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How did you learn to write?

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Phobos View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Phobos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Oct 2019 at 1:28pm
Apparently, I don't really know how to write, so I'll consider this as my opportunity.  

In the past, especially late teens/early twenties in college, I wrote poems, little short stories, edited things for people, and huge diatribes on social media.  I've had ideas for stories for forever and I'll run them by my wife and she'll say, "That sounds awesome.  You should write it down.", but I haven't so far.  

What started me actually trying was that we took in a teenage foster son and his English class had him write out a two-page story using the classic elements.  It was just a blow-off assignment for him, but I started doing serious research for a story and it has ballooned into this massive concept for a series of fantasy novels ... that may never reach a shelf or digital bookstore ...

I'll say, this competition has been both encouraging and discouraging, the feedback from both fellow competitors and the judges has been humbling to say the least.  

As my college roommate's marketing book said, 
"Your mother may believe that you are the greatest person on the planet, but a prospective employer may form a different conclusion."
Fear is a powerful motivator. To some, it is a god.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Fabala Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Oct 2019 at 5:56pm
Probably just from...reading. Voraciously. Often. I can't remember a time when I didn't love reading, and didn't love writing. 

At its core, it's probably due to my parents both loving reading and writing as well. And aside from them, it's my second grade teacher. I tore through the readers so quickly she couldn't keep up with me. I finished everything in our year, and every year past that. When she ran out of readers she gave up and started giving me novels instead. Likewise, she noted I enjoyed writing. Instead of forcing me to stick to assigned word limits, she let me go, knowing I would better produce unfettered.

When I had to leave the class because my family was moving to another state, she gave me Bridge to Terabithia as a parting gift. I still have it, complete with her kind words of encouragement.

Thank you, Mrs. Fasano.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote AineKnees Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Oct 2019 at 7:59am
I loved reading, I can still remember vividly realising I could read, aged 3, when I was asking my mother to read me a story and she said "What does it say on the front? Read it yourself!" (as she was busy). Disappointed, I opened the book and then to my amazement I realised I COULD read it myself. From then on there was no stopping me with reading. When everyone else was learning in p1, I got to take whatever books I wanted home out of the class storeroom... one I remember vividly is "The Little Old Man Who Could Not Read" https://www.amazon.com/Little-Old-Man-Could-Read/dp/1930900848

I quickly found out that I loved writing stories creatively, it was my favourite thing as a child, and the teachers enjoyed my stories. As a child I was sure I was going to be an author, or a vet, or perhaps the first woman on Mars. I won a prize for a poem when I was in p5. Everything I wrote was in response to getting asked to write it as part of my school work. Luckily we seemed to do a fair bit of creative writing. Sadly I don't have a copy of any of my stories from primary school, although I did find an old tape of me reading one of my ghost stories aged about 10 or so. 

I started writing a diary aged 13 and kept this up all through my teens and sporadically on and off in my adult life (I like journalling on Penzu now). My diaries from my teenage years are sometimes hilarious and sometimes shocking. Mind you they weren't written with any great style. (One entry was "I hate my mother!" written in my own blood after cutting my arm, oh the angst! LOL)

In grammar school (the school you went to from 12-18 in the UK if you passed the 11plus test), I continued to write creatively but sporadically, always just in response to a school assignment. The focus changed a lot to essays in English lit, R.E and other subjects and I always did well in these (one time I remember doing FIVE pieces of GCSE coursework on the one night... the last possible night as the deadline was the next day... and getting As on all of them!). But creatively a few things happened. I wrote a children's storybook and I did a parody of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. (I still have this and it is hilarious reading it back because of all the 80s references!). I did this in 2nd year, so aged 13, but it was good enough to use a couple of years later as my GCSE coursework (I just rubbed out the previous teacher's mark and pretended I'd done it fresh! Always lazy...) I had totally forgotten til recently just how much my teachers loved this piece of work and I also completely forgot that my GCSE teacher read it out to the class over a couple of days... until a couple of years ago at my school reunion, a girl came up to me and said "Áine, I always remember that Snow White story of yours, it was so hilarious! You are a storyteller!" 
Also around this time I wrote a poem about the Vietnam war that won another prize. 

So then A levels started, and thereafter uni. My creative writing diminished further. I did A level English lit and did English and Philosophy in Uni (for a bit until I dropped out because I was just basically partying too much and not attending class) and I found that it was all essays about the works of the great masters. I could still churn out a good essay for English or Philosophy but I think from studying all the literary greats I got this view that I was nothing compared to them so what even was the point? Also, all the work I ever did was in response to having to do it for school. I basically at this stage of my life now dropped out of uni and worked and partied hard and I did that for years. I still kept diaries sometimes or wrote letters but I didn't write creatively at all for a long time. 

A few things in the background inspired me or worked on my subconscious... one was that my uncle, who all through my childhood had had a huge alcohol problem, overcame that and started to write (or maybe the writing helped him overcome it) despite leaving school at 14 and not having much education. http://www.jpmcmenamin.co.uk/index.html He found himself in writing poems, funny articles  and jokes that he used to send in to various comedy programmes, and he became well known in Northern Ireland (even though he was a hermit and shunned publicitiy) as his funny stories and poems became a daily feature on the Gerry Anderson show on Ulster radio. His masterpiece was, in my opinion, the novel "A Drunken Day in the Drunken Life of Arthur "Rectum" O'Neill" which he self published (yes it needs editing and proof read but it's hilarious and sad and of course my uncle is the main character... that is not him on the front cover though!) https://www.amazon.co.uk/Drunken-Day-Life-Arthur-ONeill/dp/B06WWJX5HF

I calmed down on the hedonism front as I matured and got bored of it and I also hated being addicted to anything (my phone is pissing me off at the minute because it's a terrible addiction!), so I quit drinking and all the other carry-on quite a while back. I still hadn't got back into writing but I had a recurring dream that I killed this girl and buried her body in my garden. The guilt was horrendous and I woke up thinking "I know what it is like to kill someone and feel that guilt". I had it again years later, this time the girl walked into my childhood bedroom and I grabbed her by the throat and accidentally killed her. This time I dragged her body, with the help of my dad, into the coal bunker and covered her cold white body with coal, all the while feeling horrendously guilty. 

When I thought about the meaning of this it came to me that I had killed off the creative writing side of myself... the reason my dad was complicit was he'd done the same to himself... he'd always wanted to write a book and felt all through his younger days drinking that he was gathering stories ... but he never put them to paper, just kept socialising and drinking (my uncle John was my dad's brother). My uncle has passed away now and my dad still loves to drink and probably won't put pen to paper at this stage! 

Meanwhile at some stage my brother, who is an actor, started writing a book and I was the only person he showed it to at that delicate stage when he was still writing it. I thought it was brilliant and encouraged him and it got published... his second novel which will be very different, about the time of partition in Ireland, and is coming out to coincide with the centenary of that time of history. Here is his first novel: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32057978-skintown?from_search=true

I also then found an old box of childhood bits and bobs in my mother's house and as I sorted through stuff I hadn't seen since school I remember thinking with shock "I am a writer!"... because I realised that even back then, my favourite way to express myself was writing. Unfortunately my mother hadn't kept many of my stories, but those she had I enjoyed re-reading and realised were quite good. There were also the notes I passed to friends in school and other funny things... letters and so on. It was a bit of an eye opener. Oh yes my Snow White and the Seven Dwarves story was in there, I thought it was lost... and this was very shortly after the comment at my school reunion where my classmate remembered it getting read out. 

Then last year I saw the ad for the NYC short story competition on facebook and thought "f**k it" and entered it. So I was 44 then (45 now) and hadn't written creatively since school really apart from a few aborted efforts over the years and some beginnings of stories. I found that the format really suited me... the prompts and the genre being given got my creative juices flowing! And of course the crucial thing for a chronic procrastinator... a deadline! 

Really I've never been taught to write and the biggest learning curve that I am having with writing is this competition because for the first time I'm getting constructive criticism and tips! It's fantastic. I also realise now that for any art to improve you've got to practice it. I am a musician so I understand this concept- I had to practice A LOT for many years to get grade 8 on cello and piano. The funniest thing is that, even though teaching music is my job; in my heart writing stories has ALWAYS been more of a passion to me and always more of an innate skill than playing music, even though I sadly neglected it for so long. So really now I feel that since I started with NYC last year, I am really near the start of my writing journey, and if I just keep going, I will get better and write more stories.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AineKnees Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Oct 2019 at 10:04am
Originally posted by Mickey T Mickey T wrote:

I'm not sure about the writing, but I know how I learned to tell a story.

I used to role-play a lot as a kid. Before it was cool. Somehow I became the designated Dungeon Master / Game Master / Wrangler of Unruly Players (probably because no-one else wanted the job). Spent way too many hours building worlds and designing characters and outlining plots.

Life moved on. I grew up, got a job, married a remarkable woman, gained a mortgage, became a doting dad. Happy as a clam. But underneath it all was the burning desire to tell stories.

In 2014, our three-year-old daughter died. Sudden, unexpected. We had a six-month-old boy at the time and if it wasn't for his needs I'm not sure I would have made it out of bed in the mornings.

In the wake of our grief, I started to think of all the things my little girl would never experience. She'd never grow up, learn to love or hate, succeed or fail in her pursuits. I decided to realise what I had been putting off for so long: I started telling stories.

All the groundwork had been laid in those childhood role-playing sessions. I was surprised how all the skills—world building, story structure, character design—came flooding back.

The first word I ever wrote was for my daughter. And, I guess, on a deeper level, every word since.

Mickey T, that is the most heartbreaking and also the most beautiful reason for writing that I've heard of. 
Big hugs xx
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zelda Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Oct 2019 at 11:06am
Originally posted by AineKnees AineKnees wrote:

My diaries from my teenage years are sometimes hilarious and sometimes shocking. Mind you they weren't written with any great style. (One entry was "I hate my mother!" written in my own blood after cutting my arm, oh the angst! LOL)

Is it really, really sad that I can relate to this on several levels? My mother, I'll tell ya... 

I loved your vibrant post!! Star
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Melisa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 May 2020 at 9:45am
To be honest, I was a bad student at school and at university, I was lazy, I did homework only on selected subjects. And I always delegated tasks such as essay writing, term paper and dissertation essay writing services usa. I read these essays just before the exam. And at one point I was so carried away by the written text that I decided that I also want to learn how to write so beautifully. And I tried. My text surprised me and my relatives. Then there was a lot of experience and a lot of mistakes and a lot of criticism, but all this only made me better. And today I am blogging and proud of my ability to write beautifully.

Edited by Melisa - 19 May 2020 at 1:07pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Snarkmaiden Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 May 2020 at 12:27pm
Fanfic. Dragonriders of Pern. You know the thing about having to write a million words before you get any good? That.

jennifer.quail and LaurieH will attest to it, since they betaed most of my output!


Edited by Snarkmaiden - 15 May 2020 at 12:32pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jennifer.quail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 May 2020 at 3:32pm
Originally posted by Snarkmaiden Snarkmaiden wrote:

Fanfic. Dragonriders of Pern. You know the thing about having to write a million words before you get any good? That.

jennifer.quail and LaurieH will attest to it, since they betaed most of my output!

Dragonchoice is better than anything Anne McCaffrey's kids have yet produced as sequels. This is a hill I will die on. 

(And I second fan fic. I swear I am going to finish the Star Wars series I began in 1994 that's over 350,000 words and is not quite done yet. In my defense that includes a fifteen-year break between chapter 10 and 11 of the second story. I'm not THAT slow.)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote north_north_west Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 May 2020 at 3:34pm
This is a great thread!  Let me add my education as a storyteller.  Or a budding storyteller, anyway.

When I was a child, I shared a room with a sibling and for years, I would tell stories every night,as we went to sleep.  As I recall, it focused largely on slapstick comedy and scatological humor, as befitting our 8-year-old selves.

Fast forward thirty years, and I was telling stories to my own children.   One of them was interested until he was eleven, but my daughter still wanted me to tell her stories until a year ago, when she was thirteen.   I created an entire imaginary superhero world, with heros, villains, weaknesses, recurring tropes, comic characters, in which of course the most bad-assed of the heros were named after the kids.  It taught me a lot about plot and pacing and suspense, and the power of surprise endings.

Now, my daughter is very interested in writing and writes all the time.  She's entered the microfiction contest as well! 
  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote StayUpLateCreate Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 May 2020 at 6:53pm
My mom thought my twin sister and I had no imagination. As my brother would fly across the room holding up Star Trek toys and making them go into epic battles, spit flying from his mouth as he made all the sound effects, my mom would turn to us and express how much she wished we would pretend. It was good for our brains, she said. I wasn't interested in looking as silly as my brother in order to develop my brain. I thought "imagination" was specifically acting out a battle. Years later, I realized in fact, I had a very strong imagination. As a child, I spent entire summer days strolling around our farm, searching for arrowheads, and crossing creeks, imagining I was in another time and place with an entire plot in my head. The whole story could happen without acting out anything. The plots then were very simple. As I got older, they began to have more meaningful themes. They always related to something I had experienced.

Kentucky high schools require the development of a writer's portfolio that is judged by other English teachers outside your school. I learned the basic elements of writing in producing my portfolio. My mom is an excellent writer and really taught me the most as she helped me improve my pieces. She learned that I did have an imagination. I received the highest possible ranking a student could get, but now, those pieces are a bit silly to read. They weren't the best.

I became a professional ballerina after high school. I always wrote on the side. A simple interaction, especially ones that I couldn't understand, exploded into stories where I tried to explain those interactions. I wrote many short stories while I danced. I was on a very strict diet of 900 calories a day as a dancer, dancing eight hours a day and working at a restaurant after that until 1 a.m. I was told I wasn't trying hard enough to have the ideal body. My self-esteem was very low but I was lonely. I ended up in a very toxic relationship with an alcoholic. It was not a very happy life, and writing was my escape. I eventually wanted to eat like a normal human and quit ballet right after being promised promotion.

I took a year to apply to undergrad. I still had my alcoholic boyfriend, who would get irrationally angry when drunk and showed many signs of cheating. I tended to work at the restaurant at night while he worked during the day. We didn't interact that much. I spent my days in another world I invented on paper. I wrote an anthology of poems and short stories . I posted this series on a HarperCollins amateur writers website for feedback and the possibility of getting published by that route. If a work made top ten by the end of the month, HarperCollins would look at it and consider it for publication. Due to notice by a group of Oxford scholars, my anthology rose from 20,000th place up to 12 but never any higher. Someone chimed in they would take one of the concepts from one of my stories and write it better, so thanks for giving them a good plot. I quickly got off the site and grew bitter. I got busy with undergrad. I got a degree in chemical engineering.

I'm now getting a PhD in chemical engineering. I'm in a very happy relationship. I actually have time to breathe. Never before these past few years had I walked on sidewalks so much. There are plenty of unique but brief interactions with others that have inspired my imagination once again. 


Edited by StayUpLateCreate - 15 May 2020 at 11:41pm
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