Page 1 of 7

The Craft of Writing 490

Posted: 04 Jun 2010 23:52
by Robspierre
This is a topic I have been giving considerable thought to, not just in regards to teaching writing to secondary students, but how we as readers view writing as well.

This is going to be a long work in progress and it will evolve and expand over time.

Some of the works that have been an influence are the following:

Screenplay-The Foundations of Screen Writing - Syd Field
The War of Art - Steven Pressfield
The Art of Dramatic Writing - Lajos Egri
Story - Robert McKee
Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative - Will Eisner

From time to time I will reference quotes from the above works or from web sites and discuss them in detail.

Rob

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 05 Jun 2010 00:26
by Robspierre
I. The Writing Routine

The first aspect I want to write about is the routine a writer follows. There are as many routines as there are writers, however, there are a few constants to be found in a writer's routine.

1. Write on a regular schedule.
Some interpret this as I must write every waking moment I have. This may work for some but it is unrealistic for the majority of writers. Steven Pressfield's writing routine involves three to four hours of writing. he writes six to seven days a week.
Syd Field recommends writing two-four hours on a schedule that works for you, be it seven days a week or two days a week. The key is to have a regular routine that you follow. For some that may involve typing up and sorting notes before beginning the days writing.

Always follow the routine that works for you!

2. Eliminate distractions.
Anything that prevents the writer from actually writing is a distraction. Pressfield and Field refer to these distractions as resistance.
Resistance is a sneaky bugger. Often resistance appears in forms that we tell ourselves will help the story. Getting online to research a video games space battles is not helping you write. This leads us to...

3. Do not multitask!
That's right. Compartmentalize your writing life. When you do research do not catch up on your favorite soap opera. The more tasks one does, the more resistance will creep into your writing routine.
Just as an example.
In addition to the time you write, you have a specific routine for research, you have a routine for answering email and dealing with daily business, you have a procedure for everything that revolves around writing.

4. Step away.
Unless you are a lonely, socially inept, basement dweller, sitting at a work station all day writing is not a good idea. Take a break. Doing tasks other than writing allows one to recharge. Enjoy life. Go to the park, flirt with pretty girls, have a life outside of writing.

Rob

To be continued....

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 05 Jun 2010 06:46
by Serkanner
Interesting topic Rob. I will be following it closely.

@Sandchigger: could you please send a link to this topic to The Hack's email address?

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 05 Jun 2010 09:35
by lotek
Serkanner wrote:Interesting topic Rob. I will be following it closely.

@Sandchigger: could you please send a link to this topic to The Hack's email address?


my thought(s) exactly!
Robspierre wrote:1. Write on a regular schedule.
Some interpret this as I must write every waking moment I gave. This may work for some but it is unrealistic for the majority of writers.


:mrgreen:

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 05 Jun 2010 09:38
by SandChigger
;)

I'm sure he'll see it on his own. :lol:

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 05 Jun 2010 10:10
by Freakzilla
SandChigger wrote:;)

I'm sure he'll see it on his own. :lol:


Think his ego is too powerful to not let him come here?

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 05 Jun 2010 22:24
by SandChigger
Dude, you know it! ;)

Users browsing this forum: SandChigger and 2 guests

Whoa, one of those could be him now! :lol:


(Sorry, Robbo!)

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 06 Jun 2010 14:36
by Robspierre
II Form Over Formula

The differences between form and formula are such that even long time "professionals" have difficulty separating the two.

Form can be many things. A well known form is THE HERO'S JOURNEY. A young male is living a normal life when he gets the call to go on a journey. At first he refuses to answer the call. Once the hero has accepted the journey, along the way he will receive some form of supernatural/mystical help. The adventure only truly begins when the hero leaves behind the world he knows and enters the unknown. This signals the hero's willingness to learn, to undergo a transformation. In order to complete the transformation, the hero must complete a series of tests. SOme of the tests the hero may even fail before attempting again and succeeding. As the hero progresses on his journey, he will be tempted to abandon his quest. As the hero struggles with his journey he will confront his "father." This has been the center piece of the journey, the "father" is a focal of power that has control over the hero. This confrontation sets up the path that the hero will take to complete his journey. The journey ends when the hero gains enlightenment, this is the true end of the quest as opposed to completing a stated goal, though they can be one and the same.

The Hero's Journey as laid out by Joseph Campbell gives a form that many stories follow. The original Star Wars Trilogy and Frank Herbert's Dune both make use of the form. In Dune though, Herbert turns the form upside down, he turns Paul Atriedes into an anti-hero. His journey follows the form but the results are the opposite that of the traditional hero's journey.

Formula is best described thusly. Do exactly as told over and over without change. Hollywood is mesmerized by the Hero's Journey. So much so that the form, or basic outline of the tale, is tuned into a rigid fill in the blanks process. The movie Adaption makes fun of this in a sub plot concerning Kaufman's brother.

Formula believes in absolutes. Under formula deviation is not acceptable because it is the formula that is successful. Characters , settings, trials, etc, are all interchangeable under formula.

Form on the other hand provides structure. As evident by Dune, the form can be manipulated to suit the story. Indeed, the Hero's Journey has undergone a fracturing of sorts as others have taken the basic form and modified it to fit their needs.

Form is a guideline.

Formula is a crutch for those who are to lazy to master form.

Rob

Rob

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 01:46
by Hunchback Jack
In Dune though, Herbert turns the form upside down, he turns Paul Atriedes into an anti-hero. His journey follows the form but the results are the opposite that of the traditional hero's journey.


You just lost KJA with that one. Paul Atreides not a hero? Whachutalkinbout?

HBJ

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 04:23
by SandChigger
Robspierre wrote:Form is a guideline.

Formula is a crutch for those who are to lazy to master form.

Nice. :)

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 07:49
by lotek
Hunchback Jack wrote:
In Dune though, Herbert turns the form upside down, he turns Paul Atriedes into an anti-hero. His journey follows the form but the results are the opposite that of the traditional hero's journey.


You just lost KJA with that one. Paul Atreides not a hero? Whachutalkinbout?

HBJ

isn't that amazing?
Which reader of any book gets a chance to rewrite literary history to make it fit his flawed understanding of it?
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Carry on Rob it is quite interesting!

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 20:58
by Robspierre
Thanks chaps, been dealing with a lot of drama but I will continue, feel free to add your own thoughts as well.

Rob

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 22 Jun 2010 20:51
by Robspierre
III Characterization

The purpose of characterization is to make the reader react to a character. Many, erroneously, believe that a reader's reaction to a character should be positive. Many times we have read works where the hero is fleshed out but the "villain" of the piece is so flimsy, a gust of wind would blow him away.

Characterization is important because of the depth of personality it brings to characters.

Case in point.

In DUNE one of the supporting characters was Gurney Halleck. Frank crafted a background that provided the character with motivation and a complex psychological profile that made the character stand out in a way that served to move the story forward. Halleck was a warrior troubadour, loyal, smart, capable, efficient.

Contrast this with the portrayal of Gurney Halleck on PAUL OF DUNE. Herbert established that Halleck spent time with the smugglers, knew the ways of the desert, and was accepted by the Fremen. In one scene Halleck in an attempt to teach Fremen to swim tosses in a coin and is forced to save a young Fremen from drowning. This behavior shows how writers can take an established character and reduce a complex individual to a mere plot piece. Herbert established how well Halleck knew the Fremen and Fremen ways. For this character to toss a coin into water to teach Fremen to swim is a travesty. Add in the many years Halleck spent in the service of the Atreides, for him to think the tossing of a coin into water is an efficient way to train soldiers to swim shows laziness on the part of the writers. Furthermore, the portrayal of the Fremen, while supposed to show their loyalty to Muad'dib, instead turns the Fremen into stereotype of greedy middle easterners.

Strong characterization follows form in that characters support the main story line and the main character. Strong characters undergo changes over the course of a story.

Lazy characterization results in formulas that are forgettable and boring.

Rob

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 23 Jun 2010 04:11
by SandChigger
:clap: Keep it coming! :)

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 24 Jun 2010 16:35
by Robspierre
The first draft of anything is shit. Ernest Hemingway



Rob

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 24 Jun 2010 16:59
by A Thing of Eternity
Robspierre wrote:The first draft of anything is shit. Ernest Hemingway



Rob


And to add to that, doing some editing doesn't qualify as a whole new draft, unless you're really getting nit-picky over the 10th or 15th draft.

Another draft means a full "rewrite" (may not actually be rewriting parts that are left the same in the modern digital world, but at least analyzing every sentence and deciding whether or not to change it). This is not the same as skimming and looking for gross errors and gramatical mistakes.

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 24 Jun 2010 20:18
by merkin muffley
Robspierre wrote:The first draft of anything is shit. Ernest Hemingway



Especially if you dictated the first draft while hiking. Oh, I forgot, it's nearly-polished prose as far as KJA is concerned.

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 07 Jul 2010 22:03
by Robspierre
On his website Dan Simmons has a forum which has a section on Writing Well.
http://forum.dansimmons.com/ubbthreads/ubbthreads.php?ubb=postlist&Board=2&page=1

The level of discourse is light years above the shit that the Keith spews.

Rob

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 07 Jul 2010 23:18
by SandChigger
His level of writing is light years above anything KJA could ever even dream of achieving.

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 08 Jul 2010 02:36
by Serkanner
SandChigger wrote:His level of writing is light years above anything KJA could ever even dream of achieving.


His first drafts are light years abobe anything the Hack has ever published or may dream of ever achieving.

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 08 Jul 2010 11:53
by TheDukester
Simmons is a great comparison. He's at the top of his game, effortlessly shifting between genres while turning out deep, thoughtful page-turners that get readers and critics alike talking.

Anderjacket is in his 25th year of writing, "This happened. Then this happened. Then these two guys got into a sword-fight. Then this other guy said something really boring."

Essentially, one is a master of his craft; the other really is a journeyman.

Sadly, it's the second guy who is in charge of all things Dune ...

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 08 Jul 2010 19:46
by Robspierre
TheDukester wrote:
Essentially, one is a master of his craft; the other really is a wannabe.

Sadly, it's the second guy who is in charge of all things Dune ...



Fixed it for you :D At least journeymen make an effort to learn and grow.

Rob

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 10 Jul 2010 14:39
by Robspierre
III The need to grow as a writer


One of the things that i stress to the students I have taught that writing is a skill that can be improved if one keeps practicing. Just like throwing a baseball, the more one works at a task, the better one becomes. Looking back at writers who had careers that have lasted three or four decades, one can see a change in their writing. For the better. No writer stays stagnant. Often when you have a writer who produced higher quality work early in their career compared to later published material, one will often find that the writer has become lazy, Laurell K. Hamilton is a prime example.

In the case of Kevin J. Anderson, we have an interesting situation. According to Anderson, he does not write, he dictates into a recorder. Anderson also claims to be able to produce near perfect prose this way. Quite the statement. Especially in light of critical darling Hemingway stating that "The first draft of anything is shit." Yes we do get twats concerning editing, which is interesting because if the prose is near perfect, why do we get twats concerning five or six editorial passes? Especially when Anderson is proud of his extremely detailed outlines that run upwards of 120 pages?

Based upon what Anderson has twatted about I believe what is happening is this: The outline is minimally fleshed out by Anderson. 120 pages easily turns into 360-480 with the addition of bare bones material. I say bare bones because Anderson's fiction reads like a bloated outline. First this, then this, said by this person, etc. There is no attempt to take the outline and turn it into a story. This is why page and word counts matter so much to Anderson. He isn't focusing on what he is suppose to be doing, writing. Instead, he is spending three to four weeks puffing up material that should become the basis for a first draft and calling it done. Tis is something my students would do all the time. They believed that anything they did was "perfect" and there was no need to look it over, have others read it and offer feedback. They were "correct" all the time.

BULLSHIT.

While it is possible to over examine and rework writing, that does not apply to first drafts. First drafts by their very nature demand to be gone over and reworked, sometimes the pass over results in dramatic changes that completely alter the story from the original vision of the author.

Anderson is a writer who makes no effort to work at his chosen craft. In fact, over the years, his "writing" has gotten worse. He has his formula, which we know is a crutch for those who are too lazy to master form, that he relies upon to shore up his lack of skill and ability. This is probably the root of his dismissal of "Critical darlings," all writers who spend time working on their craft.

Anderson, despite all of his posting and attempts to build up his "expertise" concerning the craft of writing, the fact of the matter is, has zero knowledge about how to write.

Rob

Edited for minor typo Chigger :shhh:

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 10 Jul 2010 14:56
by merkin muffley
:clap:

Re: The Craft of Writing (Work in Progress)

Posted: 10 Jul 2010 15:00
by TheDukester
Another nice entry in the series.

Robspierre wrote:... the fact of the matter is, Anderson has zero knowledge about how to write.

This finally really hit me a few months ago. It's one of those things that's so obvious that it's kind of startling when it finally gets noticed.

I also look at it as: Kevin J. Anderson is a writer who is not very good at his job.