Even MORE Writing Tips

Part 1

Part 2

 

Oh, I’m not finished yet.

 

Your First Novel is Going to be, Well, Not Good.

 

So you’ve graduated from writing short stories and now you’re ready to start a bigger project. Thing is, your first novel is not going to be your magnum opus; your first novel is going to be your practice girl. You’ve got sentence structure and grammar down, that’s cool, but it takes experience to entwine together a competent plot and structure. Most likely, your first novel is going to have some critical flaws in that department, even if it’s meticulously edited. There are plot holes, inconsistencies and pacing issues that are going to come to light as you write, and that’s okay, for your first novel.

 

When you’re all finished, take a look at your novel with a wider, big picture scope. Take what you learned in writing it and start another.

 

It’s Okay to Scrap Works While Learning.

 

The first novel I ever wrote was scrapped after the first draft because it was complete garbage. My second novel is in the perpetual editing stages of its second draft. My third was another throw-away, never to be seen again. My fourth was what you can see at the menu bar at the top. Fifth and six novels were abandoned at 80% completion of the first draft. However, my seventh novel is complete through the second draft and will be self-published within the year. My point: it’s okay to write garbage and throw it away as long as you’re learning. It takes hundreds of hours of practice to get something right, and sometimes that entails writing a 100,000 word story that will never be read or published. It is not a waste of time if you’re getting better while doing it.

 

You might hate giving up something that took hundreds of hours of work, but it’s even more of a waste to try and revive the corpse. Keep it for reference, but move on.

 

Cannibalize Ideas From Dead Stories.

 

Maybe you have an idea for a sweet mech fight, but don’t have a story planned out or you have no idea what story universe it takes place in. That’s okay. Keep the fight stored on your computer or in your brain because perhaps it can be placed in your next story once you get the idea for that. Sometimes two seemingly independent story concepts can be combined into one, once you finally get the idea that brings them together. This is also where your previously scrapped stories can come back stronger.

 

You will get better with age.

 

No, I don’t mean you’ll get better with experience (which is true), but you will get better with age. The problem with beginning writers is that they lack maturity, nuance in their world view, and are missing real-life experiences which they can draw from. Their influences are, well, juvenile. It’s understandable, because in your teens or in college you get ahold of anime, video games, superhero movies, which then influence your fiction. Problem is, most those things are made for younger or middle of the road audiences. They lack subtext or complex themes.

 

Those things you will pick up as life unfolds. So, if you’re a younger writer, your focus shouldn’t be on sending that superhero novel out the door as soon as possible, but learning to write and sending the next novel out the door.

 

Writing Forums are a Waste of Time.

 

Writing forums are a huge time sink and you won’t learn much from them at all. There is little explicit instruction, and very little mentoring from experienced writers. 90% of the population are newbies, and it’s hard to learn anything from them. The last 10% are knowledgeable writing hobbyists or actually published writers, but they are so busy that they won’t take the time out for individual mentoring. That’s just not practical. Add to that some of the egos these people have, then add on their politically correct sensibilities, and then add to that their modernist writing style and you have a negligible font of information.

 

The best writing forum can only really give you a critique every once in a while. At their worst, writing forums are bastions of ego and political correctness. Mainstream writers of today didn’t get popular because they mastered the craft; they’re popular because publishing houses want to publish inoffensive novels with blatant PC messages tacked on and those particular writers fit the ideological mold. That’s all. The “masters” you see on those forums with book covers on their signature are not master craftsmen, but poster boys. They have nothing to offer you.

 

You’re much better off simply stumbling around the internet for writing tips at first (like, oh, here). Then, write your own stories to know if you have the aptitude or not. Finally, find a critique group to really learn. However…

 

Avoid Your Average Critique Group.

 

No matter what kind of critique group it is, whether it’s a college class, a local writer’s group, or an online forum, your experience with any of them is going to be hit or miss.

 

The best critique group is going to be one that is harsh, but fair. If you sit down and everyone’s way too happy to be there, you need to leave, because they are going to pull their punches to avoid hurting your feelings. Trying to avoid a little heartbreak isn’t going to help your story at all. You need to know what’s wrong so you can fix it, even if it makes you look like a moron. Obviously, it doesn’t help if they blatantly insult you, hence why I said a group needs to be “fair.”

 

The best critique group I ever had was in the advanced fiction writing course in college. There, you get fifteen critiques a week, all from cutthroat and usually snobbish English majors. It is the one place where the college liberal’s status competition works to your advantage. They will tear apart your story and make the red ink run. Just don’t expect them to hold your hand. For the moment though, that’s all you’ll need.

 

A note for online critique groups: their effectiveness depends on the caliber of the community. If it’s newbies then you’ll be missing out on critical information. If they’re made of experienced writers then you might get some benefit, but, again, the masters might not really be masters.

 

In a perfect world, critiques are the best way to learn because they are a combination of experimentation, feedback, and instruction, however they are dependent on the human element to make it work. Always be skeptical of the group you’re about to enter.

 

With that in mind…

 

You Need a Thick Skin

 

Your story is your baby, but at some point you’re going to have to sacrifice it in the process of editing. It stings when your work comes back bleeding with marks and notations. It sucks, but get over it. Learn to put distance between you and your story. It doesn’t help your cause to get too attached. This is most difficult for young guys, and even more difficult for writers who invest so much emotional stock into their work. Kids will get offended when their others comment on their story, but older people understand the reality that everything has flaws. Again, maturity will help you here.

 

The first thing my instructor told us on the first day of the advanced writing class was: “Your writing is shit.” And she was right.

More Writing Tips

My posts on other topics are still forthcoming. In the meantime, here’s a few more writing tips.

 

Read Before Writing

 

You warm up before practice, so read before you write. Seeing the words, speaking those words through your thoughts, puts you in the right mind to generate new words and sentences. When reading a piece of fiction, you might notice an awkward sentence and know how the author should have phrased it differently. This is essentially your sweet spot, because you are both being critical and thinking of new ideas at the same time.

 

Edit as You Go

 

After you write a section, go to bed for the night. When you return to your writing once again, read what you wrote at your last session. This does four things: first, it accomplishes the Read Before Writing requirement; second, it picks up typos that you made the last time you wrote; third, it eases the burden of editing when you finish the piece entirely and start a dedicated editing process, because you’ve essentially edited it through already; and fourth, it provides relevant context of the story when you start again. For example, rereading the last section, which may have included a fight scene, brings you back into the flow of things and allows you to keep the previous scenes in mind as you make new ones. This is especially important when adjusting tone and pacing.

 

Don’t Over Edit

 

There is such a thing as too much editing. When I wrote my first novel, I literally read it eight times to get it right. Problem was, every time I made a change, I opened myself up to making typos in the line I just corrected. So, I had to go through it again, only to make even more errors. It doesn’t just end at typos either. Even if you don’t make any mistakes, changing one sentence also changes how that sentence flows and relates to others. Going back to change one thing, to make it absolutely perfect, will cause a domino effect that turns an exercise in modifying sentence structure into a complete chapter rewrite. Learn to edit effectively, do it two or three times, then set the work down and let someone else edit. Your sanity and time is worth a lot more than the worst case scenario: an awkward sentence.

 

Remember, most of these issues can be avoided by using track changes!

 

Structure is as Important as Plot

 

Plot is what happens in a story. Structure is how that story is told by which characters get the spotlight and how their timelines are placed in the story. For example, if you have a single, central character, you could just start at the beginning and tell the story from start to finish in an entirely linear fashion. Or, you might start at the middle, or even end of the story, to give the reader a hint of what’s to come, and then spend the rest of the book in a sequence of flashbacks that tell the story up to that point.

 

However, if you have multiple characters, you need to judge which characters will get the spotlight and when. You can base this sequence primarily off relevant story events or you can do this with a definite rhythm.

 

The former: Character A section, character B section, character C section, then D, A, E, F, A, D, B, A, C, B, A (seemingly random).

 

The latter: Character A, then character B, then A, C, A, D, A, B, A, etc (Character A gets most of the attention in an organized way).

 

All of this also depends on whether your story is in first or third person. And do you have asides like journal entries or interludes with one-time snapshot characters?  You need to organize them in a cohesive way too.

 

While it takes an analytical mind to catch typos and other editing mistakes, it takes an intuitive, holistic approach to structure the story effectively.

 

Poor story structure leads to important (and well-loved) characters getting lost behind secondary characters. It can lead to a lot of wasted time doing absolutely nothing or following characters that don’t matter. It can make slow sections run too long and put multiple action sections too close and without pause, totally screwing up the pacing. Your job, as a writer, is to balance all these factors.

 

Writing isn’t as easy as it sounds, huh?

 

That’s why…

 

Don’t Go Full-speed Into Half-backed Ideas

 

Or, in other words, take time with your planning stage. You might have a story set in your mind, but no idea as to its execution – no clue as to whether it’s in first or third person, whether it’s linear or not, and what structure it will have. Don’t just start writing. You need to have some central ideas first: tone, theme, and like the aforementioned structure. Spend some extended time in the shower just thinking about the overall picture you want to convey and consider the means to do that. If it takes months to come to that eureka moment, then do it. That moment will set everything into motion.

 

However, this can bring a problem. There’s always the possibility the story can get stuck in the planning stages until it withers and dies without any execution, let alone proper execution. Yes, it’s a risk, but consider that spending countless hours on what amounts to a mediocre story is far worse than the chance of letting one die on the vine.

 

Try to capture that moment of inspiration. If you don’t get it, then maybe the story was not meant to be.

Tips for Writing

Yesterday I talked about of a dark renaissance, which has now prompted me to share some of the things I’ve picked up during my few years of writing fiction, specifically things that I haven’t noticed other writers touch on. Like when dealing with any other advice, take my tips as a grain of salt and remember: there’s always an exception to the rule.

 

Don’t forget about your narrator

 

Doesn’t matter if you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, a novel or a blog, your narrator is key to making everything work. The narrator is the voice of your writing and how that voice is manipulated will determine how the audience appreciates it.

 

A blog post regarding, say, feminism can go many different ways depending on the voice of the narrator (i.e. you). Imagine writing a post that speaks just to guys, or your friends, or anonymous schmucks on reddit. Conversely, imagine writing that same post but with the knowledge that your mother is going to read it. Hopefully, you’d keep the same content, but alter the words. Maybe you’d avoid using the word “feminazi” and go with the term “radical feminist”. You’d put away the verbal brass knuckles and opt for a softer touch. Altering your narrator alters the voice, the tone, and even the concepts. Learn to manipulate it in different ways. While it’s good to have one particular execution down, make sure that you can diversify your writing.

 

This is more important in fiction, where the narrator actually tells the story. Most people think that writing in first person is easier because you’re stuck in the mind of that one character. You can telegraph their thoughts with ease and the whole world is viewed through that one lens. However, I disagree that it’s easy. Writing a story entirely in the mind of a character means you have to portray the character’s perspective and thoughts consistently. Can you describe the scene of a funeral in the mind of a thirteen year old boy, with thirteen year old boy thoughts and thirteen year old understanding? How about doing it in the mind of an android instead? While it seems easy at first glance to execute first person narration, it’s actually pretty hard beneath the surface. The nuances of perspective can, and will, trip you up.

 

And it doesn’t become any easier in third person. Now you have to juggle different points of view through a voice that is outside the story looking in. The shallowest form of this narrator simply describes what is going on as if they’re narrating a movie to a blind person. This technique always fails because it is boring. What’s missing is the understanding that the narrator is just as part of the story as any character. The narrator, even in third person, can add in a quip or a joke or a particular perspective. Learning to give characterization to a narrator that isn’t even part of the story allows that narrator to become a storyteller, rather than just a voiceover, and storytellers keep people reading. The most extreme example of this (that I could find) is from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five:

 

“Billy looked inside the latrine. The wailing was coming from in there. The place was crammed with Americans who had taken their pants down. The welcome feast had made them as sick as volcanoes. The buckets were full or had been kicked over. An American near Billy wailed that he had excreted everything but his brains. Moments later he said, “There they go, there they go.” He meant his brains. That was I. That was me. That was the author of this book.”

 

That is a famous line for a reason.

 

Understand the mechanics of prose

 

Prose is like music. It has a rhythm. It has a melody. It can beat like a drum from word to word, sentence to sentence, or it can flow up and down, swimming around itself to create lofty sentences which take the reader on a journey between each stop. Or not.

 

For example, take a sentence which describes a man picking up a gun and his hands are shaking.

 

1: Hands shaking, he picked up the gun.

 

2: With shaking hands, he picked up the gun.

 

3: He picked up the gun with shaking hands.

 

4: His hands were shaking as he picked up the gun.

 

5: As he picked up the gun, his hands shook.

 

6: He picked up the gun, and his hands shook.

 

7: He picked up the gun. His hands were shaking.

 

Each sentence says the exact same thing, but it conveys different emotional tones, and some are more effective than others (7 is my favorite, even though it’s technically two sentences, but 2 and 4 work well by my personal assessment). Think of each sentence structure as a key made for a certain lock (lock = tone). Some keys work in different locks. Finding the perfect fit requires experience. But keep in mind that no sentence exists in a vacuum. The previous and following sentences will also determine how effective any particular sentence is. Add in a few different elements, actions, events, narration, point of view; master the percussion as well as the ebb and flow of the tones; juggle them all together, and you’ll have your piece.

 

Writing is not so different than composing music. To be a composer, you have to learn to manipulate the nuances of each note and tempo, bringing them together to complete the song. Writing relies on this just as much. Learn to manipulate words to entice the audience and you’ll succeed as a writer.

 

Find your voice

 

After so many years of studying and practice, a composer of music eventually comes to their own unique style of composition. Similarly, you as a writer should find your particular style of writing. Maybe you go for quick, jerking sentences. Maybe you hold back and give a light touch to your prose. Either way, the key is to find your particular style. While it’s okay to get inspiration from other writers, don’t try to copy their style exactly. No composer in their right mind would try to out Beethoven the Beethoven, but they do take the original works and expand on them with a personal twist. Have a favorite writer? Good. Take their style and let it be the soil to grow your own, but don’t try to be the next one in succession.

 

Have high standards for your writing

 

This is a big one that few writing tips ever seem to touch on. In the course of writing, you’re going to put down a lot of sentences on paper (or in Microsoft Word). That means you’re going to get tired of tweaking each one, and you’re going to feel the inclination to be lazy. Don’t.

 

Some writers think they can get away with some shitty sentences (or even shitty chapters) because the other bits are good. Some writers even think that merely functional is adequate. These guys make for mediocre writers because somewhere along the line they lost a personal standard to hold their writing to. If you want to be a good writer, you have to develop a pretty high bar and force yourself to meet it, not just for every chapter but for every sentence. If something doesn’t work or doesn’t work all that well, don’t just ignore it and move on because it’s hard; actually make it work.

 

Go outside, because anything can be your inspiration

 

A seemingly insignificant experience can end up causing the inspiration for an entire story. Maybe it’s a particular scene in a movie or TV show. Maybe it’s a song which takes your mind through an epic scene. Maybe it’s a moment in time that conveys a greater experience. Whether it’s driving a forklift for the first time or seeing a bar fight, each experience adds to your creative collection. There are times where these experiences make no impact, and other times the most seemingly insignificant thing can trigger the creative spark. It is up to you to seek out these things, whatever they are.

 

Of all writing tips, this one is probably best suited for those in the manosphere. We are part of the underground for a reason. At the same time, we are constantly striving to be better men in body and mind, and leaving our comfort zones. The beneficial byproduct of those endeavors is the worldly experience needed to foster an arsenal of creative ideas. If you’re a man who strives to expand his horizons, then keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re a new keyboard jockey: get out and do something.

 

In any case, no matter if it’s writing, painting, drawing, composing or any other artistic pursuit that I fail to mention, at least get out and attempt it. The manosphere needs a few more bards.

The ‘Sphere needs a Frank Frazetta

This is Frank Frazetta.

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Here’s him with, yes, Clint Eastwood

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So for those of you who don’t know, Frank Frazetta was a science fiction and fantasy artist who produced comics, book covers (Tarzan, A Princess of Mars, Conan the Barbarian) as well as movie posters (Fire and Ice). Here’s Frank’s version a of selfie:

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“Frazetta was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of eight, at the insistence of his school teachers, Frazetta’s parents enrolled him in the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts. He attended the academy for eight years under the tutelage of Michele Falanga, an award-winning Italian fine artist. Falanga was struck by Frazetta’s significant talent. Frazetta’s abilities flourished under Falanga, who dreamed of sending Frazetta to Europe, at his own expense, to further his studies. Unfortunately, Falanga died suddenly in 1944 and with him, his dream. As the school closed about a year after Falanga’s passing, Frazetta was forced to find work to earn a living.

At 16, Frazetta started drawing for comic books that varied in themes: westerns, fantasy, mysteries, histories and other contemporary themes. Some of his earliest work was in funny animal comics, which he signed as “Fritz”.

[…]

In the early 1950s, he worked for EC Comics, National Comics (including the superhero feature “Shining Knight”), Avon and several other comic book companies. Much of his work in comic books was done in collaboration with friends Al Williamson and Roy Krenkel.

[…]

Through the work on the Buck Rogers covers for Famous Funnies, Frazetta started working with Al Capp on his Li’l Abner comic strip. Frazetta was also producing his own strip, Johnny Comet at this time, as well as assisting Dan Barry on the Flash Gordon daily strip. In 1961, after nine years with Capp, Frazetta returned to regular comics. 

 […]

When I saw Frazetta’s work for the first time it was like a breath of fresh air. Now, I’m not an art guy, but it’s obvious to me which themes are not only part of his work, but part of Frazetta’s consciousness, themes like masculinity…

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…strength…

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…heroism …

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…survival…

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…brotherhood…
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…and, well, alphatude.

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Today, the days of turbocharged political correctness, when the SFWA gets blow-back for having female vikings in chainmail bikinis on one of their magazine covers, it’s nice to rediscover themes of masculinity in the classics.

And while resurrecting past works is a step in the right direction, what I believe the manosphere needs most are artists to pick up the torch and build upon Frazetta’s foundation, spreading his themes. What our counter-culture needs is an artistic resurgence of masculinity – a banner that can rally supporters and propagandize the movement. You see, internet debates and blog posts are useful, but they have their limitations. Stating something in non-fiction text doesn’t always capture the gestalt of the concept.

Currently, it seems as if the terms “liberal” and “arts” are a marriage made in heaven. The left already has control over most fiction, as Vox Day and others will attest. The left has Hollywood and television in their pocket thanks to liberal nepotism. Postmodernism has rendered much of the art world gross and degenerate – no substance, all shock value. Even comic books and video games are getting ever more PC because butthurt = financial losses. The left has already seeped into art and poisoned it, but leaving art surrendered to the left is a tactical mistake.

If anything, the success of the liberal takeover of art shows just how influential it can be. Works like Frazetta’s are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also evoke certain themes and reinforce certain values. Even without a directly political message, the observer can indirectly grok Frazetta’s picture of the ideal man. These emotions can be primitive; the thoughts may be unconscious. We sometimes cannot explain why something makes us feel the way we do, and it’s that subliminal message that can run to our advantage just as it has with the left. Right now, there are competing narratives, but art can reduce them to competing themes, themes which grapple in our hindbrain and leave one victorious over the other.

Looking at it this way, manosphere art has the potential to even eclipse liberal, postmodern, PC art, because the manosphere is always about striving toward your personal ideal, whatever that may be. Our narrative is about overcoming the opposition, getting stronger, reading, studying, and just becoming a better man. Thus, our art would likely surround themes of personal ascension. I don’t see how our theme can’t beat out the left’s. Their’s is about shocking the audience for a political message, using ugliness and emotional guilt as a bludgeon. Nobody actually likes leftist art for its aesthetic sense; leftists have rejected aesthetics as a social construct. Leftists like leftist art because it embraces the disgusting.

To distill the concept even further: equality is boring, power is inspiring.

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The manosphere has plenty of guys who know the script, but what will make a deeper impact on outsiders and send us forward as a counter-culture is a massage that doesn’t only come through words, but one that is more visceral, one that caresses the will to power that has lain dormant for so long. Every culture and counter-culture has had its own unique form of expression. Where’s ours?

Pick your media – prose, visual, interactive, music – you can’t go wrong in simply trying. If even a fraction of the energy that was spent chasing women, working on game, or writing our diatribes, instead went into pursuing the arts, we’d probably have ten times more to show for it.

For we’ve had our dark enlightenment. Now it’s time for our dark renaissance.

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Next week, I’ll post some writing tips to hopefully get some creative juices flowing for those interested in that particular art form.

All images courtesy of frankfrazetta.org.