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What NOT To Do As A Writer

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What NOT To Do As A Writer

Postby Kat_Rocha » Mon May 06, 2013 3:23 pm

Hey everybody,

My name is Kat and besides being an artist, I am also the editor and chief at 01 Publishing. Since this board seems to be all about helping each other improve as creators I wanted to share with you a series of Do's and Do Not's when it comes to writing. Whether it is a prose story, comic, or movie, there are certain things you should not do.

You can find my updated lists at my blog but I'm going to post some here for people to critique and, hopefully, learn from.

I'm Not Crazy - def. beginning a first person narrative or a third person exposition with a character stating that they are not insane. This has been done to death and often times heralds a story filled with cliches and borrowed ideas. NEVER start off a story with your character telling the audience that they aren't crazy. It is poor writing and tells an editor that you have no imagination. That you couldn't come up with a better way of telling your audience that weird shit was going to happen. Stories with this as the first line get an automatic rejection with me. Experience has taught me that if this is how the story starts it's not worth finishing.

OH! It's True - def. when a character makes an outlandish claim, to which their only means of backing it up is to state that they are telling the truth. This one is sometimes uttered along with "I'm not crazy" and makes your story even more unreadable. Now, I don't mean this in terms of somebody being interigated by the police and pleading that their testimony is true. I'm talking about the speeches that are usually reserved for scientists, cultists, people who have seen too much, and dumb teenagers who've just escaped something nasty in the woods. Try to use it sparingly. Example: This clip from Mystery Science Theater from the movie The Dead Talk Back. The specific line is at about 2:30 but the lead up in the laboratory will give you context.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMkvR6h-QF0

I just killed a small child, let's talk about fish - def. when a character says two things that have absolutely nothing to do with each other. This particular quote I actually received in a submitted manuscript. And no, putting it in context with the story does not help because the characters in the scene did not return to the subject of fish or dead children. Changing the subject in mid sentence is just bad writing. It's confusing and gives your readers mental whiplash. This is where proofreaders come in handy, preferably ones who aren't your BFF. Remember junior high english class... or school house rock. Remember how a sentence has one subject and one predicate to back it up. Remember that for your writing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdUXxdmhIsw

Hey! My dad has lots of books. Maybe he can help. - def. characters make an assumption that somebody knows what is going on based on the fact that they have access to general knowledge. This is also known as Thankskilling logic (the movie). If your character has come across something that they don't understand (aliens, angry monsters, cults/conspiracies, vengeful spirits, extradimentional shit, etc.) do not have them automatically assume that the bookstore owner, school professor or scientist down the road will have books or knowledge about it. Assuming a bookstore owner MUST have extensive information on the ghosts chasing you is like assuming I know how to pilot an alien spacecraft because I'm Will Smith. It is a Scooby Doo assumption and it is lazy writing.
Last edited by Kat_Rocha on Mon May 06, 2013 5:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What NOT To Do As A Writer

Postby MistaT » Mon May 06, 2013 4:45 pm

Cool, thanks for the tips! 8)

We do have a few aspiring artists and writers on here and could always use some inside info from people already in the industry, so much appreciated! You should ask about making this into a column here! :wink:

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Re: What NOT To Do As A Writer

Postby Victorian Squid » Mon May 06, 2013 4:52 pm

Actually, the link you provide to your blog merely links to the opportunity to register the blog name "katapultrocha".

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Re: What NOT To Do As A Writer

Postby Kat_Rocha » Mon May 06, 2013 5:23 pm

Thanks for the catch. I have fixed the above link but the URL is http://katapultrocha.wordpress.com/. So far I have three posts for helping writers and creators. Two for writing (one I posted above) and one on a basic way to price your books to sell.

Any requests? Anything anybody is curious about?

-Kat
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Re: What NOT To Do As A Writer

Postby PDH » Mon May 06, 2013 6:21 pm

Since this board seems to be all about helping each other improve as creators...


That's definitely the main thing this board is about.

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Re: What NOT To Do As A Writer

Postby Kat_Rocha » Mon May 06, 2013 6:28 pm

I'm glad. I've been to other boards that said that was what they were about, but really it was about people getting pats on the back and no real critiques.

This board doesn't do that. I really like this board a lot.

-Kat
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Re: What NOT To Do As A Writer

Postby MistaT » Mon May 06, 2013 10:33 pm

Kat_Rocha wrote:
Any requests? Anything anybody is curious about?

-Kat


I would be interested in hearing what your process is for writing from start to finish. How much preparation is required before you start the actual writing process. Do you outline? Do you start with the characters or the story first? Do you do rewrites in the middle of writing or do you write until it is complete before you make any changes? That last particular part would be the hold the most interest for me because I seem to get stuck in the middle stages, realize I left out a key part or find I have written myself into a corner and and have to go back and change something and then realize that that changes everything and end up getting frustrated and scrapping everything and starting over. Rinse and repeat. I guess basically what I am asking is what do I need to have already in place to ensure that I can make it to the end.

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Re: What NOT To Do As A Writer

Postby Kat_Rocha » Tue May 07, 2013 11:43 am

I always do a basic outline. I need to know where my character is starting, some basic ideas of where they are going, and where they will end up. This way you can plan character growth as well as story development. Making it up as you go along is a BAD way of telling a story. It is not uncommon for writer to change the path their characters take in the course of writing, but having an outline is a good rule for starting.

Depending on what style is best for you (and how many words you are writing) the rule of thumb is start writing at whatever part of the story feels the most comfortable to you. That can be the middle. That can be the end. It doesn't matter. Write all the scenes that come the easiest and then write the parts in between.

For many writers the best practice is to write FIRST and edit AFTER you have it all down. Many times a writer will get trapped in the editing phase and never get around to telling a story. :)

If you are writing a long story like a novella or a novel, an outline is even more key for keeping you on track. Write each chapter strait through, then go back for one round of editing. Start the next chapter. Rinse and repeat. Once you have it all written, edit the whole thing to make it run smooth.

DO NOT BE AFRAID TO KILL THE BABIES. So many good ideas come to you when you are writing. you can't use them all. Keep a notebook or a text file handy to store all the good ideas you can't use for your current story. You can use them at a later date.

Does this help?

-Kat
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Re: What NOT To Do As A Writer

Postby Arion » Tue May 07, 2013 12:02 pm

MistaT wrote:Cool, thanks for the tips! 8)

We do have a few aspiring artists and writers on here and could always use some inside info from people already in the industry, so much appreciated! You should ask about making this into a column here! :wink:


I can consider myself as one of them...

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Re: What NOT To Do As A Writer

Postby MistaT » Tue May 07, 2013 12:15 pm

Kat_Rocha wrote:I always do a basic outline. I need to know where my character is starting, some basic ideas of where they are going, and where they will end up. This way you can plan character growth as well as story development. Making it up as you go along is a BAD way of telling a story. It is not uncommon for writer to change the path their characters take in the course of writing, but having an outline is a good rule for starting.

Depending on what style is best for you (and how many words you are writing) the rule of thumb is start writing at whatever part of the story feels the most comfortable to you. That can be the middle. That can be the end. It doesn't matter. Write all the scenes that come the easiest and then write the parts in between.

For many writers the best practice is to write FIRST and edit AFTER you have it all down. Many times a writer will get trapped in the editing phase and never get around to telling a story. :)

If you are writing a long story like a novella or a novel, an outline is even more key for keeping you on track. Write each chapter strait through, then go back for one round of editing. Start the next chapter. Rinse and repeat. Once you have it all written, edit the whole thing to make it run smooth.

DO NOT BE AFRAID TO KILL THE BABIES. So many good ideas come to you when you are writing. you can't use them all. Keep a notebook or a text file handy to store all the good ideas you can't use for your current story. You can use them at a later date.

Does this help?

-Kat


It does, thanks! Yeah, I'm definitely one those that get stuck in the editing phase. I've often heard of breaking the writing chores down into scenes instead of trying to write from beginning to end, so I'll try and give that a shot. Thinking about it now, it probably is a lot easier to fit the pieces together once you already have the pieces rather than trying to make build as you go along.

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Re: What NOT To Do As A Writer

Postby Kat_Rocha » Tue May 07, 2013 1:33 pm

MistaT wrote:Cool, thanks for the tips! 8)

We do have a few aspiring artists and writers on here and could always use some inside info from people already in the industry, so much appreciated! You should ask about making this into a column here! :wink:


I would not turn it down if it was offered. ;)

-Kat
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Re: What NOT To Do As A Writer

Postby Kat_Rocha » Tue May 07, 2013 1:34 pm

Arion wrote:
I can consider myself as one of them...


Well, do you have any questions for me right now? I'll do my best to answer. :)

-kat
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Re: What NOT To Do As A Writer

Postby Mr. Log » Tue May 07, 2013 1:35 pm

You had me at "DO NOT BE AFRAID TO KILL THE BABIES." :-D

These tips are a good start, and I can definitely support them. I didn't know there was a phrase for the "Thankskilling logic," but I know it's one that has bugged me many times as a reader, especially after becoming a librarian.

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Re: What NOT To Do As A Writer

Postby Kat_Rocha » Tue May 07, 2013 2:46 pm

Log-Man wrote:You had me at "DO NOT BE AFRAID TO KILL THE BABIES." :-D

These tips are a good start, and I can definitely support them. I didn't know there was a phrase for the "Thankskilling logic," but I know it's one that has bugged me many times as a reader, especially after becoming a librarian.


My husband and I came up with that phrase. We were watching the movie "Thankskilling" and they did a bit of making fun of general knowledge = expert on wacky shit. So, the term stuck with us.

-Kat
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Re: What NOT To Do As A Writer

Postby Kat_Rocha » Tue May 07, 2013 2:52 pm

OK, here is the advice I gave in my second post on my blog.

Please keep in mind that I do not mean this to be a NEVER use list. Simply a USE ONLY BY PROFESSIONALS list.

Even Dead People Know What's About to Happen - When a writer's set up for what is about to happen is so obvious that all hope of suspense is lost. It's the equivilant of yelling at the girl in the movie to not go into a room because you and everyone else (including dead people) already know the killer is in there.

Packing Peanuts - padding in the form of long monologues or descriptions that stretch out a scene in an attempt to draw out tension, suspense, or interest. In film, this can take place in the form of long shots of people looking at something off camera, shots of nothing happening while spooky music plays, shots of characters showing different types of emotion for longer that five seconds, and titillation for no reason other than to give the audience something sexy to look at.

In short: It is the fluff in between the important stuff that more often than not is useless and gets in the way of the story. For a beautiful illustration of this I suggest you watch the movie Screaming Scull. This movie also illustrates the Info Dump. If you don't have time to watch the full film, start at the 24:00 mark to the 35:50. Yes. Nearly 11 minutes of an hour long film is nothing but packing peanuts. CLICK HERE to watch the film on YouTube

Info Dump - When things like Backstory and Plot Exposition are dumped on the reader in one large obvious chunk with no hint at an attempt to blend it into the narrative. Usually this is done by two types of writers.

1) The writer not skilled enough in their craft to work it into the narrative so that it is seamless. All writers go through this period and it only takes practice to work it out.
2) The writer is in a hurry to "get to the good stuff" and doesn't want to spend the time to blend it all in.
To illustrate this I suggest you watch Terror from the Year 5000 as presented by Mystery Science Theater 3000. It's a beautifully awful movie and I highly suggest you watch the whole thing, but for the purpose of this entry, start at the 8:24 and go till the 9:55
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAZKUjJVXSI

Character Driven vs. Plot - Spending so much time on your characters that plot is ignored. This has become a popular mode of story telling in television for almost a full decade now and I'm here to tell you, it's a bad way to tell stories. I am a strong supporter of stories that are character driven, as long as they are driven to advance the plot. (The African Queen is a good example) Without a coherent plot you have no story. A story has a clear beginning, middle, and end. Making things up as you build your characters does not cut it. If you start your story not knowing:

Where your characters are at the begining
Where they are going
How it will all end
...then you have failed as a story teller.

-Kat
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