Xortberg

How to Not Suck at Writing in General

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Xortberg

Alright, I was thinking last night, and I remembered back when I first started writing. I sucked. The main reason, I believe, that I did is that other than just writing shit to pass English class, I'd never really done any writing. I had no idea how to do it right. Now, looking through all the stuff I see posted here, I notice that a lot of people make the same mistakes I used to when I first started writing. As such, I decided I would make a general tutorial covering most issues that I see here. Now, I'm likely to leave a bit out, as I tend to do that, so if you see anything that I didn't cover and think I should, let me know and I'll edit it into the original post.

The absolute most common problems I see here tend to fall under at least one of the following categories: capitalization, punctuation, format, or word choice/sentence structure. I'll try my best to cover these areas as completely as possible. Here we go.

First, and perhaps the most annoying to me (although not the most grevious offender objectively) is format. By this, I mean the layout of the actual writing. Now, in school, they teach you to start a new paragraph for dialogue spoken by a different person, such as:

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"Hello, how are you?" asked Character A.

"I'm okay. How about you?" responded Character B.

-

Or something along those lines. This is true, and I see many people who either don't follow it or only follow it sometimes. This isn't one of those things that you can just treat as a suggestion and follow it if you feel like it; it's an accepted rule that you start a new paragraph for dialogue spoken by a new person. This, however, isn't the only wime we need to start a new paragraph. You're also taught in school that you need to start a new paragraph when you introduce a new idea. This is a bit less clear cut than the previous rule, so I can see where some confusion might occur. Perhaps an example will help you grasp this idea if you don't already:

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The boy loved running. The feel of his feet slapping the asphalt underneath him, the sound of the wind rushing through his ears, the feeling of competition when racing against someone else... everything about it made him feel alive.

Lost in thought, the boy barely noticed the car speeding towards him. In the nick of time, he dove out of the way, barely avoiding a disastrous accident.

-

As you see, the first paragraph was about the boy's feelings towards running. The second was about something that happened while running. Both connect and share the same theme, but they convey different ideas and messages, so they belong in separate paragraphs.

As for how you choose to differentiate your paragraphs from one another, there are many ways. My chosen method is keeping the paragraphs single-spaced with a double space between different paragraphs, but some might choose to do it differently. Whatever you choose, it's important to make sure that your work is presented readably and doesn't just become a jumbled wall of text.

Next in the tutorial comes punctuation. This is quite an important part of writing, so make sure you pay good attention here. The purpose of punctuation is simple: to more effectively convey a message and to give a writer more variety in how he or she can choose to structure a sentence. In some sentences, one can use a semicolon [ ; ] to combine two sentences with similar purposes without having to rely on conjunctions. In many sentences I've used commas along with a conjunction to combine two sentences with similar ideas.

Punctation also includes many more common things you'll see. Properly writing dialogue requires a decent understanding of punctuation as well as capitalization due to punctuation. Take a look at the following line of dialogue:

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Helping the girl pick up her books, Henry said, "Crap, I'm so sorry! I should have watched where I was going!"

-

Underlined are the portions illustrating the key points I wish to make. First, when you have a sentence leading into dialogue, the speech is introduced with a comma [ , ] followed by a single space and opening your quotes [ " ]. It's important to always do this if you have a sentence leading into dialogue as the example did. Second, the text in the quotes (the actual words the character is speaking) are constructed as their own sentences independent of the sentence housing the dialogue. What I mean by this is despite the fact that the sentence containing the dialogue has already been capitalized, the speech itself is also capitalized as if it was written independently. The third underlined portion was the very end. Not much to say about this one, really. The punctuation ending the sentence (whether it be a comma, period, question mark, ellipsis, or exclamation mark,) goes inside the quotes.

Yet another rather important mistake I see commonly is proper capitalization. Throughout several things I've read, I've seen Unnecessarily capitalized Words and failure to capitalize words that needed to be capitalized. Capitalization rules are very simple: The first letter of a sentence is capitalized. Proper nouns (names of people, places, etc., such as John and Rome) are capitalized, and titles are capitalized (The Rock isn't the wrestler's real name, but is still capitalized since it acts as a proper noun). Anything else (adjectives, random words, etc.) are not.

And finally, the category that makes me rage more than any other right now is word choice/sentence structer. While actually two distinctive categories, I group them because they achieve the same goal. First, word choice. This is mostly a beef I have with furry/SF related writing, but learn more words to describe with, dammit. When reading a Star Fox fanfic, I am almost certain to see the words 'vulpine,' 'lupine,' 'avian,' and 'feline.' These are cool words. They describe foxlike, wolflike, birdline and catlike characteristics nicely. I don't have a problem with them being used. What I do, however, have a problem with is when I see them used over nine thousand times in one paragraph. There are more words you can use to describe Krystal than 'vulpine' and 'vixen.' Use them, dagnabbit. Sentence structure is one that I myself have trouble with, but the concept is still quite simple. Simply vary how you structure your sentences. Don't say:

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He went to the store to buy milk. He paid for the milk. He went home.

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Rather, try something like:

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He went to the store to buy milk. Paying the cashier for his groceries, he headed home.

-

Or something along those lines. Varying the structure of your sentences makes the read more enjoyable overall.

__________

And that's about everything I have for you right now. Other than that, just keep writing. Every time you write, you get a little better at it, so practice away.

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Sluggsnipa

Xort,Imma use this when the Hiatus for my Fic is done.

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Fluxy

I get what ya mean Xort, and these "Rules" I kinda breach some just to make it my own. Sticking to "Guidelines" are good, but I write for fun really. Especially since I write fanfics really just without caring about the rules. Lol. I'm much more of a poet, and my short stories [Yes, I write hose too] Follow the rules, Lol.

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Xortberg

Xort,Imma use this when the Hiatus for my Fic is done.

Good to know I'm helping.

I get what ya mean Xort, and these "Rules" I kinda breach some just to make it my own. Sticking to "Guidelines" are good, but I write for fun really. Especially since I write fanfics really just without caring about the rules. Lol. I'm much more of a poet, and my short stories [Yes, I write hose too] Follow the rules, Lol.

Yeah, I know how it is. Despite writing all of these, I'll readily admit that I fail at several of these guidelines quite a bit. This isn't quite written for those who know the rules and how to bend them, but to the several people around here who seem to have a more limited understanding of how it all works.

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Fluxy

So I assume that means Imma one of your favorits, get a cookie, and am exempt. =3

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Xortberg

I know you've got a good enough grasp on all this to not break the rules without purpose. Poetry, of course, is far less bound by grammar than normal writing is, and even in normal writing the "rules" can be bent as long as it serves some sort of purpose. From what I've seen, you're rarely guilty of wanton flouting of the rules.

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Fluxy

Awww, I'll take that as what I said. =3

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Deploy

:yuno: Not sucking is fun!

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LoneWolf

I try to use these rules when I'm writing on the computer.

Sadly, most of my fics are written in the notes app on my iPod, then emailed to me, so I can't easily create paragraphs or really do much besides punctuation and spelling. I end up writing long, rambling paragraphs. But hey, it gets the job done.

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Sluggsnipa

Yep,Xort just everyone's FanFic's a bit better. :D

chuck_norris_approved-s500x500-89561-580

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Fira-Astrali

this is great, Xort. I've been writing long enough that I already do most of those things, the only thing I have a problem with is breaking up paragraphs occasionally, and trying to decide when to break up dialouge, so i've gotten to the point where my style of paragrpah formation is really strict. my earlier stuff is really relaxed though. I've tried to make my physical writing strict so i can focus more on what the words are conveying and not on the mechanics.

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Fluxy

Don't always worry about breaking up paragraphs though, Fira. Sure, there are "rules" to writing, but a lot of the best ones don't follow most them at all. =]

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Sarita

this is great, Xort. I've been writing long enough that I already do most of those things, the only thing I have a problem with is breaking up paragraphs occasionally, and trying to decide when to break up dialouge, so i've gotten to the point where my style of paragrpah formation is really strict. my earlier stuff is really relaxed though. I've tried to make my physical writing strict so i can focus more on what the words are conveying and not on the mechanics.

I'm not sure if this is what you're talking about, but a general rule I was taught was that if you change who's talking, change the paragraph, or if you change thoughts, change the paragraph. :x It helps, too! It makes things really coherent.

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Fira-Astrali

Don't always worry about breaking up paragraphs though, Fira. Sure, there are "rules" to writing, but a lot of the best ones don't follow most them at all. =]

Well its not nearly so close to the forefront of my mind as the storyline is, but ive gotten down to the finer points of my writing style that require , because let me tell you... 0.o

I'm not sure if this is what you're talking about, but a general rule I was taught was that if you change who's talking, change the paragraph, or if you change thoughts, change the paragraph. :x It helps, too! It makes things really coherent.

yeah, for me it was more a problem of someone saying something, and then someone else doing an action immediately after, or something of that nature? It just ended up that the best thing was to break it up alot. does that make sense? ^^;

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The Green Fox

Hmm, my fanfics do indeed need to be less cheesy (pun intendeD).

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Redeemer

I'm not sure if this is what you're talking about, but a general rule I was taught was that if you change who's talking, change the paragraph, or if you change thoughts, change the paragraph. :x It helps, too! It makes things really coherent.

Yeah, I remember being taught that in school. It quickly became habit. :D

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Milkyway64

We need a sticky up in hurr

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Gene Inari

+1 for sticky.

That and, if you ask me, the title of the topic should be changed. What's here is about writing in general, not fanfiction, per se.

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"User"

*Stickied*

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Xortberg

+1 for sticky.

That and, if you ask me, the title of the topic should be changed. What's here is about writing in general, not fanfiction, per se.

Yeah, I hoped the little subtitle would cover that well enough :P

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Gene Inari

Subtitles are for suckers. :P

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Redeemer

Well I did say to the Staff that this was worth a sticky, but no one made any further comment. XD Nice to know my hunch was correct. >:3

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Shadow Matrix

Wow Xort, thanks for the guide :D, glad you made it.

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chaos_Leader

Good basic stuff.

Well crafted sentences however a good story does not make. That lies beyond the basic tools of the trade, and in the realm of authorial choices. The tips given here will not make a poorly conceived narrative less poor, but should make a well conceived narrative run smoother and read easier.

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Mellow Walrus

Here is a good little guide with several writing tips. Although it's called "How to Write Fan Fiction," it's in no means limited to that spectrum of the writing world, as far as I remember in it the most it comes to being specific to fanfiction is a part in it that urges you to make disclaimers. The page is rather lengthy, so I'll just detail some of the points in it that seem helpful to me.

For one, using said to frequently mark dialogue isn't a flaw; it is such a commonly used word that most readers tend to skim over it without giving it a second thought. While yes, it still is definitely a dull word, it manages to get past the radar of the reader's eyes most of the time. According to the research done by the author of that guide, one said is used per 250 words among the average of top authors. While 250 sounds like an intimidating number to new writers, that would fit into about two and a half paragraphs for me.

Speaking of paragraph sizes, I've made a bad habit of making nearly every single one of my paragraphs fall within 100 words. That tends to translate into six lines, at least in Microsoft Word. In the prologue to my Starfox fic "What Comes Natural" I've counted a total of nine paragraphs made up of six lines, all within slightly over 1,800 words of text. Since most of those fall within 100 words, I multiply that with nine, which of course equals 900. That means half of the lines in my introductory scene are the same size. Since we most likely have to read fanfiction with the aid of scroll bars, it may be harder for us to keep track of what spot we're at if our mouse goes out of control like a chicken with its head cut off. One way to keep track of where you're at is by the lengths of the paragraphs, it'd be easier if we can compare their size to the surrounding ones. If half of them are the same size, however, one might get lost for a second.

Of course, we all find our spot again about two and a half seconds after the tragedy, and I'm sure I'm just blowing this pet peeve of mine out of proportion. Still, I think it's a nice little way to polish it up. Besides how some people might get confused, it would also spice up the story with more variation. Think of it as a forest, it would be uncanny to see every tree lined up in a neat row, all of which are the same size. I'd much prefer a hike through the woods if it's all random and clustered up. Then again, you can also get lost in any woods, so maybe that's not the best example. I'm just glad I'll never be dying of starvation when reading a fanfic... Unless it's a really long one and I need to catch up, then I'd forget about eating 'till I make it to the most recently published chapter :P

I wish I were this observant over details that people actually care about XD

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