Quora Question #14

Let’s jump right into it!

What are the elements of effective, exceptional (primarily non-fiction) storytelling?

I don’t do much non-fiction reading any more so I won’t have much to really say there with any sort of confidence that my answer would help you. The fact that you added you’re trying to do video format instead of print will give me some points to address.

  1. A great hook — You kind of touched base on this in your edit. When it comes to drawing people in, you have to do it right It should be something that only briefly introduces you to the story and takes you by hand to lead you on some kind of adventure. With a video format you really have to find a good way to introduce it. I don’t know what you’re planning as a topic, but you could do something like:
    • A gunshot or noise of fighting with something that is war/fighting related.
    • A intriguing quote of a person if its a biography.
    • A brief glimpse into a slightly unknown, but interesting part of a person’s life for a biography.
  2. A great voice — Since you’re using a video format, you need to find some kind of narrator that both draws you in and has a great sound to it. Why do you think Morgan Freeman does so many voice-overs? He has a compelling voice that just tugs at you to listen.
  3. Pay attention to the details — Make sure your sources are good and entertaining. In a video format, you’ll want to make sure that:
  • Your sources need to have good information, double check them. Make sure they don’t come back as bad information.
  • They need to — hopefully — have some kind of entertainment value. I understand that non-fiction focuses more on the idea of giving information, but if it’s too dry then you’ll scare a lot of people away.

A mix of information dumps and good story — This kind of relates to the point above. When you are give your information, make sure it’s not informational point after informational point. Show pictures, movies. Give some action if it’s a topic that warrants it (war, fighting, rioting, etc.). Everyone learns in different ways, so make sure you cover as many bases as you can.
Define the importance of the topic — If your audience doesn’t think the idea is important to you then why should it be important to your audience? Now, I don’t mean come in at the beginning of the piece and say, “My name is Whatever McHappy and I love this topic.” If you love it, then what you pick to share should show that passion.
Make it relatable — I think, especially for me, when I’m reading or watching non-fiction, I have a hard time relating to a topic. I’ve never fought in a war or been a part of one where my family or I have been in immediate danger so I tend to move away from war-based non-fiction. If someone were to add an element I enjoyed then I would possibly give it a chance.

Without going into more of the fiction elements, that’s what I can offer you.  Hope it helps.

 

So, what do y’all think of as the exceptional elements of good writing, whether it be fiction or non-fiction?

Quora Question #13

Okay lovelies, this time we address revision processes. What do you do when you revise?

What is the best way to revise?

I find revising becomes a process personal to all writers. You need to find a process that you are comfortable with. There are a lot of books out there on revision, check those out and see if any of their suggestions work for you. Also, look at blogs written by writers. Many of them will, at some point, talk about their editing and revision processes.

Personally, if I’m revising something I have this process:

  1. Once I finish something, I set it aside. I work on something else. Sometimes I just take a break from actual writing and do research for something I want to do later. Or I just read.

    But for how long?

    That depends on you. Push it away from your mind and once you’ve reached a point where you aren’t thinking about that bit of writing you have stewing in the corner of your computer’s hard drive. Personally, I try to give at least a week if possible before trying to go at it again.

  2. After I’ve given it time to stew out of mind and out of sight, then I do a couple reads of it. I read it myself and look for inconsistencies. I’m more of a novel writer, so I look for character and story arcs, making sure they follow tightly and things aren’t completely taken off track.

    What I like to do with this is first write a summary of each chapter/scene and what I think may need to be added, removed or changed completely to keep on track

    I don’t do any actual editing or rewriting during this step. It’s all about the note taking.

  3. I have someone else read it through for the same things.
  4. Once I have a combination of notes from both a writer and reader’s perspective, then I put together a plan of action. First, I rewrite my outline so that it stays tight to my arcs (my first draft outline is very loose and just something to keep me going in — hopefully — one direction).

    Once I have an outline, I use those previous chapter summaries and add the comments from my reader’s perspective so I have, basically, a more in depth outline.

    (To give an idea of what these look like: my Excel document that holds my bios for my characters and locations also has an outline section, the regular outline section is about 5-6 pages long for my current 55 chapter story. My chapter summaries and notes are kept in an actual Word document and is 20 pages long for the same novel)

  5. Once I have those written out, I prioritize the chapters based on how much work each one needs. I also give myself a word count goal of how much to cut and how much to keep. I tend to not limit myself of first drafts which can cause long windedness.
  6. Once I have that organized I usually give myself a schedule:
    Time to do any additional research needed.
    b. Devote a certain amount of time per priority level (high, medium, low). Usually a week to two weeks to accomplish low priority, two weeks to a month on medium and high each.

    I’ve learned giving myself a goal and schedule (and I try to give specific dates) encourages me to beat that goal. To cut more words without running the story and finish editing before what I make as my due date.

  7. Once that is done, I set it aside again.
  8. After some time away, I reread and have at least one other person reread. This time looking more at mechanics.

    I do actual editing in this stage as I read, but I try to make sure that I am not doing LARGE changes. If I’m finding myself rewriting more than a sentence or two to fix something then I missed something in step 6.

  9. I compare what I changed to what my reader(s) changed and submit any additional ones I need.

In all this long windedness, that is my basic process that I follow. Sometimes there are a few repeats of steps 6 and 8, but I do get through to a point where I’m satisfied enough to set it aside and possibly query agents.

 

So, I don’t know if I’ve ever gone through that much detail why describing my process here, but that’s what I tend to do. What do you do?

Until next time my lovelies!

Quora Question #12

How do you better yourself when it comes to description?

Well, this is what I thought when someone asked me.

How do I improve my physical descriptive writing skills?

When it comes to the idea behind it, what others have said works: show don’t tell.

But that is a lot harder than it looks.

Practice is the important thing, I believe. When I want to practice I usually go somewhere that’s got a good flow of people, like a coffee shop. Then pick someone to observe, eavesdrop.

Then write a short story or flash fiction piece about what you observed. Get as descriptive as you can. Invoke all the senses. Describe the sensation of a burning hot drink of coffee burning down someone’s throat.

BUT, when it comes to description, more is not necessarily better. You want to get your reader to start imagining, not be weighed down and given everything immediately. Leave some space for the reader to add in the smaller details.

It is a lot of give and take, you have to find that happy balance.

Also, reading. Find an author you absolutely love. Then read their books a lot. Not just for pleasure but to evaluate the style that you so love to read. Look at how that author describes things. Is it simple? Is it overly detailed? Decide what draws you to that author and look at their style.

Now, don’t copy a style, but learn from it.

I would also suggest using writing prompts, critique groups and writing classes. Or find someone that will be a harsh critic of what you’re writing (not in a mean way but a constructive way). If you have those connections then you can get help pointing you in a good direction for how to make your writing better.

 

So, lovelies, what do you do to better your descriptive abilities?

Quora Question #12

So this time we have the question about getting ideas from your head and down on paper.

How can I pen down my ideas on paper?

Sometimes just starting a routine is the best way to get started especially if you’re not used to getting your ideas down.

Try and think of the places where your ideas spark the most and start keeping notebooks in those places. That way you’ll get used to those items being there so you’ll remember using them. Make sure they’re used for ideas and nothing else that way you have a routine.

Then I suggest just practicing note taking. Find a way to quickly get the ideas from your head to the paper.

This doesn’t mean to sit there and just free write. (Unless that works — which I’m getting the feeling that isn’t).

Maybe you just write key words, maybe you draw pictures. Anything to help you remember what brought those ideas on.

Once you get into a pattern of doing something when those ideas spark then it’ll be easier to get more down when that spark comes.

Writing is not easy. It takes practice and work. Just find a process that works for you. Nothing is perfect the first time. So don’t let that scare you.

 

So, how do you get your ideas down on paper? Do you free write to get your mind cleared, or do you sit down and only write what you have planned? Do you just note down ideas or try to write them through until you come to a stop?

Hope you enjoyed this question! I’ll talk at you later!

Quora Question #10

Today’s questions are about knowing how your novel is going to end or at least planning it out.

As a writer producing a work of fiction, do you tend to know the ending when you start, or do you find out as your write?

For me it all depends.

A lot of the time I’ll first start with an idea. I’ll write on it and see if I can get a decent flow and start to expanding that idea into something that would be able to become a story.

Usually after that I’ll put it aside. Sometimes I put it aside for a few weeks, sometimes forever.

If I want to come back to it bad enough, I usually try and plot it out so I have an idea of where I’m going to go.

BUT. I do not write in order. Or very rarely. I also don’t force myself to stick to what plot I do originally come up with. There have been many times that my outline goes through as many drafts as my novels.

The important thing is to finish. If I can get what I think is a decent idea and get what I want on paper, then I usually will take my original “outline” and finished novel and make a new outline based on the arcs I originally wrote and decide what is worth keeping.

So, after all of this rambling, my answer is yes, I usually know in general where the story is going to go after I develop my idea a little past the original spark.

 

Do you have to know the whole story before you start writing?

I confess to being a pantser turned planner but that is because I discovered through a lot of trial and error that that is what works best for me.

What I always suggest to people who ask me this type of question is to try it both ways. Try to write a very vague timeline of events for your story. If you find yourself struggling with that then set it aside and try actually writing your ideas down. Once you get stuck (because I think we all do periodically) then set it aside and maybe look at that timeline and see if you either stuck to it and try to flesh it out or try to rewrite it out.

Though I admit to being a plotter, I think I’m more of a hybrid of the two sides because I don’t tend to write in a straight line. I write one scene at a time and then once I have a bunch of scenes that is when I go back and write the bits to for them together. Doing it this way has benefited me but may not for you.

I also take a ton of notes while writing this way so I don’t lose track of my ideas and plans and these notes become a rough outline of where I want to take my story.

 

So, my lovelies, how do you write? Do you sit down and plan out everything or do you kind of go with the flow?

Until next time!

Quora Question #9

So, one little aside I’d like to add before we get into the question du jour, questions can have expanded details. If you click on the little links I provide, it helps to get more clarification – it also lets you enjoy other people’s answers! Today’s question is a case-in-point because the asker actual adds some details that I’m responding to in the answer.

Here we go!

How do I write fiction about things I’ve not experienced?

If you get the chance: research.

Writing fiction isn’t just imagination (though that helps in a situations like this) but the product on knowledge which comes with research. Even fantasy writers the create a world from scratch have to have an understanding about how a world would work and if their created world would even work.

If you don’t have the chance to research, then definitely go to imagination.

In your example, loss is loss. Try to relate the loss of a pet to the loss of something else, a person that is important to you. You may want to start by imagining what it’s like to first own a pet, imagine getting one, growing attached, watching it grow and you bonding with it. Then imagine getting so familiar with that pet that it feels like it has been a part of your life forever. Once you have those feelings established, try and imagine if that pet that has become so much a part of you is taken away for whatever reason (loss, death, you moving away, etc.). Those imagined feelings will give you something to write on.

You not being able to relate because you haven’t experienced something shouldn’t stop you. Keep in mind not everyone experiences everything the same anyways. Your experiences with something may not be the same as someone else’s experience.

 

So, my lovelies, how much research do you do on your novels?

For me, I do some very basic research first while I’m plotting my novel. Then after rewriting I check on things that I didn’t feel very confident about, or things that seem a bit off when I am writing it. Then when I’m editing I can go back and fix things.

Quora Question #8

So, let’s get back into the writing category after the non-writing ones.

Here’s our question:

Does the main character of a fiction story have to be likable?

I don’t think it’s important to necessary like the character themselves. There are quite a few books out there that have deplorable characters.

But I think it is important to like to hate them.

One big thing is that you have to be committed to a character or their story to be interested. If you’re writing a story that has a character that people hate, you have to give them something to want out of him. Anything from hoping he/she will learn and grow into someone better to making the reader connect to them in some way.

We all have a bit of evil in us, the only thing that keeps us “good” are the choices we make. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I’ve always wondered what would happen if I hadn’t chosen to make the decisions I did, or what would happen if I didn’t let my beliefs come in and help me make the “right” decision.

I think having bad characters, or characters of a deplorable nature, give us a chance to live those lives we can’t necessarily live in real life. It’s a release and a chance to possibly answer questions about our dark side.

 

What do you lovelies think? Do you have to like a main character is a novel?