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What YOU can do to get better stories
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  1. #1

    What YOU can do to get better stories

    To the readers:

    Would you like to improve the quality of the stories that are available here in the Members Stories forum?

    If you would then here's what you gotta do.

    As an author of several stories here in this forum and having read similar comments from other authors here I can tell you one of the most difficult things for a story author to get is meaningful feedback about a given story that has been written.

    It's always nice to hear that you liked a story but I do not believe that any of us here think we've written the perfect story. There is nearly always room for improvement so post a note in the commentary thread for a given story and tell us where we need to improve!

    Now, I'm not talking about critiquing grammar and spelling but rather these kinds of things:

    Did we botch a name somewhere? Start out calling a character one thing then call them something else later in the story?

    Maybe a character has appendicitis and I put the appendix in the wrong place?

    How about character development? Does a given character seem real to you? Wooden? Two dimensional?

    How about interactions? If I'm writing about a female character and you see something that you think a female would be unlikely to say or do then speak up! Maybe I'll think you are right or I may explain why I did what I did.

    Plot development can be a real chore to smooth out. Does a given story plot work for you? Seen implausible? Tell us what you think.

    How about semiautomatic revolvers? Technical glitches about all kinds of things creep in and sometimes don't get noticed.

    Time travel happens a lot in stories too. Sometimes we just get the dates and/or times messed up and don't see it, but you might.

    I hope you are getting the drift of what I and the other story authors are looking for. None of us think we got it perfectly right the first time. Many of these stories are written on the fly so to speak in that you often get to see a story post just minutes after it was written! Very easy for mistakes to creep in and it's pretty common not to find them until long afterwards, sometimes so long afterwards that it's not possible to correct them without major rewrites to smooth everything out again.

    It's always nice to get positive feedback about how well you liked a story, but what authors really need is meaningful feedback. If you like it then please do say so, but at the same time tell us where we could improve too. The more we here from you the better the stories will gradually become.

    .....Alan.

  2. #2
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    amen alan, meaningful comments also show that people are really reading the story. anyone can say 'thanks, great job', but only those who really get into the story catch mistakes.
    The only rights we have are those we are willing to FIGHT for.




  3. #3
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    Alan: the only thing I could add is if your comment is REALLY negative - please PM the author instead of posting your reply.

    We really live for comments here. It's how our stories get better, and it's one of our few motivations to write stories for free.

    Thanks to all the readers!

    Fleataxi

  4. #4
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    What would help me tremendously would be that people use the comments thread for comments. I may want to go back and read my story, before posting the next one, in hopes of keeping things strait. Now in my story, Downgrade, I have readers comments in between chapters. If I answer the comments, it looks like I have posted a chapter. I am extremely flattered that people read and take the time to post an atta boy, but please use the comments section for the "where is the next chapter" comments.



    Thanks!

  5. #5
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    >> What would help me tremendously would be that people use the comments thread for comments.

    Is it possible to move single notes to another thread?

    --Rich

  6. #6
    Yes, if you have comments in one of your story threads that you would like moved into a commentary thread I can do it for you. Send me a PM with the specific URLS of the posts you would like to have moved. They'll show up in the comments thread in the chronological order they were posted to the board. If you look at the comments thread for my <i>Forever After</i> story you'll see what I mean.

    It may take me a few days to get to them as it's something of a tedious process.

    .....Alan.

  7. #7
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    A few common mistakes

    Bad grammar and poor punctuation CAN kill a good story.

    Use of passive tense. Has, had been, was..... I feel like I'm hearing about something that's already happened. Lots of "hads" and "Thats" can and should be eliminated. Before you use those words, re-read the sentence....you may be able to delete it entirely.

    ACTION, ACTION, ACTION. Use exciting words. Get a thesaurus or The Synonym Finder and find something more descriptive that says the same thing.
    Instead of: John ran down the hall
    USE: Choking on his fear, John sprinted through the building desperately searching.....

    Show, don't tell. Make us feel what the characters are feeling...horrible pain, euphoric joy. Describe the setting....the alley smells horrible from rotting trash.

    HAVE FUN. If you don't, we won't either.

  8. #8
    Very good, Fruit Loop!

    Now, can you give some specific examples in the relevant story commentary threads?

    .....Alan.

  9. #9
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    Don't want to criticize individual works

    I'll refrain from pointing out any specific examples on this board out of respect for fellow writers who have EXCELLENT story ideas. Some folks should brush up on craft a bit, but we all need to do that. It's a never-ending process.

    Wish me luck and say prayers, everybody. I have two manuscripts at Dorchester Publishing and another at Avon (division of Random House).

  10. #10
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    fruit loop, i specifically give you permission to point out specific examples in my work (i already know it could use some help). in fact, i'd appreciate it immensely. and even if a comment is severely critical i still want to see it here on the board.
    The only rights we have are those we are willing to FIGHT for.




  11. #11
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    I certainly appreciate comments and am always trying to hone my craft.

    As a novice writer, I personally am spurred on by the comments that lead me to believe that my story can make you think, or feel emotion. That to me is the greatest compliment.
    Visit My site, Stand Up and Be Free, for the online novel "The Troublemaker".

    For Do It Yourself Gun Customizing, on M1 Garand, Rem 700 and Ruger 10/22 visit Guncrafter,

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by fruit loop
    I'll refrain from pointing out any specific examples on this board out of respect for fellow writers who have EXCELLENT story ideas. Some folks should brush up on craft a bit, but we all need to do that. It's a never-ending process.

    Wish me luck and say prayers, everybody. I have two manuscripts at Dorchester Publishing and another at Avon (division of Random House).
    So let us know how it turns out for you. G'luck.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by fruit loop
    I'll refrain from pointing out any specific examples on this board out of respect for fellow writers who have EXCELLENT story ideas. Some folks should brush up on craft a bit, but we all need to do that. It's a never-ending process.

    Wish me luck and say prayers, everybody. I have two manuscripts at Dorchester Publishing and another at Avon (division of Random House).
    fruit loop - that's wonderful! What's your genre?
    Tessa Blue
    http://tessablue.blogspot.com/

    If you can't take the heat, don't tickle the Dragon...

  14. #14
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    On writing

    Thanks, everyone. I write historicals, romance, and fantasy. No novels published yet although I HAVE published short stories, poetry, and nonfiction articles. I cross genres....the one at Avon is a Historical/American Indian/Western/Romance. I have high hopes for that one because I got advice from the Comanche Language and Cultural Preservation Committe and they edited it for me. I told them if they hated it or found anything offensive I'd fix it or trash the novel entirely. They asked for a very few changes and said did NOT object to it.

    Okay, I'll go back over the stories and post some suggestions. Keep in mind that NO writer is really an expert and you're just getting opinions. Every writer's style is different and, in the words of Frederik Pohl, "Nothing is so wonderful that somebody, somewhere, won't hate it."

    Remember that every major studio turned down "Star Wars" at first. Margaret Mitchell sat on "Gone With the Wind" and only let a publisher see it at her husband's insistence.

    NEVER STOP WRITING and NEVER GIVE UP.

  15. #15
    Opinions are what we want!

    We may or may not use what anyone says, but it's ALWAYS good to have feedback. As you know when you're the one doing the writing sometimes you're just too close to the story to really see it clearly.

    .....Alan.

  16. #16
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    Okay, you asked for it.....

    Christian for Israel, you've got a great story. The only thing I see is the way it's worded....you use a lot of HADs and WASes (I can related to this habit - I have to de-had and de-that my manuscripts!!!). This makes it sound like you're describing something that's already happened, and gives me, the reader, like something big happened and I missed it.

    I suggest making it more active....make the reader part of the story. Paint a vivid picture of the feelings, smells, sounds.

    For instance, you begin like this:

    Chapter 1
    Jack Mitchell was a thirty-eight year-old recent divorcee, who was considered by most to be rather odd. That was probably fairly accurate. Jack believed in being prepared, something most people thought unnecessary. It was more than an idea to Jack, it was his life. He had spent most of his life, and a considerable amount of his parent's money on getting ready. Ready for what? Well, ready for anything. Jack didn't have a specific event to prepare for, as far as he was concerned, there were many things that could happen. As a result, his preparations covered a broad spectrum.

    And now it seemed that Jack had had the last laugh, if anyone could laugh at recent events. No one knew where the plague had come from, but before anyone knew it, it had swept the globe. Now Jack was headed for his shelter home, returning from a trip to visit friends. The plague had come upon the world quickly, and Jack had decided to hunker down where he was, at first just to avoid other people, then later to care for his friends as they caught the bug and eventually died of it. The miracle of it all was that Jack seemed to be immune to it, whatever it was.

    Jack was driving his "bug out" vehicle, a 1967 Uni-mog. The 'mog' was an ugly beast of a truck, a 4WD built in Europe as a general purpose farm and utility vehicle. It had a 90 hp 'multi-fuel' diesel engine, power take-off winches front and rear, and 17 inches of clearance underneath. It could just about go anywhere.

    Driving home, he had decided from the start to avoid the major roads, and in keeping with his preparedness mindset, had an alternate route all laid out. The route would take him through the "blank" national forest for at least half of his journey, which should help him to avoid people problems.

    HOW ABOUT SOMETHING LIKE THIS? Seems a bit more personal.

    Chapter 1
    Most people considered Jack Mitchell rather odd...a fairly accurate assessment. His belief in always being prepared, which most people thought unnecessary, was more than a belief....it was his life. He had spent most of his thirty-eight years, and a considerable amount of his parents' money, on getting ready. Ready for what? Well, anything, except maybe his recent divorce. Jack didn't need a specific event to prepare for; as far as he was concerned, "anything can happen. " As a result, his preparations covered a broad spectrum.

    "Now it seems I've had the last laugh, if anyone can laugh at recent events," he muttered grimly as he drove. "Now I'm headed for my shelter instead of enjoying a leisurely, restful trip home from visiting my friends!" Grief stung again. He'd hunkered down to care for his friends, only to watch them die. His apparent immunity to whatever-it-was mixed relief with survivor guilt and tremendous loss.

    He slowed his "bug out" vehicle, a 1967 Uni-mog, to scope out the terrain. "Thank goodness I saw beneath your skin, my ugly friend." The 4WD, built in Europe as a general purpose farm and utility vehicle, was his smartest purchase to date. Its 90 hp 'multi-fuel' diesel engine, power take-off winches front and rear, and 17 inches of clearance underneath, plus its ability to go just about anywhere, made it one gorgeous babe in Jack's book.

    Driving home, he decided from the start to avoid the major roads, and in keeping with his preparedness mindset, had an alternate route all laid out. The route would take him through the "blank" national forest for at least half of his journey, which should help him avoid people problems such as looters, thieves, and those folks who thrived on other folks' misfortunes.

    In the second part, you use dialogue very well to move things along. Suggest dropping some of the dialogue tags "he said" "the girl said." There are only two people talking and we know who they are. You also keep calling her "the girl." Suggest using her name or "she" more often. We know she's female.

    Use the "Show don't tell" rule a bit more. You sometimes drag people out of the action in order to explain things, like Jack being divorced. Drop them in unobstrusively, or tell back story in dialogue.

    I really like your story! Keep at it!

  17. #17
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    The only thing I can add to this thread, is a hearty "Thank You" to Fruit Loop.

    She seems to be very well "typed " and seems to know of which she speaks.

    That she deems fit to contribute to this forum is, in my opinion, a huge benefit

  18. #18
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    No, thank YOU, Ultraconservative....

    ....for making me welcome here. I enjoy the great company and fabulous entertainment.

    Just spent four hours hunched over my keyboard and wrote exactly two paragraphs. My current WIP is making me sweat blood......

    Off to enjoy some more great doomer fiction!

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by fruit loop
    ....for making me welcome here. I enjoy the great company and fabulous entertainment.

    Just spent four hours hunched over my keyboard and wrote exactly two paragraphs. My current WIP is making me sweat blood......

    Off to enjoy some more great doomer fiction!

    Damn, 2 paragraphs in four hours. That's some amazing production.


    If I knew how to write, I would tell ya'll stories of how long some of my long tortured paragraphs took to massacre(sp? Laurane where are you?).

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by fruit loop
    ....for making me welcome here. I enjoy the great company and fabulous entertainment.

    Just spent four hours hunched over my keyboard and wrote exactly two paragraphs. My current WIP is making me sweat blood......

    Off to enjoy some more great doomer fiction!
    Aaaahhh, but there are the days where you can smack out six thousand words in a sitting! Those days are worth it!

    (Speaking now of course, as someone who's bludgeoned out three paragraphs in the last two hours....and who may toss said paragraphs in disgust).

    Tom S.
    Spokane

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by fruit loop
    ....for making me welcome here. I enjoy the great company and fabulous entertainment.

    Just spent four hours hunched over my keyboard and wrote exactly two paragraphs. My current WIP is making me sweat blood......

    Off to enjoy some more great doomer fiction!
    I know exactly how that feels...
    Visit My site, Stand Up and Be Free, for the online novel "The Troublemaker".

    For Do It Yourself Gun Customizing, on M1 Garand, Rem 700 and Ruger 10/22 visit Guncrafter,

  22. #22
    --Avoid adverbs as much as possible. The old saying is "show, don't tell". Adverbs "tell" the story. By eliminating adverbs, you are forced to "show" what's going on.

    --Don't get fancy with dialogue tags, especially adverbs.

    Okay: "Get outta here," Alan said.

    Better: Alan spat on the floor. "Get outta here."

    Bad: "Get outta here," Alan sneered, spitting on the floor. (how do you talk, sneer and spit all at the same time?)

    Really bad: "Get outta here," Alan sneered derisively, spitting a juicy wad of phlegm on the floor.

    Ewww: "Get outta here!" Alan exploded. (mop and bucket, anyone?)

    By the time you write the phrase "get outta here", your reader should already know Alan's attitude.

    --Don't use dialogue tags at all when it's obvious who's saying what.

    "Get outta here, BK."

    "Make me."

    Alan spat on the floor. "Get outta here."

    "I'll leave when I feel like it."

    --Avoid exclamation points! They're not only annoying, they also "tell" rather than "show"!

    --Don't switch tenses, as in switching from first person to third person, or from past tense to present tense. It interupts the flow and jars the reader. Be very careful writing in present tense--it's easy to lose your way.

    --Be very careful with POV shifts. Don't shift from one character's point of view to another character's POV in the same section. Never shift from a limited POV to an omnicient POV.
    "This place is fantastic! It's like "Gone With The Wind" on mescaline. They walk imaginary pets here...and they're all heavily armed and drunk..."
    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

  23. #23
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    I disagree on the POV thing....

    This is hot debate among some romance writers, who preach about "this is like a camera constantly switching from one person to another and confuses the reader..." One writer even goes around doing paid seminars on this because that's the way she writes and says openly she thinks it should be a "rule" for writers. (I hate her books, by the way)

    Surveys among readers show the opposite, as do the seller charts. Read a "Star Trek" novel sometime....you get the POVs of the entire crew.

    Most editors say they also ignore it, as long as clarity is not compromised.

    This is a writer thing, not a reader thing, and remember that we write for the readers.

    Writers, in their quest to be better writers, sometimes get hung up on things like this. Don't. Just write. Then go back and read it....if something's unclear, you'll catch it.

  24. #24
    I don't object to multiple POVs in a novel--just not all in the same scene at the same time. As a reader, I find it disorienting.
    "This place is fantastic! It's like "Gone With The Wind" on mescaline. They walk imaginary pets here...and they're all heavily armed and drunk..."
    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

  25. #25
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    Fruitloop: I've read this thread with interest. and really appreciate your advice. I find myself doing several things you've mentioned here as being no-no's or cliche's. Guess I've got some re-writing to do!

    Fleataxi

  26. #26

    Do your research, but do it for YOU

    One of my pet peeves is an author who REALLY does a LOT of research for a story, then feels he did all that research, so he has to put too much of it into the story. I think you need to do enough research to understand the subject well(grok it) , but that doesn't mean you have to actually have one of your characters in your story doing research on what YOU did research on for the story.
    I haven't seen too many stories like that, but there are a few. I know it seems like a shame to let all that work go to waste, but there is such a thing as wasting story time giving too much background information. There's a time for background and there's a time for action.

  27. #27
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    Hey fruit loop!

    If you are interested in editing, I'd like you to take a look at my story. I need to revise and expand it. I've edited it myself several times, but after reading my own story repeatedly, I don't see anything wrong anymore and I know theres a ton of stuff that needs to be done to it.

    Anyway, if your interested, PM me.

    Marine

  28. #28
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    Marine, I'd be honored

    Your technique is real good. Story's a bit violent for me, but then that's just me...and you're a guy....there is a BIG market for your kind of fiction.

    Also sending via PM.
    [SIZE="2"][COLOR="DarkOrchid"]I'm not crazy. I've just been in a very bad mood for 40 years.[/COLOR][/SIZE]

    [COLOR="Purple"][SIZE="2"][I]You're not famous until someone says they put you on ignore[/I][/SIZE][/COLOR]

    [SIZE="2"][COLOR="SeaGreen"]If there's a bright center to the universe, we're on the planet that it's farthest from.[/COLOR][/SIZE]

  29. #29
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    Reminding all of us writers out there that this is a good thread to read over. I know I'm guilty of about 90% of the flub-a-dubs mentioned here but then again my goal has never been to be a professional writer. My goal IS to have fun and to make something I write enjoyable for someone else to read. With that in mind I'm always up for some improvement.

    Yes I make mistakes. I don't glory in them but I'm not going to let them destroy my psyche either. LOL! On the other hand, improvement never killed anyone so here's to watching out for the stereotypical flub-a-dubs so that folks can have a good time reading and letting off some stress rather than getting more bent out of shape because I've spewed out a piece of cankered tin foil for them to chew on.

  30. #30
    Being the selfish person I am.
    I want to know how to make them write faster short of mailing them massive doses of ritalin.

  31. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by RCSAR View Post
    Being the selfish person I am.
    I want to know how to make them write faster short of mailing them massive doses of ritalin.
    That wouldn't work, Ritalin would cut off your supply completely.

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