Discussion NSWFF Writer's Support Group - October's Topic: Lurking vs De-lurking

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Mira_Jade, Dec 5, 2012.

Moderators: Mira_Jade, NYCitygurl
  1. DaenaBenjen42 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 15, 2005
    star 5
    Yes, actually, and if I weren't having so much fun, I'd be annoyed at the slow-goingness of the story I was actually trying to write for in the first place... but I keep finding interesting things every time I go back to it, so maybe the wait was worth it. :)
    NYCitygurl likes this.
  2. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

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    April's Topic: Writing Dialogue


    “I've found that good dialogue tells you not only what people are saying or how they're communicating but it tells you a great deal - by dialect and tone, content and circumstance - about the quality of the character.” ~ E. O. Wilson


    The Discussion


    So, we have spent some time talking about how and when we write, and what characters we write about when we do. But now, to give your characters a voice. What are some tips you'd give for writing dialogue? How do you personally tackle this part of the writing process?

    For those interested, a very interesting article on tips for improving your dialogue can be found here. Feel free to discuss any of the points you liked – or disagreed with, even, here.


    The Exercise


    In less than a thousand words, write a dialogue only story, and post it here for the rest of us to ooh and aah over your conversational brilliance.
  3. NYCitygurl NSWFF Manager

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    Those are great tips! #5 gave me a bit of a laugh. Too many journalism classes taught me that tags all mean slightly different things (and that jourmalists should only use "said"). I actually think a little variation can help give insight into the scene and the characters. #1 is my favorite. So very true!
  4. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

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    I have to agree with you about the tagging the he said/she said! Every teacher I always had always stressed the importance of variation, for better flow and more interesting reading. That's interesting about the journalists *only* using 'said' as their tags. I never knew that. :D

    I liked number six too - nothing has turned me off to a story like too much slang/profanity in the dialogue. o_O.
  5. Rew Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 22, 2008
    star 4
    Oh, good prompt this month! Dialogue can be really fun (well, depending on the characters). I'll look forward to whipping something up for this exercise. ;)

    But Mira, did you see my post in this thread from a few weeks ago (for January's prompt)? I'm sad because I thought you were going to reply to it just like you replied to Nat's! (And did you get my PM too?)
  6. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

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    @Rew, I am sorry - I completely glossed over replying to that. :oops: I know my basics with the Harry Potter world, but it was nice to take a deeper look at some of the characters there. I particularly liked the glimpse at the twins - you certainly know your fandom of choice, that's for sure. =D=
  7. Rew Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 22, 2008
    star 4
    Yeah, I think it's on the previous page, and it's so easy for stuff to get lost in the shuffle on these threads!

    Thanks for the kind words. I really do like the twins too. I'm especially partial toward Padma, not only because she's a fellow Ravenclaw (which is what House I'm in on Pottermore!), but also because writing her was my first experience in The Potter Games. We don't know much of anything about her from the books/movies, so it was fun writing her as a blank slate/OC almost. :D

    But yeah, that character write-up on the last page may or may not have been intended to get people interested in my TPG Endgame story. :p
  8. Idrelle_Miocovani Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 5, 2005
    star 6
    You know, the best part about coming back to the fan fic community on the boards after an extended hiatus is seeing all the lovely new stuff! Great idea for a thread and support resource, @NYCitygurl and @Mira_Jade. :)

    Idri's Random Thoughts on the Topics So Far:

    Writer's Block

    IT SUUUUUCKS!

    I have suffered lots of different types of writer's block: writer's block for specific stories, writer's block for just fan fic, writer's block for specific forms of writing (1st person stories, poetry, prose, plays, essays)... etc etc. I have a few stories that were abandoned because I got writer's block for them and then completely lost any inspiration to return to them. I got writer's block for fan fiction because I was so busy with other projects that I did not have enough writing inspiration to go around. Sometimes I get writer's block because I don't want to write the style of a particularly story any more.

    I think you can lose inspiration for anything, for multiple reasons.

    But despite all of this, I've never lost the complete inspiration to write. I am always working on something - original fic, fan fic, plays, essays, whatever. I am always writing, and I think that's important for me. Because if I stop writing entirely, then I lose inspiration for a lot of other things. My thing is to keep the inspiration going, even if it's in an unlikely form (i.e. essays :p Though essays can be fun, especially if they're on the deconstruction of a character or plot in your favourite TV show/book/film).

    Sometimes my head is bursting with ideas, but I just can't get them down on paper. This is when I check in with myself: am I eating properly, am I getting enough sleep, am I exercising? And if I'm not doing those things, then I go and do them. :p As much as I feel like I can get a lot of writing done at 12:00am, most of it is me staring blankly at my computer screen, getting distracted by tumblr and pushing out maybe a page or two in three hours. If I feel good, chances are I can get an entire chapter written in two or three hours instead of only a page.

    These are some things I like to do:

    (1) Get outside - go for a bike or a run. Even if it's in the snow or the rain. And don't take your iPod. This is a technology free moment. Fresh air really helps me feel inspired and often I get tons of ideas or even start writing a chapter in my head while I'm out. Disconnecting from the Internet and technology is fabulous for writer's block because I am taking away a primary source of distracting and putting myself in a place where I can just let my ideas flow. It helps me reconnect with my ideas, because my brain is searching for something to do while I'm out running/biking without my iPod to distract me with music.

    (2) Jam on my piano. The creative act of making something completely random up in the moment really helps me get back into a creative mindset. If you don't have an instrument, I suggest just making up a song on the spot. Whatever you want. Wherever it leads you. It doesn't have to be good. It's something that is in a purely creative moment.

    (3) Do something artistic that isn't writing. Painting, baking, music-making - whatever. Do something that keeps your mind and body engaged, which will open you to more inspiration and creativity.

    (4) Write something random. A drabble. Something short. Whatever comes to you in the moment. It doesn't have to be fan fic. I wrote a drabble last week after seeing an old photograph of a sunrise I snapped when on a camping trip with my mom, so I wrote a little something about accidentally tripping over her to get out of the tent in order to go see the sunrise. Just writing that really helped me reconnect with the fun I have putting words together to tell a story.

    (5) Sleep. Don't kill yourself staying up late at night trying to punch out writing. Even though it feels like it will help, I've never found that it does. I used to lie to myself a lot about that. I find that sleeping and returning to the project in the morning helps me write more than pushing myself to stay awake does.

    (6) Discuss writing with people, online and off. I find it really invigorating just actively telling someone about the ideas I have or the way I want to approach my writing practice - especially when they give me a great discussion out of it!

    These things may not help everyone and you might not find all of them useful, but they work for me. I usually find that the busier I am creatively (i.e. working on multiple artistic projects), the more inspired I am to write. :)


    Characterization

    I honestly don't find paragraphs describing a character's personality helpful, probably because it's not an active way of discovering the character's character. All character traits are in flux - they're going to change depending on (a) the situation the character finds him/herself in and (b) how and why they got there. I find writing vignettes and character sketches help me a lot more than thinking about the character and going "Well, Character A is this, this and this", because the writing makes the character active and alive.

    All characters should have good characterization, IMO. Otherwise they're not really characters, they're an archetype. :p If you're going to reach your audience, you need to present your characters in a way that resonates with them. Now, you can resonate with an audience (it depends on the audience) by the use of character archetypes and stereotypes, but that gets kind of dull really quickly.

    We know to give characters a balance of flaws and good points, but imagining a list of those traits doesn't really help me. Because then I get worried about, "Oh, Character A isn't self-deprecating enough, I better throw in a scene that shows that."

    So, I go into my theatre arsenal and approach writing characters the way I approach performing characters. I figure out what their intentions are, what they want, what they will do to get what they want - and how those intentions, desires and tactics can change over the course of time. I figure out pivot points, the moment when everything changes and the scene can never go back to the way it was (big or small, every scene has one of those!). I figure out how all personality traits can be both an asset and a bad thing, depending on the scenario. I never think of my characters in terms of "good" and "evil", because the chances of your villain thinking of him/herself as "evil" are pretty low. And, most importantly, I always ask "why". Why is this character behaving this way? Why do they make that choice? Why do they say that line? The why and the how are always incredibly important, because they help you go past a superficial view of the character and aim for something deeper.

    Acting has really helped me develop characters in my writing because the tools I learned for the theatre help me get inside the characters' heads and skins and become them. And I think you have to partially become your character in order to understand them, and in understanding them, you can give them a well-rounded characterization. :)


    Finding Time to Write

    Most of the time, I don't have time to write. This one is really hard for me, because when I'm working I usually get home and I'm too mentally and physically exhausted to write. So, I try to set aside some time at least somewhere in the week where I can at least get something down on paper. And if that doesn't work, I have a journal where I sketch ideas whenever I have a break in my day or I'm bored sitting on the bus commuting to work.

    But most important, don't beat yourself up if you are kept too busy to write. There will always be time to write, usually when you least expect it.

    I really suck at creating and keeping to schedules where writing is concerned, so I don't have anything else to add on this point. :p


    Dialogue

    I've had an extremely useful experience in recent months when it comes to writing dialogue. I am an aspiring playwright in RL and I produced/directed my first play at the end of April. The entire process of writing and then watching the actors bring my script to life taught me a lot about pacing and tone for dialogue. The familiar old adage about "read your writing aloud" is true, especially when you are able to have it go one step farther and have actors perform it for you! I could immediately see where problem spots were, where one character sounded like another one (even the actors commented on that at one point: "That's not my line, that's her line? But it sounds like something my character would say!"), where the pace of the scene was interrupted because there was too many one-liners and witticisms (it is definitely possible to be too clever in your dialogue - don't be clever for the sake of being clever), where the wording was just really awkward (what sounds natural to you in your head doesn't necessarily sound natural aloud to everyone else). It was a very eye-opening experience, especially for writing.

    In playwriting, the goal you keep in mind is to have every character's "voice" sound unique on the page, so that they are identifiable without character tags. I think this is applicable to writing novels/prose as well. I struggle a lot with characters sounding like me - sometimes when I'm reading something back, all characters involved in the conversation sound exactly like me, with the same habitual phrases and pauses and emphasis on certain words... (it gets infinitely creepier when you have that dialogue performed and you're watching actors run around onstage speaking like you :p ). When a play or a novel has a very specific theme or moral that the author wants to discuss, it becomes really easy to lose the characters' voices because the author hijacks them to prove/discuss their point.

    While I like having a variety of dialogue tags, I do think that variety can be overused. Sometimes it's not necessary to have a dialogue tag. Sometime "said" is the only thing that needs to be... erm... said. My rule of thumb is to have the meaning/intention behind the line be portrayed through the punctuation, word choice and occasionally certain italicized emphasis of the dialogue itself, instead of relying on the dialogue tag to do it for me. If someone's shouting in capitals, I probably don't need to write "he screamed" afterwards. :p

    I like #2 on the article's list, because it applies to everything about writing. In a play, you have limited time. Plays have to be streamlined because if you include absolutely everything that happens, the audience is going to be seeing a 24 hour play and that's not a good thing. :p My playwriting professor once suggested the technique of starting a scene either a quarter or a third of the way into it. Meaning: skip the preliminaries. You don't always have to show characters greeting each other and exchanging gossip before getting down to the important stuff. If the reason the scene exists is to discuss the defensive plan against the zombie apocalypse, start the scene when they're arguing about what defenses to use. You can set up the scene as you go along. Staying one step ahead of the audience is important for plays, because if they catch up, they get bored really quickly. It's not entirely the same thing for novels, but I think it can be applicable.

    Furthermore, any dialogue is centered around conflict -- which is what the characters want from each other. In acting, we have our characters intention (what we want from our scene partner) and our tactics (what we are going to do to our scene partner to get what we want). For example, I'm Ginny and I want Harry to admit he loves me. "I want him to admit he loves me" is my intention and my tactic at the top of the scene could be "seduce". So, I'm going to seduce him to get him to admit he loves me. Maybe that doesn't work, or Harry does something to completely block that tactic, so I'll switch to a different tactic (maybe "charm"). In acting, tactics inform how a line is delivered, but I think it can also be used as a tool for writers when they're writing dialogue to help inform what the next natural thing is for their character to say. But the key is not to overtthink it, otherwise it becomes too mechanical. :p It's a tool, not a rule.

    I also like #1 in the article. My directing prof (she also taught playwriting at one point) has a tool called "faction" (fact + fiction = faction). Getting faction would mean going out and sneakily listening to other people's conversations, going home, writing out that conversation and filling in the blanks about the people/characters. By the end of the exercise, you would have a scene. It was extremely useful as a tool to learn how people talk, the multiple ways in which people can talk, and how to go about creating different voices. A huge part of any writing is observation, IMO - observation of the people and society around you. If you observe enough, you'll have the tools to create something that resonates with your audience.

    Okay, I think I'm done. That was longer than I expected! [face_laugh]
    Last edited by Idrelle_Miocovani, May 28, 2013
  9. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

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    And oh my goodness, look at who fails at updating this thread? How about bi-monthly topics, people? I think that we could get a more well rounded discussion out of these, that way. :D

    And @Idrelle_Miocovani - I have missed your input in these threads. You have always had wonderful things to point out. :D

    Two things really stood out to me in this. :D

    One:

    The familiar old adage about "read your writing aloud" is true, especially when you are able to have it go one step farther and have actors perform it for you! I could immediately see where problem spots were, where one character sounded like another one (even the actors commented on that at one point: "That's not my line, that's her line? But it sounds like something my character would say!"), where the pace of the scene was interrupted because there was too many one-liners and witticisms (it is definitely possible to be too clever in your dialogue - don't be clever for the sake of being clever), where the wording was just really awkward (what sounds natural to you in your head doesn't necessarily sound natural aloud to everyone else). It was a very eye-opening experience, especially for writing.

    The reading your writing aloud makes all of the difference - so I can only imagine your work being acted aloud. Talk about your eye-openers! But I really liked the point about not trying to be clever for clever's sake. Wit should be the nuts on the sundae, not the sauce. :p

    And then . . .

    I also like #1 in the article. My directing prof (she also taught playwriting at one point) has a tool called "faction" (fact + fiction = faction). Getting faction would mean going out and sneakily listening to other people's conversations, going home, writing out that conversation and filling in the blanks about the people/characters. By the end of the exercise, you would have a scene. It was extremely useful as a tool to learn how people talk, the multiple ways in which people can talk, and how to go about creating different voices. A huge part of any writing is observation, IMO - observation of the people and society around you. If you observe enough, you'll have the tools to create something that resonates with your audience.

    What a cool exercise! Faction - how wonderfully said. I will definitely have to try that one of these times. :D
    Last edited by Mira_Jade, May 28, 2013
  10. Idrelle_Miocovani Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 5, 2005
    star 6
    And just for you, I went back and commented on all the other points. :p 'Cause Imma silly person!! 8-}

    I think it's important right now, considering that the popularity of certain TV shows is escalating the "cleverness is the most important thing in your writing" idea. After all, "brainy is the new sexy". :p Yes, we all want to be seen as clever. But cleverness should not outweigh a clear plot and engaging characters, because cleverness by itself does not create good stories, good characters or even good dialogue. Also, it is possible for witty exchanges to go on for too long, especially if they do nothing to advance the plot or provide new insight into the characters.

    (Side note to @Mira_Jade: if you want discussion ideas, I have a few to share! :) )
  11. NYCitygurl NSWFF Manager

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    star 9
    [face_laugh] [face_laugh] [face_laugh]

    Welcome back :p

    Very insightful points! I especially enjoyed your thoughts on seeing your pieces performed and your advice about de-stressing and getting away from writing when you feel blocked. I especially agree about the sleep thing--when I'm tired, I'm just tired, not inspired 8-}
  12. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

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    @Idrelle_Miocovani: Yes! I will definitely take those discussion ideas if you want to share. :D

    And, now, here we have the new conversation for June. I meant to get this out on the first, but there was no sitting down this weekend, let alone sitting down on the computer. 8-} :p





    June's Topic: How Long is Long Enough?

    “Nothing matters but the writing. There has been nothing else worthwhile... a stain upon the silence.” ~ Samuel Beckett



    The Discussion

    So, we have all been to this point. We have an idea; a character, a scenario. And now, it is time to write. When you write, what do you find that you normally gravitate to? Do you write long and drawn out? Are you the epic novel writer with the ten thousand plus worded chapters? Or do you tell your novel through smaller segments? Are you a fan of the short story? The one-shot? The drabble? The sentence? Or are you that jack of all trades who does it all?

    The forum is yours, fellow writers. :cool:



    The Exercise

    Take the exact same story, but try telling it in a sentence, a drabble, and a vignette form. What do you find stays, and what do you find goes when telling a story with a certain length in mind? When you finish, post your work here and let your peers comment and commend. :D/>
  13. NYCitygurl NSWFF Manager

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    Very interesting exercise! And an interesting topic.

    For me, it depends on the story. In the Star Trek story I keept stalling on 8-} I generally do 1,500 words per chapter--long enough that (I hope) readers will satisfied with the amount but not so long their eyes are drooping from reading the screen :p I tend to make most of my chapters about one scene--so if something uber-important is happening, the chapter gets longer.
  14. Idrelle_Miocovani Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 5, 2005
    star 6
    Oooh... where to start on this topic?

    I tend to write a lot (which should be pretty obvious if you look at the last post I left in this thread). But I also only write as much as I feel I need to on a particular subject. I've gotten a lot better at recognizing when I'm rambling, and therefore recognizing when I need to stop. And usually once I stop, that also means I need to go back and edit. Most writing is re-writing, I find. :p

    When I started writing fan fic, I used to only be interested in punching out gigantic epics from the smallest idea. Unsurprisingly, all of those epics remained unfinished because I bit off more than I could chew. All of the long multi-post works that I did complete tend to be on the smaller scale of the epic. Between 50,000 and 100,000 is where I am most comfortable for long multi-post stories, which I always post in streamlined chapters. Sometimes a chapter may comprise of a trio of scenes linked by theme, sometimes it might just be one scene.

    Sometimes a story will turn into a multi-post story. An idea may start off as a vignette and then grow as I'm writing it when I decide that the theme is just not covered well enough with the kind of scope you get from a vignette.

    I am comfortable writing sentence challenges and drabbles and flash fiction and vignettes... it really depends on the idea and the fandom and the kind of scope a particular story needs in order to be told. Some stories work best as a vignette. Some as a 100,000 epic.

    And sometimes I just throw traditional ideas of scope and style out the window and go, "Screw it, I'm creating my own style for things and it will end up being however long it needs to be." :p
  15. Nightvision91 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2013
    star 1
    Length is an interesting topic. For me it depends on what I am writing. With my recent Star Trek story, I've written tons of pages for it already. I try to take out parts that work as single chapters, and they tend to be one scene.
  16. NYCitygurl NSWFF Manager

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    YES. I completely agree.
  17. Master_Jaina1011 Force Ghost

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    May 20, 2002
    star 4
    ohhh hi everyone. Sorry I've been lurking. Anyways, length always seem to be a problem for me. I like to have longer chapters than normal but sometimes I have no idea how to end a chapter. However my fics tend to run long, my longest being around 150 pages.

    I have a plot bunny running around after seeing ST:ID, and there have been a couple of nights where I should just stay up and write. Should being the key word.
  18. Idrelle_Miocovani Force Ghost

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    Feb 5, 2005
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    I'm actually really looking forward to taking a stab at the exercise for this month's discussion. I have a short story ("short" being the operative word :p ) that initially was going to be a vignette, so I'm curious to see if I can still tackle it as a vignette, a drabble and a sentence. [face_thinking]

    Sometimes I write "long" vignettes (8,000 words) but the difference between those and short stories for me is that it can't be divided up into multiple posts or chapters. I know I have a short story or an epic on my hands when I have to start doing an outline to consolidate my thoughts and figure out exactly what kind of story I want to tell, otherwise I'll never finish it. :p
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  19. NYCitygurl NSWFF Manager

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    I'm not organized enough to outline--fanfic, papers, anything 8-} I just go with the flow--I usually have a beginning and ending when I start, but not the middle. So I write and see where it takes me. Often to crazytown :p
  20. Idrelle_Miocovani Force Ghost

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    Feb 5, 2005
    star 6
    I learned the hard way about why outlines are the best way for me to get anything done: I kept revising my last play, even after we were in production. The actors first found it funny, and then a little annoying, and then downright irritating. :p Also, the play was difficult to write in the first place because when I started, I didn't have an outline so I kept getting distracted and it turned into a really weird, messy, never-ending kind of thing.

    Outlines help me streamline my ideas, choose what direction the story should go in, and ultimately help me see the bigger picture. I tend to lose site of the big picture without one, since I get focused up in all the little, wonderful details... and then the story dies. :p
    Last edited by Idrelle_Miocovani, Jun 4, 2013
  21. RX_Sith C&G Game Host

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    I tend to try to make my writing as compact and efficient as possible. I go maybe a little beyond what fits on a web page as you see it on the computer screen, so taking what @Mira_Jade posted on this topic, you can see by scrolling up to it that it takes up just a little beyond what fits on the screen.

    That is how long I try to keep my postings to at the most. I will post no more than three scenes per update and normally keep it to one or two to show more than one set of characters at a time. Sometimes one is enough though if that is all that the update involves.

    As far as outlining or doing anything organized goes, I don't do that at all. The words either happen or they don't. When DWB occurs, then at least writing a little section can help to alleviate it. Also, I do occasionally edit my posts, but normally do not. Again, it might not be the most organized way of writing for most, but it works the best for me since I normally do not have a lot of time to do long posts anyway.

    I know some people who will write it out ahead of time and put it into Word format or whatever word processor program that they use. Again, for me, I don't do that either. If it's not correct due to syntax and other issues then I will try to edit that if I see it in time, otherwise whatever I post is what I post.
    Last edited by RX_Sith, Jun 4, 2013
  22. NYCitygurl NSWFF Manager

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    I've written in Word for years. I used to just type it in, and then many moons ago (we're talking like 8 years -- geez :p ), I had an entire chapter completely written ... and then my Internet crashed, and I lost it completely. And is wasn't short :p
  23. Master_Jaina1011 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2002
    star 4
    Oh I write in Word too. Its the only common denominator between my computer and work's. I've tried the outlines, just basic what I want to do in the story, and I will follow it sometimes. I just write, then I'll back and edit. I do have a program called Story book Editor (I think) and you basically can creat the plots, characters, etc and I've been using that to develop my original fic and its characters backgrounds, along with the universe.

    I think I enjoy the drabble challenge because I have to keep it at 100 words It helps refine everything. I find that sometimes when I come across DWB, the drabble prompts help when I'm stuck in a middle of a chapter and my muse goes "That's exactly what I wanted!"
  24. Idrelle_Miocovani Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 5, 2005
    star 6
    I could never trust myself to write and post a story without a word processor. I like fiddling with my writing. I want to make sure I'm 100% happy with it before I post. I always write in Word, but sometimes I'll do it old school and write by hand and then type it up in a Word document (I get distracted by the Internet, so sometimes, in order to write, I have to write by hand in order to get away from my computer). I do a lot of re-writing and editing, especially if I'm playing with style. Sometimes one fic will be re-written because I discover the story works better in present tense instead of past tense and then I have to go and change all the verbs (it's frustrating, but sometimes it must be done!).

    I agree that drabble prompts are amazing. They help you think, and I often find a good selection of drabble prompts usually inspires something. :)
    Last edited by Idrelle_Miocovani, Jun 5, 2013
  25. NYCitygurl NSWFF Manager

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    Drabbles definitely force me to get the writing flowing again. It's like, "These are only 100 words; I can do it!" And then suddenly I've written a couple thousand words for the day 8-}
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