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Style of writing?

Darian Wolfe

I am rather new when it comes to writing about writing so please bear with me a bit. In reading some of the other threads I get an idea of the different methods used for story structuring, plotting, etc

Yet, I see little on the writing style the various authors here seek to develop. Oh, I see a lot of nitpicking on comma usage and punctuation. What I don't see is much being said on the tone and flavor of the individual styles being created.

For myself, I am working to create a rich minimalist style similar to Hemingway's that is unique to myself. In the years to come, I want someone to be able to read a passage and say Darian wrote that. I have a long way to go, but that is my goal.

Would anyone else care to share theirs?

Crumbly Writer

Generally, when we discuss "Style" here on the Author's Hangout, we're referring to which Style Guide we adhere to, or for most of us, how we compose our own.

You're discussing more of HOW we structure out stories, or more accurately, what our writing 'voice' is (i.e. how we present the story, rather than which Style we use).

For myself, I've always been annoyed by the modern 'minimalism', where everything published was designed so it could be read by the fifth grader. Thus I use longer, more complex sentences, longer paragraphs and longer words. Clearly, it's not for everyone, but my fans appreciate being spoken to like adults, so it works for us (me and my fans).

However, a writer's 'voice' incorporates much more, including (as you mentioned) pacing, simplicity, number of characters, intensity of focus, and a multitude of different topics.

Generally, you'll probably do better discussing 'writing style' and 'plotting' as two separate elements (i.e. action/adventure, shoot-em-up, etc.)

Replies:   Darian Wolfe
REP

@Darian Wolfe

For myself, I am working to create a rich minimalist style similar to Hemingway's that is unique to myself.


No offense intended, but the above is meaningless to me. A rich minimalist style similar to Hemingway's - "similar to" includes many deviations from his style. Then you indicate you are going to evolve it. To me, that means you could end up almost anywhere. However, I do wish you well and it will be interesting to see what your writing style becomes.

Most of us have developed our own writing style, and while a few could, I suspect most of us couldn't define what our style is. We just use it for it evolved until we are comfortable with it. That is what happened to me, and my style is still evolving.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Darian Wolfe


Would anyone else care to share theirs?


I have no idea, but…

I like short chapters, but I sometimes have long ones. I don't like long, complex sentences. Prefer easy to read. I'm not writing literary fiction, but genre fiction. To be read for enjoyment; not to win a Pulitzer. I like to use impact sentences or words. Not to the extreme Lee Child does (Jack Reacher), but some short, choppy sentences for impact. And even sounds. I try to make the reader "live/experience" the story, as in my version of "show don't tell."

So is that a style?

Replies:   Darian Wolfe
Ernest Bywater

Some years back we did have some discussions on this which prompted me to write simple guide. Since then I've written a few other simple guides to help people who are interested in writing. Unlike many who write such guides I've made mine free and it's available as

Fiction Writing & Style Guide at

www.lulu.com/shop/ernest-bywater/fiction-writing-style-guide/ebook/product-23436081.html

as well as via the Apple Store and few other distributors. If they charge anything for the e-pub don't pay it because I put it out there free, and am happy to send anyone a copy if they send me an email asking for it. I do prefer they get the free download from Lulu because it helps my 'sales' figures despite not adding any royalties.

In the book I cover a lot of aspects of writing with a focus on fiction, and cover many aspects of what you're asking about.

Darian Wolfe
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Hi CW,

I've read several of your books and enjoyed them. You do well with long and complex sentences. I've found that the longer the sentence I use the less real estate I have to build upon.

I admit it's personal preference. I have an older pen name here where I used longer and more complex sentences. The scores are much lower than the mediocre ones I now receive. I realize that a lot of that can be attributed to the lack of technical knowledge of storytelling that I displayed at that time.

I studied minimalism to end the incessant rabbit chasing my stories fell into as I tried to make them "come alive". I realized that everyone builds their own movie set whenever they read a story. I need to give them just enough information so they can build the set to their satisfaction. Finding that balance seems to be a key between a good storytelling and a bad. My fans also seem to enjoy the crisper style minimalism gives

Of course, it doesn't matter how I describe it if the story itself is shit.

Darian Wolfe

@Switch Blayde

Yes, I'm not literary enough to know the name of the general style. It certainly is a style. I like strong impactful words. My problem is finding ones that convey the exact degree of force I am trying to convey without seeming cliche or breaking the suspension of disbelief. "Hey, this is a fight scene, not epic poetry!"

Thanks for sharing.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
robberhands

@Darian Wolfe

I'm glad to hear you stopped hunting bunnies. Rabbits are a sacrosanct species and chasing them is a great sin.

Darian Wolfe

@robberhands

lol

StarFleet Carl

@robberhands

Rabbits are a sacrosanct species and chasing them is a great sin.


Depending upon your universe, you either get an increase to your stat 'Bunnies slaughtered' (TES V, Skyrim) or you hear ka-click coming from Bun-Bun (Sluggy Freelance).

Replies:   JohnBobMead
Geek of Ages

@Darian Wolfe

From my observation, most of the forum-talkers here learned how to write from hard-nosed grammarians who insisted on technical excellence with no affordance for humanity. Furthermore, many of the forum-talkers here seem to have a general disdain for the academy and zero interest in fields like literary criticism—which is where one learns how to analyze voice and style at that higher level.

So, as a whole, this forum focuses on technical minutiae, unwilling to talk about bigger things.

That, and we don't necessarily all have a shared reference point in those discussions, because not everyone has done the required reading.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Geek of Ages

From my observation, most of the forum-talkers here learned how to write from hard-nosed grammarians who insisted on technical excellence with no affordance for humanity.

How did you observe it? I can't remember anyone on this forum ever stating something like that.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Capt. Zapp

White Shadows


Wasn't there a related site to White Shadows? Dark or Black something-or-other? Wish I could remember. I enjoyed some of the stories I read there.

Geek of Ages

I bet there's not a single forum-talker here who has a degree in Creative Writing.


That's kind of my point. You don't find the hard-nosed grammarians in Creative Writing programs; you find them in elementary/middle/high schools, and in online forums where people bicker about minutiae of usage.

Replies:   robberhands
awnlee jawking

I bet there's not a single forum-talker here who has a degree in Creative Writing.


I bet extremely few best-selling authors have Creative Writing degrees.

AJ

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

I bet extremely few best-selling authors have Creative Writing degrees.


Actually, quite a bit have Creative Writing and/or English degrees. And many taught English.

Off the top of my head:
Stephen King
David Morrell (Rambo)
Kurt Vonnegut
J.K. Rowling
Dan Brown

robberhands

@Geek of Ages

You don't find the hard-nosed grammarians in Creative Writing programs; you find them in elementary/middle/high schools, and in online forums where people bicker about minutiae of usage.

I thought we have to argue about that shit because we can't keep our discussions civil and fighting about anything more profound would be even worse.

robberhands
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

Actually, quite a few have Creative Writing and/or English degrees.


ETA: Sorry, I couldn't resist.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

Creative Writing and/or English degrees


There's a significant difference between the two, but neither will turn someone into a great storyteller.

From wikipedia (spit):
"In 1982, Rowling took the entrance exams for Oxford University but was not accepted[20] and earned a B.A. in French and Classics at the University of Exeter."

Not Creative Writing or English. I'm not going to bother checking the others you listed.

AJ

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


Not Creative Writing or English.


That list off the top of my head was those who taught Creative Writing and/or English.

From https://www.biography.com/people/jk-rowling-40998

"A graduate of Exeter University, Rowling moved to Portugal in 1990 to teach English."

ETA: I'm not familiar with the British school system. What is "Classics"? Is that classic literature?

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

That list off the top of my head was those who taught Creative Writing and/or English.


Strangely enough, many of my friends and acquaintances teach English, but mostly for non-English speakers. There's currently a huge market for it in the UK.

ETA: I'm not familiar with the British school system. What is "Classics"? Is that classic literature?


IIRC, Ancient Greek and Latin literature play a huge part, but it's also about their cultures and history.

AJ

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

Strangely enough, many of my friends and acquaintances teach English, but mostly for non-English speakers.


I guess there's a difference between teaching English as a second language like Rowling did. She should not have been on the list.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

That list off the top of my head was those who taught Creative Writing and/or English.


You left out James Patterson - he 'teaches' Creative Writing, although not as a degree course ;)

AJ

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

You left out James Patterson


It was just people I remembered teaching English or Creative Writing. I'm sure there are a lot more.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

In participating in the sort of nitpicking condemned earlier, I seem to have lost sight of my point. In my own admittedly limited experience, a Creative Writing degree confers no advantage in the race to earn a publishing contract and may actually result in a disadvantage: the stories written by the course junkies in my writers' group are depressingly similar in style and voice.

AJ

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


the stories written by the course junkies in my writers' group are depressingly similar in style and voice.


My wife had a professor when going for her masters in Creative Writing (poetry) who had Erica Jong as a student. He kept telling my wife to write like her. It was her worst class.

ETA: That's another successful author who had a Creative Writing degree — Erica Jong.

Crumbly Writer

@Darian Wolfe

I studied minimalism to end the incessant rabbit chasing my stories fell into as I tried to make them "come alive". I realized that everyone builds their own movie set whenever they read a story. I need to give them just enough information so they can build the set to their satisfaction. Finding that balance seems to be a key between a good storytelling and a bad. My fans also seem to enjoy the crisper style minimalism gives

That's especially true with descriptions, as descriptions tend not to 'sink in'. Thus a reader will replace the author's descriptions with their own imagined ones, unless the author makes a point of repeating a character description because it's central to the overall plot.

But, at the same time, you'll often have to 'flesh out' certain story details in order for them to 'come alive' and feel 'real' to readers, so don't skip over the descriptions, though it's fine to minimize them so they don't get overwhelming. But often, it's by paying attention to little details that makes stories so important to readers.

As far as my use of complex sentences, the reason why I get away with it is, despite the complexity of my sentences, they each deal with a single thought, rather than multiple thoughts.

The idea is that readers can only deal with one thought at a time. If you throw too many ideas at once at them, they'll only catch one, fumbling the others. However, if you pitch one, and they receive it, then you can pitch another, and another and another. So it's easy to build complexity over time. Or, as I'm so fond of, using a complex sentence to lay foreshadowing and red herrings (thought are 'asides' of the main thought, rather than separate thoughts).

It took me some time to master those concepts myself, and I continue wrestling with them. The safest approach, however, is to sidestep it by avoiding the complex sentences altogether. 'D

Crumbly Writer

@Darian Wolfe

Yes, I'm not literary enough to know the name of the general style. It certainly is a style. I like strong impactful words. My problem is finding ones that convey the exact degree of force I am trying to convey without seeming cliche or breaking the suspension of disbelief.

The thesaurus is often an author's best friend (aside from his editors). Learning to recognize repeated words helps too (I cheat, using software to do it). Using cliches is not just a problem, but when you keep repeating the same cliches, it gets pretty overpowering.

"Hey, this is a fight scene, not epic poetry!"

Talking about story pacing (earlier), that's part of your battle with your minimalism/complexity dilemma. In a fight scene, you want fast action, taken in small bits. But afterwards, when the reader needs to catch their breath and the characters have t piece together what happens, longer descriptions of what unfolded help with the character development. (i.e. it's not that those descriptions aren't helpful, but it's more of a story pacing issue of where you put those longer descriptions.

You don't include them in the action scenes, or in the already slow opening scenes, instead you use them to slow down the runaway freight train effect, so you get fast followed by slow, and a steady build-up followed by a rapid resolution. That's why you plan the major story waypoints ahead of time, so you'll know how to pace the story around those goalposts.

Replies:   Darian Wolfe
Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

How did you observe it? I can't remember anyone on this forum ever stating something like that.

Face it, we don't generally discuss writing styles, or how to stitch a story together. Instead, we get bogged down arguing over whether we should eliminate filler words, or whether we're 'showing or telling'.

I'll sometimes wax poetic about literary styles, but I only do it occasionally (see above) when I think someone is receptive to discussing the issues. Most of us are more ready to discuss the weaknesses in porn writing than the strengths in literary works we might read but never talk about.

Replies:   robberhands
Crumbly Writer

I bet there's not a single forum-talker here who has a degree in Creative Writing.

We've had a couple, over the years, but they tend not to last long. Instead, most of us came to writing late, never considering it a 'career' until late in life, when suddenly our life experiences meant more in building stories than how to string sentences or using poetic language do.

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

I bet extremely few best-selling authors have Creative Writing degrees.

Literary authors win awards and rake in prizes, but don't earn huge sums of cash. Whereas we, struggling authors, emulate Jack Reacher or Steven King stories.

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

In participating in the sort of nitpicking condemned earlier, I seem to have lost sight of my point. In my own admittedly limited experience, a Creative Writing degree confers no advantage in the race to earn a publishing contract and may actually result in a disadvantage: the stories written by the course junkies in my writers' group are depressingly similar in style and voice.

What does make a difference in the literary field, aren't the creative writing students, but those who've studied poetry and how to phrase sentences so their passages are 'beautiful' in their own right.

On the other hand, the 'story tellers' tend to crank out past paced stories that don't focus on reflective passages and character interactions, but on action and moving the plot along.

Unfortunately, you find best selling and poor-selling authors in both categories, as there aren't many best-selling authors, and virtually every author lives hand to mouth. In fact, the one thing most best-selling authors do have, is the wherewithal, to hire underlings to help them churn out the profitable material, whereas the rest of us have to work three jobs, which leaves little time to sweating out the details of crafting the 'perfect' story. :(

Darian Wolfe

@Crumbly Writer

Thank you for sharing so much. In earlier stages of my writing, I thought I had to be a novelist so I wrote two books. One of which sold a few copies.

While novel writing is fun, I become obsessed which is decidedly not fun. I burned myself out by working on so many projects that I refused to write for over a year.

When I started writing again I discovered that short stories are the perfect fit for my personality. There's not much of a market for them but the occasional comment and email is payment enough.

What I do find humorous is that as a writer I am a living cliche. Most of my stories have a strong romantic element. I spent a large portion of my career providing physical security and I have been described as a thug more than once. As recently as this past Christmas I was asked to intimidate somebody which is really hilarious as I am an old fat man in bad health.

What rang true for me Crumbly was your statement concerning each complex sentence dealing with a single thought. That's something I can latch onto and experiment with. Thank you for that.

I limit each story to no more than 7,500 words and I don't want to kid myself by writing chapters of a longer story and calling them shorts, lol. That sound just like me. Still, you gave some good advice and I want to try it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Darian Wolfe

When I started writing again I discovered that short stories are the perfect fit for my personality. There's not much of a market for them but the occasional comment and email is payment enough.

Actually, that's (writing short stories) is the preferred method of learning to write, as it's what most authors do while they're still in school, writing their initial crappy stories where few but their teachers, gf/bf and family are forced to wade through them.

For me though, I'm largely incapable of writing short stories, as each of my ideas, like my sentences, involved complex thoughts which require fairly extensive character development (i.e. the plot and characters require more than just a couple chapters).

In fact, I average around twenty chapters for each of my stories. My shortest book was 16 chapters, but still over 150,000 words! But short, in-depth character studies (like Breakfast at Tiffany's are ideal, as you can explore characters and situations without worrying about the repercussions on other things and other people. Little mini worlds.

Replies:   Darian Wolfe
robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

Face it, we don't generally discuss writing styles, or how to stitch a story together. Instead, we get bogged down arguing over whether we should eliminate filler words, or whether we're 'showing or telling'.

That's a sad fact but wasn't the observation I questioned.

Geek of Ages wrote:
From my observation, most of the forum-talkers here learned how to write from hard-nosed grammarians who insisted on technical excellence with no affordance for humanity.

I'm reasonably certain the fiddling grammar discussions in this forum are not a consequence of learned expertise. I think it was Ernest who told me that arguments about more profound aspects of writing resulted in even worse fights than those.

Ernest Bywater

@robberhands

I think it was Ernest who told me that arguments about more profound aspects of writing resulted in even worse fights than those.


That they did on the old forum. I use what some call a colloquial style and what I was taught as the vernacular style. I use ti because it's less formal and more free flowing. It also has a lot more room for variation than the more formal styles of writing do.

In the book I mentioned earlier I cover all of that. I started that guide back in 2009, and have added to it as more things came up in the discussion which I felt were important. I also start from the very basics which a lot of people here are already past and would skip the first quarter of the book. It's free, so it costs you nothing but time to see if there's anything there you can use.

Darian Wolfe

@Crumbly Writer

For me though, I'm largely incapable of writing short stories, as each of my ideas, like my sentences, involved complex thoughts which require fairly extensive character development (i.e. the plot and characters require more than just a couple chapters).


Due to my recent illness, my capacity to sustain complex thoughts has diminished. TBH it's just too much work to try to build full mini-worlds. I had already decided on short stories prior to almost dying, but at this point, a full-fledged novel would take a year or three to write the first draft.

It can take me literally ten hours to write 1000 words. because I write some then have to do something else or sit and think for 30 minutes. Write another sentence or five, but I love it. Prior to my illness, I could do the same work in an hour. At least, I can still write.

JohnBobMead

@StarFleet Carl

Bun-Bun


Bun-Bun is a SheVa tank. A powerful weapon of war. John Ringo's a Sluggy fan.

Replies:   StarFleet Carl
JohnBobMead

@Darian Wolfe

You have to recognize the realities of your situation, and adapt to it. To do otherwise results in nothing but grief.

Replies:   Darian Wolfe
Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

I'm reasonably certain the fiddling grammar discussions in this forum are not a consequence of learned expertise. I think it was Ernest who told me that arguments about more profound aspects of writing resulted in even worse fights than those.

Sorry, I mistook your intent. My bad.

But, as pedantic as we are all about basic rules of grammar, surely it would help us all to focus on the actual craft of writing, rather than belabor what we should have learned in third grade. :(

If nothing else, it would be interesting to compare which plot techniques other authors use, so we can better pick and choose which we might employ in the future.

Crumbly Writer

@Darian Wolfe

Due to my recent illness, my capacity to sustain complex thoughts has diminished. TBH it's just too much work to try to build full mini-worlds. I had already decided on short stories prior to almost dying, but at this point, a full-fledged novel would take a year or three to write the first draft.

There's no sense exhausting yourself, because the work suffers when you do, and it impacts your health, which reduces how much you can accomplish over time.

It's better to temper your work, releasing bite-sized pieces, rather than full works which are lacking and which take years to complete.

Besides, each of those short pieces are further fodder for a subsequent longer work—if and when you finally feel up to it.

robberhands

I submit the following post on behalf of Ross at Play, who for technical reasons apparently can't do so at the moment.

Ross at Play:

Hi Darian,

This was drafted before I saw your post identifying physical limitations.
I thought you'd like to see my comments when I thought you have still have ambitions of becoming a dead-tree-published author.
BTW, you're welcome to contact me, but current technical problems mean it can only be by sending an email to rossmurray.aust@gmail.com.

Hi Darian,

I read your opening post, looked at your author page, and concluded you started writing fiction about a year ago. I now know you were already a very accomplished author – in my book that includes anyone who has ever sold any fiction to any strangers, however few.

I looked for your shortest story, The New Field, and picked it because it was posted recently. Your genre is NOT my taste. I sincerely enjoyed it. It flowed. The dialogue sounded natural. You cared enough to ensure it had no errors which jarred. It told a story.

What more can be expected in only 700 words? … the characters of the two MCs are established, a crisis, a resolution, and a … morality tail. Well done!

I gave it one of my full-scale edits. Please send your email address to my SOL inbox so I can send that back as an attachment.

I stopped after 500 words. I would only have found more examples of similar types of things if I had continued.

I think you've got the concept of minimalism right. It's not an end in itself. If it's done right, readers don't notice the specific change you have made. They finish reading it more quickly and the pace seems a bit faster. They won't know how; but they know it was executed very well.

I fully support some points CW has already mentioned:
_* It's best to avoid using the word "style" on these forums whenever possible. Someone here will already have reached for their gun before the period which ends your sentence. :) Prefer the term 'voice' for what you meant in the OP.
_* Minimalism is a valid choice for your primary voice, and it's definitely suitable for your genre, but it must not be your only voice. Listen to what CW says about pacing. I paraphrase his idea this way: good storytelling, certainly once you reach novella length, needs sections in between your action scenes written with a slower and contemplative voice.
_* CW joked it's best you avoid complex sentences altogether. Don't do that. You need to be a master of long and complex sentences too – when your stories need them. You need to understand the expression 'right branching' and know how to do that.
_* I detected only one major problem with your voice: repeating words too closely. CW is always willing to do small tasks to help authors who are serious about quality to develop their skills. Ask him to run the Autocrit analysis software for repeated words on some of your stories.
_* I agree with CW that short stories are an ideal way for authors to learn how to write. But please don't give up too soon on the dream of someday writing the Great American Western.

Writing short stories early on helps authors develop the skill set to write anything. Have you heard the quote including the words "million words before"? I think I'm approaching my million practicing with everything I write, however small or insignificant. I do my utmost to only ever create fine works of literature. Most of my practice has been on this forum. Is this post not literature? Does it serve its purpose admirably as well as being a delight to read just for the way it is written?

I began writing less than two years ago. I thought I was learning grammar and punctuation; I was learning to think about how to best express my ideas while I was writing first drafts. I am banging out the first draft of this very quickly. Even my first draft will be clearer, more interesting, and technically correct than most here could manage. The fine-tuning will not take long, for things like minimalism, parallel structures, finding a better order for ideas or phrases, more precise prepositions and tenses, …

I have been learning how to write very well. Those are skills that can be learned. Along the way I've picked up numerous things that are specific to fiction. Those are skills that remain a life-long struggle for the very best of authors. (Any who think they've "got it" are already sliding downhill!)

I suggest learning how to write (anything!) should be the first priority of developing authors. It does not take long if they are always serious about doing the best they can.

You are close.

These are the things I detected in my detailed edit of your story.

The Grammar Nazi in me found five missing commas, one missing hyphen, one incomplete sentence, and one comma that is mandatory in formal writing but best omitted in fiction.

The missing commas I suggest are needed, not because some guide says so, but because IMO including them is a kindness to readers, asking them to pause and regroup before starting on something quite different that will follow.

The hyphen I would use is 'twenty-dollar gold coin'. The chances that could cause ambiguity are zero! I still choose to use hyphens in situations like that to establish the trust of my readers – so that when they see something unhyphenated in the future they will not wonder whether I really intended the different interpretation possible if a hyphen was present.

I do not say it is not perfectly valid for an author to adopt a style when they omit hyphens provided they assess there is no chance of ambiguity. If they are careful and competent enough I find the results of that approach very satisfying; I recommend less skilled writers, including myself, play it safe and use hyphens when the rules of formal writing say they are required.

The incomplete sentence I suggested should be fixed because the sentence was too insignificant to even consider using any literary device.

The minimalist in me thought you'd done well. I still found literally dozens of additional "savings" you might consider. But, this must always be the author's preference. For some I have suggested, you certainly should choose the longer form because it conveys some nuance or stress you want a bit better.

I suggested a couple be corrected the other way! I include an almost routine use of contractions in my style of minimalism. I suggested you change "I've" to "I have" in two sentences. I assess the meaning of 'have' in those sentence significant enough to justify the full word which has the effect of giving it some extra emphasis.

As I've already mentioned, I was irritated by the number of times I found the same word used several times in a short paragraph. There's a difference between some things you've done and parallel structures. Those use repeats of some words – in exactly the same way – to establish the pattern which allows other words to be inferred rather than repeated.

The KISS advocate in me adored your default sentence structure: subject, verb, and the rest. Yes, there are many valid reasons for not using that structure, well Duh!, but I believe you should have a reason for not using it whenever you do not. I thought valid reasons did exist every time you did not use simple sentence structures.

The poet in me loves your ear for the appropriate use very short sentences. My edit comments include (1) using a three-word sentence to end this paragraph was the ideal choice to make, and (2) the length of this paragraph is perfect: two words.

Be careful not to overdo that with too many, too close together. Sometimes, for variety, find two closely related ideas and join them with 'and'.

In my never humble opinion, Hemingway's assessment of this story would be, "Keep on working at it. You have obvious potential."

* * *

Before anyone else points this out, you cannot treat my opinions as facts. Bear in mind that two years ago you were an accomplished author and I have never heard of an Oxford Comma. However, I think you can use the quality of my posts here to judge my credibility for yourself. The specific question your OP raised happens to have hit what I consider the sub-field of writing I have a gift for and have developed into a talent. I will NOT presume to advise you on the vast range of topics I would group under good storytelling.

Finally, this piece of literature, 1400-words long, took me exactly three-and-a-half hours to write my draft and complete my revision process. That level of productivity is the main reason why I recommend new authors concentrate on learning to write first – i.e. learn to think as you write. If you do that you'll be much more productive, as well as better, for the remainder of your fiction writing career!

Replies:   Darian Wolfe
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Darian Wolfe

G'day Darian,

Reading some of the other posts I feel I should mention that there are some very important things to keep in mind about the advice you're seeing here.

1. You should write the story you want to write.

2. The story should be written in the point of view, level of English, and style you feel best portrays the story you want to tell.

3. The grammar used will vary with the style and the formal level of the English you use, so some of what the grammar nazis say won't have an application if you use a style they don't relate to. This especially relates to commas, which are used differently in different parties of some countries, let alone different countries.

4. You should chose the style you want to use, and don't feel restricted by the style manuals written for use with formal English in business and academic works.

Darian Wolfe

@JohnBobMead

You've got that right. It still stinks though. But I do notice that I am starting to last longer. For the first 2 months I wasn't able to write creatively at all. So I'm not arguing.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Darian Wolfe

@robberhands

Wow! Thanks for relaying the message, Robberhands. Will you please let Ross know I will be emailing him? Thank you.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

3. The grammar used will vary with the style and the formal level of the English you sue, so some of what the grammar nazis say won't have an application if you use a style they don't relate to.

And if the grammar you chose doesn't do what you want it do, you definitely should sue it, for all the spare commas it has! 'D

Darian, don't mind this humorous post. Ernest has a long-standing series of typos he traditionally makes, so we sometimes bust his chops over them. They're easily enough cleaned up during editing, so it doesn't affect his writing chops. (Note the double use of "chops" in the same sentence.)

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Darian Wolfe

@Ernest Bywater

Hi Ernest,

I've noticed the comma war lol and agree you're not going to please everybody. The same goes for hyphens as well. When I was a child very few words were hyphenated. So I still get confused some times or is it sometimes? lol

I normally just pick a version for a given story and then stick with it for the duration of that story. An example being: tee shirt, tee-shirt, t shirt, or t-shirt. I've seen it printed in all of those ways.

I also prefer the English spelling of certain words over the American. I prefer behaviour over behavior and colour over color. Spellcheck be damned. I do prefer tit over teat though breast is best. Sorry, long day at work and I'm a little slap-happy.

Writing the story I want to write is what makes SOL such an awesome place, Lazeez goes out of his way to take a hands-off approach to our muse as long as we don't put his heiney in the sling. I guard my muse jealously.

I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the thread. I've learned a lot(especially to avoid the dreaded S word).

Crumbly Writer

@Darian Wolfe

You've got that right. It still stinks though. But I do notice that I am starting to last longer. For the first 2 months I wasn't able to write creatively at all. So I'm not arguing.

I can relate. Though my problems were nothing compared to what you're intimating, I had medical-related issues with concentrations (and I still do), which caused me to stop reading novels altogether. That led me to ASSTR and SOL, because the most I could manage was a single chapter at a time. I also switched from books to magazine articles, because they were short enough for me to manage.

Once I figured out the source of my issues, I insisted my doctor cut back my medicine, and suddenly I was semi-functional again. So I set out to accomplish something, and for want of anything better, I tried writing, figuring I could as well as many stories posted here at the time (over the years, the writing skills on the site have increased overall).

You have to adapt and focus on what you still can, but focusing allows you to slowly stretch your limits and expanding what you're capable of.

If my don't mind my waxing eloquent, the biggest difference between short story and novel writers seems to be mostly the focus of the stories they tell. Short story authors (and especially poets) do well with longer stories, but they're less likely to focus exclusively on long stories.

The others, like me, tend to think in terms of complete worlds where the characters overlap and contrast, and the situations evolved and unfold over time.

The biggest difference, though, it capturing most of the story in your head, even before you scrawl it down in a plot outline. I've always plotted my entire novels out in my noggin. Then, I often throw in complicating factors, which force me to sit on the story for some time, merely to figure out how to overcome my own self-imposed roadbloack. It is only once I'm writing, often after a couple months of sitting on a project, that I EVER lay pencil to paper (or, more accurately, keys to keyboard).

However, getting back on topic, short stories are better if you aren't ready for that type of mental juggling with complex concepts. I'm not intending to belittle your efforts, but focusing on short stories is better for improving your writing and exercising you mental muscles.

That said, if you can lay out a longer story in pieces (not all at once as I do), you should be able to sketch out most of a novel's plot, a piece at a time. Once you've accomplished that, you can then work on the longer story a small piece at a time.

I'm not suggesting that you immediately start on your next novel, but merely laying out strategies you might employ when you feel more able to.

By the way, Ross's point are pretty spot on. I agree with most of what he said. Also, as he said, if you drop me a note (follow the link to "Authors" at the top of the page, find me and send me a message with your email) and I'll run the 'word frequency' report for you, so you can get a feel for how frequently you're falling into that trap.

Often, recognizing how often you do something helps you avoid it in the future. That's how I stopped using so many "that"s, "then"s and "just"s, though it hasn't stopped me from continually reusing the exact same words in the same paragraph, so I rely on those automated reports to clean up my own writing.

Crumbly Writer

@Darian Wolfe

I've noticed the comma war lol and agree you're not going to please everybody. The same goes for hyphens as well. When I was a child very few words were hyphenated. So I still get confused some times or is it sometimes? lol

I normally just pick a version for a given story and then stick with it for the duration of that story. An example being: tee shirt, tee-shirt, t shirt, or t-shirt. I've seen it printed in all of those ways.

Generally, the 'hyphen wars' you've noted don't apply to words like t-shirt. Instead, they apply to specific English constructions, and are mainly dictated by specific publishing guides, which many of us don't follow.

Specifically, they apply to multi-word adjectives which modify nouns, such as "a never-ending war". Since "ending" can't modify "war", you combine the two words into a single phrase which can.

In other words, don't worry about your hyphens until your editors comment on it. If there's confusion over those types of phrases, then hyphens are usually called for.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

hyphens

Female-virgins have hyphens. Until they say "Hi, man".

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

(Note the double use of "chops" in the same sentence.)


at least it wasn't chop, chop.

Ernest Bywater

@Darian Wolfe

some times or is it sometimes


which can actually have two different meanings, and there are some other words like that.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

some times or is it sometimes

which can actually have two different meanings, and there are some other words like that.

Or, in other words, sometimes it's "sometimes", while other times it's "some times". See GrammarGirl for details.

StarFleet Carl
Updated:

@JohnBobMead


Bun-Bun is a SheVa tank. A powerful weapon of war. John Ringo's a Sluggy fan.


Keep in mind that SheVa Nine has a picture of Bun-Bun (the lop) saying, "Let's Rock, Posleen-Boy!" on the front turret (if you can call something where the top is 170 feet off the ground a turret)

Yeah, I know Ringo is a Sluggy fan. I'm a serious Ringo fan. :) (Winterborn by Cruxshadows, all the way!)

Replies:   JohnBobMead
JohnBobMead

@StarFleet Carl

Winterborn by Cruxshadows, all the way!


That's how I was introduced to Cruxshadows; I now have a good many of their CDs.

You have the Sluggy Viewers Guide from Baen CD 2 or 4, I presume?

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