Aspiring author and random thinker

Tag Archives: Writing Exercises

On Writing: The Equation

After writing, as most of you who often write have realized, you can never read a book as you did before. The fact is that whenever you struggle at resolving an issue while writing it becomes an overwhelming thought that constantly returns to you when you least expect it until it is solved. And, of course, reading makes your brain often tread into the direction of this issue. That is, most certainly, vague and requires a more elaborate explanation – for I beg your forgiveness in my inability to properly and simply explain myself.

I remember when I first decided to write, I struggled at a very simple and rather embarrassing grammatical issue, does punctuation come before or after speech quotations. This issue was resolved as soon as I looked at the first page of a book, which I do not recall, I decided to start reading. As your writing progresses and the basic elements are, more or less, subconsciously implemented, more issues arise.

To be more specific, it moves deeper into the ‘there’s no one right way’ section. In other words, you start focusing less on the obvious and more on the hidden, such as character development, plot development or writing style. You start trying to incorporate slight twists in the general rules and slowly begin to feel comfortable breaking them. This, however, is a very dangerous and strenuous task for new writers such as myself.

I am very well aware that I have a long way to go before I can produce a considerably decent piece of work. In fact, I intend to rewrite almost all of my stories once I feel comfortable enough to write at an acceptably decent level. This, however, might never come to be, but I keep my hopes up as should you.

After realizing my shortcomings, I started thinking more about plots and writing styles. I have decided that my language is far too weak for decent fantasy, the type of stories I enjoy writing the most, and will try my lick at science fiction once I am finished with my current project. While being preoccupied over writing style, after reading Tolkien and hopelessly trying to pick up a few tricks from him, I started reading and analyzing different authors. I have then realized that more than not, successful authors tend to stick with one specific equation for their stories which almost never changes. This is when I realized that all what I have been doing was but a simple step in a much longer process that was hidden to me. Every author is unique and every author has her/his own writing equation that, if not already so, is anxiously awaiting to be discovered.

So far my writing has been more influenced by the books I read than my inner voice. It is a grim, but necessary, reality that I must endure until I have written enough to discover my personal writing equation. And I believe that the only way to do so is by writing a great deal. I believe that reading, however, will speed this process.


On Writing: Conversations

I have been avoiding writing exercises like the plague since I started writing. The idea of sitting through a certain exercise, from a book, blog, website or just a friendly advice, is somewhat of an annoyance to me for reasons I cannot begin to comprehend. Perhaps it is because I just find them boring and a nuisance that would just delay my writing, but I have recently come to a realization that I just want to be a better writer and I am willing to make sacrifices for it.

One of the many criticisms I received was that my written conversations seem odd. I have tried to improve them, make them sound more natural, but I failed to do so as now I even hear them in my head as strange pieces of talk, if that makes any sense. I often try to imagine my characters speaking out loud and find their mannerism even more bizarre.

Yesterday, however, as I was reading ‘Forward the Foundation’ by ‘Isaac Asimov’, I started paying extra attention to the dialogues between his more than elaborate characters. Although it might have, momentarily, taken me away from the spirit of his story, it gave me a great idea to practice writing conversations other than reading them. I thought: what if I hear them first then write them instead of writing them then hearing them.

So today I intend on listening to conversations in movies or shows and writing them down. Perhaps this would be a good exercise that would make conversation writing a little easier a task.

On Writing: Discovery vs. Outlining

My new tactic of outlining my chapters before writing them served me well while working on the first part of the book I am currently working on. However, as I dig deeper into the story, the strategy seems to loose both its effectiveness and efficiency. I am currently half way through the second part and its seems that I am utterly lost.

There are two options I am currently aware of regarding the new hindrance, (1) to work on completing an outline for the remaining half of the part, or (2) to take a break from the current project and start working on improving another aspect of my writing. Nevertheless, It is unlikely that I would be capable of taking a break from an uncompleted story.

PS: so far the book stands still at 56,000 words.

On Writing: Difficulties

Before you dig into this post, I would like to inform you that the title is a bit misleading. I am not facing difficulties, per say, on the writing itself, but on the other daily tasks which I find myself in need of doing. Between my independent work, writing, and social obligations, I find little time to maintain my regular and usually strict exercise routine. I just wanted to say how much I admire people who can remain productive while they grow their physical and mental capabilities simultaneously.

On Writing: Outline

I wrote my first story (75,000 words) without using an outline and completed it in just under a month. I enjoyed writing and often sought to make time during my day to write. There were the occasional days where I managed to write 10,000 words and others where I wrote none.

However, I thought that my story seemed a little foggy in terms of plot development, in spite of the reviewers telling me that it was fine. Due to the self-non-satisfying plot development, I decided to prepare an outline for my second story before writing it. It went smoothly as I started off and motivated me to keep on writing, but as I got deeper into the story its shining faded away. Finishing it started to feel like a chore.

Eventually I decided to merge the first and second volumes into one bigger book of 120,000 words. Nevertheless, the stop between both books as well as the improvement in my writing skills gave me the impressions that he style changes drastically by the end.

The third and current project was my final and most successful attempt at making the plot smooth (so far). Instead of preparing the outline in one sitting before I start to write, I decided to prepare each chapter’s outline just before writing it. This method cost me the flow of the story a little as my ideas and concepts about the story develops. However, it does help keeping me motivated to write and continue with the story. Each chapter is dedicated to part of the protagonist’s journey with a complete set of story elements. In other words, each chapter feels more like a short story which ties into the main plot.

So far the biggest challenges I met in writing long stories were (1) keeping my goals in perspective, (2) keeping motivated to write, (3) finding appropriate historical figures or myths to base the lore on, and (4) preparing a smooth outline that dictates the story flow.

Although my journey as an amateur writer had just begun, I already feel it improving me.

On Writing: Progress and Notes

About a month ago I decided to start working on my second book and set a goal to write at least 1,000 words a day. Although it seemed an easy task to do, the process of daily writing is incredibly challenging.

Yesterday was one of my most ‘blanky’ days. I spent at least two hours staring at my computer in an attempt to squeeze out the outline of my first chapter (Since I have been preparing the outline for each chapter just before writing it as I mentioned before). Eventually I managed to complete a half descent one, but it did not please me, and I am contemplating re-writing it before I start working on the chapter itself. However, I do realize that at my low writing skill-level there is no way for me to complete a novel with no imperfect chapters.

The dilemma I am currently facing is to proceed or not to proceed (that is my question).

On Writing: Dramatis Personae

Been having too many characters in my first two books that it was necessary for me to keep proper track of them via a dramatis personae (somewhat like a character appendix). In my third book, which I started preparing for, the new story revolves around a military unit composed of ten individuals. Because of the large number of main characters I decided to prepare their history and characters more thoroughly than I used to before.

The process which I thought would be tedious due to research was, actually, rather interesting. I spent the better part of yesterday researching and basing each of my characters’ personalities on historical or mythological individuals. I also used the big five theory of personality to help me plan their tendencies based on the roles they hold within this unit.

The process started with me just using one of the concepts I came up with in while writing my first book and expanding on it, the unit of ten. Then, I made a list of all the skills necessary for the survival of the group throughout their journey and divided them across the members. Once I was done with the skills, I looked up the names based on their roles; researching historical and mythological figures. Following the naming, I fine tuned the skills to match with the figures; if sufficient information was found by my research. The final step was to add some kinks and twists to each character to make them unique. For example, the leader has this thing with his hair where he stresses to keep it properly combed all the time.

When I was done, I found myself staring at a document of 5,000 words where my characters were described in some detail. Next step for me is to prepare the outline. However, instead of preparing the outline for the entire story, I will be writing a more detailed outline for each chapter or story section one at a time because of a phenomenon I observed while writing my second story. When I was working on my second story, where I decided to prepare an outline before writing it, I spent a day preparing the outline of the story to keep the flow of the events as smooth as possible. Although the events were far more thought out than the first book and the chapters flowed smoothly, I found myself unexcited about writing midway the book; I have simply lost the excitement of writing a new book due to my preparation. In order to prevent this issue, the new book will be prepared chapter by chapter prior to me writing it – hopefully the plot would still flow smoothly.