Nigma's Topical Writing Guide
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  1. #1
    Not a Newbie Nigma's Avatar
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    Nigma's Topical Writing Guide

    As a public service to those who are coming along with the early stages of their writing career as well as those who consider themselves experienced in the field, I am going to break down my writing process as I tackle a topical verse for a crew battle. Itís something I've wanted to do for awhile, and this particular verse turned out to be an excellent example. A lot of text will be reposted as I show updated versions of the verse so try to highlight the new content via bolded text. Feel free to skip over as much of the Ďdataí as youíd like. Onwards to insight. Everything passed this section was written in sequence as I approached the verse. Hope you can take something from it.

    One of the most critical pieces of advice I will offer is to not be afraid to switch your shit up. If a portion of a verse is feeling flat, sometimes you've got to remove a sizeable chunk to take it in the direction you want to. Moving on, Iíll explain the process I went through from the very beginning of this verses construction up to itís completion.

    This article will explain in detail how the writing process is as important as any of factor contributing to your end result. This particular piece was written to the topic ďGetting sent back in time to the 1800sĒ

    I approached it with a curiosity, however manufactured, of what an average day would look like in the lives of men and women from the era we were writing about. I decided to make a list of points I picked up on from various articles I read. It turned out something like this:

    Boys
    - cut split carried wood for stove or fireplace
    -tending to farm animals
    -carried water to house, well water
    -putting up / repair fencing
    -gardens/fields/orchards
    -hunting/trapping/fishing; provide food for family

    Girls
    -cooking
    -milking cows and goats
    -collecting eggs
    -churning butter
    -make bread / cheese
    -preserving food
    -cleaning/laundry
    -making candles
    -sewing clothes
    -wool and flax to spin and weave
    -care for the young and elderly

    Children learned to read and write at home or in simple 1 room schoolhouse
    Teacher usually single women, as young as 14 of 15
    Either a local or from far away living with a local family
    Sometimes walk 2-3 miles to/from (students and teachers)
    Started work before sunrise, worked until the evenings on some occasions

    Having a set of details and a picture painted in your subconscious will naturally enhance your imagery as you approach the verse. My next step is to pick the angle Iím going to approach this at. I generally try and take the non-obvious approach in order to bring a fresh verse with fresh concepts to the table. Although at this point I am unaware the specific direction I will go, I know Iím not going to write something as cut and dry as walking in a time machine and being teleported back.. Na, Iím gonna go with my strengths, write about something I am knowledge about (or become knowledge about via research). I also want to bring an extra bit of pizazz to the verse. This is accomplished in many many different ways such as teaching the reader something, intense storytelling, twists, excessive literary devices, all of the above, ect. Next step is narrowing down the concept and see where it takes me.

    My first idea was for it to be a concealed FBI file of an event which they had covered up. While writing this I thought of an idea that Iím going to write it down here. I had chosen for it to be 1933 when he got sent back 100 years. I read up on what happened in 1833 and there was this thing called the Kansas City Massacre. So my idea is to have the plot of the verse conclude to, in some way, be the cause of the massacre. Not sure if this will be possible but Iíll read more into it later.
    From here I begin to construct a timeline of my verse and the content it addresses along with extra notes of possible links including future explorations into increased depth. I ad libbed a perspective of a full grown man going back in time, but also being reverted to an infant and reliving life, and reflecting back on both lives. Earlier I had decided I wanted to format it like an fbi file. I jotted down some notes to that effect:

    this was his statement:
    landed in 1833, he was 3, happened shortly after the kansas city massacre
    grew up with a family that found him (work interesting time travel into how he got there and how he was found)
    discuss his early years, give details on mother/father/siblings/and self
    discuss details of details leading up to the massacre.

    Also wrote a line that goes with a section of self reflecting in the statement:

    And me? Iím just a lonely sadist saviour in his open church
    Invaders in your home, you know that pain is in the overture

    Am now going to put on an instrumental, read up on the Kansas City Massacre, then convert this into writing. As I complete a section that incorporates the Ďresearchí Iíll delete it from the list of notes jotted down earlier.


    I was a picture perfect timid thing in midst of middle ages
    Was the prince of little things which build my frame, a simple patron
    And the skills Iíve gained, the will and traits of bravery instilled, obtained
    Iím maybe waiting patiently to pillage every villain, slay their guilty nature
    Filled my wage in silk while bragging, till one day came stillness
    And my realness ends, away with that, reels to credits, stained it black
    Near the days Iím tossed there I forget that logic plays it back
    The thoughts I father foster both my sons and daughters bayonets
    Did way with all the bassinets till fate displayed a candid grin
    It takes me from the famous life and drags me to the past again
    Changed me and my actions, in repayment it retracts my sins
    My back on crib and candace un-maimed as an assassins skin
    Was the first of our new kinship, then came little sister Alice
    Itís 1833 and mom made dinner, passed me pablum
    And her hands both badly calloused because Dad had thrown his back out
    When his axe had smacked a bad knot, now hes pacified and laid off


    I am not completely satisfied with the way this is going but Iím getting sick of writing so Iím going to take a break, perhaps change the direction when I get back.


    Decided to edit some out and completely change the direction of the concept. Itís now going to be about a boy talking to his grandfather who is reliving his childhood. Heres the progressed version:

    I was a picture perfect timid thing in midst of middle ages
    Was the prince of little things which build my frame, a simple patron
    And the skills Iíve gained, the will and traits of bravery instilled, obtained
    Iím maybe waiting patiently to pillage every villain, slay their guilty nature
    Filled my wage in silk while bragging, till one day came stillness
    And my realness ends, away with that, reels to credits, stained it black
    Near the days Iím tossed there I forgot that logic plays it back
    The thoughts I father foster both my sons and daughters bayonets
    Did way with all the bassinets till fate displayed a candid grin
    It takes me from the famous life and drags me to the past again
    Changed me and my actions, in repayment it retracts my sins
    My back on crib and candace un-maimed as an assassins skin
    of the layers laying on the blades of grass within

    The last line is incomplete, I jotted that down before the final ad lib and it was, obviously, the first line I completed afterwards. This allowed me to polish prior lines while they were fresh in my head without forgetting the direction I wanted to go.


    He was the prince of little things which built my frame, a simple patron
    And the skills Iíve gained, the will and traits of bravery instilled, obtained.
    I may be waiting patiently to pillage every villain, slay their guilty nature
    Filled my wage in silk while bragging, till one day came stillness
    And my realness ends, away with that, reels to credits, stained it black
    Near the days Iím tossed there I forget that logic plays it back
    The thoughts I father foster both my sons and daughters bayonets
    Did way with all the bassinets till fate displayed a candid grin
    It takes me from the famous life and drags me to the past again
    Changed me and my actions, in repayment it retracts my sins
    My back on crib and candace un-maimed as an assassins skin
    Grew as a kid of labour, laying traps in blades of grass to get
    an animal, drag it back for mama who would bag the bad meat
    Me and dad, as hunters, take the sack as bait to catch itís mate
    Maintain the stash we ate from, trait of man to take no glamour
    Stacked beside the gate we had a paved-in patch to axe swing
    And the blade would slash the oak tree at an angle, into fractions
    I would take them to the stove so we could bake them into rations
    Because mama made the pasta dashed with basil, glazed in flax seed
    And the light blazed from the candles she created, faces happy
    We said grace and sat there laughing and engaging as a family
    Chatted on our daily tasks, the radishes, the grapes and cabbage
    Theyíd been picked, we ate them mixed with grains to make a salad
    Then replaced the plates from appies to a steak, potatoes, balanced.
    Scraped each ounce then dab our faces, now itís on to cake
    Itís crowned with frosting layers draped around its framed surrounding
    And we drank the milk we drained from cows before its stale or soured
    Because waste would take the actions that we break our backs for
    Make them greater, escalate, and strain us in some way or manner
    It takes more than a great mustache to make a man. Put faith in that
    as good I say it had been, your great pa-pa would name us slackers
    And just as your age is bad, the path you pave will take you blacker



    I completed the 32 line limit, though feel I could easily have surpassed it. I feel the voice of the verse and its perspective is unclear and feel like it needs an overhaul.

    The biggest criticism I (and others) had for this verse was the need for a twist, for that little something extra that makes the verse to leave a lasting impression. As I write this I donít know exactly how Iím going to achieve that, however I am going to cut out the first quarter(ish) of the verse, the section I had written for my previous concept idea, and replace it with something more fitting, perhaps playing off the message I chose to end with. I will alter the part I have removed and use it for a verse in the future.

    Finally thought of the final angle of the verse. Its about a father talking to his son, Abe, how he cockily sat through the potato famine, and speaking to him from beyond the grave.(To be revealed in the finale.) Cannibalistic family.

    The final version:


    The past can really take you back.. Irelandís our Native Land


    Above me, my son Abe is asking, pa pa, whyíd you stay? You sat and
    Lasted eight years to the day, in fact, Potato Famine taints your land
    What Abe donít grasp, theres ways which we could stay, adapt
    Grew a kid of labour, trained to trap. Lay them down in blades of grass
    Pray to get a great big catch, when gazing at grazing pack, weíre hungry
    And a gun goes bang, would scare them, couldnít take the chance
    Our aims fantastic, barrelless, itís arrows in our strained elastics
    Drag it back for Mama who would bag the meat that's bad, then
    Me and dad, as hunters, take the sack as bait to catch itís mate
    Maintain the stash we ate from, trait of man to take no glamour
    Stacked beside the gate we had a paved-in patch to axe swing
    And the blade would slash the oak tree at an angle, into fractions
    I would take them to the stove so we could bake them into rations
    Because Mama made the pasta dashed with basil, glazed in flax seed
    But the ache still stabs me, damn, it takes me back, the seasons changing
    No more deer around here grazing, so the meals were all occasions
    It had seared your Grandma badly, she appeared so hollow, vacant
    And one day, exhaustion takes her. Certain fact, her cheeks amazing
    So we ate her, sadly, she was first to pass and she looked tastyÖ
    But we made it, days grew happier, the pain was soothed away
    And we grew a great potato crop, the same way that it used to be.
    I married off a maiden, she got pregnant and produced you, Abe
    You grew up raised to wait your turn, to stomach every vegetable
    That sometimes they are scarce, so taste is nothing, its digestible
    If nothing, it will rescue you from suffering, a lesson for whats coming
    The men said plague is coming back, itís stressful but itís coming
    I mentioned to your mom that my repentance had been summoned
    Cause my energy had plummeted, my mettles an encumbrance
    So the day that I drew breathless she dissected me to eat, like deer
    The reason that youíve even here regretting what your teeth had pierced
    You stand beside my tombstone and your grieving through a sea of tears
    From underneath my grave I say these words I wish that he could hear


    Iím gonna re-read to edit spelling mistakes (and probably fix them before posting this) Then I will finally be complete. I do not often switch verses around to this extent. This is one I wanted to be happy with before posting, and at many times I didnít think it was going to be achieved. Receiving another opinion for the verse confirmed suspicions I had about the response and took the guesswork out of it.


    The final piece of advice I will pass forth is this. No matter what level of experience you have come to possess, whether you consider yourself an apprentice or master of the arts, progression is infinite. The greatest way to take advantage of this knowledge is to continuously read others work with the intention of learning from it. There are lessons in every drop. Whether visible or opaque, intentional or serendipitous, they exist and are ripe for the picking. If site betterment isnít a valid motivator to continuously ingest the work of your peers, perhaps self betterment will be.

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  2. #2
    Best in the World Tempest's Avatar
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    Re: Nigma's Topical Writing Guide

    Can I link this in the Open Mic?

  3. #3
    Not a Newbie Nigma's Avatar
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    Re: Nigma's Topical Writing Guide

    Absolutely

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