Improving your writing

Started by Brother Asreus, March 12, 2007, 03:01:16 PM

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Brother Asreus

Hey gang!

We can't all be great writers like Shakespeare, Twain or Hemmingway, but we can certainly help each other improve with time. Thanks to Ukos Sa'cea Rienn for inspiring this idea!

This thread shall be used for posting articles about improving all of our stories, writing and other works of literature that we post here from time to time. Now the idea is you can write articles of your own, post links to writing sites or just give advice you may have received in an English class at some point about grammatical rules. The point is to make information available to us all in an effort to help us all improve our writing if we feel we need to.

The point of this is not to belittle or criticise someone else's English skills, but to help them improve if they want help. This thread can be a resource for everyone to look something up if they're not sure about proper paragraph structure or perhaps unsure about homonyms.

So please feel free to contribute researched information to the thread and use it whenever you feel you need to. This is a tool to help make all the great stories and works of writing on 40KOnline, even better!  :)

*EDIT: Had to copy/paste articles into this thread since the merging messed up the order of the posts. Full credit for the first two articles goes to Ukos Sa'cea Rienn as noted at the top of each post.

Cthulhu for Pres in 2012!!! Why vote for the lesser of all evils?

Brother Asreus

Credit to: Ukos Sa'cea Rienn   

Textica: Presentation.


     It can be said that the true challenge of any writer is in the creating of their story, and this, I agree, is true. However, the job of the writer does not end there.

     Once the words of the story have been composed, there is yet work to be done.

     Presentation, while no where near as time consuming or as interesting as the writing itself, is a vital step in the creation of a finished work.

     Most of the presentation work for a story is simple, can be done with relative ease, and requires only a short amount of time.

     From here you will be shown what aspects of aesthetic presentation are reccomended, a comparison between the aesthetic form and the less aesthetic form, and an explanation of why or why not to use the aspect of presentation.


     These are some of the key features to presentation of a story:

1) Separated Title and Author.

2) Indented and Separated paragraphs.

3) Good use of capitals and punctuation.


1) Separated Title and Author.

     Separating the story's Title and Author at the beginning of any piece of text is a good habit to get in to. Not only does it serve the purpose of telling the reader what they are writing and reminding them who it's by, it acts as a good seg-way into the story from whatever the reader may have been doing before.

     For example, imagine that you reader has just been posting a rant about the space marine cursed founding chapters, and then comes to read your story. By placing the title and author of the story before it, those few lines act as a buffer between what they were doing before and the story so that they have time to get that out of their minds.

     There are many ways of placing the title and author at the start, but one method which works is to place them like so:

The Tau Chronicles

The Rienn Episodes

By Michael Balkwill

     I.E. centered, and either italicised or bold, with spaces between each one. Many combinations of those two can be used, although it is typically more aesthetically pleasing to have the Main title in bold, and the authors name in italics.

     Comparing the above with this:

The Tau chronicles
the Rienn episodes
By: Michael Balkwill

    Shows plainly which of the two looks better.


2) Indented and Separated paragraphs.

     During the course of a story, nearly all authors use multiple paragraphs. Something less frequently used is paragraph indentation or separation.

     By leaving a gap between paragraphs, it becomes much easier for the reader to understand the flow of a section of writing. These spaces should be placed where ever a new paragraph begins: At the beginning of a new idea in the text, or when a different person speaks, etc...

     For example,

    "What th-" began Ukos, but Mesme cut him off.

     "I told you to unpack quickly!..."

     Looks better than this:

"What th-" started Ukos, but Mesme cut him off.
"I told you to unpack quickly!

     In the second version, it is difficult to tell who is saying the second line at first glance, and though it is true that the second line continues on to name the speaker in the original text, it means that it is harder to follow the path of the text all the same.

     By indenting the paragraphs, it becomes easier to tell the sections apart even if they aren't spaced apart, because of the defined difference between the ideas, but the spacing is still reccomended.

     Indenting the paragraphs is easy when one is writing with a separate word processor, because by hitting the "tab" key, an indent is made, but if one is writing solely on this site, it can still be done. For the indentation in this post, I used 5 hits of the space bar.

     Indenting is less important that spacing, but adds to the over-all appeal of any piece of writing.

     By separating the paragraphs more obviously, via Indenting and Separating, you reduce the amount of effort the reader needs to put in to reading the text, there-by allowing them to enjoy it more.


3) Good use of capitals and punctuation.

     This final piece of advice falls neatly into the section of "revision".

     In order to clean a piece of writing still further, it is a good idea to ensure that words which would typically require capitals, such as proper nouns (particularly people and place names!), and at the beginnings of sentences.

     This not only makes the writing look a little bit more polished, but it also serves the double purpose, on occasion, of making the story a little bit easier to understand.

     For example, if you choose to have an argument between two alien characters, with unique names like Gragrophat and Philily (invented totally at random), and in addition to that you have chosen to invent alien swearwords, like swut, or turlingdrome, or belgium (not invented totally at random. All Hail Douglas Adams!), it makes it easier for the reader to understand when the word you have written is a name or an expletive when the names are capitalised and the expletives aren't.

     A minor point, but still an important one, is using the right punctuation for the situation. When ending an exclamation, an exclamation mark is typically better suited than a period. On the same note, Question marks have their place at the end of questions. This sounds fairly basic, but should still be taken into account, because when writing a piece, the text is typically what gets the most work, rather than the smaller things like punctuation.

     It is still annoying to read something which is written:

     "Hey you." Yelled the guy at the top of his voice...

     Both of the above things take very little time to fix during a quick revision, but add to the over-all effect of your story as a whole.


     By applying those three simple tips to any story you choose to write, you may find that others enjoy reading it more, that YOU enjoy reading it more, and that it looks better on paper. Couple the aesthetic appearance with an already good piece of writing, and it might just seem that little bit better.


     I hope that someone finds this post helpful, and I may write further Texticas on other, less aesthetic topics.

     Good luck with future writings.


Cthulhu for Pres in 2012!!! Why vote for the lesser of all evils?

Brother Asreus

Credit to: Ukos Sa'cea Rienn

Textica: Emphasis.


   Anything written is written in a particular style, and with the intention of getting an idea across to its audience, whether that audience is one's self, or others. The style changes depending on the author, but the intention – despite the fact that the message it is conveying may be completely different from one work to the next – is always present. In an effort to get the right message across, we emphasize certain parts of what we write.

   There are many different ways of emphasizing any piece of text, but in order to portray what you want to portray, you need to be sure to employ the right kind of emphasis. In this Textica, I will explain four of the major kinds of emphasis, explain what makes them different, and show examples of each.

   The five types of Emphasis I will be focusing on are:

1)   Spacing Emphasis.
2)   Punctuation Emphasis.
3)   Font Style Emphasis.
4)   Word Capitalization Emphasis.
5)   Separation w/ symbols Emphasis


1)   Spacing Emphasis.

   Spacing emphasis is extremely simple to understand. Basically, it consists of separating what you want to emphasize from the rest of the text, generally through creating a very short paragraph for it and it alone.

   Typically, this kind of emphasis looks like this:

                       He dropped from the top story all the way to the floor.

                       Ten seconds later, his leg exploded in pain.

   Which is a lot more interesting then if it weren't separated, like so:

                       He dropped from the top story all the way to the floor. Ten seconds later, his leg exploded in pain.

   By spacing what you are trying to emphasize like it is done above, you give the impression of a new thought (as though something just occurred to the speaker and they cut themselves off), a new speaker (whether or not there is in fact a new speaker), or an interruption (can take many forms, one example of which is an explosion, another is another characters entrance).

   Though this kind of emphasis works well when used in the right context, it looks really odd when misused. This is probably the least used form of emphasis, not because of its ineffectiveness, but because of the rarity of its applicability.

   If you intend to use spacing emphasis, be sure to double check that it makes sense, but don't hesitate to take advantage of its usefulness.


2)   Punctuation Emphasis.

   As a contrast to the previous form of emphasis, Punctuation emphasis is not only easy to use, but also very common.

   Punctuation emphasis is fairly simple. It consists of the use of one of three types of punctuation: the comma (","), the brackets ( "(" and ")" ), and the dash ( "-" ).

   Many people use the first two, and the third occasionally sees use, but they are all equally important.

   What few people think of immediately is that each of the three types of punctuation carry a different weight or importance.

   The comma gives the impression that what is being separated is of equal importance as that of the preceding information, the brackets give the impression that the new information is of a lesser importance that it's predecessor, and the dash gives the impression of greater importance.

   As an example of comma emphasis,

                       The squad moved into the open (despite the tank bearing down on them) and opened fire on the infantry opposite them.

   Bracket emphasis, on the other hand, looks like this:

                       The squad moved into the open, despite the tank bearing down on them, and opened fire on the infantry opposite them.

   Whereas dash emphasis looks like this:

                       The squad moved into the open - despite the tank bearing down on them - and opened fire on the infantry opposite them.

   Now that you can see the difference between the different sorts of punctuation emphasis, you have the tools to make the best choice for the impression you want to give your readers.


3)   Font Style Emphasis.

   Font Style Emphasis is also a common form of emphasis, particularly on these boards. Since the boards come equipped with an easy method of applying different styles to your text, they can be quickly applied to emphasize your text.

   Font Style Emphasis, however, should be applied sparing or carefully when used in writing pieces for "publication" as, as will be repeatedly noted, they can quickly make a piece seem unprofessional.

   Amongst the numerous forms of font emphasis are these main three: bold text, underlined text, and italicized text.

   Emboldened text is a useful way of making what is being said/written seem louder, stand out, or seem like it's separate from the current events in the text.

                        The carnifex broke through. I'd heard stories about these things before, but none of them bore sense on reality. It was immense. It dwarfed buildings. We ran.

   The above is a good example of emboldened text, to emphasize a small section. It can plainly be seen that emboldening the text emphasizes the text in question, but it also needs to be noted that it tends to look unprofessional, unless very well applied, and thus should be avoided, rather than encouraged, except in the right circumstances.

   Underlined text has a similar function in emphasis as emboldening the text, in that it causes what has been written to seem as though it was stated more strongly than the surrounding text, or as though it was more blatantly obvious.

   It tends to look like this:

                        "Are you telling me no one thought to look in the crates? When you knew that we were facing these things?!?"

   Also like emboldened text, underlined text can look very unprofessional if over-used (i.e. used to much in a single place OR too often throughout the story), or even slightly misused, and thus should be shunned in favor of other forms of emphasis unless time is spent to ensure that it looks right, or unless the circumstances are good.

   Italicized text, unlike the two previous forms of text emphasis doesn't have the effect of making a piece of text seem louder. In fact, the use of italics can cause sections of text to seem whispered, to seem as though they were silent thoughts, or as though they are happening somewhere far distant.

   The following is a good example of italicized text (and also of spacing emphasis):

                       "He couldn't take much more of this.

                        So hungry...

                        Shaking his head violently, he..."

   Italics also have additional uses. For example, when naming ships, writing the name in italics makes it more recognizable and memorable.

   Also like emboldened text and underlined text, the over use or misuse of italicized text can quickly cause a piece to look unprofessional, and should, like all the other forms of font style emphasis, be used with extreme caution. With careful application, or a good situation, italicized text can be perfect, but time should be spent to insure it's appropriateness.


4)   Word Capitalization Emphasis

   Capitalization is one of the quickest ways of emphasizing a piece of text. All you need to do is hit the shift key, or "caps lock" until you've capitalized the whole section you want to emphasize.

   Unfortunately, capitalization of large sections of text tends to have the effect of not only looking unprofessional, but simply looking bad. Capitalization tends to be used to show that a speaker is yelling, or speaking loudly.

   For example:

                         "I'M TALKING TO YOU, SOLDIER!!"

   It is plain that the character is shouting in the above "quote", but if this were to continue for any extended period of time, it would begin to get terribly annoying.

   Luckily, the same effect as using all capitalized letters can be easily done in a different manner. For example, the use of an exclamation mark, and the inclusion of a descriptive sentence afterwards can have the same effect, but can avoid the appearance of the capital letters.

   Doing so looks like this:

   "I'm talking to you, Soldier!!" screamed the sergeant in the in-attentive recruits face...

   The amended version of the same sentence manages to avoid using all capitals, but still shows plainly that the character is shouting. I suggest avoiding using Word Capitalization as a from of emphasis when possible, but that doesn't mean it must be avoided all the time, merely that attention should be paid to it's use, and that overuse should be careful avoided.


5)Separation w/ Symbols Emphasis

   While this sounds rather complicated, it is actually very easy to do.

   It works really well at easing the reader into the understanding that a change in perspective, place, or time has just occurred.

   It tends to look like this:

                          "If only you knew."

                         * * * * *

                         Thermo-nuclear explosions tore through the planet's cities

   To get the full effect, it really needs to be in the context of a full story, but it should be apparent that it works well.

   Also, the symbols used in separation can be designed to the desires of the writer. One warning though, is that when designing your own symbols, they should be symmetrical, as that tends to look better.


   With the right application of any of these five different types of emphasis to any thing you write, you might just find that people see the story more like you do, understand it better, and enjoy reading just that little bit more. By emphasizing the right parts of your stories in the right way, you pave the way for a better reception.


   I hope that those who read this article find it useful. Sorry for it being so long.

   If there's something that you think should be written about, either in this textica or future texticas, don't be afraid to message me and tell me what you think. Or just post. That's good too, and probably easier.

   Good luck with everything you all write in the future!


Cthulhu for Pres in 2012!!! Why vote for the lesser of all evils?

King Pojo

Hi there, King Pojo here . . .

I have some information that the memebers might find useful for their fiction writing and how to improve it.

"Writer's Digest Books"

This company publishes self-help books for writers to improve their work.  I am an amateur writer myself, and have found these books very helpful.  I wouldn't say they've turned me into a professional quality writer, by they have helped me improve my stories nonetheless.  I'm a law enforcement officer by profession and I use creative writing to help relieve the stress from my job, and I do believe it has helped greatly.  Anyway, here's the info:

I have a number of their publications in my personal library, but here are a few of the books you may find most helpful:

1.)  "Characters & Viewpoints" by Orson Scott Card

2.)  "How To Write Action Adventure Novels" by Michael Newton

3.)  "The Writer's Guide To Creating A Science Fiction Universe" by George Ochoa and Jeffrey Osier

4.)  "Deadly Doses, A Writer's Guide To Poisons" by Serita Deborah Stevens and Anne Klarner (Dark Eldar
       Writers REALLY need this one!)

5.)  "Character Naming Sourcebook" by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Hal Blythe and Charlie Sweet (This has REALLY
       helped me name my characters!)

I certainly hope this information will help all the writers out there.

Stay safe, everyone, and Later Tater . . .

King Pojo

Edit: Made the URL a linky and removed the address. If people want it they can find it on the site. Thanks for the info though  :)
"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing."--Robert E. Howard


Can i Just point out that in GCSE english
"What th-" started Ukos, but Mesme cut him off.
"I told you to unpack quickly!
This is correct and its is obvious that Mesme says the second line but for clarification
"What th-" started Ukos, but Mesme cut him off.
"I told you to unpack quickly!" Mesame cut in
Is more informative (< sorry if theres a better word)
When the Biel-tan fled there home worlds they left behind many living people on many worlds, however unknown to them a world survived unharmed and unchanged there name was forever changed to Althan.
Avatar by Tauring on deviantART
My Home - 2008.

Jinx ShadowSong

If you don't mind I'll go forward to the more heavy stuff, characters, styles, structure.


While your plot is the skeleton of your story (and the moral/point of the story is its soul), your characters are the muscles, blood and other organs of your story. The details of your characters is up to you to decide of course, but it is always nice to avoid the cliche characters (such as Eldrad and Yriel). Try to be as realistic as possible when it comes to their personalities. Remember that characters are only as interesting as their flaws and difference.

Say you have a Farseer. Farseer by default are wise and old, calm in the face of danger and what not. Introduce a Farseer that have extreme insecurities problem. Make him being able to make jokes. Oh, or maybe you can have an Eldar who were previously in the Path of the Seer switching to the Path of the Warrior and is having a tough time about it.

I suggest that you let the character make the story, instead of the story make the characters, because it is your character that your readers will see before anything else, so you should make allowance in your story for character development.... though try to avoid the teenagers saving the world business. If the world's fate is in the hand of adolescent, full of hormones and insecurities, then you might as well say goodbye to your loved ones.

That's it for now, I'll be back later
Live to see tomorrow. Live to die tomorrow. Everyday - Cole Rift

"We are outnumbered and outgunned. So lets go behind them and slam something up their ass as hard and as quickly as possible" Shas'o Dal'yth Remi


Here's some advice paraphrased from a writing magazine I got second-hand from a neighbour. The article was mainly about horror stories, but I think it really applies to every story.

-When you have a character who is going to 'save the world' or what-have-you, they will often do that via some special quslity - inhuman martial skillz, quick wits, whatever.
-However, if these abilities suddenly develop right at the climax when it's the hero versus the villain and everyone else is dead, your hero won't have any depth of character.
-If, for example, your hero is going to outwit the bad guy by lightning-fast reactions and gutsy bravado. Well, show us some examples of this before the last page. Taking an example from the magazine, show the main hero saving their friend's brother who was drowning in a river, by application of their lighting reflexes and gutsy bravado.
-Characters are defined by 'what they say and do'. However, if what they say and do is mainly aimed at the villain or some monster, then we won't get a very broad view of them. Remember that they have a life outside their current conflict - show us how they interact with people who aren't their sworn enemy or some scary monster.
Are we as offensive as we might be?

Killing Time

Good advice
Essential reading for budding authors.
Top ten tips for writing from a whole bunch of great writers, including Neil Gaiman and Michael Moorecock



I haven't seen this in here but I think it needs mentioning, for god's sake people just enjoy yourselves, write for fun, write what you want, and relax, not everything has to be perfect and if something isn't perfect then it's not the end of the world.

Remember if twilight can get published, so can you.
War. War is your trade is it not?

And it ain't yours?

Mine too. Very much so.


I found this website a while ago, and it really has helped me improve my writing, especially in including more conflict in the story
holly isle has a lot of free stuff that is really helpful but there is some stuff you can pay for, PDF books and even some courses that look brill


Quote from: bluewpc on March  4, 2010, 11:16:53 PM
I haven't seen this in here but I think it needs mentioning, for god's sake people just enjoy yourselves, write for fun, write what you want, and relax, not everything has to be perfect and if something isn't perfect then it's not the end of the world.

Remember if twilight can get published, so can you.
This is so true. I also think that writers should be themselves when they write. It's really easy to tell when a new writer is trying to hard. Keep it simple at first, and go from there. Just get your words on the page, you can always edit them later.

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