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Any help/tips on getting better in writing?

Last posted Aug 27, 2012 at 01:32AM EDT. Added Aug 11, 2012 at 01:41AM EDT
51 posts from 19 users

I’ll just cut to the chase. I basically suck at writing. I have ideas for stories but I lack the skills to interpret those thoughts into words. If any help can be provided by others that have experience in writing, that would nice. I also hope this thread helps others on writing, as well.

Aug 11, 2012 at 01:41AM EDT

When I want to write something lengthy, I like to pick up a good book that matches the genre that I am doing, and then emulate the author’s style. It can tell you a lot about your writing when you compare it directly to another work that is of the same general type. I am definitely not suggesting that you copy anything: rewording, verbatim, or otherwise. Just try to take tips from famous authors.

Last edited Aug 11, 2012 at 01:58AM EDT
Aug 11, 2012 at 01:47AM EDT
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Try to write practice stories and read through them, picking up any flaws that come up. If they come up often, make sure you focus hard to try and nail them out. Your first goal should be too hold interest, and being vague is usually useful to that, as well as other mechanics. Generally speaking, the omniscient audience is an audience filled with less suspense than an uninformed audience, so it might be more entertaining to limit the information the audience has.

Like the Count suggested, read some stuff written by other authors and examine their art style. It can lead to inspiration in how to piece paragraphs together. The structure of a sentence and a paragraph is major, so make sure it’s fluid and has correct grammar. I also tend to find stories that interject with hyphens and semicolons to add more detail without shattering the flow of the story by making run-ons or fragments to be interesting.

Structure is important, and so is detail. But going overboard can be annoying, as can being repetitive with description. Too much poetic description (similes and all that) can grind on a reader’s nerves, as can other descriptive tools.

Aug 11, 2012 at 01:58AM EDT
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Make sure to use a relatively large vocabulary, and keep a thesaurus around if you want/must.

And don’t try to use the same word too much in one sentence, try to find a different word that suits the general meaning of that word, but isn’t that word.

Aug 11, 2012 at 02:03AM EDT
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Piano wrote:

Make sure to use a relatively large vocabulary, and keep a thesaurus around if you want/must.

And don’t try to use the same word too much in one sentence, try to find a different word that suits the general meaning of that word, but isn’t that word.

For the longest time I had an aneurysm because the latter thing.

“Alright, I already called that dude by his name at the start of the paragraph. I’ll call him by his gender, now. I have to refer to him again, so I’ll call him by his profession. Another referral… Name, I guess. Wait, it looks like I’m just cycling, then. I just used his profession and his gender, so what can I d- OH GOD MY BRAINS!”

After recovering, I would return.

“New paragraph. Alright, so I refer to him by name and… Wait. I called him by name at the start of the last paragraph, it looks like I’m repeating myself an- OH GOD MY OTHER BRAINS!”

Aug 11, 2012 at 02:07AM EDT
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Do not forget to include symbolism, symbolism can take any form, be it an inanimate object or an animate one. Symbols carry meaning to the reader indirectly and amplify the meaning of your message which you try to convey in your story. For example, in The Great Gatsby, the character daisy represents the American dream, and she symbolizes how it is empty and cannot be attained by an average citizen. F. Scott Fitzgerald created daisy to represent his wife which he divorce prior to the creation of The Great Gatsby. She only came back to him after he attained fame and fortune; their relationship was as empty like the unrealistic standard that she set based on the American Dream. A symbol does not have to be stupendous, but it becomes more powerful as it ties into the main theme of the story which solidifies your intentional implication of the story.

Last edited Aug 11, 2012 at 02:50AM EDT
Aug 11, 2012 at 02:49AM EDT
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Two things that have helped me greatly in my writing in the past, and I have seen suggested by successful writers:

1) Write. Seriously. Like anything else, writing is something that requires practice, so it really can help your abilities if you make a commitment to write at least one hour every day. Metaphorically, I tend to think of the stories I really want to write as races I’m going to run, and I’m only going to be successful if I’ve been taking practice runs beforehand (just writing whatever comes to mind and not worrying about quality).

2) Find a small group of people interested in writing, and meet with them regularly to share your writing with each other. Get feedback on your writing; figure out what they’re doing that you like; share techniques.

Those are the two main things, but what the others have suggested is also good. In fact, I would even say that mimicking the style of another writer, while not a way to develop your own voice, is an interesting exercise in trying out different tones and methods to develop flexibility. (And actually, if you wanted to write fanfic…well, I haven’t read much, but I’ve always imagined that the best fanfic will read as though it was written by the author of the original work.)

Aug 11, 2012 at 02:56AM EDT
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Use of connotations and figures of speech (simple examples being metaphors and personifications) give life and character to a piece of writing.

Aug 11, 2012 at 03:01AM EDT
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Write a lot of stuff, and publish it so other people can see and -

No, wait, that’s terrible advice. Luckily, I am no longer in possession of all the shitty Pokemans fan fiction I wrote when I was like ten and an Internet n00b.

My advice? If I want to write something, I read something someone else wrote and judge it hard; I essentially try to succeed everywhere I think the writer failed, especially in terms of character development. I’ll read a story with similar characters, and poke and prod and try to find any flaw I can, anywhere I think I can improve a character and make them more believable and interesting. I admit to not having paid full attention to what Solaire wrote earlier, so I’ve more or less reiterated his points. Personally, it’s a technique I use a lot in character development and pacing in particular.

When writing dialogue, I like to make it up as I go along. I’ll have a general idea as to where I want a conversation to go, but lacking a rigid structure makes it much easier to have a smooth and natural conversation. I also try to explain what two talking characters are doing as much as possible. A character’s actions during conversation can betray a lot more than their words, especially in writing where you don’t get as much sense of tone.

Anyways, my two cents on writing. I’ve never written anything worth shit, but it’s mainly writing the plot that I get hung up on. I should write something someti – loljk I’m a busy man.

Last edited Aug 11, 2012 at 03:48AM EDT
Aug 11, 2012 at 03:37AM EDT

I have no idea.

Oh wait, of course I do, I’m pretty good in my English GCSE.

I’d tell you but what kind of writing do you want to be good at? Creative? General?

Last edited Aug 11, 2012 at 05:54AM EDT
Aug 11, 2012 at 05:53AM EDT
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Thanks, guys. These advice will come useful in the future.

@QuantumeMeme

Hmmmm…. I’m looking for both, really.

Aug 11, 2012 at 10:18AM EDT

@RegularMack

Mind giving me some examples?

Aug 11, 2012 at 11:12AM EDT

@HitchSlap

Aug 11, 2012 at 06:12PM EDT

Sure. This won’t be very subtle, but:

“I was punched in the mouth. I began to bleed quickly, uncontrollably, and all over the floor.

“All over the floor” should be removed, and an adverbial phrase should be inserted; alternately, it could just be removed, provided you stick an “and” between “quickly” and “uncontrollably.”

From the World English Dictionary, “parallel” means “denoting syntactic constructions in which the constituents of one construction correspond to those of the other”

In other words, if you’re going to describe something in a list, use all adverbs, all adjectives, all gerunds, all infinitives, etc.

Tense agreement can get a little tricky in the middle of a paragraph. I’m kinda feeling lazy, and I’m not really sure how to explain this, (other than just to say “it’s gotta FEEL right” which is almost always a dumb bit of advice,) but to give a painfully obvious example:

“I try turning the knob and felt that it is stuck.”

Clearly, “felt” should be “feel,” or you can put the whole sentence in past tense. I know that’s a terrible example, but you get the idea. This CAN get a little awkward in the middle of a long stretch, especially if you just rush to put something down and resolve that whatever you’ve got will work.

I know this is a strange pair of things to go into such detail over, but if you can get these down the rhythm of your writing will be consistent to the reader, and the overall piece will be a smoother read.

Please also understand that I’m not the best writer, so feel free to disregard everything I just said. If anyone out there needs to correct this unintelligible mess of an explanation, please do, for all of us. I know I probably made a ton of grammatical mistakes of my own; please don’t point them out. I know I didn’t use those colons right.

Aug 11, 2012 at 07:49PM EDT
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@RegularMack

Okay, thanks. Can’t really disagree with anything you just said since I it’s already obvious i’m not a writer but I’ll put the information you gave me to good use.

Aug 11, 2012 at 08:08PM EDT

“I felt his fist come in contact with my jaw. The pain was indescribable. It felt as if I was hit by piece of rock speeding faster the a hundred miles. It was bad. Within second I started to bleed. I could feel it. I could feel the warm red fluid slowly filling up my mouth with its metallic-like taste. Some of it even began to escape out my lips, dripping on to the floor that was underneath me. "

Okay, this is just a small paragraph, I know but still I would like some feedback.

Last edited Aug 11, 2012 at 08:52PM EDT
Aug 11, 2012 at 08:52PM EDT

Mexx Android wrote:

“I felt his fist come in contact with my jaw. The pain was indescribable. It felt as if I was hit by piece of rock speeding faster the a hundred miles. It was bad. Within second I started to bleed. I could feel it. I could feel the warm red fluid slowly filling up my mouth with its metallic-like taste. Some of it even began to escape out my lips, dripping on to the floor that was underneath me. "

Okay, this is just a small paragraph, I know but still I would like some feedback.

Would it help if I just changed the paragraph, and then explained the reason I changed everything? I’ll give it a shot. I’m sorry if it seems rude at all, I’m just trying to provide constructive criticism.

“I felt his fist come into contact with my jaw. The pain was indescribable. Within seconds I could feel the metallic tasting red fluid filling my mouth. A few warm drops escaped my gaping lips, dribbling thickly onto the floor.”

First is changing ‘in’ to ‘into’. Not to be rude or anything at all, but you’re not a native English speaker, right? Or at least English isn’t your primary language. That’s absolutely fine, you’ve got a great grasp of the language. I can’t speak Spanish nearly as well as you can speak English. Anyway, the point of this little digression is that nuances like changing ‘in’ to ‘into’ are just things that’ll come naturally over time. I couldn’t for the life of me explain why into works better, but it does.
Calling the pain indescribable is good. Describing it in the next line isn’t. Leaving it as indescribable gives the reader the impression that he’s too dazed to even comprehend the pain. The whole simile with the rock is unnecessary, and ‘it was bad’ is even more so.
Going grammar nazi with the ‘within seconds’ part, and again cutting out the ‘I could feel it’ part, again because it’s unnecessary. I removed the “I’m starting to bleed” part because it’s pretty heavily implied in the next few lines. The idea for scenes like this is to be very descriptive. You want the reader to see and feel what’s going on, which is why lines like “I could feel the warm red fluid slowly filling up my mouth with its metallic-like taste.” are so good. (Just a quick note, you don’t need to say ‘metallic-like’. Metallic means like metal, so saying metallic-like is saying like like metal.) I combined and rearranged the descriptive lines because they flow better this way.

The trick with paragraphs like this is to make them short and staccato. They need to be fast, to the point, and brutal, mirroring the fight or action that they portray. You’re supposed to be to-the-point and very, very realistic. Fight Club does this perfectly. “You know, the condom is the glass slipper of our generation. You slip it on when you meet a stranger. You dance all night then you throw it away. The condom, I mean. Not the stranger.

Last edited Aug 12, 2012 at 01:12AM EDT
Aug 12, 2012 at 01:10AM EDT
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>That feel when your mom’s a English Teacher, you went to an english/spanish school and half of all your cousins speak english… And you suck at your Spanish, making English practically your first language.

I’m sorry, mama. I’m sorry…

Edit: Yeah, by technicality, English isn’t supposed to be my Native language. But like most of the things I posted at the top, the irony is beyond scales. I understand you went easy on me and I understand that you had no intentions in insulting me but still… I’m a bit embarrassed and ashamed.

Last edited Aug 12, 2012 at 01:43AM EDT
Aug 12, 2012 at 01:17AM EDT



Well I don’t, but I can sympathize. :p My friend’s parents Speak Korean and barely any English, but he only speaks English and doesn’t speak it very well. Makes me wonder how odd growing up must have been, since he couldn’t really speak to his parents. D:

Aug 12, 2012 at 01:43AM EDT
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My English Teacher told me that I’m a good story writer. You’ve seen my Writing Thread (Which I need to update more often). Here are my rules of the game:

  • I need to have the topic, the theme, the story. Be inspired by something.
  • Don’t emphasize a Character too much. You don’t want your character to be a Mary Sue.
  • Foreshadow an event. Give tiny, hints of what’s going to happen.
  • Skim through your story. Make sure that it doesn’t have grammar and spelling errors.
Aug 12, 2012 at 01:44AM EDT

Pseudogenesis wrote:



Well I don’t, but I can sympathize. :p My friend’s parents Speak Korean and barely any English, but he only speaks English and doesn’t speak it very well. Makes me wonder how odd growing up must have been, since he couldn’t really speak to his parents. D:

My dad speaks full-on Spanish. He might slip out some English words but just for fun. I try my best talking to him in Spanish, and though it gets awkward at times because I have a hard time expressing my words, he encourages me to keep talking and helps me when I’m stuck in my sentences.

So I can relate to your friend somehow. BUT enough crap! Thanks for the advice, Hitchslap.

Aug 12, 2012 at 01:52AM EDT

@Kipp

I already made a Writing Thread, were I wanted to practice in. But no request have been given to me yet. OH, WELL.

Last edited Aug 12, 2012 at 01:54AM EDT
Aug 12, 2012 at 01:54AM EDT

So you weren’t kidding about the “trading art skills for writing skills” thing eh? Instead of reiterating what others have previously said, I shall curate and expand upon such advice.

Count Lionel said:

When I want to write something lengthy, I like to pick up a good book that matches the genre that I am doing, and then emulate the author’s style.

This probably came out a bit wrong, but I can see what he’s getting at. Becoming a good writer necessitates that you first become acquainted with what good writing is. It’s quite similar to developing as an artist, which is something you should be quite familiar with. But instead of emulating other writer’s works and drowning out your voice in the process, let them influence and guide you into forming your own, unique writing style. It’s a subtle change, but it makes a huge difference.

Solaire said:

Your first goal should be too hold interest, and being vague is usually useful to that, as well as other mechanics. Generally speaking, the omniscient audience is an audience filled with less suspense than an uninformed audience, so it might be more entertaining to limit the information the audience has.

I want to emphasize that this piece of advice is specifically geared towards fiction writing, though Solaire hinted at it. While holding interest as your first goal is debatable, it’s up there on the list of things you as a writer must take note of. You can be vague with the details at first, slowly building up to a crescendo, but always have a clear purpose and direction. Otherwise it’s all meaningless. Perhaps a better word here would be limited.

RF said:

Make sure to use a relatively large vocabulary, and keep a thesaurus around if you want/must.

Ehh, this is iffy and extremely dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. It is imperative that you note that thesauruses and dictionaries are, by nature, denotative. Sure, they can tell you what a word means and its synonyms, but they can’t capture the word’s bearing upon the ear and the mind, or more specifically, its connotation (forgive me if I’m going way back to middle school here, it’s important to review the basics). Each and every word has its own ring and implications to it, even supposedly perfect synonyms such as “big” and “large.” You can’t just replace words all willy-nilly and expect your prose to improve a thousand-fold.

Until you have been immersed into literature in such a way that you have a fairly good grasp of words and their connotations, my advice is to stay away from the thesaurus if possible. Now, I’m not saying a thesaurus is a bad thing. In fact, I use them all the time, whether I’m posting on the internet or writing an essay. However, I take note of each word’s actual, as well as implied meanings, and then carefully select a word that fits better and refines my writing, instead of just using big words to sound educated and smart. More often than not, it gives off the opposite of the intended effect.


I’m not much of a fiction writer these days, so I might be approaching this a little differently from others. Still, good writing techniques are universal. Remember that there is no one right way to write, just as there is no one right way to draw. Use these tips as guidelines, instead of set in stone laws. The rest is up to you. Practice, read, and then practice some more. Improve. Repeat.

Last edited Aug 12, 2012 at 03:16AM EDT
Aug 12, 2012 at 03:16AM EDT
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Twins:

Ehh, this is iffy and extremely dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. It is imperative that you note that thesauruses and dictionaries are, by nature, denotative. Sure, they can tell you what a word means and its synonyms, but they can’t capture the word’s bearing upon the ear and the mind, or more specifically, its connotation (forgive me if I’m going way back to middle school here, it’s important to review the basics). Each and every word has its own ring and implications to it, even supposedly perfect synonyms such as “big” and “large.” You can’t just replace words all willy-nilly and expect your prose to improve a thousand-fold.

Until you have been immersed into literature in such a way that you have a fairly good grasp of words and their connotations, my advice is to stay away from the thesaurus if possible. Now, I’m not saying a thesaurus is a bad thing. In fact, I use them all the time, whether I’m posting on the internet or writing an essay. However, I take note of each word’s actual, as well as implied meanings, and then carefully select a word that fits better and refines my writing, instead of just using big words to sound educated and smart. More often than not, it gives off the opposite of the intended effect.

In all seriousness, your vocabulary should be dictated by what you’re writing: if you’re writing a fairly simply, narrative-focused scene, you should use simple language. If you’re writing something really deep, laden with symbolism, more complex language should be used. In my mind, the vocabulary demonstrated is essentially a signal to how deep I should look into something I’m reading. Simple language? Simple reading.

That’s just my opinion. Maybe I make for a horrible audience, but I wouldn’t know.

As for using synonyms and such, I generally tend to shy away from repeating words or simply using synonyms; remember, the whole point of synonym is that it means the same thing, so you are essentially restating something you’ve already stated if you’re using them. I personally try to find other ways of describing something, if I feel I haven’t gone over it well enough.

Last edited Aug 12, 2012 at 03:30AM EDT
Aug 12, 2012 at 03:27AM EDT

I don’t get it. The pic I mean.

And yes, I hate repeating words, thesauruses help to fix up those awkward and rage-inducing moments when you want to use a word but have already done so before. Can you say “OCD levels over 9000?”

Perhaps simple isn’t the best word here, because, as I like to point out, it has some unintended implications that may obscure your original message. But I see what you’re saying. Instead of being needlessly ornate and dense, be clear and to the point. Use the appropriate diction given the context. Fair enough.

Aug 12, 2012 at 04:10AM EDT
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Okay, I get it. There different ways to interpret a sentences by using other words. And though some words mean the same thing, they can mean something contrary as well. Am I correct?

P.s. Any writer I should take examples from?

Aug 12, 2012 at 04:22PM EDT

Words have denotations and connotations. Denotations are the word’s exact definition, connotations are its implied meaning. For example, the word “Cripple” simply means disabled. But in most of the western world it has a very insulting and demeaning connotation, so it’s best that it’s not used.

For methodology, I can only recommend the writers that I think are excellent. John Green has the whole academic side of writing nailed down. His writing is rife with metaphors, symbolism and foreshadowing. Check out his book Looking for Alaska.

Chuck Palahniuk (The writer of Fight Club) is great at realistic, sarcastic writing. Check out Fight Club.

My Side of the Mountain is a great read. It’s awesome in its ability to evoke emotion in a simple setting.

Finally, read Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. It combines humour and tragedy lo well that you can’t really tell the difference.

Aug 12, 2012 at 08:54PM EDT
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And question of curiosity,

Are there many different ways to describe an action?

Say… Getting stabbed. Are there other ways to write this. Like, tell it straight forward that he got stabbed or give out little hints that he got stabbed?

Aug 12, 2012 at 09:12PM EDT

Depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re being realist, you could say, “He watched as the silver blade plunged into his chest”, or if you’re trying to mirror the temporary lack of comprehension the character in question is experiencing you could say, “He felt a dull thud in his chest and looked down to inspect the black handle protruding from it.” The second delays the reader’s comprehension of what’s going on and adds to the effect, which is good if you’re going for a surprise.

Aug 13, 2012 at 01:58AM EDT
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This thread has made me realize I have a combination of Mex’s drawing skills and Twins’ TL;DR skills.

Aug 13, 2012 at 04:45AM EDT
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@Hitchslap

Okay. Thanks.

@Quantum
….Uh, Okay?

Aug 13, 2012 at 06:35AM EDT

@Mex
Learn a big Vocabulary. I’m Filipino who’s First language is Tagalog and have managed have a deep sense of english words.

Aug 13, 2012 at 11:39AM EDT

量子 Meme wrote:

This thread has made me realize I have a combination of Mex’s drawing skills and Twins’ TL;DR skills.

its funnie cuz u haev niether

@Cat with Lime
Reading? Easy. Or at least easier than writing and drawing. The key to becoming a good reader is in both volume and technique. First off, you need to read a lot. This does not mandate books; in fact, reading forum posts, meme articles, actual articles, magazines, etc., it all counts. So long as you understand what is good writing, and what isn’t, reading a lot shouldn’t pose any major problems.

The harder part is developing a good technique that allows you to absorb and digest the information on the page as you move along. Too often do people just passively read, or worse, skim through a fairly long passage. Sure, you can get the gist of what it’s saying more often than not, but you’re missing the important thing- comprehension. You’ll miss the finer details, glance over key words (oh wait, you said that you don’t support stomping on puppies?), and just not get the overall purpose of a passage if you don’t actively read.

The solution? Just read a bit slower than you are used to, and reread the more confusing sentences that you don’t fully understand. When you’re done, go back and skim what you’ve read so you can review what has happened up to that point. It may be tedious at first, but eventually you’ll come to appreciate how much better of a reader you have become. When all is said and done, your reading speed will catch up, you will find that you no longer need to reread as often as you used to, and your comprehension levels will have increased greatly.

Last edited Aug 15, 2012 at 03:25AM EDT
Aug 15, 2012 at 03:23AM EDT
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I was in creative writing in my high school and they said we would still have it if Ms. Simpson stayed at the school but sadly she moved to a different school.
;_;

Aug 15, 2012 at 03:25AM EDT
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its funnie cuz u haev niether

sut up i hav them bothh, u jus jel.


But seriously, are you joking? Because I said a combo, not both.

Aug 15, 2012 at 08:55AM EDT
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I write from the Heart, and Brain.
I combo Humor, and Emotion.
Suspence, and the unexpected.
Then something Totally expected.
I need to finish my novels actually.

Aug 15, 2012 at 05:50PM EDT
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Twins the Serendipitous Serval wrote:

You know perfectly well if I was joking or not.

And what ever do you mean by combo?

A little bit of both.~

Aug 15, 2012 at 06:10PM EDT
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Since this is a writing help thread, does anyone have any tips on writing song lyrics? I have musical parts I need to put lyrics to, but I have no ideas. Help?

Aug 15, 2012 at 10:39PM EDT
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Zach Dragon Rage wrote:

Since this is a writing help thread, does anyone have any tips on writing song lyrics? I have musical parts I need to put lyrics to, but I have no ideas. Help?

Say them out loud to make sure the rhythm sounds good, learn synonyms and things that go well together and all that. Metaphors are also pretty big in lyrics, as well.

I’d also say that you should avoid rhyming chair with lair, but that shit is legit.

Aug 15, 2012 at 10:48PM EDT
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O nos I necrod a threawd.

Anyways, I think I’m willing to exercise my skills here. Tell me something to write, guys. I usually like to put KYM users in stories. It’s kinda fun.

Aug 26, 2012 at 01:37PM EDT

My piece of advice is to just get it all written down. The start can be extremely hard, painful and cringe-worthy but once you get past the first bit it’s a doddle.

Aug 26, 2012 at 02:29PM EDT
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Write a greentext story. Those are absurd, usually gross, and almost always funny. Not to mention it’ll force you to pace it well. Don’t go for everything being completely insane from the get-go; build up to some ridiculous ending.

Aug 26, 2012 at 02:47PM EDT
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Okay, I’ll try that out, Mack. Which users should I add in the story?

Aug 26, 2012 at 05:27PM EDT
Skeletor-sm

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