiction out there, most of it is poorly written; you can make a splash if you do it well.

Creative writing classes are good, don't get me wrong, but you don't have to have them. You can learn everything you need to know by reading and you're already doing that. I will make two book suggestions. The first is by a writer I can't say I've been fan of until I read his book about writing (the book set on my shelf for years until I was hard-up for something read one day and didn't feel like staring at a screen); "On Writing," by Stephen King. I wish I had read this book when I was your age; but I don't know if I would have understood if I did. This book made me laugh out loud in public and cry in public. I have embarked on a mission to read more of Mr. King's work.

The second book makes you think about words differently and is great for practice no matter what you write. It helped me learn to write short, poignant stage directions that communicated my intentions to designers and directors without me being present. One designer actually re-created my parents living room from when I was a kid without ever having spoke to me. The book is, "Im the Palm of Your Hand," by Steve Kowitt. It's about writing poetry, but you will benefit in so many ways by doing just 25% of the exercises. You don't have to show them to anyone.
Ask yourself, "What would Dickens do?"



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Re: How do I start? Also, am I at a disadvantage?

Postby gesler0811 » Mon Feb 24, 2014 4:07 pm

Just start writing whatever it is you are the most interested in. If you are having trouble thinking of specific things to write about, go find some good writing prompts. But if you really liked Lord of the Rings, maybe you could try writing a short story that has a similar plot, just for the practice. I can almost assure you, if you're just starting out, your particular writing style is going to go through great spurts of maturity, as you learn what works and what doesn't No time like the present to get started with that process.

I wouldn't recommend going too overboard with books about writing, at least not yet. But maybe after you've written a few pieces, you might want to consider picking up Othello Bach's "How to Write a Great Story." It's very concise, just about 80 pages. And she wastes no words, but gets right to the business of making practical suggestions on how to strengthen and tidy up your writing. One pass through this book produced noticeable results in my own writing. And if you ever get to the point where you want to tackle a novel, I really loved "Writing the Breakout Novel" by Donald Maass. It's a literary agent's take on what makes certain novels stand out.




pcvyas
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Re: How do I start? Also, am I at a disadvantage?

Postby pcvyas » Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:57 am

Thank you so much for the replies.

Yesterday night, I sat down to start writing a short story (this was before I read all of your responses). I was also reading my favorite novels again, looking for some sort of inspiration. Instead, I got intimidated.

I kept thinking on how amazing their writing was, how vivid the descriptions and characters were. I felt like everything that I wrote would be absolute crap and that it would never live up to those standards.

How do I get over this fear? I feel like I don't know squat about good story telling :(

Should I just soldier through no matter how bad my first draft is?

James A. Ritchie
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Re: How do I start? Also, am I at a disadvantage?

Postby James A. Ritchie » Tue Feb 25, 2014 11:07 am


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gesler0811
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Re: How do I start? Also, am I at a disadvantage?

Postby gesler0811 » Tue Feb 25, 2014 11:46 am

The thing about comparing yourself to other established writers is that it's not really an apples-to-apples kind of comparison. I enjoy different writers for different reasons, and see no reason to try to compare them to each other in such as a way as to say that one is "better" than the other.

I love George R.R. Martin's sensory input that he works into his descriptions. I love that he always utilizes multiple senses when describing scenes, but not in a drawn-out I'm-over-it-already kind of way. It has a majesty to it.

I love Dean Koontz's more simplistic, "convey the action in its simplest terms" approach.

I love Stephen King's characterization, and the way he builds relatable people and puts them in these dark worlds.

I love Harlen Coben for his witty entendres and fast paced yarns.

I love Jim Butcher because his stories are just so freaking cool.

My mood, rather than a clear-cut "who is better" perception, drives me when trying to select what to read next with these guys. For that reason, I cannot compare myself to any of them. And they each have their markets, niches, and audiences.

I try to only compare what I'm writing to what I wrote yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. If George Esler Today is a better writer than George Esler Last Week, then I'm doing something right.

Don't be intimidated. Just keep writing and keep improving.




James A. Ritchie
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Re: How do I start? Also, am I at a disadvantage?

Postby James A. Ritchie » Tue Feb 25, 2014 5:59 pm


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Re: How do I start? Also, am I at a disadvantage?

Postby DrG2 » Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:13 pm


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