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Thread: Any good?

  1. #1
    Will Prendergast
    Guest

    Any good?

    Hi, I'm new to this website and would just like to get some constuctive criticism of some writing I've done.

    I wrote this about 3-4 years ago (when I was about 17), and while I'm not continuing with this particular story for now I'd still like to get some advice on my writing style etc before I start my next story. All help appreciated.



    Dark storm clouds gathered overhead, closing in and suffocating the last glimpse of the blue sky and choking the suns light as it tried in vain to pierce the ever thickening armour-like clouds.

    It seemed to symbolize the way Jonas felt as the light gave way to the inevitable darkness.

    Warm tears ran down his cheeks as he raced across the hard floor of the valley. There was a slight slope down to his right as the denser rock fell to pebbles and finally a small river which ran through the middle of the mountainous region. Jonas noticed none of this, despite almost slipping and ending up in the gushing water himself. His eyes were locked on his target; a body slumped on the floor ahead of him.



  2. #2
    Charles Simon
    Guest

    Re: Any good?

    Hi Will!

    One question: is that all or have you actually written something of some substance?

    I don't mean to be rude or anything, it's just that six sentences is not a whole lot to critique on. Six sentences is more or less equal to nothing really.

    So if all you've got out of the last 3-4 years are those six sentences I really think that you should consider another hobby. That is 1,5-2 pages a year so it would take you at least a hundred years to finish a short novel.

    I meet a lot of people who dream of becoming writers not because they like to write but rather because the like the idea of being able to tell people that they are writers. And those people will never ever become writers.

    Other people love to write. Can't stop themselves from writing all the time, making up stories in their heads and playing around with words etc. Some of them will end up being writers but most of them won't. And those who won't will still enjoy their hobby and be happy with that.

    So stop and think for a moment if you really love writing or if you're just in love with the idea of becoming a writer.

    The fact that you've hung on to those six sentences for 3-4 years and want us to critique on those and not something you've written recently or is currently writing suggests to me that writing may not take up very much of your time. So maybe writing is not as important as the idea of becoming a writer?

    No offense, just a bit of career counceling.

    Apart from that, what do I think about the six sentences? Well, to be honest, not very gripping. Seems like focus have been on finding the right words and not on telling the beginning of a story. As a writer you must be able to throw away big chunks of sentences all the time. It's part of the process. Can't go falling in love with six sentences and hold on to them for 3-4 years. What you should do instead is figure out the story. What is it about? What are the conflicts? Who are the characters? And then you can tell that story in a million different ways with different voices and using different vocabulary and so on. Words are really not that important unless you have a strong story to tell.

    So,

    1) think about WHY you're doing it
    2) put the story first and the particular words second
    3) don't fall in love with stuff you've written because if you don't edit half of it out someone else surely will if it is ever going to get published. It's part of the process.

    Best regards,
    Charles

  3. #3
    leslee
    Guest

    Re: Any good?

    "Dark storm clouds gathered overhead, closing in and suffocating the last glimpse of the blue sky and choking the suns light as it tried in vain to pierce the ever thickening armour-like clouds."

    Yes, it was a dark and stormy night.

    Staring your work with a tired old cliche doesn't encourage the reader to continue.

  4. #4
    D K
    Guest

    Re: Any good?

    Hi Will,

    I'll stay away from your weather cliche start. The rest of the first para is over written IMO. You state the approaching clouds four times: gathered, suffocating, choking, thickening. Pick one, your readers aren't dumb, they can visualize what a storm rolling in looks like.

    Also, you should do some research on point of view (POV). The way you have it written now it's in omniscent POV but would read much better if you put us in First Person (Jonas') POV. Omniscent distances your reader because you sit and tell everything as you've done where if we were in Jonas' POV you would be 'showing' more through his eyes and pulling your reader into the story.

    Lastly you need to know the difference between showing and telling. Things like "...the hard floor of the valley..." is telling. What does a hard floor look like?

    Keep at it.

    DK

  5. #5
    Will Prendergast
    Guest

    Re: Any good?

    Thanks for all the advice guys.

    Charles: I have written more. I can't quite remember how much, but it was about 30-40 pages I believe. I just selected that bit to post as it was the first part of it I wrote (its from the middle rather than the beginning.)

    Admittedly I havent done much, if any, writing over the last few years but thats mainly because I've been busy studying for a degree in economics. My career plans dont really involve being a writer, but I would like to finish at least one book and then maybe take a shot at getting published, just to see if it was good enough.

    I've started writing again now and will put up something more recent soon.

    Thanks again, if you can think of anymore good tips just let me know

  6. #6
    Charles Simon
    Guest

    Re: Any good?

    Will,

    I quite regret the pessimistic tone in my earlier post. Sorry about that, I guess I just hadn't had enough coffee yet.

    Of course you should write! Writing is fun and you obviously searched for and found this discussion board so you are clearly interested in writing. But drop the past and start fresh. What you did at seventeen belongs in the past. Look forward and follow the advice in the posts from leslee and DK, I agree fully with them.

    Switching to first person point of view is a really good advice since it makes it so much easier to feel when you start telling instead of showing. What you want to do is try to get inside the head of the main character, become the main character, and write down what you see, feel and do. Are the tears running down your cheeks really warm? Yes, they are body temperature when they leave your eyes but how does it really feel against your skin, especially if you are running outdoors in a storm? Try to really feel them and write down what you actually feel.

    Avoid fancy words and clichés. Not saying that you can't use them (in some genres it almost seems hard to get published if you DON'T use them) but it is harder for you to show us what you see, feel and do if you resort to them.

    I wish you many hours of pleasure writing your new story and look forward to read pieces of it hear later on. And I promise to try not to write any comments on this discussion board before I've had my three cups of strong java in the future...

    Best regards,
    Charles

  7. #7
    John Oberon
    Guest

    Re: Any good?

    First sentence over-written and weak - you apply all these high-caliber verbs to clouds and sun – that’s over-writing. Four unnecessary “ing” verbs in a cliché sentence – that’s weak.

    I don’t think POV is really the problem; it’s more unclear, unneeded, and wrong wording. For example, “raced” – does it mean Jonas is running or driving a car? And a “hard floor” does not connote a natural exterior, but some kind of man-made interior. When you back up and describe the whole region (which is completely unnecessary, as far as I can tell), it reads as if Jonas passes these large geographical features fairly quickly, as if he were in a car. But no, he slips, so we finally know he’s running. But then we’re back on a floor, did he enter a building or something? It would never occur to me to call the bottom of a valley a “floor”, especially if my MC were running on it. I’d call it ground, earth, dirt…something like that.

    You see? The whole thing is confused because of bad wording.

  8. #8
    Will Prendergast
    Guest

    Re: Any good?

    No worries Charles, it was all taken constructively.

    With regards to the POV thing. I can see why that would help make things easier to show. With my new story I plan to swap between 2-3 characters, there all important characters and split up/meet up quite often. Would a first person POV still be appropriate or would that just get confusing?

    John: Thanks for the advice, I've got a feeling alot of my previous writing will have some of these problems, so I'll have to make sure I try not to make them again.

  9. #9
    D K
    Guest

    Re: Any good?

    Will,

    Swaping POV amongst 2-3 characters througout on MS is fine as long as the breaks between POV are clear/obvious. Swapping POV's line by line is very difficult to do well. As a first time writer it's generally suggested you stay clear of this.

    When you have all characters together, typically the POV will be your protagonist's assuming there is only one. Look at Harry Potter as a simple example, whenever Harry, Hermione and the red headed goof are together you always get Harry's POV.

    DK

  10. #10
    Charles Simon
    Guest

    Re: Any good?

    Will,

    Here's a short guide to the most common points of view:

    Think of point of view when writing a story as the same as the different points of camera angle when playing a racing game on Xbox or Nintendo. You know, from inside the car, from slightly behind the car or from high up above looking down on the race track.


    First person POV: you are the main character telling us what you see, feel and do. Example: "I lit a cigarette and thought about Sarah in Timbuktu."

    Third person POV: you are walking behind the main character Of the story or the main character of the current section of the story (paragraph, chapter, part etc). You can either follow one main character throughout the whole story or switch between different characters. If you switch between characters you have to be clear about what you can actually see when you follow that character. You'll always need to decide what character you are following at the moment.
    For example, if you are following Jonas through the valley you can't have knowledge about what is happening at the same time in Timbuktu. If you want to tell us what's happening in Timbuktu you have to do that in the next paragraph/chapter/part where you follow a character who is actually in Timbuktu and show us what he/her is doing, seeing, feeling. "Jonas lit a cigarette. 'I wonder what Sarah is up to in Timbuktu', he thought."
    The only thing different from being a reporter and following someone around in real life and taking notes is that in third person POV in fiction you can describe what the character you are following is thinking. A journalist can't do that of course but in fiction you can. "Eat my shorts, Jonas thought."

    Omniscient POV: you are a godlike creature who sees and hears everything. You can see Jonas running throug the valley as well as Sarah walking around in Timbuktu at the same time. And you can comment on abstact matters from above such as what a coincidence that they're both wearing a particular brand of straw hat.
    Example: "At the same time as Jonas lit a cigarette in the valley, Sarah walked around in Timbuktu looking for a straw hat. They were both thinking about the other like most lovers do when they are far away from each other."

    First or third person are recommended. Omniscient is old school and readers of today don't buy it. It keeps the reader at a distance and makes the writer too present in the story.

    So go for first or third person and ask yourself all the time: can I know, feel, see, hear, do this from this point of view? When I follow Jonas over his shoulder and write down what I see and hear, do I really know what is going on in Timbuktu? If I am Jonas, do I really know what is happening around the corner before I get there?

    And if you go for first person, stick to one character thoughout the story, if you try to jump between characters it will confuse the reader. In other words, don't write "I lit a cigarette" as Jonas in chapter 1 and then "I was looking for a straw hat" in chapter 2 as Sarah. If you want to jump between characters go for third person POV.

    Hope this helps.

    Good luck and best regards,
    Charles

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