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Write and edit your own book now

  1. Mar 25, 2009 #1
    I am a college student interested in writing as a career. I am particularly interested in autobiographical writing. But before I do that I need to polish my writing skills. I need help in that .
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  3. Mar 25, 2009 #2


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    You could start with reading "Writer's Digest" magazine. I haven't bought it in years, but it sure had some good advice in it. They also offer books.
    You do realize, however, that autobiographical writing is pretty much a one-shot deal as opposed to a career. (Unless you plan to serialize it and produce a new chapter every year.) There'll also be quite a limited readership unless you've done a lot of very interesting or funny things in your life.
    (Or did you mean 'ghost writing' other people's autobiographies?)
  4. Mar 25, 2009 #3
    If autobiographical writing only consists of relating the facts of the life, then, yes, it's a one-shot, limited readership proposition. However many authors create wildly entertaining reading from the meager facts of their lives by virtue of being great creative writers. You really aren't reading them for the story content at all, but for how they tell the stories. Feynman's two autobiographical books are cases in point. Henry Miller is an even better example: he filled several autobiographical books with his compelling manner of telling the relatively mundane stories of his life. The Remembrance of Things Past, by Proust is several volumes long and considered an autobiographical masterpiece, though Proust never did anything of note except write that autobiography.

    It's very much like being a stand-up comic: all the things they talk about are common experiences to everyone. It's the way they pitch it that makes the difference.
  5. Mar 25, 2009 #4
    The best way to polish one's skills as a writer is to write. Have you been writing?
  6. Mar 25, 2009 #5
    The successful writer doesn't worry about writing skills. They just write. If you're going to worry, then worry about the content, the story. You might be surprised by how sloppy most manuscripts are by the time they reach a publisher. Tidy them up in the end, sure. Just don't fuss over details like commas and participles. Almost every commercial publisher has its own editing department. They will edit your book at no charge and whether you want it or not. So if it's a writer you want to be, then write.

    The first few pages might be astounding to you. Then as you go along it might seem like crap. Then it looks like it picks up in quality. Then it sinks... None of that matters. You'll find your way, and once you finish the draft, you'll go over it and over it. Put that inner dialog aside and just do it. Let it happen. Then you'll have something to work with. And a lot of valuable experience.
  7. Mar 25, 2009 #6


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    Where'd my post go? :confused:
    If it was deleted due to a commercial reference, would someone please PM me to let me know?
  8. Mar 25, 2009 #7


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    No posts have been deleted from this thread. Maybe the electron bandits got it?

    - Warren
  9. Mar 25, 2009 #8


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    That might be. I've noticed a lot of that crap since I switched to a new power bar.

    So, anyhow, the basic idea of the unposted post was that I agree with Zoobie now that he's expressed himself. I was using too narrow a definition for 'autobiography'. I also suggested (which is why I suspected a commercial link deletion) that someone out for a chuckle should check out Leslie Neilson's 'autobiography' entitled 'The Naked Truth'. There's not a word of truth in it, but it's funnier than hell. From his affair with Sophia Loren up to his saving the known universe... and that little bugger does it all with a straight face, just as he played his roles in 'Airplane' and the like.
  10. Mar 25, 2009 #9


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    Considering he's a member of PF, I doubt his life is that interesting.

    But for this guy...

    Graham David Hughes

    I would read his every year probably.
  11. Mar 25, 2009 #10


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    Haven't heard of Hughes, but that put me in mind of something else. There's a mini-bio by Harlan Ellison, who is considered one of the all-time greatest SF writers. (He wrote 'The City on the Edge of Forever' for the original Star Trek series, and 'The Demon With the Glass Hand' for the original Twilight Zone.) As a reporter in his late 20's, he went undercover with a teen street gang (think of 'Jets' or 'Sharks' from 'Westside story' rather than 'Bloods' or 'Crips'). His account of that time is entitled 'Memos from Purgatory'. You can't put the damned thing down, and even when you're finished you'll probably stay awake for a while thinking about it.
  12. Mar 25, 2009 #11
    Any writer will tell you that the best thing you can do is to write and write and write and then write some more. Most would even suggest writing something every day even if its nonesense or crap or only a few lines long.

    Next you should look for a creative writing class and/or writers workshops in your area. There are several writers' resource websites out there that will likely have listing and you can probably check with your local community college.

    Lastly, if you simply intend to write one book and try to get it published you can always go the way of a professional editor. Some of them will take your manuscript and overhaul the whole thing with suggestions and advise on every little thing you wrote, or they may even rewrite it for you. Of course they are expensive and they really aren't worth it unless you are really intent on getting published and are sure you will be making money.

    DO NOT send a sloppy crappy manuscript to a publisher. It needs to be neat and it needs to read well or its gone. The publisher may not even get through reading page one before tossing it aside. Yes they have editors and spelling and grammer mistakes can be taken care of but no publisher is going to sign a deal on crap with a writer who can't check their own work and just have their editors overhaul it. If their editors were that great of writers then they wouldn't need you now would they?
  13. Mar 25, 2009 #12


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    Too right, Stats.
    Apparently the proper approach nowadays is to submit your work on disc. When I was doing it professionally, it had to be typed in 10 pitch, double-spaced, with 1 1/2" margins (except for screenplays which have half a dozen different margins depending upon whether it's action, dialogue, setting, etc.), on #20 bond paper with return postage. It cost a freaking fortune.
  14. Mar 26, 2009 #13


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    I don't think you have to necessarily have that exciting of a life. You just have to be able to flourish the right parts.

    I used to fish commercially and now I'm about to get a physics degree. I feel like I've been through a nice spectrum of experiences. I just have to implore some creativity and I could make it feel like I was on a pirate ship looting national treasuries with plasma rifles.
  15. Mar 26, 2009 #14
    Most recently I read that you are still expected to send a printed out manuscript. Its probably becoming more acceptable to send manuscripts on disk now though its best to check with a publisher first.

    I've been reading up on it here and there since I'd like to be a writer myself. I was amazed at just how difficult and involved the process is. :yuck:
  16. Mar 26, 2009 #15


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    Yeah. The writing was fun; the submittal process was not. Unfortunately, since I've been on the ADD meds for the past seven or eight years, I haven't been able to write a word. About the best that I can handle any more is the stuff that I do here on PF. It's definitely not of commercial quality.
  17. Mar 26, 2009 #16

    vulsite, please please please go to a writers' forum. There are thousands of them all over the Internet. This is the wrong place to get that kind of advice. Surround yourself with insiders and people who've been through it all. Now, this is a fantastic place for science questions, but for the support on writing, try http://www.writingforums.com or http://www.writers.net/forum/ . Scope around for others on the Net until you find one that you feel comfortable with.

    You don't need an editor. You already know how to write, so take off those training wheels and do it. There's a very good reason why so many writers say the same thing (write!); that's what works. You don't need to take a creative writing class, either. Not that you can't benefit from it, but fussing over skills you naturally already possess is the direction our experienced writers see in newcomers all the time; it typically leads to procrastination. Writing is a journey and can be a most rewarding one, but you have to get going with it. If anything, you could try a critiquing service because they are better suited to judging the story, instead of focusing on the punctuation marks. Editors are not writers. If the commercial publisher needed you to have your work professionally edited, then they wouldn't need their editing departments, now would they? Sure, you need to be able to write with a reasonable degree of intelligibility, but I can tell from your four sentences alone that you have the mechanics down. You have what you need.

    Go to a writers' forum, please. Make friends there and follow their experiences. It can be an amazing and rewarding journey.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  18. Mar 26, 2009 #17


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    One tip... don't begin a sentence with a conjunction. :wink:
  19. Mar 26, 2009 #18

    And why not?
  20. Mar 26, 2009 #19


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  21. Mar 26, 2009 #20
    Seriously, I don't believe there is any historical basis for that. Even R.W. Burchfield wrote that writers have started sentences with conjunctions since Anglo-Saxon times.
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