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My Writing Is Going Downhill - What Do I Do?

one year ago

Recently, I have been trying my hand at writing a book, pretty much, and the journey has been a long, LONG one. I've wanted to bash my skull in several times, but somehow, I always find my way crawling back to the keyboard to torture myself some more. But now, I just can't seem to slip back into my writing after a really bad break. Is it okay if I ask you guys to read some excerpts to gauge my writing and give me advice based on that?

 

Here is my first excerpt, written around late April/early May. Before you read, here is a little context: The protagonist is a boy named Arcas, and in this world, there are people called radiants, and they pretty much have powers gifted from the gods. At this scene, Arcas returned back home to his father being frozen in a paralyzed state, and the culprit being a boy (about the same age) named Nero. The two boys never got along in the first place. Here is the excerpt:

[The steel glistened in the forgelight, flickering into Arcas’ eyes like an untamed blaze. Cold sweat drenched the boy’s clothes; his heart drummed against his chest.

“Nero, are you crazy?” he said, his voice wavering slightly. An unsettling silence filled the room, leaving only the sizzling coals to echo against the walls.

The noble’s usually combed hair now looked unruly and unkempt, like a fire against the night. His forehead glistened with sweat, the light casting a sickening shade of pale upon his skin. Nero’s face was filled with a contorted scowl, the edges of his mouth turned downwards--but it was in the boy’s gaze which sent chills shuddering through Arcas. Rather than green irises, Arcas found himself peering into a black void of darkness, the boy’s eyes painted over with a lingering pulse of night and an abyss of disparity.

Eyes like the god of shadows himself.

“I believe I’ve been rather enlightened,” Nero spoke plainly, each word like a punch to Arcas’ gut.

“What the hells does that mean? Let my father go!”

“That, I can’t do.”

Arcas growled, a warmth beginning to grow inside of him, like the burn of hot embers. “I’ll kill you if you do anything to him!”

“Oh, I know you’d try. But watch this,” Nero said. Slowly, he lowered his blade from Arcas’ father’s throat; and for a moment, the boy felt a wave of relief burst from within. Then a jolting kick of despair flooded him, when he realized Phaidros made no movement. The old man did not step away, nor did his voice call for his son; but instead, remained frozen in place, as if bound still by invisible ropes. If Arcas hadn’t known better, he could have mistaken him for a statue.

“Father!” he screamed. Fire surged in his chest and from his body exploded a fury of rage. “What did you do?”

“You don’t have to worry about that--you’ll find out soon enough, perditae,” Nero spoke. Rather than his own voice, however, came a raspy croak at the last word, as if he’d just finished inhaling plumes of smoke.

“I swear to the gods, I’ll kill you!”

The boy slid his hand against one of the weapon racks, closing his fingers around the handle of a sword, and with a quick breath, slid it out before him. The metal glimmered in the light, casting a low glow against the wall. Nero was only unfazed by this, staring at the boy with dead voids.

“You’re still as stupid as I remember.”

Arcas seethed. He imagined running the sword through Nero’s gut, slicing upwards and spilling the boy’s insides onto the cold floor. To twist the blade into his stomach. See the face the boy would make as he died. The desire raged in him like a storm.

“The gods are not watching over you--” Nero said. With a crooked finger, he traced the outside of Phaidros’ cheek.

“Don’t touch him!”

Nero met the boy’s gaze for a moment, the two exchanging a fiery battle with only their eyes. After a tense moment, the guard lowered his hand.

“--because they are watching over me.”

A cold breeze washed over Arcas. “What?”

“I can feel it all; their power, that is. It burns deeper than fire ever could, and runs through me in a way blood could never. It’s only a little, right now, but gods--I never knew the power of the radiants could taste so good.”

“The three hells are you talking about?” The scream ripped through Arcas’ throat, leaving embers on the tip of his tongue. He tightened the grip on his sword.

Nero was many things: a liar, a cheat, and as much as Arcas hated to admit, a very capable fighter. But if there was one thing he surely was not, it would be that--a radiant.

“Of course you wouldn’t understand. You’re the stupid brother, after all,” Nero spat with distaste. In the dark, his eyes shimmered violently like lightning in the night. “Perhaps I should demonstrate.”

Slowly, Nero unfastened his arm guard, allowing it to fall to the floor with a clatter. Arcas felt his breath hitch.

“You--!”

Etched into the noble’s flesh, was a tattoo in the shape of a moon. Low and mournful like smouldering coals, the mark hummed a soft glow of blue, encasing the rest of his arm in a light shade of sky; while beneath the luminesce, as if Nero’s skin had become transparent, Arcas could make out the faint silhouettes of the boy’s veins pumping and pulsing with each breath he took. Even from across the room, he could hear--could feel--the whir of power trickling into the musty air.

The Mark of a radiant.

“I’ve always hated you, Arcas.”

Without warning, a tempest of black rose from around Nero, swirling like a storm. The shadows were liquid smoke, whipping through the room, as if he was stripping the darkness from the night itself; until the flurry of death filled the air with crushing gravity.

Scalding heat seared Arcas’ face. Shadows scratched at his eyes. Tears blurred his vision. His throat closed. Suddenly, he was blasted backwards. His body hurtled through the wall with a sickening crunch, wood splintering into the air in a cloud of dust. His back exploded in pain. Then, he felt the jarring force of the ground slam into him, sending white dots streaming to view. Blood trickled down his forehead, staining the white snow beneath him a dark crimson. His bones and body flared with fire. He gasped for air.

Arcas clawed the freezing patches of grass beneath him. In the corner of his eye the looming figure of Nero swam into view, enveloped by a wall of darkness.

“Look at my power now,” the radiant said, his voice a knife into the boy’s head. “Shadows from the god of darkness, himself--Noxos!”]

Now, I don't think this is bad, but it certainly isn't good. Keep in mind, this one was written BEFORE the break (and not the best example of my writing, but it was the most comprehensive piece without a long essay of context, LOL).

 

Next excerpt comes from a writing exercise I did AFTER the break (written like last week), because I felt like I just wanted to slide back into writing:

[Nothing but rot, tainting the world a dismal drip of gray. Nothing but exhaustion. Nothing but corpses which burned like torches in the black of night, or the faces of nobody whispering about the salvation that'd once unavoidable.

She was bleeding. She wasn't entirely certain how deep or how wide the gash was--but she was definitely bleeding. She could feel the warm stickiness seeping down the side of her leg, soaking her tattered jeans in dark crimson paint; and from the wound drained her life, spilling from her insides onto the cold pavement, as many before her had.
    
The girl's lungs burned with Haze, like the tips of knives scratching at her throat. Her skull seared with hot pain. White dots swam into view.
    
Her words simmered like embers in her mouth, fizzling out by the softest breeze of the wind. It wasn't because she didn't care, nor because she couldn't, but because--she realized--the fire, which had once raged inside her, had extinguished, leaving nothing in its wake but kindling.
    
Nothing but wet kindling.
    
Then a shadow, a nightmare brought to life, flickered before the girl, silencing her vision to the blind dark. Instinctively, she dropped her hand to the bulge of the pistol tucked underneath her waistband, curling her fingers around the jolting metal. She'd shot before. Even killed. But the girl knew this time would be different--like how cold compared to hot, or east to west. Impossibly different.
    
"Lyra!" she screamed, her mouth blazing with fire. "It's me, Vyna! V!"
    
That was her name, the girl. And her sister, Lyra.
    
"Don't do this!"
]

Now, I also don't think this is too bad, but I don't know. It felt off to me when I was writing it.

 

This next excerpt was what I wrote today, as I was just testing out how to begin my new story. And well, I really didn't want to share this (because it sucks), but I really need help. So here it is:

[But now, here's the thing. I can't write anymore. I absolutely suck and I hate my writing--but I really don't want to hate it! Now, I also don't want to show you this (because of how bad it is), but to get my point across (and obviously, this excerpt's beginning was inspired by the one above):

I was bleeding–I wasn’t certain how deep or how wide the gash was–but I was definitely bleeding. The warm stickiness pooled down my arm, seeping into my clothes in a river of crimson. Pain seared my head. My lungs were molten.

Somewhere, Wen screamed.

“Run!”

I didn’t protest. I scrambled through the forest undergrowth faster than I’d ever ran before, ignoring the scratching branches and clawing wood cutting my skin raw. The trees were a blur of green and mush, hidden behind the glossy layer of tears welling in my eyes. I could have been running away from Karran, and I wouldn’t have known any better.

Off to my right, an ear-splitting shriek pierced through the forest, sending my gut somersaulting from my stomach. Wood cracked like thunder. The ground shuddered. And then suddenly, a tree, as thick as I was tall, tore through the roof of leaves, crashing to the floor before me in a violent explosion of splinters.

I skidded to a halt, breathless and flustered. My arm stung with lingering fire, every move pouring more kindling onto the wound. I clenched my jaw.]

This one I just can't get behind. And I know it might look like it's because of the new POV, but I also wrote it in third-person, and I still just hated it. I really do believe my writing has gone and is still going downhill. Whenever I write now, I just can't. And if I do, it's always in a way that I hate.

 

I need some help, guys. Please.

My Writing Is Going Downhill - What Do I Do?

one year ago
Only had time to do a quick read, and I see a few places where the wording could be tightened up or tweaked (too much reliance on -ly adjectives and adverbs perhaps?) but there's nothing that immediately leaps out at me as wrong with any of this. The action is very immediate and draws you right in and you've got some excellent
imagery here. Honestly this is better than 90% of the stuff I've seen published on the site.

It is perfectly natural to hate your own writing and that's what keeps a person improving, but in your case I'd say you are definitely being too hard on yourself.

The actual text is so tiny though, not sure what you did to the formatting but it's a bit of a strain on the eyes to read.

My Writing Is Going Downhill - What Do I Do?

one year ago

Thanks for the input! It's just, I don't know. I just haven't been having a good time writing lately.

But honestly, thank you for taking the time to reply. It does mean a lot. And I'm not entirely too sure about the text, I think it copied weird when I pasted it from the actual document.

My Writing Is Going Downhill - What Do I Do?

one year ago
Commended by EndMaster on 5/25/2018 5:37:55 AM

Hmm, as Mizal mentioned, you do seem to be too hard on yourself. Your writing is far from terrible, heck I'd say it is good. Can it be better? Sure, but what can't!

Obviously, wanting to improve is a good thing, but try not to be too harsh on yourself, giving up is probably the worst thing to do if you actually want to write. I am a strong believer that as long as you at least somewhat think about your writing, it will get better just by writing (not the only way to go about it, mind you, but definitely a decent one).

From me, some advice, which you should think about and see if it can work for your situation, would be:

Write something happy
A tone change might be an interesting exercise, might help you appreciate your current work more. Just an idea, and obviously I don't know if all your writing has this tone. Honestly tho, would be pretty funny if you are feeling bad just because of the less-than-happy tone.

Deep think!
Think about the story/setting you have in mind, see if you can find plot holes or something that doesn't fit, like characters acting out of character. I've heard that sometimes the reason people don't like their writing is because there is something wrong with it, and I figure that there is no reason this 'something' can't be in relation to the plot/characters. You might be forcing scenes that wouldn't actually make sense given the established context. Say, would Nero really not kill the main good guy who will kill/befriend him later? (Keep in mind you know your setting better than I do).

Read a book
Assuming you haven't read one in a while. Just throwing this piece of advice in here because it (probably) can't do any harm. Also heard plenty of times that reading can actually help your own writing, sort of learning by example, if you will.

While writing
Make sure you are in a well lit environment and not sitting on a jagged rock. I felt like throwing this one in because I do think that the environment you are writing in can totally shape your outlook on the writing itself.

Read out loud
This is probably my favourite proofreading piece of advice, so here it is (again): read what you have written out loud, or at least mouth the words. Can help make sure your sentences are flowing well, and that you are using the proper words. Sometimes when silently reading, you won't notice certain mistakes because you are reading what you think is there, rather than what is there.

That is all, but here, have a bonus question:
Is the first excerpt the beginning of the story? Or just the oldest part you decided to share?

TL;DR
Try writing a bit out of your usual genre/tone (assuming you got one). Make sure you are writing in a good place location wise. Read a book if you haven't in a while. Finally, I do encourage you to keep writing, your work seems to be of a high standard from what I've seen here, however 'getting over' not liking your work is a pretty personal thing, which can be hard to give general advice for, but I do hope you find something that helps you in that regard.

P.S. Your writing reminds me of the wheel of time, but it is white specks rather than black, and it also has jeans and guns. Other differences as well. Probably more to do with the general tone and setting, now that I think about it. Oh, thought of another tip, try another creative hobby for a bit, like drawing. Here is another one, how often do other people look at your work? If almost never, try sharing a chapter or something somewhere, or just some random short piece, to see what others think. Knowing there are people who DO like your work can help in realising that maybe, it really isn't that bad.

My Writing Is Going Downhill - What Do I Do?

one year ago

Honestly, this was one of the most encouraging messages I have received. I really want to thank you for taking your own time to reply to me, especially with this level of response. Your post has been received well, and thank you for your advice, I may very well do all of these!

And to answer your bonus question, all of the excerpts are separate works (just to clarify) and the first excerpt is not the beginning of the story. It's just the earliest part that I wanted to share.

Thank you, so much!

My Writing Is Going Downhill - What Do I Do?

one year ago

Ah, glad you found it helpful.

Regarding the excerpts, I, for some reason, assumed they were all the same story apart from the last one, so whoops. However it does make more sense now. Worth adding in that they all do leave me wondering about where the story will go, which is always a plus.

At any rate, I wish you luck on your journey!

My Writing Is Going Downhill - What Do I Do?

one year ago
You need a TL;DR for your TL;DR!

As always, impressive effort from Zake to help other improve

My Writing Is Going Downhill - What Do I Do?

one year ago
Commended by EndMaster on 5/26/2018 4:39:00 PM
What’s that? You want comments and feedback? That I can do! First, the disclaimers: I am writing these comments as I read through the words you have written the first time. These are really a peek into my demented brain and what I’m thinking as I read along. This is not a comprehensive review, just a smattering of what I’m seeing and thinking. These thoughts and review are not meant to insult you or your writing, and I apologize in advance if they do, it’s just what I think as I’m reading. Also, you did ask for advice. Finally, this review is mine and my thoughts only, so it is likely worth exactly what you paid for it.

Yeah, that small print is annoying. I know it’s not part of the writing, but presentation matters. I like that you gave a little context or I really would have been lost. Based on that background, I’m picturing a completely different world, not earth at all, and in a sort of sci-fi time frame. From the background I don’t get a true feeling for if this is a magic world or more modern, but I’m leaning towards a medieval type time frame with peasants and low technology.

I start out a bit confused (not that that is uncommon for me). The setup said a boy, Arcas, is returning from a trip. But in the first scene, Arcas is apparently working on forging some very, very shiny steel. I’m also confused by the firelight flickering INTO his eyes. That strangely makes it sound like the light is blasting him in the eyes like some kind of laser beam. I get that you’re trying to describe more of the scene, and I do appreciate the details included with the scene to try and set up the sweaty boy at the forge.

Then the scene confuses me again. Maybe there was more in the background, but in your setup you mentioned that the two boys never got along and that Nero did a freeze-ray thing on Arcas’ dad. Yet here they are, hanging out in a forge like they’re best buddies. Why the heck is Arcas even talking to Nero? Why isn’t Arcas attacking him outright at the start of the scene? Is one of the two afraid of the other one for any reason? It seems like Nero has these awesome Mr. Freeze powers, so is that something Arcas is afraid of? Again, maybe all this is covered in other background, but that sort of confused me.

And the scene seemed off a little, too. It was setup as a forge. A forge is never a quiet place. There is banging and burning and smoke (okay, smoke is noisy, but still). But somehow a silence filled the room. I don’t see how…oh wait, EXCEPT for the sizzling steaks, I mean coals. Telling me the room was silent and then telling me it wasn’t didn’t work for me. Maybe it would make more sense to say something like “the sound of the sizzling coals was the only sound” or something along those lines. Of course, then I’d still ask why the coals are sizzling. That usually only happens when you drip grease from the bigfoot steaks on them or something like that.

When I got to the paragraph that starts with “The noble’s,” I was confused again. Who is the noble? I don’t know who we’re talking about here. Wait, is Nero the noble? Is that why he was able to deep freeze Arcas’ dad and Arcas isn’t doing anything about it? Um… I appreciate the attempts at description, I really do, but how in the heck does messed up hair look like fire against a night? I just really can’t see how that comparison is supposed to work. Anyway, must be a hot day because this guy is drenched in sweat, too. That seems extraneous to mention that just after talking about the other guy drenched in sweat too.

Wait, how does light cast a pale shade? That sentence really didn’t make any sense to me at all. Light casts light. Other things cause shadows. Skin can be pale, but I’m not sure a light source (that should be a fire, we’re in a blacksmith shop with walls, I think) can be pale unless it was really designed that way. I don’t know, maybe this smithy has old, poor fluorescent lighting or something.

“Nero’s face?” I’m confused again. Is this still the same noble? Maybe the paragraph could have started out with Nero and then it wouldn’t be needed in the middle of the sentence (and I wouldn’t get confused either time). What is so significant about green eyes? I mean, if everyone has green eyes, and that’s been reveled before, I suppose that sentence makes sense. Otherwise, why not blue? Or hazel? And why are his eyes painted? And he’s staring into darkness behind the paint? That whole thing with the eyes is confusing to me.

The next sentence throws me off again. Nero talks about being enlightened. At this moment, it sounds like Nero is the typical noble-born bully, walking around and doing whatever he likes. I can picture him walking along, running his fingers over dusty equipment in the shop, knowing he is untouchable. But that type of person would also not have painted over inky depths of eyes that send chills down the smith’s back. Nor would they have unkempt hair. They’d be perfect, immaculate, and always in total control and they’d know it. I don’t know, at this point I’m just confused about the personality of Nero because he seems to have many different ones all at one time so far. And I have no idea why each of those particular words would feel like a punch to the gut to anyone.

A moment later, Arcas is threatening to kill Nero. Once again, the personality and position of Nero has changed to be someone who people can actually threaten. That’s not a bully noble, because the bully would never allow that.

Wait, what the hell is going on!?! Arcas’ dad is here? When did that happen? I thought Arcas was sitting at the forge working on a sword or something. But now we’re just hanging around and Nero is stand there with a sword at Arcas’ dad’s throat? I’m thinking that’s something I should have known at the very start of this scene. But wait, it gets worse! Apparently, and I have just discovered this, not only was Arcas’ dad in the room the whole time, with the sword at his throat, AND he was completely frozen, Arcas didn’t know any of this. What?!? At some point the completely non-moving and non-speaking father might have been noticed. I mean come on, who, when they have a sword at their throat, doesn’t say something or at least give looks to people to communicate? So Arcas’ dad didn’t do any of that and Arcas didn’t even notice? Maybe the firelight really was beaming lasers into his eyes so he was blind.

But now Arcas doesn’t have a sword in his hand, but he’s grabbing one. I thought that he was at the forge, but I guess not. Now he has a sword. Wait, who the heck is Phaidros? Where did he come from? Is he Arcas’ strange father? I guess so. Oh wait, they’re brothers, too? Yeah, I’m pretty confused now.

So that doesn’t quite make it up to the first break. I like the story, I like the idea of the story, but I’m just missing some parts. As I’ve mentioned, perhaps they were covered in other background areas of this story, but without them, I’m a bit lost. I think there’s lots of potential here, but it just needs some clarifications in a few areas that I’ve noted.

I do hope this has been useful. If it has, I can do some more with further sections if you like. Please do realize this is just one person’s opinion! Good luck with your story and your writing.

My Writing Is Going Downhill - What Do I Do?

one year ago

Thanks for this! And sorry for the late reply.

So to address most of your points, I must say, I agree that it's confusing. I forgot the context that it was earlier shown that Nero was a noble with red hair (so his unkempt hair resembled fire). Also, I forgot to mention Arcas has a brother and his father is named "Phaidros." My bad, but thanks for pointing out that!

I really appreciate you looking at my writing and analyzing it; reading through the points you mentioned makes me realize a few stupid mistakes. I like the way you review. I need more people like that, LOL!

My Writing Is Going Downhill - What Do I Do?

one year ago
Since you liked my review for part one, I figured I’d take a shot at part two. I’d like to say it’s because I had some extra time on my hands, but really I seriously do not. Instead, I’m totally putting off what I’m supposed to be doing with some expert-level procrastinating, and if these reviews are semi-useful to you, then I can claim that me procrastinating is actually helping someone. Isn’t that really part of the art of procrastinating: being able to rationalize your delay of your responsibilities effectively?

Anyway, same disclaimers as before: my comments, no insult intended, you asked, worth what you paid for it, etc.

Starting out, I do realize this is not a continuation of the previous story, but that also means that I have absolutely zero back story for this one. I very much appreciate a story that begins with things already in place and action already happening, there do need to be quick clues to reveal the setting and layout of the story. I suppose in many cases, this can be done with the story page (back of the book) so people know what they’re getting into when they start to read the actual story. In this case I have nothing, so have to piece it together from the words there.

Therefore, as I read the first line, I’m picturing a post-apocalyptic world right off the bat. With the rot, grey, and exhaustion, my mind has already set this up as a zombie-survival story. Burning corpses help continue that setting for me. I like the whispering faces, that sentence works well for me and helps really continue the setting and scene.

I had to pause when I read that she was bleeding. I didn’t get that it was the protagonist until I read the next sentence, then went back and read them again. Since the first paragraph was setting the scene and looking outward, I didn’t get the transition. I guess it was like looking at the world, and then when I read about her bleeding, I assumed the main character was just walking along and spotted a person bleeding along the side of the road. Maybe a name would have made that more clear? I don’t know, some transition from looking outward to looking inward might help.

The descriptions in that paragraph seem just a little forced. Most was okay, but referring to blood as “crimson paint” seemed like overkill. The same with the bit about the cold pavement and the “spilling from her insides.” If I’m cut on the leg and still walking, I think of my leg as bleeding, not my insides. The “cold pavement” seemed sudden because nothing had been mentioned about the environment temperature except for the burning bodies.

In the next part, why did we shift? It was “she” and “her,” but now suddenly it is “The girl.” What happened? Something had to happen, right? Oh wait, we’re back to “her” later in the sentence. Again, it seems minor, but those words felt very jarring with the sudden changes there. Why is “Haze” capitalized? When I read it, I assumed that was the brand name for a type of poison that’s in the air. Was that intended? If so, that seems odd. But then again, if it is not and the haze is supposed to be cutting like knives into her throat, that’s odd, too. Actual haze doesn’t do that. Acrid smoke might do that, but not haze. If that is a chemical brand name, it might be better to change the name so there’s no confusion, or add something like, “Acme corporation’s Haze flowed through the air and into her throat….” or something like that.

The next sentence is just way out there. “Words simmered like embers in her mouth?” What the hell? Have you ever had embers in your mouth? Did they “simmer?” I’ll tell you: No! They didn’t “simmer,” they burned like hell and you did everything in your power to get them out of there asap! And even without embers, how do words “simmer?” Have you ever seen anything “simmer?” But wait, they also “fizzle?” Words do this? In a person’s mouth? How do they do that? Hey, it’s okay, there’s fire raging inside her body, too, so maybe she’s a fire-person and embers are really just plaque from her teeth. And now her body is filled with wet kindling. Is this for real? At this point I now don’t know if this is a person, a fantasy-creation humanoid creature, or an old pot-bellied stove. I get that you’re trying to describe things with comparisons, but there’s just way too much going on here to make any sense to me.

That sort of thing continues with the “silencing her vision.” That just doesn’t make any sense. That evokes images of me putting my hand over your mouth and saying, “Now you can’t see me.” Of course, if this is a fantasy-creature humanoid that has actual kindling inside her, maybe she does see out of her mouth, so a nightmare shadow casting a silence spell on her does actually blind her. And I don’t think she’s going to be too successful shooting a shadow with a pistol. But hey, at least she spit fire from her mouth at the shadow-girl-who-is-actually-her-sister before she shot her.

So sure, some of it is quite nice. I really do like that you try and include details and descriptions. I like comparisons, but in my opinion, you’re just trying too hard to do that in this section and you’re doing it too much to make the story readable. For most reviews I often suggest people add more descriptions to draw me into the story and make me see what is going on and what’s happening around the characters. In your case, I think you could dial back the descriptions and details by about 50% and end up with a more effective and more readable story.

And I really do hope this helps you in some way! It certainly helped me procrastinate and put of real work I should be doing for a bit.