Writing Standards?

by Jonathan 7 Comments

I’m an avid reader of fiction writing sites such as Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America or any of the blogs on my blog roll. I can’t get enough of learning how other people write, what elements make for good fiction, character development, etc. The more I read this stuff, though, the more it occurs to me that anyone can have the formula for writing, but they still need to the ability to write (or at least cultivate it) to make the story fly.

Im hanging on to read the next chapter

I'm hanging on to read the next chapter

I was thinking specifically of the concepts of beginning chapters with hooks and ending with cliffhangers that I came across at Fiction Writer’s Connection tip sheet on revising your manuscript. Does blindly following these techniques result in homogeneous writing, i.e., if you put all writing done according to these guidelines in a bin and pull one out, can you distinguish one author from another? I suspect the answer will be sometimes. Ultimately, it will be our ability to write well and develop a compelling story that will set us apart.

As competitive writing (commercial writing?) is a new concept to me, I’m trying to sort through all this stuff without worrying too much about it. It’s easy to slip down that rabbit hole and never find my way to completing my current project.

My five favorite sites for writing resources are:

  1. Wikipedia – Quick and easy reference for just about anything on earth. I find it a nice way to get an overview on a subject or delve into the particulars. Lots of links to other related sites within the side. Loads of outside links as well.
  2. Dictionary.com – Part of the larger Reference.com – Fairly self-explanatory.
  3. Google Alerts – I subscribe to alerts related to writing fiction. That’s the coolest – you can subscribe to any search terms relevant to your interests – just type in your keywords. I recommend the digest format to keep your alerts to a minimum. It’s a nice way to find things that you don’t see in your regular blog feeds. If you don’t subscribe, I highly recommend it.
  4. Any number of Agent Blogs (or all of them), especially those in your area of interest. These blogs are incestuous, but in a good way – Et In Arcaedia, Ego., Nathan Bransford, BookEnds, LLC, and Janet Reid.
  5. SpecFicWorld.com – a nice clearing house for all things speculative fiction.

Comments ( 7 )

  1. Replyjenniferneri
    Good post, Jonathan! Thanks for the sites! For myself the key to good writing is voice. Who wants to read the same thing over and over? Yet, the same story can told entirely differently if the voice is different. Did that make any sense??
  2. ReplyJonathan Danz
    That makes loads of sense. I think your point is one of the most fascinating things about a story, as well as one of the things that gives me hope for publication.
  3. ReplyPeter
    Hi Jonathan, Interesting point about "homogenous" writing. This is one of my fears about crit-groups, that people go beyond helpfully correcting bad-writing or dodgy-grammar and start (unwittingly) trying to shape one another's styles. Telling the difference isn't easy either - but I think it starts with awareness. This is the first time I've checked out your blog, I'm looking forward to having a read of some of your other posts! P.
    • ReplyJonathan Danz
      Peter, thanks for checking out the post. I haven't done the crit-group thing (don't know if I will or not). I share your fears regarding fellow writers unknowingly imposing their styles on each other. I would imagine that reading a style I didn't like, but a storyline I did might cause me to do the same thing. I would guess there is no way of knowing if a group will be helpful or not until you jump in. Where do I find self-aware, non-judgmental, objective writers that will lovingly evaluate my work?
  4. ReplyPeter
    Jonathan, I'd have no hesitation in recommending Online Writer's Workshop. Like you, I struggled for a long time over whether to join a crit group, but after nearly a year of handing out my manuscript to well-meaning friends who didn't really understand what I wanted from them, I decided I needed to take the plunge. I've honestly never looked back. On average, each chapter I post gets 7-8 reviews from a diverse range of fellow-writers (occasionally including published authors). The feedback is intelligent, perceptive and always useful. You can also sign up free for a month as a trial - so, if you felt like giving it a go, you could post one of your chapters and see how it works out. Hope that helps! Peter.
    • ReplyJonathan Danz
      Thanks for the info. I'll probably take the plunge after I've finished my first draft at the end of the month. There's probably a healthy (unhealthy?) amount of insecurity that feeds my reluctance to join a critique group. That said, I have little doubt that I would improve as a result of the experience.
  5. What Makes a Good Story? « Words and Coffee
    [...] commented earlier in my post titles Writing Standards about my perception that it can be difficult to feel like your writing, your story, is different [...]

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