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Why do you write?

aubie56

Why do you write? Is it because you hope or expect to make money off your stories? Is it because you love to get adulation from your fans? Or is it some other reason?

A couple of nights ago I came to a realization on why I write: I write because it is a way for me to create something new that has never before existed.

My working life was spent creating material things, whether it was a new plastic, a new packaging material, or a new manufacturing method, I was always working on something that had never before existed. Yes, I was successful in that. I have lost track of the number of patents issued under my name, both US and foreign.

Well, now that I am retired, I have not lost that desire to create something new. I can no longer create material things, so I have turned to creating things of the mind; namely, fiction stories. I now realize that I would write stories even if I had no way to present them to the public. Furthermore, I will continue to write as long as I am able to do so. Creation of something new is too much fun to quit now!

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  REP
Ernest Bywater

@aubie56

I have stories wanting out of my head. And sometimes I have a social commentary that needs saying.

Replies:   Perv Otaku
QM

I love to create a picture in words with the readers mind filling in the visual cues. It's certainly not because I think I can do better than anyone else :-D

REP

@aubie56

Furthermore, I will continue to write as long as I am able to do so. Creation of something new is too much fun to quit now!


Very well stated from my point of view!

Crumbly Writer

I've often stated, and I suspect it's true for most of us here, that I'd continue to write whether anyone read them or not. Writing is a passion, and very few of us ever makes a living at it. If you break writing down by hours dedicated to the field, it's got to be the lowest paying field, considering hourly pay. So why do we write?

Mainly, because we have no choice. We each have something to say. In order to reach a broader market (whether it's a significant other, or someone we want to convince of something), we learn how best to express our ideas in non-confusing language, but it's rarely the language itself that drives us. If it were, we could all be replaced by automated programs that generate lists of random English phrases which fit the established English grammar guidelines. We're not 'writers or words', instead we're storytellers seeking to convey information through someone else's (largely fictional) experiences.

For me, once I get a story in my head, I write instead of reading others stories because I'm more interested in discovering how my own story turns out. Does the hero get the girl, or does he end up being defeated or even killed? Granted, we often steer our protagonists to victory, but it doesn't always turn out that way. Hell, I've killed off several of my main protagonists over the years (much to my readers' chagrin).

If authors wrote strictly to make money, then we'd only have 5 or 6 authors publishing, since they're the only ones making a decent living. Instead, those few authors generate enough income for the established publishing houses to promote the hundreds of author/works they feel deserve recognition, even if they don't sell like hotcakes. Publishers, like readers, feel passionately about their favorite books, and that's what we, as authors, are trying to capture, our readers' enthusiasm.

Slutsinger

For me, writing fiction is part of a broader desire to change the world. I have always had a passion to create. I've created software and tried to make sure that everyone, not just the big corporations, has the infrastructure software they need to make computers a real asset in what they are doing.
Lately, though I've been focusing a lot on love and compassion. My fiction fits into that and is a way for me and my readers to turn some of their ideas around and consider things from a new viewpoint. I write non-fiction on the topic too, but while I don't have a large readership, more people read the fiction than the non-fiction. I'll always create. I'll always write. Will I always write fiction? I'll always have the desire. However, there's a huge balancing act in looking at how that advances my overall goals compared to other things I could do. For me, money is not part of the value function at all. Getting people to think and open up their minds is.

Trent C
Updated:

For me, the one story I've posted (not under this name, and not here) started as something to keep me busy when an injury kept me out of work for over six months.

There was no outline, so the story has grown organically and I'm happy with where it's gone. I'm working on an idea for my next story now and I'm trying to decide whether to write in the same manner, or take the time to outline and do more research.

I write because it's fun...

Ernest Bywater

@Trent C

take the time to outline and do more research.


I find I write me best stories by deciding on a very general outline with a start, a number of mid points, and an end point. Then I let the rest of the story develop on it's own with the characters telling me what they wish to do, most of the sub-plots are developed in this manner. Having the key way points and end in place helps to keep the story focused and on track. This provides the framework while letting your imagination loose at the same time.

Think of it as like taking a trip from Point A to Point Z with a stop at M along the way, but there are dozens of options for how you go from A to M and a dozen more for the section M to Z, and you chose those options while in transit based on the weather and the traffic conditions.

Replies:   Trent C
Trent C

@Ernest Bywater

Thanks, Ernest. That'll likely be the way I wind up going. I've begun gathering research already, as well as writing chapter fragments already, so I don't lose the ideas I think up.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Trent C

gathering research


that's a key part of a good story. I often find gems worth including when I do the research, even the historical stuff. The story I'm working on at the moment is set today in Pennsylvania, and the research on the history of Pennsylvania and some of the info on the War Between the states have given me two sub-plot ideas to incorporate into the story. The same things has happened with some of the other stories I'm working on, too, as well as some finished stories.

Crumbly Writer

@Trent C

There was no outline, so the story has grown organically and I'm happy with where it's gone. I'm working on an idea for my next story now and I'm trying to decide whether to write in the same manner, or take the time to outline and do more research.

There's no problem with that approach. As you note, the story tends to develop more organically and naturally. The key, as many of us keep insisting, is in revising your work before you post it. Some authors write and post each chapter, because their stories take years to unfold, while others of us complete the entire first draft, then go back and revise, stripping out anything in the finished version which isn't strictly necessary (ex. abandoned story threads, or revising confusing chapters or story inconsistencies).

That way, you end up with a polished story while keeping the excitement of the original.

As for Ernest's point, I generally know the waypoints and the ending, but not the specifics of stories when I start, thus I know what I'm aiming for. I also start the story description, a two paragraph summary of the story, so I'll remember the guiding principals of the story to know what to keep and what to drop.

Perv Otaku

@Ernest Bywater

I have stories wanting out of my head.


Mostly this.

And then if other people enjoy them, great!

oyster50

Got tired of looking for the stories I wanted to read, so I wrote them myself. since starting that journey, I've found and corresponded with several good authors whose stories I had missed in my search.

Now I write because I want to see what happens next to some of the people I've created.

Capt Zapp

@oyster50

Now I write because I want to see what happens next to some of the people I've created.


And I keep reading because I want to know too! I Love the Smart Girls!

Crumbly Writer

@oyster50

Now I write because I want to see what happens next to some of the people I've created.

I reach a point where I become so invested with a character, I'd rather learn what he's going to do rather than read some other story I'm not yet captivated by. Even if I know the ultimate ending, I still want to see how he handles each specific situation, and am frequently surprised how my main character handles events.

HAL

I read somewhere that writers write for themselves. I think that's true for me; I want to write the story as well as I can and I appreciate good feedback (positive or negative); but really the story is the thing. I want to start it and see where it goes. Sometimes I start and then leave it ages until I get an idea what would happen next.
I wonder if I should know the ending before I start? What do people think.

Crumbly Writer

@HAL

I read somewhere that writers write for themselves.

Not me. I write because of all the literary groupie's who drop their panties on the stage and shag me in front of thousands of people, screaming my name! ::-) Short of that, I'll write for myself, cause it's the best I'm gonna get!

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Not me. I write because of all the literary groupie's who drop their panties on the stage and shag me in front of thousands of people, screaming my name! ::-) Short of that, I'll write for myself, cause it's the best I'm gonna get!


You can do BETTER than that.

Find a stage where you can drop your panties and shag yourself in front of the literary groupies screaming out your name! ::-)

StarFleetCarl

@HAL

I have to agree with this. I realize at this point in time I don't have the volume or the quality of what many of you do. A lot of it for me is that I used to write - a lot - when I was younger. Which was using a Smith Corona because yeah, I'm that old. I had a couple of factual pieces published in magazines. Then real life intervened - married, kids, job. And while I'd still read, I just couldn't make wrIting fit.

I still can't write full time. I fill in when I can. And I freely admit that this is fan fiction. I'm also considering a story or two based in a universe that already exists, just because again, having been reading since I was 4 years old, in the last 50 years I've read hundreds of thousands of stories and books and those universes are just out there.

I know the school system didn't know what to do with me, they were trying to teach me to read Dick and Jane - while I was reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@StarFleetCarl

I freely admit that this is fan fiction. I'm also considering a story or two based in a universe that already exists, just because again, having been reading since I was 4 years old, in the last 50 years I've read hundreds of thousands of stories and books and those universes are just out there.

Tell the stories your comfortable with, and which come from the heart. If you appreciate a particular sub-genre, that's a natural jumping off point. Just try to make it unique, distinctly yours in some way, so it's not just 'more of the same' and that you're telling a new story instead of rehashing other stories.

The best way to do that is to look at where others have fallen down: looking for stories which didn't quite work and trying to improve on what they overlooked. That's what inspired many of us at SOL. We read one too many stories and thought 'I could do a better job than that', and instead of just gripping we tried to do just that.

By focusing on a unique story, you begin looking at the story as a problem to be solved, rather than just a series of scenes linked together. You look for existing plot weaknesses, and figure out how to overcome those, while also developing the plot and building the characters. Those are all essential training for making stories succeed.

Having read a lot of fiction helps, non-fiction not as much, as the skills aren't as easily switched. As you've probably gathered from here, there's a lot of techniques used in fiction which won't work in non-fiction, and vice versa.

The biggest caveat, though, and this is for all of you looking to start writing and not just StarFleetCarl, is to think of the overall story, where it's going, how to develop it, pace it, keep readers captivated so they don't set it down and forget about it, and making the characters come alive.

As far as having the time to write, while it's an all-consuming passion, nothing demands you write a chapter a week for the next 52 weeks. Start slow. Invest the time before you ever put pen to paper to organize your plot and figure out how the story will unfold, and then write what you can. Chances are, you'll end up tossing several chapters right off the bat, but each revision will advance and improve the story. Each mistake reveals what doesn't work, and helps you understand what does.

The key, however, is not to procrastinate. If you delay, you begin to dread the work. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes. If you don't have time for a full chapter, try for a piece of one. If not part of the story, write a few interesting scenes you observe around you on any given day just to keep in practice--which you can always incorporate into another story.

Most importantly, if the story doesn't write itself, it's time to step back and consider where you went wrong. Often, writer's block is your characters telling you that your story has gone off track and you're asking them to do something they wouldn't likely do. Once you identify where you went off track, the words will flow once again.

Then again, if the words falter, waste a few hours writing forum posts which don't advance your story either, but at least you're practicing your craft.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Invest the time before you ever put pen to paper to organize your plot and figure out how the story will unfold, and then write what you can.

... seeking only to add a little to an entire post of sound and thoughtful encouragement from CW ...

Some writers here do "get away with" not knowing where their plot is headed. My impression is that only works with stories that are some type of episodic sex romp. My analogy would be that may work for soap operas but not films.
If you've already had stories published, even factual ones, it would be a shame to not be directing your talent to stories potentially worthy of box office release.
So, ditto to what CW said about planning your plot.

I suggest something else for those periods when you have an idea, but the writing is not flowing. You can be "getting to know" your characters as well during the planning/struggling phase.
I suggest that whenever you're contemplating potential scenes in the story, if you hear snippets of exchanges or dialogue from your characters in your head, RECORD THEM immediately.
You may never use these, but over time your characters' voices will become clearer in your head, you'll begin refining them, and you'll come to know how those characters react in various situations, and that may feed back into the planning of the plot.
Hopefully by doing this, you will ALREADY know the characters quite well when you do come to write the first chapters, and you can avoid subtle changes in who the characters are between the start and latter chapters of the finished story.
[Note - there should be subtle changes in who the characters are thoughout a story, but they should be from their "growth" resulting from the dilemmas authors have posed to them with the plot.]

lichtyd

I started writing because of boredom. Four months ago, while reading one of my favorite amateur stories, I wanted more stories in that universe. So I wrote one.

After contacting the original author, he was kind enough to read my fan fiction. He thought it needed work, but was, "pretty good".

I write because it is fun. When I write a good scene, I know it. It gives me a very rewarding sense of accomplishment.

I've received some criticism about my first story. It is simplistic and derivative. I think of it as me bootstrapping myself to better writing. However, I like my characters, even the antagonists and I want to do well by them.

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