Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

What skills to learn, what tools to get
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FBeyer
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Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by FBeyer » Wed Sep 12, 2018 3:45 am

Lo and behold, the world has yet again turned on me, and a dream afloat in an ocean of illusion has finally washed ashore!
Up until A few weeks ago I thought writing was for 'creative types'. It turns out that writing, and making money from writing, is for 'planning' types.
That's me. A planning type. That's totally me!

Now, learning how to write page turning nasty-as-shit Scifi will take practice and -I fear- a lot of it.
Deliberate practice revolves around an attempt to produce a very specific result and then getting feedback on how well you did[1].

I've found several suggestions for deliberate practice when it comes to creative writing: Short stories, flash fiction, three paragraph scenes, and trying to describe the same object over and over again.

It's evident to me, that an aspiring writer can quickly become obnoxious with continuous requests for feedback, so I was wondering what the published fiction writers here have done to hone your craft in an efficient and non-abrasive manner?

Do you meet up with your critics and discuss face to face? Are the certain forums you visit where there is an established MO? Are there ways where you can tell, yourself, how you're doing so you won't have to ask for critique until you've advanced beyond Dreyfus 1/2?


Edit: I do not believe I can make a full-time living from books. But making some passive income from something I enjoy thoroughly seems to be a prudent course of action. I have an idea backlog of about 7 fiction and 5 non-fiction books so the plan is really to establish a recurrent income via books, alongside stocks, rentals, coaching, and intermittent work. It's part of the Web of Goals, not as a substitute for full-time wage.

[1] It is known

ThisDinosaur
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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by ThisDinosaur » Wed Sep 12, 2018 7:13 am

I'm not a writer, but I did just listen to Chuck Palahniuk's interview on Joe Rogan's podcast. He said he has always used writer's workshops, because it forces you to produce something ready to share each week, you get frequent & regular feedback, and you get ideas from other writters.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by Riggerjack » Wed Sep 12, 2018 9:26 am

http://unsongbook.com

Scott Alexander wrote a novel, by writing a chapter each week, and posting it with a comment section. Readers could point out typos, and talk about the book, as it was being written. The book is brilliant, but the process is why I linked it. I have no desire to be a novelist, but if I did, this seems like an excellent way to do it. Maybe it gets published, maybe not, but in a modern way, it already has been.

fell-like-rain
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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by fell-like-rain » Wed Sep 12, 2018 9:43 am

If you don't have folks readily available to critique your work, a good alternative is the drawer method. After writing something, stick it in a desk drawer (figuratively or literally) for six months or a year, then pull it out and look at it again. You'll probably have forgotten the details and lost any emotional connection you have to the story, so you'll be able to look at it from an outsider's perspective.

There's also a subreddit /r/destructivereaders that I've frequented from time to time- they follow the 'crit for crit' system, where you have to provide a quality critique of a submission of length >= yours in order to receive feedback. Giving feedback is probably just as important for developing skills as receiving it, and the system means that you're likely to get a fair number of critiques.

AnalyticalEngine
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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by AnalyticalEngine » Wed Sep 12, 2018 9:50 am

Hey there, I'm an aspiring writer myself, so if you're ever looking for someone to critique your work, let me know! I'd be happy to read over it.

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FBeyer
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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by FBeyer » Wed Sep 12, 2018 1:24 pm

Fell-like-rain:
The 'drawer method' I was already aware of, but it was good to be reminded of it . Destructivereaders, however... That looks like an amazing idea!

EdithKeeler
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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by EdithKeeler » Wed Sep 12, 2018 7:35 pm

Start or join a writers group.
I joined a larger group, then 5 of us formed a break out group. We were probably a little more serious and a little further along, maybe, than the rest of the group. We'd meet every other week for dinner and swap pages and and critique each other's work. Of the five of use, one currently has 6 books in print, one has two books in print, I've published several short stories, and I think that group was very, very helpful.

You might also want to look at formal classes. I took a couple of courses at SMU taught by a published writer--one course was really helpful and led to another writers critique group for a while. The other one, which I didn't get a chance to finish, basically took you though 5 classes and ultimately a publishable work.

I also did the Coursera novel writing course. It was helpful and gave food for thought. It also (if you paid for it, rather than the freebie version) gave an opportunity to write short pieces and ultimately submit a complete short story, and fellow students critiqued it. It was a useful class in that I had to write something (fairly short) and submit every week, and while some feedback was more helpful than other feedback, it was good knowing that people were going to read it. It made me write, and it made me generate ideas, which was good.

Good luck. Writing is both fun and not fun.

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FBeyer
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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by FBeyer » Thu Sep 13, 2018 7:21 am

EK: This course? https://www.coursera.org/specialization ... ve-writing

Building a group seems to be the most sensible thing in the long run. Do you have any tricks regarding how to make the group stick together and keep cooperating? Where you just lucky that you all clicked, or did someone put deliberate effort into making it happen?

EdithKeeler
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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by EdithKeeler » Thu Sep 13, 2018 8:41 am

Yes, that is the Coursera course I did. It was motivating and encouraging.

I’ve been in several writing groups, and the good ones are great, but sort of magical in their coming together. I think the key is to have a small group—4-6 seems about right to me. I think it’s best if everyone is close to the same place, writing-wise, and similar as to how seriously they take it. (I’ve been in groups that were comprised mainly of little old ladies writing Jesus poetry for the church newsletter, and also people who got pissed off when I pointed out that if you don’t care enough to correct typos, misspellings and obvious grammar errors, then I’m not going to care enough to give it a good read. However, from those groups I found people who were serious, and while there’s nothing wrong with Jesus poetry, I didn’t want to shock anyone with my stuff).

I’m not happy with my current group, but I’m trying to find my tribe within it. The current group is too big—about 25-30 at each meeting—and while we do a light critique of one work each meeting, people don’t seem to spend a lot of time doing a close read. “I really liked it” is not a helpful critique (though my ego enjoys it!). It’s also run by a guy who’s published a good bit of sci-fi on Amazon—I think he makes money, too—but he runs the meeting like he’s teaching a class on digital publishing, and that’s not what I, personally, am looking for.

I think to get the right mix for you (or me, or whoever) it takes trial and error and seeking out a lot of people who write. My best group lasted about two years—I broke up the band by moving, and after I left, another moved shortly after. The second best group was formed after our class ended and several of us got together to read and critique for about a year, and then people started to drift.

Jason
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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by Jason » Thu Sep 13, 2018 4:23 pm

I was in a writing group. It was led by a woman with a stutter. Stutterers shouldn't really be leading anything unless everyone else present is a stutterer, which makes me wonder do stutterers drive other stutterers crazy? "Waawawawawawelcooooommmmme tototototo tahahahaahe wahwahahwritererers gahgahgahgahroup." Half the session was over by the time she stuttered out the fucking introduction. And of course her particular interest was spoken word because that's just how fucking life works so as opposed to everyone else who's shit could just be read she had to read her's out loud which for some reason always made me think of the time I paid an olderesque woman to give me a hand job before I realized she had Parkinsons which was not as beneficial as one might think in such matters. It was actually kind of sad which was probably why I thought about looking at that poor woman concentrating in order to steady her trembling hand so she could grab a hold of things while listening to a stuttering woman read her poetry. Christ, it fucking saddens me when I think how I have spent my time. Anyways, my point is that writing groups suck and I do not recommend them.

Dream of Freedom
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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by Dream of Freedom » Thu Sep 13, 2018 5:59 pm

It takes a lot of courage to speak publicly. I can't imagine the challenge as a stutterer.

EdithKeeler
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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by EdithKeeler » Thu Sep 13, 2018 6:30 pm

. And of course her particular interest was spoken word because that's just how fucking life works so as opposed to everyone else who's shit could just be read she had to read her's out loud which for some reason always made me think of the time I paid an olderesque woman to give me a hand job before I realized she had Parkinsons which was not as beneficial as one might think in such matters. It was actually kind of sad which was probably why I thought about looking at that poor woman concentrating in order to steady her trembling hand so she could grab a hold of things while listening to a stuttering woman read her poetry. Christ, it fucking saddens me when I think how I have spent my time. Anyways, my point is that writing groups suck and I do not recommend them.
“Mary Anne with the Shaky Hands.”

I used to know a trial lawyer with a terrible stutter. He was a great lawyer. Jurors hung on to his every word because they HAD to, I think. He probably got verdicts in his favor BC people felt sorry for him.

I stand by my assertion that you just have to find the right group, and it may take some trial and error to find one you fit with.

I belonged to one in Texas and a husband and wife were members. He wrote some pretty horrible Game of Thrones kind of stuff and she wrote... porn. Really filthy stuff. Filthy... and I’m pretty open minded about that stuff. My only observation was that if you are going to write terrible, plotless, FILTHY porn, learn the rudiments of punctuation for god’s sake, at least. I can read about butt plugs and caning and leather hoods.... but learn what to do with a damn comma and semicolon!! (True story: I dropped out of that group because Obama was elected. I’m pretty tolerant of people’s politics, religion, sex toys.... but they pounced on me one night because someone saw the Obama sticker on my car. It eventually became a thing: pile up on the Democrat. I quit).

heyhey
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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by heyhey » Thu Sep 13, 2018 9:26 pm

I would second finding a critique group, but it doesn't have to be a real-life group. An internet group can be easier because you don't get into the personality likes and dislikes so much. But internet groups usually come out of taking an online writing course that you pay for, in my experience. So you need to approach writing courses with an attitude of "do I get to connect with other writers like me if I take this course?"

Be aware that being a critique partner can be a lot of work. You have to read other people's shit and find ways to do sandwich criticism "this is great, but xxxxx bad stuff, but I liked the ending" and then take it too, without getting upset, even if the other people are not so great at putting their negatives in a sandwich :)

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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by jennypenny » Fri Sep 14, 2018 4:45 am

Have you written anything yet or are you just asking for advice on how to learn how to write fiction?

jennypenny
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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by jennypenny » Fri Sep 14, 2018 5:11 am

EdithKeeler wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 6:30 pm
My only observation was that if you are going to write terrible, plotless, FILTHY porn, learn the rudiments of punctuation for god’s sake, at least.
:lol:

I used to edit a lot of Mommy Porn and had the same issues. Sometimes they would argue with me that no one would notice typos during those scenes but I would counter that misspelling a word like 'duldo' (throughout the book!) would ruin the moment for the reader. (I forever thought of that author as a 'duldo' and it was an apt description. ;) )

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FBeyer
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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by FBeyer » Fri Sep 14, 2018 6:05 am

jennypenny wrote:
Fri Sep 14, 2018 4:45 am
Have you written anything yet or are you just asking for advice on how to learn how to write fiction?
I think the answer to this quetion depends on the definition of 'written anything.'

I've a 90% complete plot outline/synopsis of the first cyberpunk novel I intend to write, as well as a laundry list of background/quirks/personality for the four main characters. I know approximately how many chapters I need by now, as well as the order they appear in. I have notes, excerpts on dialogue, and certain scenes that I need to portray to move the plot along. Unfortunately I started writing chapter 1, which I realized immediately is the absolutely most difficult thing to write :lol:

I've moved back and forth between writing disjoint tidbits for the novel and studying the most popular/sensible takes on creative writing I could find. I realized that there are many ways of learning how to write, and most methods are advocated by the exact kind of artsy-fartsy blowhards that I am most definitely not. I'm a get-shit-done-efficiently kind of blowhard after all :roll:

A feedback system is crucial to improving as quickly as possible, so I asked here because the ERE forums is the most reliable source of information I know of.

IN OTHER WORDS :roll:
I have two different versions of the first chapter written out, as well as a skeleton of all the shit I want to stuff down my character's throats, but I haven't written an entire novel and only first now thought about feedback.

jennypenny
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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by jennypenny » Fri Sep 14, 2018 7:16 am

jennypenny wrote:
Fri Sep 14, 2018 4:45 am
Have you written anything yet...?
So ... no. ;)

Feedback is great, as well as learning how to craft a good story. There are also standards within genres and if you're targeting a specific genre with the goal of writing to market, then learning those standards early on is critical.

*However* none of that is 'writing' in the purest sense of the word. You need to develop your writing muscle like any other. I'm trying to think of a good analogy (not my forte) ... Let's say you want to learn to run. There is lots of advice out there about how to run and how to train, but the biggest gains early on will come from just lacing up your shoes and hitting the pavement every day for longer than is comfortable. Running groups (a rough equivalent to writing groups) will offer encouragement and feedback, and force you to run regularly, but they can't do the initial miles for you that are necessary to finding out what kind of runner you are.

If you want to practice your writing but not on the actual project you outlined, write for an hour a day on something else. It could even be a story you write about you working on this writing project. It can't be in diary form, it must be in prose ... 'FB sits down for another day pulling his hair out with occasional pecks at the keyboard' ... that kind of thing. IMO it's the fastest way to develop that inner voice that helps you tease out what's in your brain and get it into prose form. My personal suggestion would be to just start writing the novel instead (you can always do rewrites) but maybe you aren't comfortable with that.

One more thing ... fiction writing is very different than non-fiction writing. Don't equate the two beyond knowing good grammar and how to compose sentences and paragraphs. I can write fiction for hours at a stretch but struggle over every word in non-fiction. They are different muscle groups that function differently, each requiring a different kind of strength. To me, non-fiction feels more like anaerobic exercise (precise, methodical) whereas fiction writing is more like longer aerobic training where you might know how many miles you want to run but lose yourself in the flow for stretches of time (REALLY straining the analogy here :lol: ).

Important note: This is my personal opinion on writing. There are almost as many theories on writing as there are writers (I know someone here who probably disagrees with my NF v. F description). You need to find what works for you, hence my suggestion to just start writing and worry about the other stuff later on.

Jason
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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by Jason » Fri Sep 14, 2018 7:18 am

EdithKeeler wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 6:30 pm
He wrote some pretty horrible Game of Thrones kind of stuff
Writer's Group Rule #987568:

If you walk into a writer's group, and you spot a pony-tailed middle-aged man, wearing a unicorn shirt that was half-purchased with the entire haul of royalties from his self-published series "Lost Kingdom Of The Half Baked, Mediocre and Derivative" run as though you are being chased by a CGI army of rabid, pantless sodomite Hobbits.

CS
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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by CS » Fri Sep 14, 2018 9:30 am

You can do this yourself without needing other people:

1. Write. A lot. Pay attention to where you have problems/challenges.
2. Read. A lot. Pay attention to how other people write where you have problems/challenges. What do they do? Do you like it? Use ten books in the genre you want to write in, minimum.
3. Repeat.

Limiting your consumption of 'how to' books is important. You can get stuck in the research loop forever. Do. It is the best teacher.

Follow the process above, then when you feel confident enough, pay for a professional editor. There are line editors, and story editors. They have completely different functions. Use a story editor first if needed, then prep for publication with a line editor

It sounds like writing groups are not your thing. At the lower level, you will need a lot of patience and generosity with no guarantee of getting the kind of help you want.

The most supportive group of people I know write FILTHY porn, btw. :lol:

Jason
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Re: Creative Writing, deliberate practice, and politely asking for feedback

Post by Jason » Fri Sep 14, 2018 9:58 am

CS wrote:
Fri Sep 14, 2018 9:30 am
2. Read. A lot.
I was in a group with a lot of mystery/crime writers. My basic question (in my head) is "Are you Sherlock Holmes wannabe motherfuckers reading? Because it's obvious that what you are writing is not even close to being published." So not only read, but read the best, and if you are not close to it, well maybe writing is not for you.

One woman came in with a story and while I was reading it, I felt like I was reading something I'd buy in a bookstore. I asked her "Why are you here" and she said she was meeting a high profile literary agent the next week. It was so obvious just because I read, and I'm not even a huge fan of the genre.

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