Beginner's Guide to Writing (incomplete)

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Chaos the Light Chao
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Beginner's Guide to Writing (incomplete)

Postby Chaos the Light Chao » Sat Oct 08, 2011 1:54 pm

Sections so far:
  1. Tips of the Trade (you are here)
  2. Enzo Intervention: Story Writing Guide - Enzo03
  3. Refining Your Writing and Critique - AtomicBat

    Hello, all!
    Want to write a good story - are those creative gears turning but when you write it just doesn't have the finesse those good stories do? Or are you an uprising author that just wants to learn all they can about the art of storytelling? Well, sir or ma'am, this is the topic for you! Inside this topic there are a list of spices authors commonly use in the dish that is their stories. Now, I myself am still learning this wonderful art, but spreading what I do know wouldn't hurt, would it?

    Section I: Tips of the Trade
    These are some tips that will help aspiring authors, but don't really fit into any categories. (Besides, of course, miscellaneous.) But do you want to know the awesome things about these tips? You can not only use every single one of them in your stories, but when role-playing too!

    Tip Number One - Grammar, Spelling, Capitalization, and Punctuation
    Even to those of you who may not use these things in their day-to-day typing, it's still very important to use in stories. You see, not using these four things is like a man mumbling in a monotone voice when he speaks to you. You can barely understand him! And when you don't use them, the reader will usually spend their time shaking their head at the incomprehensible garble of letters before them. Still not convinced? "Readers can understand what I'm trying to say," you think? Well, how about this example: "Is it my time to cook dad?" In that sentence, the character speaking is asking if it is their turn to, er, cook their father. But, by adding a single comma, you can save the boy's poor father and get him out of this conundrum! "Is it my turn to cook, dad?" See that comma at the end of "cook"? That one little dot changed the message and saved the lad's father! Now, because of that single, brave comma, the character is asking their dad if it is their turn to cook... not asking if it is their turn to cook him. What a messed up family that would be.
    Still not convinced? Well... what if I told you that if you use those four magic little dudes up there... the reader will be very happy and won't complain about your lack of them? Now, if you do decide to use the four magical enhancers, and you don't know them very well, hit the books (or the websites) as preparation.. As far as I know, there are no guides on this forum about those. Alternatively, you can take the much easier way out and hire a "beta reader". Beta readers read your stories and then send it back (usually by PM) with corrected grammar and whatnot.

    • Tip: Take into consideration homonyms when writing. Homonyms are two or more words that sound similar and are wrote similar, but have different meanings. Such as they're, their, and there. Here's a list of them.

    Tip Number Two - Description
    "My cheeks reddened as the cool winter air danced across my face. The ground before me was covered with small inclines, as if someone had cut open giant cantaloupes and strewn them around, flat sides down. The snow shined with intense ferocity, making me avert my eyes from the dazzling display. The only sound that could be heard was the trudge of our boots as we left the only imperfections in the snow for miles."
    Didn't that set the setting nicely, captivating you slightly and giving you a vivid image of the area? Now imagine if instead of writing that, there was just written bluntly "I walked through the snow." That would be kind of anti-climatic, wouldn't it? It doesn't really captivate and show the splendor of what you're imagining. So to avoid such undeserving moments from creeping their way into your story, you can use description. Description is essential for writing good stories. Instead of saying "a cat walked past me," try saying "a black cat trotted past me leisurely." 'Black' describes the cat and 'trotting leisurely' describes how it walked. Changing those two things really helped you picture what I was trying to say.
    To add to this, you can try your hand at sensory details. These are details that relate to your five senses - sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. While it is true that most description describes site, that is the only thing it describes. How does it feel - soft or stiff? How does it smell - does it have a seductive aroma or can it knock out an elephant? Effectively using sensory details can really place the reader in your story.

    Tip Number Three - Writing a Story is Not to be Done in Script Format
    "Hey!" Bob shouted joyously at me. "Did you hear The Garage Door got a new band member? Guess what he is?" Without waiting for a response, he continued, his next words loud enough to wake a giraffe "A hippie! He's a hippie!"
    Now, you could tell Bob was excited in that example, yes? He liked the new hippie member? Well, a lot of the stories (and roleplays) that pop up on this site are done in script format. That is, they're done like this:
    John Smith: Hey, Jain.
    Jain Doe: *walks up to John* Hi.
    John Smith: How are you?
    Car Tire: Hello, there! I'm a car tire!
    Now, while these describe the general actions of the character, they're very limited. Remember the description thing up there? And how the cat gained an appearance and a personality by adding those two little details? The same needs to be done for characters when they're talking. When people are reading, they imagine the characters doing exactlywhat the author says the characters are doing. If they're more imaginative, they might fill in the blanks left by the writer... but this usually ends up in an entirely different scene than what the writer intended. (for example, read the above quote... but with Bob sounding angry.) So, when people use the script format, the characters act basically like blocks, expressing very little emotion and personality. Let us wave the wand of life unto these characters!

    • Tip: Avoid using the word "said." "Said" is the most generic and bland word to describe how a person talked. There are plenty of words that can replace the notorious "said," each (well, most) brimming with character and personality! Here's a list (in spoilers, because it's long)
      Spoiler:
      Anger/Annoyance

      argued
      asserted
      barked
      bawled
      bellowed
      complained
      countered
      cried
      demanded
      disagreed
      exclaimed
      fussed
      growled
      grumbled
      hissed
      howled
      huffed
      quipped
      ranted
      raved
      retorted
      roared
      screamed
      screeched
      shrieked
      snapped
      snarled
      sneered
      sputtered
      squawked
      yelled



      Questions

      asked
      answered
      agreed
      begged
      disagreed
      explained
      implored
      inquired
      interrogated
      posed (as in a question or theory)
      pressed
      pried
      proposed
      queried
      questioned
      replied
      requested
      responded
      retorted
      suggested



      Softly

      breathed
      croaked
      gasped
      grumbled
      hissed
      mumbled
      murmured
      muttered
      prayed
      purred
      squeaked
      whispered
      whimpered


      Loudly

      barked
      bawled
      bellowed
      called
      cried
      exclaimed
      hollered
      howled
      roared
      screamed
      screeched
      shouted
      shrieked
      squawked
      wailed
      yelled
      yammered

      Master List

      added
      agreed
      answered
      argued
      asked
      asserted (making a point)
      avowed
      babbled
      barked
      bawled
      beckoned
      begged
      bellowed
      bid (him/her/it)
      blubbered
      blurted
      breathed
      called
      carried on
      chastised
      chattered (on)
      chorused (in a group or in agreement)
      chuckled
      claimed
      clarified
      commanded
      complained
      confessed
      confided
      continued
      countered
      cried
      croaked
      declared
      demanded
      disagreed
      droned (on - i.e. Professor Binns)
      exclaimed
      explained
      fussed
      gabbed
      gasped
      giggled
      groaned
      growled
      grumbled
      gushed
      hissed
      hollered
      howled
      huffed
      implored
      inquired
      insisted
      interrogated (questioning)
      jabbered (on)
      jested
      joked
      laughed
      lied
      mentioned
      moaned
      mumbled
      murmured
      mused
      muttered
      nagged
      objected
      ordered
      persuaded
      pestered
      plead
      posed (as in a question or theory)
      prattled on
      prayed
      pressed (as in questioning or demanding something)
      pried (as in asking for information)
      proclaimed
      proposed
      protested
      purred
      queried
      questioned
      quipped
      rambled
      ranted
      raved
      reasoned
      related (as in a story)
      remarked
      repeated
      replied
      requested
      responded
      retorted
      roared
      screamed
      screeched
      shouted
      shrieked
      sighed
      snapped
      snarled (i.e. Professor Snape)
      sneered
      sobbed
      sputtered
      squawked
      squeaked (out - i.e. Professor Flitwick)
      stammered
      stated
      stuttered
      suggested
      thought aloud
      told (him, her, it)
      urged
      uttered
      voiced
      wailed
      whimpered
      whined
      whinged
      whispered
      yammered
      yelled

      - Taken from the Killer Movies forum... which got it from somewhere else. Didn't link because it wasn't the most appropriate page.

Tip Number Four - Diction, Variance, and Atmosphere
The gaunt little dog hobbled past, on its road to somewhere.
Some stories just don't capture the magic. They're bland, like some poor neglected rug that got attacked by moths. Description and personality are great ways to avoid this, but it can be avoided even farther with colorful diction. One's "diction" is the word(s, hopefully plural) one uses. I like to keep mine voluminous and vibrant when writing. Diction is tied in with creativity - both of which lead to variance. Variance sets the atmosphere of the story. If your story is eccentric, for example, you could use rare words often, like A Series of Unfortunate Events. But in contrast, if your story was contemporary, and the speaker1 was a teenager, you could use modern slang like "awesome" or "boring" to describe things. A good example of this is Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

1 The speaker is (as I understand it, at least) the narrator of a story written in first person.[1]

Section II: Plot
The plot is the backbone of a story. It is the sequence of events in a tale, and the tail of greatness itself. A good plot is like a carrot a horse just can't reach, it keeps the reader (who happens to be a horse) hooked. A bad plot, however, is more like a rotten carrot. Who chases a rotting vegetable? The question "what makes a plot good or bad?" is easy to answer, but redundantly hard to master. The biggest game changer is, without a doubt, predictability. Predictability is the bane of good stories. Once upon a time, there was a book. This book was called In the Hall of the Dragon King and it was written by a Stephen R. Lawhead. The book was extraordinarily predictable and had no suspense. I did not like that book. But then, over the hill, come another series: Harry Potter. I liked that book. But the question remains - actually, you hopefully know the answer by now: what is the difference, if they're both in the same genre? The answer is simple: the plot. Harry Potter has suspense, mystery, and twists. In the Hall of the Dragon King is essentially that old "heroic questors vs. evil wizard" you probably understood medieval fantasy as being when you were five. Heroes come, kill the evil, crackling wizard that has no motives besides being evil, and everybody lives happily ever after. Alas, this one is stretched to 376 pages.
Another trait of a good plot borderlines predictability: originality. But unlike predictability, originality is a good thing.

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Re: Story Writing Tips and Tricks for Aspiring Authors

Postby ChaosDragon » Sat Oct 08, 2011 2:02 pm

God, you sound like my writing teacher! XD
These are really helpful. I'll keep them in mind as I'm creating a story on here.
I is disappointment in you're grammar!

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Re: Story Writing Tips and Tricks for Aspiring Authors

Postby sonicdude364 » Fri Dec 09, 2011 4:47 pm

OMG!thats alot of things u wrot their :surprise:
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Re: Story Writing Tips and Tricks for Aspiring Authors

Postby CelebiLv6 » Tue Dec 13, 2011 7:06 pm

sonicdude364 wrote:OMG! You wrote alot of things there! :surprise:

IKR?
hello.
i was 9 or so when i used this account actively.
please disregard anything posted.

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Re: Story Writing Tips and Tricks for Aspiring Authors

Postby Enzo03 » Thu Apr 05, 2012 2:14 am

Copied from the other forum:

STORY WRITING GUIDE:
http://www.writesf.com/index.html

This is aimed for Sci-Fi/Fantasy writers but it applies very well to writing almost any fiction. It's designed for you to work out the details of your story as you read along.
Covers the fundamental stuff, too.

I recommend a look.

edit: may help with serious roleplays as well, to an extent.

Excerpt:
Don't Try This at Home!

Or, rather, do.

1. Write a scene—just a page or two—that portrays an apparently bland and unremarkable character. But have in mind one surprising character trait—a strength, or a weakness, or just an odd quirk—and find a way to reveal that trait through action or conversation.

2. Write a character distinctly different from yourself.

  • Are you male? Write a convincing female.
  • Are you female? Write a guy.
  • Are you a kid? Write a parent.
  • Are you an adult? Portray a child.

Start by making some descriptive notes to help yourself get a sense of the character. Then write a scene in which the qualities you have chosen become important. (For example, if you're under 21, write a scene about a parent talking to someone your own age—but write it from the parent's point of view!)

Finished? Get some feedback on it. Show it to someone who can tell you whether it seems realistic (in the example above, you might show it to someone who is a parent—your own or someone else's).

3. Choose two characters from the following list, or make up two of your own:

  • an 8-year-old girl
  • a rebellious young man just old enough to drive
  • a priest
  • a middle-aged woman starting a career late in life
  • a hotshot young salesman fresh out of school
  • an old man, dying
  • a baby

Give them any normal human characteristics you like (for this exercise, no superhuman powers, please), and write a scene using both characters. Show a relationship developing between them. Portray friendship, enmity, whatever you like. But show the relationship growing.

Finished? Get some feedback on it from a trusted reader.

4. Try the last exercise again, but this time give one or both characters an unusual or superhuman power. How does this affect the growing relationship?
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Re: Beginner's Guide to Writing (incomplete)

Postby Shadic222 » Mon Jul 02, 2012 8:20 am

Are we allowed to post Rage Comics?
Feeling Powerful Yet? Image

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Re: Beginner's Guide to Writing (incomplete)

Postby Lamby » Sun Oct 21, 2012 9:26 pm

Before you ask why I'm building on what Chaos has written, let me assure you I've received his permission and approval.

SECTION III: Refining Your Writing and Critique

“Alright,” you say, “I’ve created a plot, given my characters personality, and have used just the right diction that makes my story stand out. I’m ready to submit.” Wrong.

I used a variety of educational sources with examples as well as my own to create this.

FORMAT:

This may come as a surprise to you: format controls how smoothly your brain reads lines of text. If you write something like this:

I waited. I waited until the shade crept over the field, waited until the farmer slept unawares. When I was certain all was at rest, I pressed on down the hill, padding through the tall prairie grass. Suddenly a shadow darted past me. Had I been caught? Would he shoot me? Would I die here after all the sacrifices I’d made like some stupid, wild animal? “Who’s there?” I asked? A raspy voice crooned before I could continue. “I what you’ve been running from,” it said.

You have not given reader’s eyes time to process what is going on or understand the pace of the piece. You’ve learned that paragraphs must be five or more sentences for years. Forget that right now; it is a teacher’s way of getting you to elaborate in technical—not narrative—writing. In a narrative you are at liberty to begin a new paragraph when a related sequence of thoughts, events, or both ends. You should. On paper, indent new paragraphs. On a forum, space before the next paragraph begins, like so:

I waited.

I waited until the shade crept over the field, waited until the farmer slept unawares. When I was certain all was at rest, I pressed on down the hill, padding through the tall prairie grass. Suddenly, a shadow darted past me. Had I been caught? Would he shoot me? Would I die here after all the sacrifices I’d made like some stupid, wild animal?

“Who’s there?” I asked.

“I what you’ve been running from,” crooned a raspy voice before I could continue.


AB, I don’t want my story to have ugly spaces in it. Are you positive? If you think that adding new lines will cause breaks in pacing you are mistaken. The correct format will prevent your readers from losing their place. Frequent text walls are unacceptable in web-story publication. With the freedom online to make pages without cost, separate your text to suit your pacing.

Enzo wrote:The general rules for paragraph formatting are that 1) When someone (or someone else) starts speaking, you always start a new paragraph (which you mention). If the character speaking is the character who spoke last, you do not start a new paragraph. 2) It is indeed wise to start a new paragraph when a related sequence of thoughts or etc. begins, as you said. 3) It is okay to make a paragraph out of a single sentence if you need the emphasis. Finally, 4) Don't overdo making new paragraphs. Publishers will hate you and readers will hate you. Publishers will hate you because they will want to put as much ink on each page as possible to save pages and readers will hate you because it is annoying to see everything broken up.


DIALOGUE:

Dialogue is like opening up the window you are observing the story through. Without it you would feel detached from the characters or worse—bored. It is important for every line of dialogue to have a specific purpose. Under no circumstances should your character talk to themselves through dialogue. If dialogue is not being used to establish character and move the narrative forward, get rid of it.

Do this:

“I won’t do it. Get out of my way,” she said, pushing her way past the guards.

The Captain would remember that.


Don’t do this:

“Ow!” she cried out as she stubbed her toe.


Remember to understand the impact of your dialogue. Words are powerful. Dialogue illustrates character. Dialogue does not tell the story. If you have to explain the emotion being conveyed through the dialogue you are not writing effectively.

Do this:

She clenched her fists until her knuckles shone like pearls.

“I will never forgive you for this!”


Don’t do this:

“I will never forgive you for this!” she screamed angrily.


Dialogue tags are the phrases that follow dialogue and tell who is speaking and how. Dialogue tags are only necessary when it is critical to emphasize the manner of speech. If your character is crying for help, you most likely want to indicate that “he shouted.” You are emphasizing urgency. Do not use a different tag every time someone speaks like in the following example:

He gave her a reproachful stare.

"Take that back," he yelled angrily.

"No," she screamed.

"You'd better!" he challenged.

"Never," she barked.

You do not need dialogue tags for every line of dialogue. Use said sparingly for consistency. Use something other than said when and only when emphasis is needed to establish mood.

Every time a new person speaks or the speaker changes, you need a new line:

He was crying. “I’m scared,” he sobbed. She embraced him.

“It’s alright. It’s okay to be scared.” He pressed his face against her. “Shh,” she whispered, stroking her fingertips through his hair.

“I don’t understand. You’re not even suffering, but you’re trying to help me. You don’t even know me. I don’t even know your name!”

She kissed his head.


By the time you finish preening your dialogue with this in mind your dialogue will have already started to feel streamlined.

QUOTATIONS AROUND ONE WORD:

I have seen some people place quotes around words to indicate sarcasm.

Example: I’m sick and tired of your “opinions.” (This is an attempt at patronizing the opinions. But because you literally mean an opinion you cannot place quotation marks around it.)

You only place quotation marks around a word when it is being used in a special way that does not reflect its dictionary definition.

Example: Bob was so busy with his job that the only “vacation” he could find time to take was to go see a two-hour movie.

If you want to emphasize or show sarcasm, italicize the word.

I strongly advise against quoting words/italicizing words, but if you absolutely must visually emphasize words, do so correctly.

ACTIVE AND PASSIVE VOICE:

Let us discuss basics.

Kolin, Kirk, Greenbaum wrote:In the active voice, the subject and verb relationship is straightforward: the subject is a be-er or a do-er and the verb moves the sentence along [The council approved the new policy.] In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is neither a do-er or a be-er, but is acted upon by some other agent or by something unnamed (the new policy was approved by the council.)


It is not incorrect to use the passive voice. However, if using the active voice does not incorrectly shift the balance of the sentence then use the active voice. Passive is just that—passive. A narrative written in the passive voice is languid. If you want your reader to stay awake you’ll want active phrases.

There are only two times you should be using the passive voice:

1. When the object receiving the action is less important than who does the action. Example: The hope diamond was stolen by the thief.

2. When it isn’t important to know the actor. Example: High tide can be observed at a certain time of

Do not do this:

The bullet was stopped by Crescendo.


This is boring and the bullet isn’t the focus. Write “Crescendo stopped the bullet.”

DICTION AND IMAGERY:


As you already know, it is important to select your words carefully. Vocabulary is a great tool and using more enigmatic words can really make your story look like the cream of the crop. However you must remain consistent, in control, and appropriate. If you plan on using a more advanced vocabulary you need to use advanced vocabulary throughout. Do not throw in something like “Jamie gasped. Her superfluous crush had been realized. The whole wide world would totally laugh!” Number one, superfluous stands out like a sore thumb. Number two, that level of vocabulary is unrealistic in a teenage drama. Suit your diction to the setting. Be careful when using heavy vocabulary. Do not use your thesaurus to describe something mundane. “I bounced the autumn colored rubber sphere and threw it upward at the monolith with the fickle basket and scored” looks foolish and pretentious. Save your good words for things that matter like establishing setting or describing abstract ideas.

Make yourself aware of the dictionary. Although words can have several definitions, the first two are probably what the reader will assume you’re talking about. Don’t try and use the fifth possible definition. Find a synonym that uses something similar to that definition more commonly to avoid confusion.

Adverbs, adverbs, adverbs. Do not describe verbs with prepositional phrases. “He said in coldness. He said in anger.” Don’t. Use adverbs. “He said coldly. He said angrily.”

Most importantly you must be direct. You cannot simply chain descriptive phrases together and hope that your reader can visualize what you’ve written. If you’re describing pale flesh on a gaunt character don’t write something like “a white, deadly color only comparable to the dead.” Say ashen in color. This is a specific image.

REPETITION:

I have seen many reviewers collectively on this site and others constantly saying someone’s writing is too repetitive. That may be, but many of them are finding fault in repetition at the wrong times.

Nouns are not things you should be exchanging if you are writing about something specific. If your character finds a vase call it a vase throughout unless it is given a proper name later. Don’t call it vase, then pottery, then urn. The reader will have no idea what you’re talking about.

If repetition is being used for parallelism or for emphasis then do not butcher your thoughts by alternating adjectives or nouns.

Basically, this:

The green grass--the very same green grass my father, my grandfather, and my ancestors tread before me--lies subservient below my feet for I am their sons and I am the new king.


is more intense than this:

The green grass--the very same emerald vegetation my father, my grandfather, and my ancestors tread before me--lies subservient below my feet for I am their descendant and I am the new king.


Concern yourself with varying your verbs, adverbs, sentence length, and sentence structure; do not try to use different words in every sentence.

While the next two things will not refine your writing directly, they are things writers should take seriously. To ignore either shows a lack of professionalism and childish behavior. If the writing forum is to be a productive, friendly place you must understand two things.

PUBLICATION:

First of all, if you aren’t willing to take your writing seriously, do not expect others to. If you aren’t going to compose something to the best of your ability, be considerate of writers who are and consider resisting the urge to display it. Laziness is not an acceptable excuse for poorly composed work. You may not be so great at clarity or imagery or characterization—these are not the things I’m referring to. Your writing should not look like you slammed your fists on your keyboard or ignored your punctuation keys. Follow the format for online stories and make an effort to check your spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

Don’t write just for yourself. You want to hook people in and entertain them.

CRITIQUE:

Do not be passive aggressive if you don’t receive written feedback. If you think people aren’t reading your story, link to the thread in your signature. People don’t regularly browse this sub-forum, but they do see signatures.

Do not respond with an “I don’t care” to constructive criticism. Someone is legitimately trying to help you.

Do not argue with the person giving you advice. Criticism is something you can take or ignore. If you want to leave your work as it is, do so silently. If they are blatantly insulting you or spamming your thread with nonsense, report them. Don’t clutter your own thread further by responding.

Do not argue with a punctuation or grammar rule by saying that “it is your style” or that you have seen a published author do what you are doing. Writing style refers to things like tone, mood, and sentence arrangement: what it doesn’t refer to is rule-breaking. Published authors break rules because they are successful and guaranteed to turn a profit. Amateur writers (any writer not being paid) cannot break rules.

HOW TO GIVE CRITIQUE:

You should have positive things to say in addition to the negative. I make the habit of writing about the positive things first, writing the negative things, and then re-stating the positives at the end.

Your feedback should be developed. “Dying” or “crying” is not an amusing alternative to positive feedback. Lay out specific things you liked. Negative feedback should follow this process:

1. Address a specific issue.
2. Describe the mistake or what you believe should be changed.
3. Explain why it is wrong. Explain how to fix it.
4. Give an example.

Do not drop a “your writing gave me a headache” or “fix your grammar.” That doesn’t do anything but show that you can be snide. Be polite.

Don’t refer to spelling and punctuation as grammar. Grammar refers to classes of words (modifiers, conjunctive adverbs, etc.) and the parts of speech.

SECTION IV: PUNCTUATION MECHANICS

New writers don't always have a firm grip on punctuation in their first draft. As you go over your work be sure these four punctuation marks--the four marks commonly misused by fledgling writers--are being used correctly

COMMAS, SEMI-COLONS, COLONS, AND EM DASHES:

For your benefit I will disclose the basics or the correct usage of each of these and common usage mistakes.

COMMAS:

1. Use to connect independent clauses (clauses that are a complete thought on its own) when joined with one of these seven words: and, but, for, or, nor, so, or yet.

Example:

You saved the city, but you didn’t save the king.


2. Use after introductory phrases before the important clause. Common introductory words are after, although, as, because, if, since, when, and while. If you begin a sentence with one of these you are most likely going to need one after your phrase.

Example:

While I was looking outside, I saw a car drive by.


Don’t use a comma after the main clause if a dependent clause (clauses that aren’t complete thoughts/cannot stand alone) follows.

Example:

The cat jumped at me, while I was eating.


Infinitive phrases (the non-conjugated form of a verb like “to start” something), participle phrases (a form of have + form of another verb like “having started the car”), long prepositional phrases, and nonessential appositives (non-mandatory phrases that modify another noun’s action) need be offset by commas.

Examples:

To start reading, you must open the book.


Having eaten dinner, I left the restaurant.


After the game but before I got home, I bought a ham for dinner.


The sun beating down on us, we rushed for shade.


These words need commas after them when they begin a sentence: yes, however, and well.

3. Use commas to offset information that isn’t essential to understand the meaning of a sentence.

How do you decide if information isn’t essential?

If you leave out the words would the sentence make sense? Does it interrupt the sentence?

If you answered yes to both a comma must appear before and after the information.

Example:

My dog, the animal I found seven years ago, is my best friend.


Never place a comma after the word that. That makes a phrase essential. Additionally, if you answered no to both of the above phrases the phrase is essential.

Examples:

The game that I bought from you is amazing.


People who kill people are evil.


4. Use a comma to separate a phrase at the end of a sentence if it modifies the beginning or middle of the sentence. But be careful of your sentence arrangement.

Right: Yelling angrily, Harold ran after Herschel.

Wrong: Harold ran after Herschel, yelling angrily. (It is unclear if Herschel or Harold is yelling.)

DO NOT:

Use a comma to separate a subject from a verb.

WRONG: “My favorite place in Virginia, is Smithfield.”


DO NOT:

Use a comma to separate verbs in a compound predicate. Do not use a comma when and is joining two nouns.

WRONG:

I jumped the ramp, and fell onto the concrete.

I was told that a position was opening, and the job involves busing tables.


DO NOT:

Use a comma before a dependent clause.

WRONG:
I was late, but not because I’m irresponsible.


The only time you do this is when there is extreme contrast.

Example:

She was very upset, although she had been happy before he arrived.


SEMICOLONS:

You may be thinking to yourself, “Not these. They’re just gaudy commas.”
Wrong. I will go over when to use these over commas.

Use a semi-colon to separate two independent clauses closely related to each other. This gives each piece equal importance.

Example:

Some people like caffeinated coffee; other people like decaffeinated coffee.


Use a semi-colon between independent clauses when separated by a transitional phrase or a conjunctive adverb (below):

Spoiler:
accordingly
additionally
again
almost
anyway
as a result
besides
certainly
comparatively
consequently
contrarily
conversely
elsewhere
equally
finally
further
furthermore
hence
henceforth
however
in addition
in comparison
in contrast
in fact
incidentally
indeed
instead
just as
likewise
meanwhile
moreover
namely
nevertheless
next
nonetheless
notably
now
otherwise
rather
similarly
still
subsequently
that is
then
thereafter
therefore
thus
undoubtedly
uniquely


Example:
But however they choose to write, people are allowed to make their own decisions; as a result, many people swear by their writing methods.

I appreciate your work ethic; however, I cannot allow you to work overtime per company policy.


If items in a series contain punctuation, separate the items with a semi-colon.

Example:

The order consists of two things: an aqueous martini, shaken not stirred; and a steak cooked to perfection.


Use a semi-colon between two independent clauses joined by a conjunction if the clauses are hefty.

Example:

I ride a bicycle—an inexpensive and environmentally safe alternative to driving—to work every day; but some people insist on driving gas-guzzling SUVs.

COMMAS VS. SEMI-COLONS:

Never use commas to connect two independent clauses without a conjunction because that is a comma splice!

Wrong: My friend is young, she is also intelligent.
Right: My friend is young; she is also intelligent.

Never use a comma to offset independent clauses separated by a conjunctive adverb!

Wrong: I appreciate your work ethic, however, I cannot allow you to work overtime per company policy.
Right: I appreciate your work ethic; however, I cannot allow you to work overtime per company policy.

Coordinating conjunctions do not require a semi-colon.

Wrong: The cow is brown; but not old.
Right: The cow is brown, but not old.

SEMI-COLONS DO NOT OFFSET SOMETHING LIKE THIS:

Wrong: Because you have a big nose; you must have a good sense of smell.
Right: Because you have a big nose, you must have a good sense of smell.

COLONS:

Use a colon to offset a list but DO NOT place a colon after a linking verb. Those negate the need for a colon.

Wrong: The things you will need for school are: pencils, pens, and paper.
Right: You will need the following items for school: pencils, pens, and paper.

Use a colon if a complete sentence following right after another closely related complete sentence explains that first sentence.

Example:
Religion and politics can be sensitive subjects: many people hold opinionated views and are easily offended by other peoples' remarks.


Use a colon to let the reader know that an item that follows a complete sentence is emphasized.

I didn’t notice that I was inches away from my greatest fear: the black widow.


EM DASHES:

Do not use one mark to denote this. Always use two (--).

These are comparable to strong comma but it cannot separate items in the list (except for the last item) or set off initial modifiers (unless followed by the word these).

Example:

On our farm we grow wheat, soybeans, alfalfa, corn--and bamboo!


Example:

Hot dogs, apple pie, and Mom--these are the traditional American symbols.

It can, however set off middle modifiers

Example:
The army—marching as one organism—stared at the enemy civilizations as though they were prey.


and join two independent clauses with a conjunction.

Example:
They took a wrong turn in D.C.—and, by the time they realized it, Pentagon security was approaching their car.


Do not use an em dash if there is no need for emphasis.

___

Edit: Regards to Enzo for pointing out a few problems with my post. I've made changes. See his post for more details.
Last edited by Lamby on Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:37 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Beginner's Guide to Writing (incomplete)

Postby SkyGinge » Sun Oct 21, 2012 9:50 pm

Nice, detailed overview there ABat. I was actually quite surprised at how much of that I actually do put into practise. If everybody who writes on here were to read this then we'd have a very strong fan-fiction section indeed! Perhaps it's a little too detailed for a "begginers guide", but it's very helpful.

I have seen many reviewers on this site constantly saying someone’s writing is too repetitive. That may be, but many of them are finding fault in repetition at the wrong times.


coughcoughmecoughcough. I swear the only people I've seen reviewing are me and you!
PM me if you have any piece of writing that you want reviewed, I'll do my best to help you out!

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Re: Beginner's Guide to Writing (incomplete)

Postby Lamby » Sun Oct 21, 2012 9:59 pm

^Fixed. I forgot a few words. Sorry about that.

I have seen many reviewers collectively on this site and others constantly saying someone’s writing is too repetitive.
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Re: Beginner's Guide to Writing (incomplete)

Postby SkyGinge » Sun Oct 21, 2012 10:01 pm

No need to be sorry, friend, you're the expert!
PM me if you have any piece of writing that you want reviewed, I'll do my best to help you out!

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Re: Beginner's Guide to Writing (incomplete)

Postby Enzo03 » Wed Nov 14, 2012 6:51 am

Now that I have read the post, there are a few things I have a problem with.
AtomicBat wrote:
I waited. I waited until the shade crept over the field, waited until the farmer slept unawares. When I was certain all was at rest, I pressed on down the hill, padding through the tall prairie grass. Suddenly a shadow darted past me. Had I been caught? Would he shoot me? Would I die here after all the sacrifices I’d made like some stupid, wild animal? “Who’s there?” I asked? A raspy voice crooned before I could continue. “I what you’ve been running from,” it said.

You have not given reader’s eyes time to process what is going on or understand the pace of the piece. You’ve learned that paragraphs must be five or more sentences for years. Forget that right now; it is a teacher’s way of getting you to elaborate in technical—not narrative—writing. In a narrative you are at liberty to begin a new paragraph when a related sequence of thoughts, events, or both ends. You should. On paper, indent new paragraphs. On a forum, space before the next paragraph begins, like so:

I waited.

I waited until the shade crept over the field, waited until the farmer slept unawares. When I was certain all was at rest, I pressed on down the hill, padding through the tall prairie grass.

Suddenly, a shadow darted past me.

Had I been caught? Would he shoot me? Would I die here after all the sacrifices I’d made like some stupid, wild animal?

“Who’s there?” I asked.

A raspy voice crooned before I could continue.

“I what you’ve been running from,” it said.


AB, I don’t want my story to have ugly spaces in it. Are you positive? If you think that adding new lines will cause breaks in pacing you are mistaken. The correct format will prevent your readers from losing their place. Text walls are unacceptable.
This is a good point, but not the best example. It is true that, yes, paragraphs in stories can be as little as even a piece of a sentence, but by no means are text walls unacceptable. The general rules for paragraph formatting are that 1) When someone (or someone else) starts speaking, you always start a new paragraph (which you mention). If the character speaking is the character who spoke last, you do not start a new paragraph. 2) It is indeed wise to start a new paragraph when a related sequence of thoughts or etc. begins, as you said. 3) It is okay to make a paragraph out of a single sentence if you need the emphasis. Finally, 4) Don't overdo making new paragraphs. Publishers will hate you and readers will hate you. Publishers will hate you because they will want to put as much ink on each page as possible to save pages and readers will hate you because it is annoying to see everything broken up. Personally, I would have written it as:
I waited.

I waited until the shade crept over the field, waited until the farmer slept unawares. When I was certain all was at rest, I pressed on down the hill, padding through the tall prairie grass. Suddenly, a shadow darted past me. Had I been caught? Would he shoot me? Would I die here after all the sacrifices I’d made like some stupid, wild animal?

“Who’s there?” I asked.

“I what you’ve been running from,” crooned a raspy voice before I could continue.
I want to destroy the word "suddenly" though because it is a terrible word.

AtomicBat wrote:Dialogue does not belong in narrative. Every time a new person speaks or the speaker changes, you need a new line, like I do:

He was crying.

“I’m scared,” he sobbed. She embraced him.

“It’s alright. It’s okay to be scared.”

He pressed his face against her.

“Shh,” she whispered, stroking her fingertips through his hair.

“I don’t understand. You’re not even suffering, but you’re trying to help me. You don’t even know me. I don’t even know your name!”

She kissed his head.

Do not sandwich your dialogue with your narrative. Speech loses its power when it isn’t visually standing out.
I disagree with keeping dialogue completely separate from narrative. Most often, you'll find lines of narrative in the same lines as dialogue in stories from classics to bestsellers to self-published authors trying to eke out an existence. That being said, the rule about new lines upon new/changed speakers definitely applies and is an important rule.
How I would write it:
He was crying. “I’m scared,” he sobbed. She embraced him.

“It’s alright. It’s okay to be scared.” He pressed his face against her. “Shh,” she whispered, stroking her fingertips through his hair.

“I don’t understand. You’re not even suffering, but you’re trying to help me. You don’t even know me. I don’t even know your name!”

She kissed his head.
Line 2 (which has what used to be line 3) gets iffy. What I do in the case of the old line 3 (He pressed his face against her) is check if the following dialogue is a speaker change. If so, I put the dialog and the narrative on the same line, sometimes swapping the order if I feel the dialogue stands out better that way. If there is no speaker change, I put the narrative and the following dialogue on the same line, as I did in this example.

AtomicBat wrote:There are exceptions with words that double as sounds and manners of speaking (groaned, screamed, etc.)
While for one I like to insist that sighing doubles as a sound and a manner of speaking (I sigh out words all the time, being the stressed out **** that I am), I tend to stray far away from using these kinds of words in writing at all.

AtomicBat wrote:QUOTATIONS AROUND ONE WORD:

I have seen some people place quotes around words to indicate sarcasm.

Example: I’m sick and tired of your “opinions.” (This is an attempt at patronizing the opinions. But because you literally mean an opinion you cannot place quotation marks around it.)

You only place quotation marks around a word when it is being used in a special way that does not reflect its dictionary definition.

Example: Bob was so busy with his job that the only “vacation” he could find time to take was to go see a two-hour movie.

If you want to emphasize or show sarcasm, italicize the word.
I hate this section. In practice, you should avoid any perceived need for such quotation marks and italics in any case.

I think that may be about it.

Oh, and one other thing.

With all forms of writing, just remember:

You will often have to kill your babies.
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Re: Beginner's Guide to Writing (incomplete)

Postby Lamby » Wed Nov 14, 2012 5:58 pm

Enzo03 wrote:It is true that, yes, paragraphs in stories can be as little as even a piece of a sentence, but by no means are text walls unacceptable. The general rules for paragraph formatting are that 1) When someone (or someone else) starts speaking, you always start a new paragraph (which you mention). If the character speaking is the character who spoke last, you do not start a new paragraph. 2) It is indeed wise to start a new paragraph when a related sequence of thoughts or etc. begins, as you said. 3) It is okay to make a paragraph out of a single sentence if you need the emphasis. Finally, 4) Don't overdo making new paragraphs. Publishers will hate you and readers will hate you. Publishers will hate you because they will want to put as much ink on each page as possible to save pages and readers will hate you because it is annoying to see everything broken up.


I should have differentiated between paper-published works and web-published works. Regarding paragraph formatting in books, you are correct. On the web, you are not hindered by the necessity to conserve pages; thus, there is no reason not to make use of this freedom--in moderation, of course. I am actually a bit embarrassed at its condition, because you are correct: my example is blatant overkill. I am also going to readdress my comments on text-walls because after reading your post I have realized that based on my actual words, I have oversimplified things.

I want to destroy the word "suddenly" though because it is a terrible word.


Suddenly is a transitive word that signifies a sharp change in pacing. Without it, what follows has the same emphasis as what precedes it. It isn't a terrible word so much as it is often overused. Other methods of pace change are often overshadowed. I would say that it is a terrible word to rely on.

While for one I like to insist that sighing doubles as a sound and a manner of speaking (I sigh out words all the time, being the stressed out **** that I am), I tend to stray far away from using these kinds of words in writing at all.


I might just cut that part out, because what I really want people to do is avoid abusing dialogue tags. I don't think beginners need my personal take on word choice, in any case.

I hate this section. In practice, you should avoid any perceived need for such quotation marks and italics in any case.

I agree. But my point is that if you absolutely must visually emphasize words, do so correctly. I am going to clarify this in a post edit.


Lastly, I want to thank you for taking the time to critique my post. I don't particularly appreciate posts referencing my work that just praise me. I appreciate being called out on mistakes/disagreed with so that I can expand my horizons. I was beginning to worry no one would. I am going to swap my examples with yours because I like yours a little better.
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Re: Beginner's Guide to Writing (incomplete)

Postby Enzo03 » Tue Nov 20, 2012 9:49 pm

Glad to see that you're not one of those who can't take criticism! ^^
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Re: Beginner's Guide to Writing (incomplete)

Postby Enzo03 » Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:14 pm

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Re: Beginner's Guide to Writing (incomplete)

Postby Lamby » Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:32 pm

Just read that article and yes, not only is it useful, but contains pretty crucial information for writers fledgling or seasoned. Please give it a read. Just goes to show you that if you get too comfortable in your own writing style without subjecting it to enough people for criticism or brushing up on writing tips, you're probably doing yourself a major disservice. Even I'm guilty of this.
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