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Thread: To the writers here, a couple questions.

  1. #1
    Fresh Meat
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    Question To the writers here, a couple questions.

    How much research do you do for a story?

    I literally have over 86 megs in over 2,100 files of research stuff that is ever expanding, from weapons, ammunition and explosives to electricity generation to oil refining. And another 75 megs in 350 files in Sci-Fi research.


    How often do you find yourself starting a story and getting into it for several chapters and then it just stalls?

    I have a couple at the 2nd chapter stage and 1 in the 6th chapter that have just stalled out. Is this normal?

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    Webmaster Neil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TreverSlyFox View Post
    How much research do you do for a story?

    I literally have over 86 megs in over 2,100 files of research stuff that is ever expanding, from weapons, ammunition and explosives to electricity generation to oil refining. And another 75 megs in 350 files in Sci-Fi research.


    How often do you find yourself starting a story and getting into it for several chapters and then it just stalls?

    I have a couple at the 2nd chapter stage and 1 in the 6th chapter that have just stalled out. Is this normal?
    I wouldn't clasify myself as a good writer, just a stubborn one. I do NOT find it easy, and in particular find dialogue very very hard!

    As regards stalling! Yes yes yes! With "The Midas Touch" I knew the whole story arc before I even started it. Infact I even had the closing paragraph in my head. I wrote the first couple of paragraphs and the last first of all. I then wrote blocks of the story as they came to me, and I joined them up. HOWEVER, I certainly did stall, and infact in the end I was so short on time and the story was just sitting there stagnating I just took what was there and joined it up as best I could, so there are some very weak sections to it that really needed more love and attention. But that's really also down to just my lack of talent as much as anything too!

    As regards reseach, I haven't done much TBH. With "The Midas Touch" I did a tiny amount just for locations and explosives, and for "Testament" I did some space related research. But I would suggest - and I've seen it in contributions and books - people do a fact dump, where they've cleary have done research and decide to dump a load of technical information into sections of their stories. Generally I find this difficult going as it tends to come across somewhat unnecessary, and feels like the author it trying to gain credibility through facts than just quality writing and good story?

    Does that make sense?
    Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. [click for more]
    -Carl Sagan

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    Team Rick MinionZombie's Avatar
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    I used to write short stories many years ago when I was a teenager (indeed you can find some of them on HPOTD's fiction section), and then I stopped writing for pleasure ... anyway, cutting a long story short, I've decided that I want to be a screenwriter, so I've been working on my writing craft quite hard for the last three years.

    Anyway - on research - I only do research for things that I want to include in the story (usually in a peripheral manner - such as a psychological condition, e.g. "scopophobia", which is a fear of being watched/looked at) that I either don't know about at all yet (and discover while researching), or don't know much about in general. Often the kinds of things I write don't require a lot of research as they're more based on character decisions and interaction within a defined scenario, in a way that's kind of like me thinking to myself "what would I do in this situation, and what might this person do in this situation?" ... maybe a little research to get into the tone of the piece, but beyond that I don't do an awful lot - but like I said, it really depends on what you're writing, and what kind of things you like to write about.

    Now, on a screenplay I wrote a while back I did a lot of research - pages and pages of stuff, and a lot of it ended up being extraneous, or at best peripheral information - but that's just how it went. I used a fair bit, but only in small ways, and like Neil said it's important to not dive too much into technical or factual information as it can easily get in the way of moving the story forward. So stuff regarding weapons, ammo, explosives etc etc etc would be best served being used sparingly and only when important to moving the story forward - or if it's necessary within character interaction - e.g. if a weapons expert is instructing novices (but in a way that the scene is as much about character interaction as it is about sharing technical information), or if a group are setting up some sort of power supply that's important to their survival and one guy knows how to do it, but needs everyone's help, and in acquiring the tools they need, they go on a mini-adventure within the overall story and the reader gets to see new sights, new character beats and so on.

    In terms of stalling, it's always best to have your entire story laid out before you begin writing. What I like to do, and this might be more suited to screenplays, is the index card method ... but that's after I've splurged out a whole bunch of ideas on paper as-and-when they come to me. I go through all my story notes and uncover the story from there - who the characters are, what they're about, how they interact, what world they're in, what their actions cause to happen, how they react to events etc etc etc.

    Anyway - at this point I go to the index cards and breaking the ideas down into scenes, and while organising them into a particular order, I often find new scenes spring off from a scene I've got on one of the cards - if THIS happens, then THAT must happen next ... or 'I need to show HOW it was that THIS came to be' - as long as it's all in service to the story and the characters.

    By the end of that process I've got the entire script laid out from start-to-finish. Naturally as I'm writing, new ideas will hit me and I'll include them (and the same goes for doing new drafts, where you finally get to focus on the small details and connective tissue, rather than man-handling the entire thing into place, as you do in the first draft), but I've got a very clear path laid out in front of me made up with what happens, when it happens, who it happens to, and how they respond. I might have little moments of dialogue ideas prepared, but I don't usually follow them too closely (if at all, in the end).

    So, to summarise, it's vital to have the story, the characters, their back stories, the main roadmark events of the plot, and so on, all laid out in advance before you begin writing page one. If you have a solid foundation and structure in place before you start writing then you're unlikely to get lost and it's something you can rely on - like a map - to find your way to the end of the maze. Without it, it's easy to brainstorm ideas as-you're-writing, rather than filling in the blanks of a pre-prepared story - I used to do that myself and it was frustrating. Once I started laying everything out beforehand - working towards and around certain structural landmark moments (e.g. by Page Number X, this and this should happen, to inspire Act 2, and so on) - I found writing, and completing my story, much easier.

    In terms of technical information - it's good to have, but only as long as it serves the story. Many readers might have no idea about gun and ammo types, and names of parts and so on, so you've always got to bring your audience along for the ride without confusing them, but without dropping dull and obvious exposition (e.g. those dodgy moments in films or stories where the writer explains the plot beat-by-beat to the reader). As long as the technical stuff is in the background, and is there to serve the story, then it's good to have ... but it's also important to not get too distracted by the technical stuff either.

    I've read the tie-in Walking Dead novels (The Rise of the Governor, and The Road to Woodbury), and Bonansinga oftentimes gets caught up in fetishising the weapons - or even the weather (the number of times he'd give a weather report that wasn't important to the story, at all, became ridiculous - the number of times the sky was 'gun metal grey' began to piss me off ) - or he'd get caught up in describing the individual zombies within a crowd of them, so the action's happening, but instead of moving forward at breakneck pace, he'd slow down and go on and on about individual wounds (using a very limited variety of words to describe them - so certain phrases repeated across a couple of pages, as well as the book in general) and as the reader I was waiting for the next beat in the scene to happen - and oftentimes I was ahead of Bonansinga's text waiting for him to catch up to me.

    So the technical stuff is good, as long as it's necessary info, it's used sparingly, it's not exclusive of the general audience, and it's secondary to the story and characters.

    I went on a bit of a long-winded one there, but I love talking about writing ... anyway, I hope some of this has been of use. It's always a constant learning curve with writing - the aforementioned script that I wrote a few years ago, for which I did a load of research, is now decidedly under my current level of writing (so, at some point, I want to re-write it from the ground up as I still believe in the story, but my prose in 2010 is miles back from my 2013 prose, and I need to bring it 'up-to-standard').

    So I hope this has been at least a little bit helpful - and all the best with your writing.

  4. #4
    Dead wayzim's Avatar
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    I agree with Minion, about researching just those things which appear in your story.
    In fact, last year when I was writing a pirate novel ( almost on a dare ) I was grilling a friend who loves ocean fishing about sailing, only to discover he was more about powered craft. And then he asked me a really good question. "Is this a story about a ship? Or one which takes places on a ship? "
    Now the other interesting item was that; as this story was narrated by one of the characters in an historic setting, I did a cram research session of about three days before writing even one scene. This was just so that anything my heroes and villains said, or did, could come about in a spontaneous naturalistic manner. For example: 17th century Politics treated as a fence post conversation - and so forth.
    But also, just be comfortable with this world you're creating, get as close to an ideal as you can, and ultimately fix everything else in the rewrite.

    Wayne Z

    The good Captain leaned toward his first mate, issuing some quiet instructions before motioning to his helpers, as Christian appeared rather nonplused about this honor. And as they took their leave, Mr. Talbot turned to the cook with an odd twinkle in his eye. “Our Michael does well enough in his lessons, I think. Mr. Penny, could you use a secretary to help revise our inventory? “

    “He’s a surer hand with his letters. “ confirmed the old man absently. “Not quite so much with a blade, but then ’Many wearing rapier, are fearful of the goose quill. ‘ as The Bard would say. “

    “That they are. “ laughed the young officer gaily before affecting a more business like manner. “Rightly so too. Well, I’ll let you get to it then. “

    From Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Red (working title.) by Wayne Zimmerman

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    For me sometimes the Hardest part is getting the Story from my head to paper.
    I know just how I want it to flow. But making it flow smoothly and so that it is
    a good read.

    I tend to write scenes and splice them together how the story flows.
    Getting it to read correctly is what I stumble on.

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    Webmaster Neil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dmackey View Post
    I tend to write scenes and splice them together how the story flows.
    Getting it to read correctly is what I stumble on.
    That sounds a bit like my experience!
    Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. [click for more]
    -Carl Sagan

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    Fresh Meat BryanWay's Avatar
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    The Writing Process

    It's certainly not abnormal to get stalled like that, the only problem is that people deal with it in different ways.

    George R.R. Martin of Game of Thrones fame has said that writers generally fall into one of two groups: gardeners and architects. Architects make plans, designs, and build into the framework. Gardeners stay patient and nurture ideas, seeing how they grow. No one writer is 100% one or the other, but I find myself to be firmly in the gardener camp.

    When I get stalled in the writing process, I've learned that trying to force myself to keep going is analogous to attempting to breach a castle wall with my skull. In writing my novel Life After: The Arising (link below, plug plug!), I once reached a point where I couldn't move on for five months. I had ideas on where I wanted the story to go, but I just couldn't get there.

    Fortunately, I've also long since figured out the way to keep writing.

    My solution is to have anywhere from five to a dozen writing projects going at once. Novels, screenplays, short stories, essays, articles, poetry, songs, hell even message board commentary! If you keep writing every single day, you develop a rhythm, and even if you don't get back to a project you're dying to complete, you'd be surprised how many great ideas you get from working on other stuff. So, like you, I have a bunch of projects that are half completed, but because I always have something to work on, I don't worry about finishing them until they're ready. As a result, I have two finished books, a truckload of short stories, and five completed screenplays.

    That's my broad view advice. Specifically, I'd suggest trying to write some short fiction. Much less pressure. The Life After short fiction series I have up on the HPOTD fiction board ties into my novel directly, and what I've done is taken incidental snippets of the story and blow them up into separate, linking stories. Just think about things in your writing up to this point that perhaps you haven't expanded on; what is this character doing before he walks into a room? Does a character talk about a traumatic childhood event? Maybe a minor character dies unspectacularly, but she had a major, unseen effect on the plot from something she did previously? Sometimes when you flesh out the background, something clicks and you get right back in the swing of things.
    Life After: The Arising

    In a scientific and spiritual sense, humanity has its world ordered, but that order slowly descends into chaos when something defies the tenets of both, leaving the events of human history divided into life before and life after the bodies of the dead began to reanimate.

    A college student comes home to be confronted by something hed only read about in fiction and seen in movies: Zombies. Despite lungs beset by asthma and a total lack of survival skills, his lifelong desire to endure an undead apocalypse sees him unite a small group of acquaintances, but with the town quarantined as emergency infrastructure breaks down, everyone will have to grow up fast if they want to see a life after the arising....


    Now available on paperback and Kindle at Amazon!

  8. #8
    Team Rick MinionZombie's Avatar
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    That's an interesting theory about 'architects vs gardeners', BryanWay ... I'm definitely an Architect in that analogy, then. I've gotta have things laid out on paper first. I like to know who my characters are, where they're going, and what the beats and pace of the script are going to be ... actually writing it is almost a formality, but what I don't really plan is the dialogue, that's 'in the moment' for me when I write the scene. If something's not working then I definitely change it, sometimes a character might swap genders, they gain a new backstory, or their fate changes, or whatever.

    In terms of writing a bunch of things, personally I always focus on one thing at a time - the actual writing of whatever it is, anyway. I've always got several ideas brewing as-and-when the ideas pop into my head, and sometimes I might drop a re-draft of an old script in favour of something new. Right now I'm re-drafting a script I started writing about this time last year (and completed in Jan/Feb time) to bring it up to the standard of my latest work after I took another couple of big steps up on my 'ladder of writing quality' ... ... anyway, I came across a competition yesterday that's right up my alley, and you can submit treatments (as well as full screenplays), so I decided to put the re-drafting aside for the moment so I can put together a treatment based on an idea that I had a good couple of years ago, but just wasn't able to get around to as I had other ideas I wanted to press on with first.

    It's good to have some ideas in your back pocket for these sort of scenarios - you might have something suitable for a competition, or you might have an idea that can be worked into it quite easily - so that's what I'm doing right now.

    Circling back though, I always have to have a sense of completion. I hate abandoning things half-finished - it feels like a waste of the effort I've put in thus far. If I can at least finish it, then I've got a complete product, but I've also got more experience as a result of seeing it through. Finishing it off might earn me a lesson I would have otherwise missed by just throwing in the towel ... each to their own really ... as long as you finish it, that's an important thing, I think.

  9. #9
    Dead wayzim's Avatar
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    I'd say my writing is definitely gardener, although often the output comes off like a plague virus ... LOL, the process so furious at times it almost overwhelms the final product. But while it might ultimately end in a more naturalistic story, it's akin to running down a steep hill - as when you stumble in the narration, you really stumble.
    So currently I'm working on a sequel to my pirate story ( while fumbling about trying to find an agent for my first. )I wrote a Halloween story for a lady, am attempting to wrap the third installment of an ongoing series to provide fresh content for a friend's site, and I have two zombie stories to finish ( hopefully to put up on HPOTD. ) - as well as an old short story I'm retooling as a novel (hint; it has vampires & zombies in it. )

    Wayne Z

    The saber tooth had not sensed the feint, had not heard or smelled the others until he felt the weight of several creatures upon his broad back, multiple fangs deftly punching through his muscular flesh. Still he leapt toward the offending entity who’d stolen his quarry as the others sought to drag him down.
    While his prowess was undeniable, its’ fluid strength was rapidly drawn out through wounds too many to measure.
    The object of his hate fell before his superior weight, yet the gaunt adversary did not die without comment. Its razor nails made a slashing statement across the underbelly of the cat, the wide stone table awash with steaming viscera, spilling out through the even splits of rent flesh.


    Preservation of A Species, The Novel.
    Last edited by wayzim; 08-Nov-2013 at 12:47 PM. Reason: cuz

  10. #10
    Fresh Meat Mosaku's Avatar
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    I do a ton of research for my novel at the moment. One of the main characters is a former pathologist so i have to get familiar with medical terms and how to make the character sound more intelligent than i actually am in real life, which is not easy. In essence i read lots of military books to get familiar with weapons and tactics and many post mortem reports to grasp a feel of how a professional coroner would log a report. I've recently bought over 20 books costing me well over a hundred quid (and hundreds more hours) and that's not including all the documents i have examined online so yeah, research is necessary and also very fun I find. I think I may have done just as much research as I have interpreting and writing it.

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